This is an interesting blog by Steve Lucas, President of Platform Solutions at SAP.
The first paragraph reads:
“Our CEO, Bill McDermott, has thrown down the gauntlet on enterprise complexity so to speak and issued a challenge to every single SAP employee: Make our valuable products and solutions simple to understand, simple to discover, simple to deploy, simple to use and simple to support. Do that, he promises, and our customers will be successful. There is no more noble pursuit for SAP than that as far as I am concerned!”
In a way this blog in 2014 heralded the announcement in February 2015 of the launch of S4/HANA, a simplified platform which will ultimately include all the business functionality and industry models currently supported by SAP Business Suite running on HANA either on premise or in the cloud. The application will run much faster, have simpler processes, easier customisation and a much reduced size data model.
Of course not everyone will be able to benefit from this immediately, not least because the first available application on S4/HANA is Financials, with Logistics to follow later in 2015.
Until they do migrate, the 25,000 or so customers who run their businesses on SAP’s ERP and CRM platform (SAP Business Suite) will continue to have to cope with the intricacy of their applications in terms of both process and data.
Some of those of course will be organisations who, in any event, wish to remain on their current database platform from Oracle, IBM or Microsoft at least for the foreseeable future. For them the complexity will remain and they are supported for at least the next 10 years.
I guess as well that some SAP customers may reach the conclusion that, before deciding to continue to commit to the SAP platform and the process of moving to S4/HANA, it would be a good time to evaluate alternatives, such as Salesforce and Workday, especially if a move to SaaS and Cloud generally is perceived to be beneficial.
The migration to S4/HANA process is I understand two phased. Firstly the database itself needs to be migrated to HANA and then the second phase involves installing the S4/HANA application. Alternatively one could migrate SAP Business Suite to HANA and then look to upgrade the Financials application to S4/HANA although I am not sure how that then works with the other modules (CRM, SRM, etc.)
For organisations who have multiple instances of SAP running and who may be considering the move to S4/HANA as a route to application rationalisation, there will be the question of whether it is necessary to consolidate those applications and their data on their standard RDBMS platform first and then migrate to HANA and then finally to install the application. That can be a significant challenge in itself.
Given that most organisations do not only have SAP as a supplier, there are other aspects of such a major project to consider, for example, data and application integration, master data, enterprise data warehouse as well as governance and compliance. All of these are heavily skewed to having a reliance on an understanding of the SAP data landscape.
It is well known that the data model underpinning an SAP instance runs into over 90,000 tables before customisation and that this is further complicated by pool, cluster and transparent tables types.
Add to that, the fact that the logical names, descriptions and relationships between tables are not held in the physical database System Catalogue and it becomes obvious why so much time and money is spent in merely trying to navigate the data model to find what is needed for an Information Management project (Data Warehouse, Data Migration, Integration, Master Data, Governance etc.)
Whilst it is possible to make the links between say, SAP transactions or programmes and data tables, it is extremely difficult to link data to process which means even more time and expense is required to understand the impact of changes or of upgrades.
So how can those companies who, for whatever reason, continue to use the traditional method for storing data and the SAP R/3 based application packages look to get more out of their investment in these critical systems of record? Well, there are a number of SAP partners who provide solutions which can assist with this objective.
Naturally we at Silwood Technology would suggest looking at product and solution vendors who specialise in making SAP easier to work with. On the data/metadata side, our product Safyr for SAP can help – not to simplify the data model itself – but to make it navigable and searchable to enable effective and rapid scoping. This accelerates the delivery of crucial Information Management projects and increases IT staff productivity and agility.
For application and process based information about SAP, IntelliCorp has a comprehensive set of tools which aid smart Application Lifecycle Management, provide visibility into Business Processes and enhance Data Integration.
For more information about how Silwood Technology can deliver a greater level of understanding of SAP data by providing visibility into the complex web of SAP tables please visit our website.