The difference between functional and technical SAP modules and roles

Systems Analysis and Program Development (SAP) was first developed in 1972 and has since become prevalent across software applications for enterprises and institutions alike. Today, an estimated 77% of global transaction revenue interacts with a SAP system. Through integrating operations for better efficiency, planning, and accounting, the system carries out numerous tasks that would otherwise have to be done manually, therefore saving time and labour costs.

Over the years, there have been many added modifications designed to enhance various aspects or ‘modules’ of the program. These distinct functionalities extend to, for example, sales, business intel, and finance management, among many others. At the time of writing, the total number of specific modules for SAP is 25. However, it’s perhaps more important to understand the program through its two main subtypes: functional and technical.

To comprehend the finer points of an already complex software application, it’s crucial to know the difference between these two categories. Not only that, understanding the distinction also illuminates which actions you need to take if you want to start using or improving your enterprise’s existing SAP program.

Functional SAP modules

SAP supports and replicates various business processes, and there are numerous modules the system uses that provide a ‘predefined’ functionality for specific activities and departments. Those predefined roles perform a routine programming function according to the software language. That way, the system can automatically carry out discrete actions like handling orders and inventories, analysing data, and human resources.

Some examples of these types of modules include Production Planning (PP), Plant Analysis (PA), and Materials Management (MM). The first two are involved with business planning and oversight, while the latter deals with supply-chain-related activities. 

Technical SAP modules

Technical modules are those applied to the logical arrangement of the system, otherwise known as the landscape. This back-end — that is, the part of the system unseen by users — is usually divided into three types of server Development (DEV), Quality Assurance (QAS), and Production (PRD). The main purposes of technical modules are to ensure the smooth working of the landscape. Production tends to be prioritised, due to it being the most frequently used.

One of the ways technical modules help the system is by permitting consultants to carry out particular maintenance duties. These may include fine-tuning the landscape, processing and downloading software updates, and dealing with any issues related to performance. 

The difference between functional and technical modules and roles

Unlike their counterparts, technical modules are not used to replicate business operations. Rather, they are there to support functionality, and so in one sense are less influential in the grand scheme of things, while still having an important purpose. 

These different modules also require distinct kinds of expertise from either functional or technical SAP consultants. That said, it’s not uncommon for technical and functional consultants to work together across these modules to solve problems, such as executing migrations. Understanding the difference between functional and technical modules is therefore vital to discern which SAP professionals to recruit, in order to upscale your operation. 

For example, MM roles are notably in demand in the current climate — this demands the know-how of functional consultants. Their unique responsibilities include identifying client assets, requirements, and gaps in their operations. They plan accordingly to provide solutions, such as installing a new module or organising a new migration. If you’re not sure what kind you need, relying on the expertise of a SAP-specific recruitment agency like Eursap can help you quickly identify the right module specialist for your system.

The most popular SAP modules right now 

According to Guru 99, the most sought-after consultants for SAP (other than Materials Management and Production Planning, which we already mentioned) are Financial Accounting (FI), Sales and Distribution (SD), Human Resources (HCM), and Basis/Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP).

As you may already be able to tell, all but the final module — Basis/ABAP — fall under the functional category. IT professionals with a more technical bent would therefore do well to specialise in the SAP Basis program, whereas functional consultants have a range of focuses to choose from when thinking about how to progress.

Written by Lara Harper