Configurator Options in S/4HANA
Several of our customers are well down the path of developing their S/4HANA migration strategies. The question I hear most often is: “Which configurator can/should we use when we move to S/4HANA?” Unfortunately, it seems there is a lot of misinformation in the marketplace on this topic. Last week alone, I heard from three customers who had been given wrong answers! I want to set the record straight in this blog post.
Which Configurator Can We Use?
Let’s start with the simpler question – which configurator can we use? The answer depends on which deployment of S/4HANA you choose. We use the following chart to compare ECC with the deployment models for S4H. For what it is worth, most of our customers are in manufacturing and are planning an S4H On-Prem or Private Cloud deployment (due to their enhancement needs). By the way, we have a much larger chart that compares other aspects of ECC and S/4HANA.
The chart above conveys important facts about S/4HANA configurator options.
The IPC (Internet Product Configurator) is not supported in S/4HANA transactions (e.g. sales document configuration). Note however that you can still create knowledge bases and runtime versions for use outside S/4HANA if you have an On-Prem or Private Cloud deployment.
The LO-VC (i.e. original SAPGUI configurator) is available in S/4HANA except for Cloud Edition deployments.
You can use the new AVC (Advanced Variant Configurator) in either S/4HANA deployment but not in ECC.
Some details that the chart does not convey:
The use of LO-VC or AVC can be made on a model by model basis (via configuration profile and modeling settings).
AVC models can only be executed in Fiori applications (e.g. even if you use SAPGUI for other transactions, the AVC will launch a Fiori window).
Low level configuration (e.g. manufacturing BOM and routing explosion) uses the LO-VC configurator (even if high level configuration is done using the AVC).
The bottom line is that you can use the LO-VC and/or AVC in an S/4HANA On-Prem or Private Cloud deployment.
Which Configurator Should We Use?
This question takes a lot more explanation (more than a single blog post can contain). The AVC was built from the ground up to leverage the HANA platform and state-of-the-art constraint solving algorithms to enable the anticipated business capabilities of the future. Eventually such capabilities are expected to be practically impossible to support with the legacy SAP configurator. For many leading companies, the underlying question is not which configurator to use, but when to use the AVC.
Unfortunately, that question isn’t much easier to answer. I will start by giving you a high-level comparison. For the most part, the semantics are the same in both configurators (with a few noteworthy differences). You can ask SAP about the reasons for that decision, but it makes sense to me for accelerating the initial development and adoption of AVC. The AVC may eventually offer new semantic options since its engine can support much more than the LO-VC syntax can express. Beyond that, here are some contrasts:
AVC offers several new features and functionality that are not available in LO-VC (see below).
AVC has an extensive product roadmap; no further enhancements of LO-VC are planned.
The AVC roadmap includes solutions for decades-old challenges like loose coupling of sales and manufacturing configurations as well as better native support for engineer-to-order scenarios.
Some aspects of a given model may behave slightly differently in AVC versus LO-VC.
Some very specialized settings and design patterns from LO-VC are not yet supported in AVC (which is similarly true in more general comparisons of ECC and S/4HANA).
AVC has an additional licensing cost. Ask your SAP account representative for details.
This means that modelers who have LO-VC experience need to learn the nuances of AVC before converting LO-VC models to AVC or building AVC models from scratch. The online help for AVC is helpful, and SAP Press has a good e-Bites book for AVC. eLogic has some presentations on this topic as well. Why go to the trouble you ask? Here is a sampling of some exclusive features of the AVC:
Negative Restrictions can dramatically simplify modeling, data maintenance, and potentially error rates by allowing constraints and tables that define what combinations are not allowed.
Decimal Precision now goes up to 34 digits! This solves various LO-VC problems that can occur when making precise calculations. It even shows you when the precision exceeds the displayed decimals (with an option to see full precision).
Integer Characteristics can be declared (unlike LO-VC). For example, assigning a value with decimals to an integer characteristic raises an inconsistency (e.g. this avoids “1.2 pieces”.)
Multi-Value Restrictable Characteristics enable the power of constraints to perform domain restrictions for all characteristics.
Numeric Interval Display show restricted numeric intervals in the configuration screen (i.e. no need to click on a drop-down menu). In contrast, LO-VC cannot restrict intervals by constraint or display restricted intervals (i.e. it is a trial and error process to find a valid value).
Declarative Preconditions mean that preconditions work like constraints to restrict value domains.
Procedures don’t Terminate which can dramatically simplify modeling, troubleshooting, and potentially errors (due to unexpected terminations). Good thing the trace is much better, too!
New Syntax addresses many common modeling needs that require variant functions in LO-VC.
Configuration BADIs effectively replace custom variant functions with a far more robust enhancement mechanism that is invoked at multiple events in the configuration process.
An Improved User Interface provides a responsive layout that adapts to the available screen area and provides optional left and right panes that provide far more information than LO-VC.
Inspector and Trace Panes provide a wealth of information for users and modelers who want to confirm business logic or debug an issue.
Close Variant Matching shows a list of material variants with the number of unmatched characteristics for each. A user can click on a variant in the list to see which characteristics are matched and select the variant.
Stored Simulations provide a native way to easily repeat various test cases (including reference characteristics) after modeling changes.
I hope this blog post has enlightened you about your choice of configurator in S/4HANA, but it probably hasn’t fully answered the question of when you should go to AVC (unless you are deploying the S4H Cloud Edition). The answer will depend on your business needs and the complexity of any existing LO-VC models you have. You may also need to consider system integration with SAP CPQ or APO. Like the LO-VC, there are certain AVC modeling constructs that are not compatible with knowledge-base runtime versions (which are used in CPQ integration).
A good starting point is to evaluate your existing models in the PMEVC or one of SAP’s migration utilities for converting LO-VC models to AVC models. The Configurator Workgroup (CWG) Conference this fall in St. Louis (October 6 – 9) will be an excellent opportunity to see presentations and learn more about AVC from SAP along with customers and partners (like eLogic) who contribute to the AVC Influence Council. Of course, eLogic would also be glad to discuss your specific needs and plans for deploying configurators in S/4HANA.
Thanks for reading!