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What is SAP ERP? (Detailed Guide)

When it comes to resource planning of an enterprise, I don’t think there is any other company that can top the excellence of SAP. Therefore, if you want to work somewhere, that’s dealing with the same; it might be best for you to know more about it. 

So, in this article, I will be discussing the following – 

  • What is SAP? 
  • What is an ERP system? 
  • The architecture of the SAP ERP system  

In addition, there may be some other additional resources regarding the same found here too. So, make sure to go through the same till the end. 

What/Who is SAP?

SAP, AKA System Applications and Products, is an ERP (enterprise resource planning) that’s used to manage organizational data flow properly. It does so by creating a centralized system, which, in turn, allows your business to access or share common data quickly and efficiently.  

It can also make it easier for you to keep track of what you are sharing and to whom. SAP is one of the, if not the, most used ERP systems in the market and has been providing assistance to organizations of all shapes and sizes.  

What is an ERP System? 

ERP (e.g. S/4HANA), an abbreviation for Enterprise Resource Planning, is a type of software application that’s used to manage the primary business functions of an organization.  

It can be employed to manage the following – 

  • Human resources, 
  • Sales, 
  • Marketing,  
  • Procurement, 
  • Business communication  

Apart from these, it might also enable some other departments to plan and communicate with other people to take care of their projects. All in all, an ERP system can be used to ensure that you are accelerating your business and improving your work ethic in the best way possible. 

The Architecture of SAP ERP System 

The basic ERP system provided by SAP usually works the same way as any other application with a similar structure. However, the architecture of SAP ERP is somewhat unique. 

The SAP ERP system comes with a three-tier architecture, with each of them covering almost every fundamental requirement of an organization. Here’s how they work. 


1: Presentation Tier 

The first tier, also known as the presentation module, can be located in the personal computer of a business user and offers access to SAP GUI (SAP Graphical Interface). 

What is it, though? 

SAP GUI is a type of lightweight application that can be installed on any system that has Mac OS or MS Windows incorporated in it. It offers the core interface for communication between the SAP ERP infrastructure and the user of the system. 

2: Application Tier 

It’s basically the core or the heart of the ERP system provided by SAP. It’s responsible for the processing of client-related transactions, executing business logic, and printing jobs. In addition to these, it can also be used to run reports and coordinate the very access to the database. 

If you want, you can also distribute the application logic between different server machines in various situations, like when the load has exceeded the processing power of a server. 

3: Database Tier 

The database of the SAP ERP system is used to store two different types of objects – 

  • The business-generated data, and 
  • The application programs of SAP 

The first one represents the information or data objects created by a user (someone working in the company) during a business process. For example, a consumer master record or a sales order can be considered as a part of business-generated data. 

On the other hand, SAP application programs are types of routines that are created by using a language called ABAP. It’s a special programming language specifically used in SAP. 

If needed, the database tier can be used within the application server to make it more flexible and usable in every accord. However, it’s a must that you use ABAP to create them. 

How Does It Work? 

The SAP ERP system usually works in a step-by-step manner. The procedure begins from the presentation tier and ends through the database tier. Here’s how it may begin – 

  • A request has arrived from SAP ERP’s presentation tier. It can be a request associated with a batch job or something that has been proposed by a user. 
  • Upon arrival, the request will be analyzed and evaluated by the SAP Central Instance’s dispatcher. They will pass the request accordingly to the message process or M. 
  • The message process will decide whether the request should be processed or has to be forwarded to another instance. It can be something that has a lower computing load. 
  • If the request has remained on the same instance, it’ll be kept on a work process that is appropriate for the same. For example, if we are talking about an online request, it has to be placed and evaluated through the dialog work process. 
  • The request will get processed through the work process. If needed, the ERP system of SAP will update the database through the E (enqueue) server. 
  • The feedback about the outcome of the request will be delivered to the individual who created it in the first place. And it will be done in a reversed order. 

Challenges Associated with SAP ERP 

SAP ERP, if installed and incorporated properly, can be quite beneficial for an organization. It might also improve your work efficiency even more, depending on how you conduct all of the business operations. However, it can also pose some challenges to the users, including – 

  • The purchase or implementation cost of SAP ERP is pretty high. And, if you want to incorporate the underlying structure of it even more, the expense will increase too. 
  • SAP ERP, although efficient, is technically quite high-rated. Therefore, it may be a bit difficult for some of your existing employees to use it properly. 
  • As mentioned before, the SAP ERP system is quite complex. Hence, it might take you a year or so (even more, in some cases) to implement it properly.  

Moreover, the core functionalities of SAP ERP get an upgrade or two periodically. So, you’ll need some dedicated eyes to install, incorporate, and take care of them.  

The Bottom Line 

SAP ERP might seem like a complex system to work with at the beginning. But the more you explore, the better your affinity will be with the system. So, make sure to start working with it today and hire someone who understands the entire ecosystem perfectly. 

It will all work out well in the end. 

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