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Johns Hopkins Improves Inventory Management

Inventory planners leverage core SAP ECC functionality to achieve lower inventory costs, close to 100% fulfillment and delivery accuracy, and fewer expedited orders. Register for this new SAPinsider Research Brief Insider Profile today!

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An Experienced SAP Supply Chain Management Lead Shares Views on Implementations and Steps Toward Digital Transformation

In this Q&A, Muhammad Riaz Hussain Shan, SAP Lead for supply chain, quality management, and plant maintenance at Sitara Chemical Industries Ltd, shares with SAPinsider some key emerging trends in 2019. He offers insights from lessons and tips from his SAP implementations as well as his views on digital transformation of supply chain processes and systems.

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How Sealed Air Is Transforming Its Employee Learning Experience

Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) have the potential to provide employees with more personalized and intuitive learning experiences

Recently, employee experience has been dominating headlines and solution roadmaps across human capital management (HCM). While much of the discussion has been about the need to transform employee experience on a macro level through measuring and analyzing experience data, there continues to be significant development and focus on improving employee experience in other ways, including learning management.  

Learning Experience Platforms Have the Potential to Drive Learning Management Growth

When asked in a recent SAPinsider survey — for the State of The Market How the Cloud Is Transforming HR research report — to identify the HCM functions in which they dedicate the most time and resources, 22% of respondents in the leader category chose learning management, a response that ranked third in overall investment behind core HR (41%) and payroll (26%) applications. As interest and investment in learning solutions rises, learning experience platforms (LXPs) that focus on employee experience by transforming traditional top down learning processes are offering new ways to engage and develop employees.

LXPs have the potential to change both the way learners engage and the way learning is delivered by offering employees a more personal, tailored learning experience. As a platform, LXPs like Skillsoft’s Percipio leverage different channels, content sources, and delivery methods to curate, aggregate, and recommend content that is specific to an employee’s current role or career development path.

For employees who are accustomed to user-friendly applications like Netflix or Spotify that recommend content based on machine learning and algorithms, LXPs can provide a similar experience. Employees can receive recommendations based on their past training, their roles, or their interests. Content in LXPs is often organized by channels, tags, or skills and competencies, and many offer the learner the ability to share and recommend content. The emphasis on a more personalized user experience helps increase the overall effectiveness of the learning process.

Transforming Learning at Sealed Air

Sealed Air Corporation, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based provider of protective packaging solutions with 15,000 employees globally, implemented SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central as its core HCM solution in 2018. Since then, Sealed Air has continued to expand its HR technology transformation by implementing additional SAP SuccessFactors solutions, including SAP SuccessFactors Learning, in 2019.

Learning at Sealed Air is fairly decentralized, with corporate HR providing learning for “soft skills” content such as leadership and career development training that is accessible to all employees, while training that is specific to individual divisions or functions — such as sales training or safety training — is managed by the business functions themselves.

When Sealed Air went live with SAP SuccessFactors Learning as its learning management system (LMS) platform, it also launched Skillsoft’s Percipio learning experience platform at the same time. For Sealed Air, the simultaneous rollout of SAP SuccessFactors Learning with the Percipio platform and its content library meant that learners immediately had access to a significant number of learning assets in Percipio while the company worked with its LMS administrators and its existing training providers to incorporate additional content into the new system.

Creating a More Modern Learning Experience

Sealed Air’s previous LMS platform lacked the modern user experience, the level and accessibility of content, and the tight integration with its core HCM solution that Percipio provides. In the past, learning that was completed outside of the core system was not automatically updated, meaning managers didn’t always have complete visibility into the learning activities of their employees. Now, employees access learning through the “My Sealed Air” site that includes SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and integration with the Percipio platform. Employees can check the site for any learning assignments or browse learning content that aligns with their developmental goals. The early feedback indicates that the LXP has led to a significant improvement in user experience.

Sealed Air discovered that the experience of finding content and accessing learning through Percipio was very much in line with modern user experiences employees are used to having online. As a result, they have not had to spend time creating job aids to instruct employees how to use the system.

