What is SAP?

In business software, few names are as recognised as SAP, an essential for modern enterprises aiming to streamline operations and drive innovation. SAP has enhanced business efficiency and integration as a cornerstone of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). In this guide, we walk you through the intricacies of SAP, from its historical roots and features to its impact on business operations.

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Deciphering the Basics: What is SAP?

For those new to the world of SAP, two questions often arise: What does the name mean, and how do you pronounce it?

Originally, SAP was derived from the German phrase “Systemanalyse Programmentwicklung,” which translates to “System Analysis Program Development” in English. Today, it’s known as SAP SE (Societas Europaea) to reflect its standing as a European public company.

And, contrary to some misconceptions, it’s pronounced as the separate letters: S-A-P (ess-ay-pee).

The History of SAP

SAP, established in 1972, revolutionised the business software landscape by launching SAP R/2 for mainframe computing and SAP R/3, a client-server-based system. These introductions marked a new era in business software.

Fast forward to the present, SAP introduced SAP S/4HANA, which leverages in-memory computing to significantly accelerate data processing. This advancement facilitates real-time analytics and incorporates state-of-the-art technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, elevating ERP software to new heights.

With its headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, SAP has evolved into a global powerhouse, employing over 105,000 individuals and serving over 230 million cloud users across various business domains. The company is led by Christian Klein, the youngest CEO in Germany’s prestigious DAX blue-chip market index.


ERP and the Role of SAP

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is designed to help companies organise, manage, and streamline their core operations by acting as a central system that connects various departments, such as procurement, sales, and human resources. This centralisation leads to greater efficiency, fewer errors, and quicker decision-making.

Now, where does SAP fit into this framework?

SAP stands out in the ERP market by offering solutions that not only integrate business processes but also introduce innovation. SAP leverages advanced technologies like real-time data analytics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, ensuring its ERP solutions evolve with the changing needs of modern businesses. This approach enables organisations to tackle new challenges and capitalise on emerging opportunities effectively.

In essence, while ERP provides the structural framework for unifying and optimising business operations, SAP equips organisations with the cutting-edge tools and technologies needed to turn this framework into a dynamic, future-ready environment.

How SAP is Used in the Real World

SAP partners with over 24,000 companies around the world. As a result, their customers are from various industries, each utilising SAP technology optimised to meet their specific needs. To help illustrate how SAP operates for a variety of businesses, we’ll explore a few customer stories.

Audi logo


In collaboration with IBM, Audi began a journey to make their organisation faster, more innovative, and more agile. They did this by adopting SAP S/4HANA, an advanced system that helps process data faster and provides instant information. The goal was to get better information more quickly to improve how users experience their services.

Achievements with SAP

  • Innovation Boost: The SAP S/4HANA implementation marked Audi’s endeavour to explore and extend the innovative boundaries of its operations.
  • Real-time Insights: Enabled access to real-time data, facilitating informed decision-making and streamlined processes.


Walmart sought to modernise its technological infrastructure and bolster supply chain management. The objective was to centralise and integrate systems for precise real-time data delivery, essential for informed decision-making.

Achievements with SAP

  • Supply Chain Enhancement: Utilisation of SAP for innovative strategies like Distribution Centers for centralised shipping, cross-docking for minimising storage, and RFID Technology for efficient inventory tracking, among others, streamlined supply chain operations.
  • Data Centralisation: Established an integrated system delivering precise real-time data for better decision-making.
Visa logo

SAP and Visa Collaboration

SAP and Visa formed a strategic alliance to simplify B2B (Business-to-Business) payments, which are transactions between businesses, particularly in Asia-Pacific. This collaboration aimed to incorporate Visa’s payment solutions into SAP’s software, facilitating seamless supplier payments.

Achievements with SAP:

  • B2B Payment Simplification: Integration via the SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) streamlined the payment process, reducing manual processing and enhancing operational efficiency.
  • Enhanced Cash Flow Management: Enabled better cash flow management and instant payments using Visa corporate cards on SAP platforms, simplifying the payment process significantly.

The project helps both companies and their suppliers by making payments easier, improving the flow of money, and showing how it could change the way businesses pay each other.. You can learn more about the SAP and Visa collaboration in this article.

Molten brown logo in white text

Molton Brown

Molton Brown, a luxury fragrance brand, aimed to expand its business with a focus on providing an exceptional customer experience. To ensure a seamless and high-quality experience both in their physical stores and online, Molton Brown chose SAP Commerce Cloud. This platform helped them create an online presence that matches the elegance and luxury of their brand.


Key Features of SAP as an ERP System

Centralising and Streamlining Data: In the world of business, data is often spread out over different areas like finance, HR, sales, and procurement. SAP acts as a connector, turning these separate pools of data into one cohesive dashboard. This change leads to better-coordinated operations and smarter decision-making, as all information is centralised and streamlined.

Data Integrity: Data integrity is crucial for any business, as issues like mismatched records or duplicate entries can significantly impact its direction. SAP addresses this by offering a reliable solution that maintains a consistent and up-to-date pool of data. This ensures that all strategic decisions are based on accurate and trustworthy information, helping to keep the business on the right path.

