Bracing SAP for the Application Economy

by September 3, 2018

The Two Key Challenges Your SAP Environments Need to Overcome

Does your SAP automation strategy sometimes feel like you’re holding onto an umbrella in a hurricane? Digital disruptors are turning up the heat, and those that fail to adapt, fail to survive. Staying ahead means searching out and implementing ways to maximize efficiency in enterprise process execution.

Whether your business-critical processes run exclusively on-prem, or stretch beyond SAP and use a mixture of cloud and SaaS applications, both have the potential to falter. Can you afford the cost of inefficient or failing business applications?

What Does Inefficiency Look Like?

Sometimes it’s tempting to adhere to the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but in doing so we can let something become outdated and unfit for purpose. When something is enhanced, what was once the standard can quickly become comparatively slow, unreliable and inaccurate. Room for improvement can appear in a number of areas.

Perhaps your processes rely heavily on manual handoffs, which create inaccuracies and delays, while requiring skilled resources to focus on mundane tasks. It might be that there’s a lack of visibility across all stages of a particular process, so it’s unclear where an error has popped up. Coordination could be out of line, so process steps are missed or go wrong.

Even if everything seems fine with process execution at the moment, there are always ways to improve and reap potentially unrecognized benefits. It is not uncommon for organizations to witness vast holdups as development and testing regularly come to a standstill. Similarly, time can be wasted resolving misconfigured parameters, and non-production systems can be unavailable for days or even weeks. Furthermore, the sheer volume of sensitive data is forcing quality and security risks. The net result of all this is that talented staff are forced to waste time performing laborious administrative tasks.

Transitioning SAP to the Digital Age

SAP environments tend to be complex and the race towards digital nirvana is probably not going to reverse that reality. The vast implications for the wider business have already been described by Gartner, who have been warning organizations to prepare for the increased complexity in the next phase of the ERP lifecycle. In this context, SAP automation takes on a strategic importance, helping increase agility to the levels required by the digital economy, while mastering growing complexity. Here, I’ve outlined two automation challenges your organization needs to take on if it is to ensure that its SAP landscape is prepared for the digital age.

End-to-End Visibility and Control of Hybrid SAP Processes

Enterprise processes span multiple teams, departments and applications that go beyond SAP systems, and your processes run on a mix of SAP, custom and packaged applications. These applications usually reside in multiple environments on premises or in the cloud and form a complex and heterogeneous IT landscape. As such, visibility is typically limited to application silos, meaning you don’t have control over the entire enterprise process.

Smooth process execution stems from an overreliance on an already stretched team, forced to undertake activities manually; it is only natural that mistakes will be made. This results in delays and errors that reveal themselves unexpectedly, often when it’s too late. Missed SLAs might can mean delayed decisions, compliance violations and business risks. It is therefore crucial for the modern enterprise to ensure that SAP processes are properly automated, providing complete transparency and reliability, to guarantee that expectations are met.

Transitioning your SAP processes to the digital age requires you to rethink your approach to automation, and switch from an opportunistic to an enterprise-wide, systematic approach. This provides a cohesive platform for SAP automation across the entire enterprise, enabling proper visibility and control.

Delivering SAP Innovation At Speed

The pace of change is radically faster with new digital applications because you have to adapt the services you deliver to an ever-moving market. As a consequence, you need to continuously deliver an up-to-date, innovative customer experience. In fact, the digital economy means that continuous change has become the new normal.

And it is a real challenge trying to align digital systems that are built to change with SAP systems that are built to last. If you listen to experts, some of them might tell you: just don’t try! Do not try to align pace of change between legacy systems and modern systems—create isolation layers and avoid legacy systems, slowing down your digital activities. So, in a nutshell, their argument is: let’s go fast with digital applications, and let’s go slow with critical legacy applications like SAP. In theory, this is not a bad idea, but in practice it doesn’t work most of the time. With SAP, like most ERPs, you should not underestimate the dependencies that exist between digital applications and the core back-end applications. The reality is that you have to manage SAP applications and digital applications into the same development and testing processes.

Therefore, you need to ensure your SAP operations are automated enough to support the pace of change that is induced by digital applications. And I am sure you know perfectly well what the largest agility roadblock with SAP is. It is creating copies of SAP production systems for non-production matters, like development, integration, testing and training. To enable digital innovation, you need to automate and industrialize the generation of non-production SAP environments. Not having access to test environments on time means less testing, or bad testing. Bugs will be discovered directly on production systems, which will decrease the customer satisfaction and also increase the cost for fixing problems.

One of the gravest consequences of poorly integrating SAP into the digital age is a lack of competitiveness for the company. Poor user experience leads to customer churn, internal dissatisfaction, lower adoption rates and ultimately, lost business. Therefore, gaining efficiency is a vital way to improve customer retention and adoption. At the same time improving processes and the output of your organization will also bring expenditure under control and drive bottom line revenue growth—a net win-win.