Using SAP Business Partner in S/4HANA and the impact on processes in sales
When making the change from an ECC to a S/4HANA system, one major difference that many users encounter: The use of the SAP Business Partner is no longer optional, but is now required. You cannot call up the transactions in the SAP-GUI, the apps in the Fiori interface take the user to Maintain Business Partner.
The SAP Note 2265093 includes the following: “In SAP S/4 HANA, Business Partner is the leading object and single-entry point to maintain Business Partner, Customer, and Supplier (formerly known as Vendor) master data. (Principle of one)”
In many companies this is rightly welcomed as a step forward, as the Business Partner is clearly the more modern data object compared to the Customer. Now, for example, in the Business Partner you can maintain multiple addresses and allocate them to different notes to payee. As another new feature, you can enter a validity period for this address data. The same is also the case for a customer’s bank details.
Another advantage is the ability to create relationships between business partners. These relationships are stored in the system as separate data objects and also have a validity period. The relationship types that are provided with the system can be supplemented with customized values using Customizing.
In sum, the user benefits from a flexible object that leaves little to be desired as far as master data is concerned.
When it comes to the integration of the business partner into the sales processes, things are a little different.
One look at order entry is sufficient to make clear that the same familiar structures are being used in the SD processes.
This is clear just by looking in the database tables. The sales processes are still using the long-familiar Customer.
The proper running of the processes is ensured by presetting the Customer Vendor Integration (CVI) in the default S/4 system settings so that when there is a business partner designated as a customer, a master record is immediately created in the background with the same number.
This is also clear from the fact that the maintenance of sales data for a business partner appears visually exactly the same as the relevant transaction for customers.
Unfortunately, this somewhat limits the usability of the business partner.
- The address administration of the business partner is not linked to the partner roles. A different delivery address still has to be created as a ship-to party, and there is no transfer of the address data.
- The validity dates also have no connection to the customer master. The existing option in the business partner where you aren’t strictly required to make address changes on the key date is thus only available to a limited degree.
- The object of the relationships has in the past not been included in the SD processes. To enable the data to be used in the process (e.g. the contact data of a contact person), partner roles should still be used.
These issues should be taken into account when designing the SAP business partner and its use.
It is safe to assume that we are currently in a transitional phase right now that will require parallel use of both data objects. Because of the high integration of the SD processes into the other functional areas, it is not yet clear when there will be a transition technically to the SAP Business Partner in the sales processes in S/4HANA.