It is always nice to get certified. Especially, when you need to work hard to achieve that certification. In this blog post, Sampo Laakkonen tells you the story of how and why Aico acquired the SAP certification.
The story starts back in 2017, when Aico was still a part of Attido, before the spinoff in 2019. We already had a working SAP Journal integration, which used SAP standard BAPIs. But we noticed that our customers were struggling with their reconciliation processes.
If you are familiar with SAP, you will know that SAP has an open/cleared item concept, but reconciliation does not exist out of the box in SAP. We also had a closing automation tool, which our customers used mainly as a centralised list of manual tasks. Customers also asked if Aico could run SAP reports and attach those reports to our closing tool templates.
Aico itself is written via .NET code and runs on Windows servers. But to fulfil our customers’ needs we had to develop ABAP solutions which solved our customers’ challenges. Technically, our first ABAP-code function modules were done so we could just use the naming convention Z_AICO_ to show that the code was from Aico and that Aico was using those function modules.
In the beginning, the naming convention was enough, and many of our customers are still using Z_AICO_ functions. But there were a few challenges. Firstly, it was possible, though it never happened, that someone from the customer side could update our code in the customer environment. Customers also have different code development standards for their SAP Z-development, and even if we were following SAP’s own ABAP guidelines, some customers wanted their own tailored changes which were not suitable for other customers.
To tackle the Z_AICO naming convention challenges, we registered our own /AICO/ namespace, which we are still using. Using the namespace means that it is only possible to change the ABAP-code if the namespace license details are added into the SAP system. We continue to send Aico’s ABAP-packages via transports. This means that we first create a transport in our own SAP, then download two different transport files to our laptop, zip those files to the same archive and then send that zip file to the customer, whose BASIS team then imports those files to SAP and runs a few importing tasks.
From an idea to execution
I realised we should apply for SAP certification after we started to use the /AICO/ namespace for new customers. But we had many other topics ongoing at the same time. For example, certifying our own company for ISAE3402 required company-wide attention. With a small team, it is crucial to prioritise projects and focus on a few things at any one time to avoid overly heavy workloads and long work hours. Our patience was finally rewarded when we got the budget and time to start our SAP certification process.
The certification process is documented quite well in SAP’s own documentation, but there were a few interesting points we noticed during the process. First was that our ABAP code was in really good shape from a technical perspective. The S/4HANA 2021 version has a few new requirements, but those were easy to solve. Secondly, SAP is promoting their JAM environment, which is their secure social collaboration platform. Third, even an empty S/4HANA 2021 system consumes a huge amount of memory and the HANA database really requires either a SUSE or RedHat Linux SAP server.
The benefits of being SAP certified
Finally, you might want to know what the certification benefits are to SAP, the customer and Aico.
Let’s start with the SAP benefits. The certification requirements ensure that their system keeps working correctly. SAP itself hasn’t had bad vendor problems, but if you are old enough you might remember that earlier Windows systems got the blue screen of death (BSOD) regularly. Typically, this was because the vendor code was faulty. Now that Microsoft has tightened their policies, BSODs are not happening so often. At least, I haven’t seen any of those in the last few years. So, controlling the vendor’s code quality adds real value to the ecosystem owner.
As a customer, you can now trust that Aico is following all of SAP’s development principles and has passed all SAP technical tests with flying colours. In addition, the installation of Aico is now much easier. If your SAP SPAM-level is over 0058, you can just install the Aico package through the SAINT tool. In the SAINT tool, you just select the Aico file from your laptop and install it with a few clicks. Also, uninstallation is easy. Previously, if you wanted to uninstall Aico you would have to create your own transports where you removed Aico packages and then import those transports. Also, uninstallation is now easy, Although, only a handful of customers ever needed to uninstall Aico.
For Aico, this certification exercise was a great way to check that Aico is fulfilling SAP’s requirements. Having official certification is a great selling point. We can now easily reassure customers that Aico is following SAP development guidelines. And generally, this kind of certification process teaches new skills, for example, you need to sharpen your documentation capabilities and learn how to enhance your testing processes.
Joining an exclusive group of professionals
Personally, I think that it is always cool to do something a bit exclusive. At the time of writing this blog, only two other Finnish SAP-related products are certified. Even globally, there are only around one thousand products on the certified product list. That is quite a small amount when you think that there are hundreds of millions of people who use SAP regularly. There are over 245 million Cloud base users, so this is a real achievement for Aico and something that will be of great benefit to our customers.
ABAP – Programming Language of SAP.
BAPI – Business Application Programming interface. This means SAP standard function modules can be called outside of SAP with remote function calls (RFC) or other methods.
BASIS – Business Application Software Integrated Solution. It is the technical component of SAP administration.
ISAE3402 – International Standard on Assurance Engagement 3402. Quality certificate.
Reconciliation Financial process – where you need to explain on a monthly/quarterly/yearly basis why certain line items are still open, or why an account balance is not zero.
SAINT – Tool SAP Add-on Installation Tool. T-code SAINT in SAP.
SAP – This acronym comes from the original German name of Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung. Nowadays, the company name is just SAP SE.
S/4HANA Suite for HANA – modern SAP ERP based on an in-memory database.