How SAP ERP Clean Core Helps Minimize Digital Debt and Enhance Agility

Recent posts in this series have provided updates on SAP RISE and GROW, with a focus on how they can help streamline the path for companies migrating to SAP public and private cloud editions.  This new episode drills down into the concept of maintaining a "clean core" in your ERP system to assure a solid foundation that minimizes unnecessary customization, which could impede organizational agility going forward.


Why Clean Core is Important

As more companies are moving their ERP systems and business operations to the cloud to gain better efficiency and scalability, many are facing challenges with adapting previously customized processes to mesh with the standardized processes that are key to cloud success. Organizations cannot achieve the next level of business transformation while carrying significant customized processes, because they make systems more expensive to run and upgrade, harder to maintain and adapt, and riskier to operate.

This is an area that Bramasol has been focusing on for years. In a previous post on reducing "digital debt", we explored the phenomena of how patchwork software improvements over the course of time can lead to higher costs, lower productivity, and continual need for updating to maintain the systems.

Excessive digital debt can exhibit the following symptoms, many of which appear together:

  • Lack of flexibility and agility
  • Inability to measure results 
  • Lack of end-to-end visibility 
  • Need for ongoing data manipulation and reconciliation between systems
  • High maintenance costs and slow support responses
  • Limited scalability options
  • Orphaned code that no one knows how to update
  • End users resorting to manual offline workarounds to get what they need

One of the overriding issues that influences creation of digital debt is whether a company takes a Fit-to-Standard or Fit-to-Purpose approach to their software implementation.

Basically a Fit-to-Standard philosophy defaults toward choosing systems that meet core objectives and then doing your best to avoid resorting to customized modifications.  In contrast, a Fit-to-Purpose approach leans toward custom tailoring of the software for whatever it takes to meet a  specific list of requirements from users, managers and other stakeholders.

Because the entire SAP ecosystem of applications has always been architected around shared core ERP and finance systems, SAP provides ample leeway to tailor functionality for specific customer needs while still adhering to an overall Fit-to-Standard philosophy. 

However, the movement to cloud-based systems is making the need for standardization even more important for both near term and long term success. To help manage the transition, RISE with SAP provides a unified set of migration and optimization capabilities within a single package, which is designed to help businesses move from where they are to a seamlessly integrated, holistic, enterprise scale, S/4HANA environment.  As part of this transition the concept of maintaining a clean core has also come to the forefront.

What Does SAP "Clean Core" Encompass

SAP's clean core initiative addresses the need to enable business value in the cloud without carrying forward digital debt or accumulating more ongoing customization that degrades the advantages of cloud ERP deployment.

The core consists of six key dimensions that form the foundation of a company's ability to enable a successful cloud strategy.  Shown below, these include the software stack, operations, data, processes, integrations, and extensibility.


The clean core concept focuses on managing each of these six dimensions to help achieve cloud compliance with master data and business process governance. Rather than forbidding all customization, the clean core concept offers standardized guidelines for all elements that help avoid extensive manual efforts to adapt and test changes when upgrading the systems.

The table below shows key criteria that SAP recommends for maintaining the clean core.

Core Element Criteria to Maintain Clean Core
Software Stack • Software version close to the latest release
• Software version close to latest Feature Pack Stack (FPS) and Support Pack Stack (SPS)
• Partner solutions clean core compliant
Extensibility • Upgrade-stable extensions following prescribed extensibility model
• Only actively-used and well-documented extensions
• Adherence to general code quality standards and best practices
• No duplication of SAP standard functionality
Integrations • Upgrade stable interfaces
• Proper monitoring and error resolution capabilities
• Only actively-used and well-documented integration
Data • Complete
• Correct
• Actively used and relevant
Processes • No inconsistent or inefficient processes
• Leveraging SAP recommended Best Practices
Operations • Day-to-day operations are planned and executed regularly to maintain alignment with
the above-mentioned guidelines (e.g., security authorizations, integrations, data, etc.)
• Opt-in on lifecycle events such as periodic upgrades
• Compliance with pre-approved maintenance windows



Bramasol's core practices are aligned with SAP's recommendations for leveraging RISE with SAP along with the clean core approach to configure  solutions that are as close as possible to standard processes.  

Because the entire SAP ecosystem of applications is architected around shared core ERP and finance systems, that are built with a continuous emphasis on seamless interoperability, SAP's clean core approach provides ample leeway to enhance functionality for specific customer needs while still adhering to an overall clean core philosophy.  In addition, SAP's initiatives on artificial intelligence (AI) are further enabling companies to evolve their applications and systems while maintaining alignment with clean core governance.

The result is a solid ERP cloud foundation that is low-risk, high-value, and readily extensible.


About the author

David Fellers

Dave is CEO of Bramasol. After joining the company in 2007 as VP of Professional Services, he became CEO in 2011 and has led the company through record-setting growth and revenues highlighted by a successful re-focusing on serving the Office of the CFO. By building a deep and broad consulting practice that leverages our Comply, Optimize, Transform™ disciplines and a track record of co-innovation with SAP, Dave has positioned Bramasol as the go-to partner for clients that are looking to move into the Digital Solutions Economy and/or to leverage the Digital Transformation of finance using SAP S/4HANA.