Scalability: Scalability is key for businesses as they grow and change. SAP’s flexible system is designed to evolve with your business, from startups needing simple inventory management to large corporations looking for comprehensive global supply chain solutions. SAP’s modular architecture means you can easily add or modify features to meet your changing requirements, ensuring your business systems can scale up or adapt as needed.

Collaboration: SAP also promotes teamwork by letting different departments share and use the same data. This helps teams like marketing and sales or finance and procurement work better together.

Staying Ahead: Leveraging SAP offers businesses a competitive edge by delivering real-time analytics and streamlining processes. This enhancement in efficiency not only boosts operational performance but also reduces expenses, facilitating strategic and informed decision-making.

Modular Mastery: SAP’s Unique Advantage

SAP’s modularity is its standout feature. Instead of providing a one-size-fits-all solution, SAP divides its capabilities into specialised “modules”. As a result, businesses can handpick the tools they genuinely need, ensuring a tailored fit.

This approach offers two key benefits:

  1. Precision: Companies can zero in on their specific needs, leaving out irrelevant functions.
  2. Flexibility: Businesses can start small, adding more modules as they grow or as requirements evolve.

While each module can function independently, they’re designed to integrate effortlessly. So, data flows seamlessly across them, maintaining consistency and eliminating overlaps.

Now, let’s delve into some of the most popular SAP modules.



FICO Standard for Financial Accounting (FI) and Controlling (CO) are two core modules of SAP ERP. SAP FICO is primarily used for external and internal financial reporting and is one of the most widely used modules in the SAP system.

The module has powerful analytical capabilities, helping businesses gain actionable insights into their financial health enabling strategic financial planning and management.



SAP HR (Human Resources) is also called SAP HCM (Human Capital Management). The module is designed to streamline and automate human resources processes within an enterprise.

The SAP HR/HCM module encompasses various sub-modules that cater to specific HR functions. These include but aren’t limited to Organisational Management (OM), Payroll, Recruitment, Workforce Process Management and Time Management.



MM (Materials Management) is another essential module within SAP’s ERP system. This module manages materials (products or services) and an organisation’s resources to ensure a seamless supply chain. SAP MM covers the tasks associated with material management, including procurement and inventory management.


SAP Basis

Basis is the technical foundation that underpins SAP applications. The foundation serves as a middleware between the actual software application and the system’s operating environment. Basis includes various components and tools that enable the smooth functioning of SAP applications.

For those looking to delve deeper into a career in SAP Basis, this article provides valuable insights into the opportunities and roles available. 

While the modules above are among the most widely adopted, the full breadth of SAP’s offering spans various operational areas. From environmental health and safety (EHS) to customer relationship management (CRM), SAP’s extensive suite ensures that every business finds its tailored solution, no matter how niche.


SAP Certification & Training

SAP Certification is a testament to an individual’s expertise in specific areas within the vast landscape of SAP solutions. These certifications can be divided into three levels, each designed to validate different levels of expertise and experience:

Associate Certification:

This certification is designed for those new to SAP solutions, covering the fundamental knowledge requirements for a consultant.

  • Who Should Pursue: Ideal for beginners or those looking to validate their foundational knowledge of SAP solutions.
  • Preparation: Engage in SAP training courses, utilise the SAP Learning Hub, and consider joining study groups.

Professional Certification:

A more advanced level of certification validates the theoretical and practical knowledge of experienced SAP practitioners.

  • Who Should Pursue: Suitable for those with substantial practical experience in SAP looking to validate their expertise.
  • Preparation: Besides utilising the SAP Learning Hub, consider gaining practical experience through projects or consulting roles.

Specialist Certification:

This niche certification is for those who want to deepen their expertise in specific parts of the SAP portfolio.

  • Who Should Pursue: Individuals already have an Associate certification and want to specialise in particular areas.
  • Preparation: Engage in specialised training and hands-on experience in the chosen area of specialisation.

SAP Certification offers a clear route for professionals to prove and highlight their skills in different SAP solutions. It’s designed for everyone, from beginners to experienced users, and for those wanting to focus on specific areas. The key to doing well in these certifications is to prepare through the SAP Learning Hub and gain hands-on experience. Getting certified in SAP not only confirms one’s expertise but also opens up better chances for career growth within the SAP community.

For more detailed information on training and certification paths, visit SAP’s official Certification Hub.

SAP stands out for its flexibility. It suits everyone, from small startups needing basic systems to large companies looking for extensive solutions. SAP doesn’t just offer software; it also builds a community of skilled professionals, ensuring businesses have the support they need to get the most from their SAP systems.

Since starting in 1972, SAP has shown it can adapt and grow, proving its strength and forward-thinking approach. In today’s complex global market, SAP’s ability to make business operations smoother, more efficient, and innovative is extremely valuable. SAP is more than a software vendor; it’s a vital partner for modern businesses, helping them move towards a more unified and promising future.

For professionals, learning SAP is more than a good skill; it’s a way to secure their career’s future. As the world moves more into digital ways of working, SAP’s importance is set to increase, opening up opportunities for those who know how to use it effectively.

Explore the latest SAP jobs from around the world with the UK’s leading SAP recruitment agency.


About the author

Whitehall Resources is the leading specialist SAP recruitment agency in the UK. We have curated an expansive network of SAP talent drawn from direct relationships and personal referrals. Consequently, we are renowned and respected among the most seasoned candidates in the market.

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