Business partners are new with S4HANA. They help avoid redundant data. This overview provides answers to three frequently asked questions after defining what business partners are. It discusses the goals of the concept and describes critical success factors before delving into integration and migration topics.
- Definition: business partner
- Three frequently asked questions
- How are business partners used?
- What does the business partner approach mean for procurement?
- What business partner concepts exist?
- The goals of the Business Partner approach
- Critical success factors in the business partner model
- Data owner
- Workflow for creating business partners
- Business partners in SAP S/4HANA
- Migrating supplier data to S/4HANA Conclusion
DEFINITION: BUSINESS PARTNERS
A business partner or trading partner is an organization (company, branch), person or group of people or organizations in which the company has a business interest.
Three frequently asked questions
HOW ARE BUSINESS PARTNERS USED?
Business partners can be centrally recorded and managed with regard to various business operations. This is particularly relevant when a business partner has different roles for a company, such as a client and goods recipient. A business partner can be created in different roles and take on additional business partner roles during the course of a business relationship. The general data for a business partner that does not depend on their function or application-specific extensions does not have to be re-entered. This avoids the capture and storage of redundant data.
WHAT DOES THE BUSINESS PARTNER APPROACH MEAN FOR PROCUREMENT?
In S/4HANA, all business relationships are exclusively processed through the leading entity “business partner”. This bundles the common data of all characteristics, such as name, address, bank details, and tax number. At the user interface, only business partners can be maintained, not suppliers. Transaction codes for suppliers are only limitedly usable. Roles and relationships, such as addresses and bank details, are time-dependent. However, the currently valid data must be manually transferred from the business partner to the supplier master data. Through relationships and hierarchy assignments, business partners can be linked to each other in addition to the partner functions already known from earlier. This allows for optimizing purchasing conditions at the group level.
What business partner concepts exist?
Business partner type
Characteristic of a business partner as a natural person (private individual), organization (legal entity or part of a legal entity, e.g. department), or group.
The following information can be captured, among others:
- Organization: salutation, name, legal form, industry, legal entity
- Person: salutation, first and last name, additional name components (such as name prefixes and academic titles), gender
- Groups: salutation, two names, partner group type (marriage, flat share)
Business partner relationship
Business-relevant connection between two business partners
The following basic types of business partner relationships are available, among others:
- Relationship type “belongs to flat share”
- Relationship type “has the employee”
- Relationship type “has the responsible employee”
- Relationship type “is shareholder of”
- Relationship type “is contact person of”
- Relationship type “is identical with”
- Relationship type “is married to”
- Relationship type “is replaced by”
Business partner role
Rights and obligations that a business partner can assume in different business transactions.
Business classification of the business partner. A business partner can be assigned to one or more roles. The BP role “Business Partner – General” is automatically assigned to a business partner. In addition, depending on the function of the respective business partner, the following BP roles can be selected, among others:
- BP role “Employee”
- BP role “Organizational Unit”
- BP role “Internet User”
OBJECTIVES OF THE BUSINESS PARTNER APPROACH
- The SAP S/4HANA Business Partner model aims to achieve the following objectives:
- Time savings by avoiding data redundancy when sharing common data across different roles
- More flexibility through the various business partner concepts, such as differentiating business partner types into organizations, individuals, and groups or taking on different roles as a business partner
- Cost reduction through a harmonized system architecture
CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS FOR THE BUSINESS PARTNER MODEL
The shared use of business partners across multiple organizational units such as procurement, sales, invoicing, and contract management requires a higher level of data standardization and its usage.
RULES AND REGULATIONS
The use and content of selected fields, as well as corporation-wide quality requirements, must be defined through a set of rules and regulations. It is recommended to define these rules and regulations on a country-specific basis. This should include points that were not directly affected by the transition to the business partner model but were often regulated inadequately or differently per business area in the past, such as guidelines for address data (including the use of abbreviations) and clearly defined roles and permissions in the data maintenance process.
The rules and regulations must also specify who owns the data, who is authorized to make changes, who needs to give approval, and who needs to be informed. These rights are often assigned to different groups of people and roles depending on the data area. Particularly for personal data, it is essential to comply with high data protection requirements through permissions in maintenance and operational access. The transition to the business partner model offers an opportunity to define clear rules in this regard, which should be established and agreed upon before the transition, as data cleansing afterward can be very time-consuming.
WORKFLOW FOR CREATING BUSINESS PARTNERS
A business partner is created when a vendor or customer is created in SAP S/4HANA. The Customer-Vendor-Integration (CVI) includes both business partner-related data and customer- and vendor-specific data. When the business partner data is saved, the customer and vendor data is processed by the CVI and linked to the business partner data. So-called CVI link tables are maintained. Some of the customer and vendor data overlaps, such as name and address, and can be found in both the customer and vendor data and the business partner data.
BUSINESS PARTNER IN SAP S/4HANA
The business partner logic affects the upgrade path from SAP ERP to S/4HANA. The Customer-Vendor-Integration (CVI) is a prerequisite for upgrading to on-premise SAP S/4HANA. All customers and vendors must be transferred to business partners. Furthermore, customer- and vendor-specific transactions have been abolished. The BP transaction is the central entry point for creating, modifying, and displaying business partner, customer, and vendor master data in SAP S/4HANA.
MIGRATING VENDOR DATA TO S/4HANA
If LSMW (Legacy System Migration Workbench) was used in earlier SAP ERP systems, this tool is no longer recommended for the on-premise version and not available for the cloud version.
The SAP Business Partner concept increases data quality by avoiding redundant data, but its usage requires stronger harmonization, a set of rules and regulations, and clearly defined responsibilities.