The more intuitive learning experience has led to fewer questions from employees and a much smoother process overall. This has enabled Sealed Air to focus less on tactical details and more on overall strategic enhancements to employee learning and development. “Going forward, we can be more thoughtful and strategic about how we assign, recommend, and encourage learning within the organization,” says Cary Anderson, Sealed Air’s Global Learning and Development Manager.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?

The biggest benefits of an LXP are the overall user experience — the modern way in which learning is sourced and executed — and the way in which content is organized, presented, and accessed. When used properly, LXPs can improve employee engagement, increase the effectiveness of learning, and reduce the time organizations spend creating and curating learning content. To elevate the employee experience and deliver more engaging learning content, SAPinsiders considering implementing an LXP should:

  • Emphasize user experience. The effectiveness of an LXP like Skillsoft’s Percipio is directly related to user experience. Outside of the workplace, employees have become accustomed to the experience of streaming, gaming, and social media platforms. As Sealed Air discovered, by choosing a learning platform that is as intuitive for your employees, you can increase engagement and the amount of learning consumed.
  • Harness the power of content curation and contextualization. LXPs curate content from multiple sources and offer it in searchable content channels and playlists. Employees can set content preferences and recommend learning to their peers and LXPs can also leverage machine learning to provide contextualized learning recommendations based on an employee’s past learning, role, or even recent actions. Customers looking at LXPs should think beyond traditional catalog learning and consider the intelligent ways their content can be accessed and delivered.
  • Make mobile access a priority. Online learning is no longer limited to the desktop. Most employees expect content like learning to be accessible from mobile devices. By adding more mobile-friendly learning content like video, customers can improve the results of key learning metrics around engagement and course completion.
  • Analyze the results of learning. Most LXPs offer business intelligence and analysis capabilities that can be used to track usage and gather feedback on learning activities. This same data can also be used to track the value of learning by analyzing the impact of learning on productivity or performance. Customers should identify the metrics that will enable them to most accurately track the value created by the LXP and use the embedded analysis capabilities to monitor them.

Following this strategic guidance should help SAP customers take advantage of the capabilities offered by LXPs to enhance skills development and improve the overall effectiveness of learning processes.

The full SAPinsider report “State of The Market How the Cloud Is Transforming HR” is available for free download now. To learn more about Sealed Air’s SAP transformation over recent years, read this SAPinsider article about the company’s SAP Hybris implementation that improved the customer experience.




Is Your HR Department Ready For The Digital Workforce?

Read this white to and learn how to find the right talent, develop future leaders and engage employees with a digital HR experience and automated, transparent processes across the SAP® landscape.

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New Product Introduction Solution Significantly Reduces Cycle Times

Product managers can gain increased visibility into the bridge between product development and product launch

Among leading SAP supply chain customers — companies achieving significantly better supply chain business results than the competition — 29% chose shorter product lifecycles as one of the top drivers impacting their supply chain, according to SAPinsider research. To achieve shorter product life cycles, organizations must introduce new products faster than ever.

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European SAP Customers Get Most out of S&OP

Recent SAPinsider research explores the confluence of technologies that has hit the supply chain management (SCM) market and benchmarked the technologies leading companies are using to support their SCM strategies. Here, we examine the ways in which Europ

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Innovate With SAP Cloud Platform

Learn how IT leaders and development teams use SAP® Cloud Platform to deliver the rapid innovation needed to fuel today's data-driven business. See ways to improve your business process, deliver engaging digital experiences, and simplify innovation wi

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SAP Cybersecurity in an Age of Uncertainty

by Jhansi R Bandaru, PMP-Certified IT SAP Security/Compliance Lead

According to Risk Based Security’s 2019 MidYear QuickView Data Breach Report, the first six months of 2019 saw more than 3,800 publicly disclosed cyber attacks exposing more than 4 billion compromised records, with 3.2 billion of those records exposed by just eight breaches. Making matters worse, an overwhelming percentage of the compromised personal or strategic data was considered highly sensitive, yet was stored on unsecured routers and gateways — an oversight that offered cyber attackers ready access and scores of opportunities to steal and misuse data. Just to provide scope and context, think about this: Some 700 message servers that hold highly sensitive data are currently open to the internet in the US, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division.

