The SAP kernel serves as the foundation layer for other SAP applications. These applications focus on specific business objectives and the different ways to deal with the related data:
- Enterprise Central Component (ECC);
- Supply Chain Management (SCM);
- Supplier Relationship Management (SRM);
- Identify Management (IM);
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM);
- Strategic Enterprise Management (SEM);
- Enterprise Portal (EP);
- Master Data Management (MDM);
- Information Lifestyle Management (ILM);
- Process Integration (PI);
- Business Intelligence (BI).
The SRM application is all about procurement and engaging the vendors, while the CRM application focuses on interacting with the customers. ECC applications handle the internal running of the enterprises business, while the BI applications facilitate the path to understanding the health of the enterprise. A key distinction to note here is that the SAP applications help an enterprise to focus both internally and externally (other enterprises).
Within each SAP Application suite there is a further breakdown into discrete, more refined focus of functionality; they are called Application Components. Each application component focuses on handling a specific suite of business challenges and provides a framework for data gathering, processing and integration with the next part of the business process.
With the ECC application suite sitting on top of the SAP kernel and now identifying separate application components like material management, finance, human resources, etc; there is a further division into more refined focus for application components:
- Finance refines to general ledger, accounts receivable, assets, etc;
- Controlling refines to product costing, activity costing, overheads, etc;
- Logistics refines to variant configuration, loans, warranty, agency, etc;
- Materials Management refines to purchasing, inventory, valuation, etc;
- And many more across all types of business processes.
It is the different suite of programs within these application components that become the tools that a business process utilises. This is where the need for a functional consultant arises. They bridge the gap between understanding a business process and configuring the application components to achieve the desired result.
In a similar spirit, SAP BW uses the same approach. It also breaks itself up into suites of programs designed at achieving specific purposes. For Example: administrator workbench, business planning and simulation, integrated planning, business explorer, web application designer, etc.
It is important to note that the BW suite of programs is aimed at working with data across all the application components in the source systems. This implies that they are more generic in nature and aimed at providing specific features for data handling.
The administrator workbench is the primary suite of applications aimed at the entire life cycle of data management as it flows from an extractor all the way through to a query for the business user to consume. This is where a BW Developer and BW System Administrator will spend most of their time.
SAP BW is a suite of programs focused on data handling across all application components. It collects raw data from various source systems, uses data modeling techniques to combine that data and then provide it to a business user through a secure authorisation layer:
- What application components do the business processes in your enterprise use?
- Can the data model in BW be enhanced to integrate more of these application components for better reporting?