To Modernize or Not to Modernize, that is the Question
We occasionally find companies who are still running SAP CRM, IPC, and/or the LORD Interface. They have significant investments in these applications and the business processes they support. They are looking to improve capabilities, performance, or both. We caution these companies about further investment in such applications, and instead we encourage them to consider modernizing their system landscape.
Why modernize? While software end-of-support is often mentioned as the first reason to modernize, the more acute problem is the daunting challenge of trying to address increasingly complex business requirements with convoluted, end-of-life software that has not been enhanced in years (and no more further enhancements are forthcoming). The reality is that these companies have already taken these applications as far as they were ever designed to go (or perhaps even further in a few cases).
Attempting to add more and more functionality to dated applications is a high risk, high cost, low performance, and low value proposition. Furthermore, SAP will not develop native integrations for its modern applications to your dated ones, thus practically eliminating the opportunity to leverage such combinations in the future. In fact, the deeper your investment in dated applications, the more costly your modernization will be in the future. By way of analogy, you are just digging yourself into a deeper hole, and every foot deeper becomes harder and harder to dig.
The latest enhancement pack for SAP CRM 7.0 was EHP4 released on January 20, 2016. Since then, all meaningful SAP investment in CRM has gone into the Sales Cloud and S4H Customer Management. SAP now offers native integration between SAP CPQ and all major CRM platforms (although eLogic finds that most customers require enhancements to this native integration).
We routinely incur substantial additional effort to make a solution work in CRM after first making that solution work in ERP. The separate data models for CRM and ERP are a major contributing factor to the ongoing complexity, and SAP wisely chose to consolidate into a single data model for Customer Management in the S4H digital core. That eliminates the often-problematic harmonization process.
The SAP Internet Pricing and Configurator (IPC) application is the only means of performing ERP based configuration and pricing in CRM. Like SAP CRM, the IPC is dated technology that has been essentially replaced by Variant Configuration and Pricing Services (CPS) in the Business Technology Platform (BTP) which was formerly known as the SAP Cloud Platform.
Over time, SAP has continually updated the IPC Engine to improve performance and remove so called “deltas” to the LO-VC (SAPGUI) configurator. In the last few years, all new effort has been directed to CPS where some of the most challenging deltas have been addressed for CPS only. Addressing these deltas requires the new advanced KB generation that is not supported by IPC and therefore not supported in CRM.
The only usage of IPC today is for dated applications like CRM that cannot run anything else. In our experience, the interaction of SAP CRM and IPC is rather fragile and continually problematic. Troubleshooting these interactions proves to be time consuming and requires a rare skillset.
Lean Order Interface - LORD
The LORD Interface is known to have various performance issues and functional limitations. It is a dated architecture for synchronous integration of CRM with the configure, price, and quoting functions of SAP ERP. The continual RFC communication with an on-premises ERP system has inherent performance drawbacks, and that is why SAP has moved away from this approach for modern intelligent enterprises. See this blog from 2018 explaining SAP’s current and go forward approach.
The LORD Interface has limited documentation. It is unclear how long SAP plans to continue support for the LORD, but there has been little to no investment in it since 2015 other than critical bug fixes. It appears to be supported in S/4HANA; there is no mention of it in the S/4HANA Simplification Item Catalog. The online help for LORD interface activation references note 1224834, but this note is no longer available for customers.
eLogic has worked with the LORD Interface for many years. We have found that it introduces nearly as many problems as it solves. Modern architectures provide much better solutions. I will not be sad to see the LORD Interface ride off into the sunset… and even farther!
So what does a modern landscape look like? A robust SAP backend connected to the Business Technology Platform (BTP) serving fast Cloud CPQ and Commerce applications that can handle the big configurations your company needs. Tie that to your preferred CRM and you complete the picture. The below illustrates one of these with an SAP ERP (ECC or S/4), SAP Cloud Platform Integration (successor of PI/PO), SAP Variant Configuration and Pricing services and SAP CPQ.
How is this better?
One of the core components of this kind of architecture is the fast cloud services that use your existing Variant Configuration models and expose them to web applications with a fast response time, far superior from what IPC was providing years ago. The engine at its core has been optimized for variant configuration. eLogic has seen all sizes of configuration complexity over the years and this set of services provides the best response time that can be hoped for. Combined with SAP CPI and SAP CPQ, for which SAP provides native integration, this gives you a big head start to build your new landscape. Of course, customization can be added (and will be) since a few business requirements still exceed the native core that SAP provides.
Who Needs Modernization?
Modernizing system landscapes can be a complex, costly, and time-consuming endeavor. Some companies challenge the need to do this with the belief that their current solutions work well enough and have been fine-tuned over the years to do exactly what they need. So, who needs modernization? The answer: all leading companies who want to stay that way.
Think of it this way. Show me the PC that you have used for twenty years. Or the software application. Or the cell phone. Or the TV. Or the Bluetooth and CarPlay in your twenty-year-old car. Oh wait, they didn’t have that stuff back then. Imagine a car sold today without modern electronics. “But it’s just a car and a car just provides transportation, right?”
In fact, the cost of modernization is the inevitable cost of keeping your solutions current and relevant to meet the ever-growing expectations and demands of the modern marketplace. The only practical way to do that is to continually invest in and fully leverage the latest applications that allow your solutions to do more with less manual effort.