With SAP systems containing very sensitive and confidential data, there is a critical need for organizations to perform a regular audit of these systems to check their security and data integrity and to identify system vulnerabilities before potential attackers do. Knowing the weaknesses and gaps in a system is the first step in empowering management to deal with those vulnerabilities in a proactive, concise, and effective way.

Developing Effective Access Management Practices

As the number and impact of security breaches continue to climb, management at a growing number of companies has significantly increased its focus on compliance, information security, and IT risk management, with a particular emphasis on governing what data and processes users can access inside an SAP landscape. Access control is a key part of any security system, requiring many processes to manage, monitor, and sustain, and there are a number of best practices to successfully manage the access to sensitive data in a SAP environment:

    • Segregation of duties ― that is, protecting the system against intrusion by users who have low-level clearance by granting only limited access to specific levels of data — is a key element of controlling access to sensitive data. For example, some employees may have access to critical functionality, such as passwords that open the door to virtually every information file in the system, while others are granted authorized access only to certain specified data.

 

    • Utilizing password management applications is highly recommended as they allow end users to reset passwords on their own, making it easier to manage passwords and synchronize them with other systems.

 

    • Single sign-on (SSO) functionality serves as a form of authentication that enables users to use a single set of credentials for each system when they want to access different applications or platforms within a certain organization. By allowing them to use this single set, SSO simplifies the process of authentication and allows the monitoring of accounts and user logins.

 

    • Provisioning — that is, the monitoring of user and customer access rights — ensures enterprise resource security and provides identity management features such as digital identity creation, termination, and validation to clients, employees, and other stakeholders. It allows them to access resources either through the cloud or when present on site, guaranteeing that users have permission to use applications and network resources.

 

  • Creating role-based groups within a network is another effective access management practice as it determines exactly what access privileges users should have based on their job and establishes a vetting process that sets access standards and parameters.

To support these access management best practices, additional SAP security measures ― including authentication methods, database security, and network and external communication security ― must be implemented so that approved users have not only permission, but just enough means to gain access to the information they need to retrieve or edit. This ensures that data in a distributed environment is protected from both intentional piracy and unintentional damage that can compromise otherwise secure data.

Managing SAP Security Patches

SAP security is essentially a complex set of different areas with different responsibilities that can be constituted in accordance with platform types — such as ABAP, Java, and SAP HANA, for example — and can be separated into discrete, workable parts. For example, SAP security can be divided by application and business layers, or it can be organized at the platform and customization level, or it can be grouped by approach, such as detection and response or organizational and technical. A critical aspect across all of these areas is the application of security patches.

To remain optimally effective, SAP solutions, like any other IT application, need to be patched and updated regularly. Implementing security patches is not a one-time occurrence, but rather a continuous process that should take place on a monthly basis or at predefined intervals. However, for a variety of reasons, these patches aren’t always implemented, which raises the risk of cyberattack. For example, companies often mistakenly resist the need to patch, preferring to avoid the bother of disrupting existing processes such as customer relationship management or payment systems.

SAP releases security patches on the second Tuesday of every month, and it is imperative for any SAP customer to align with the security recommendations from SAP. As a first step, the recommended security patches released for the month can be analyzed at https://service.sap.com/securitynotes. In addition, supplementary information as well as testing scenarios on the released patches can be accessed at https://service.sap.com/securitypatchday.

Mitigating Vulnerabilities

Many developers consider SAP systems secure and robust because they have built-in authorization features. While this is true to some degree, faulty installations and misconfigurations can cause issues that can be addressed and treated using up-to-date, solution-specific software.

It is critical to eliminate any vulnerable attack surfaces as numerous Internet of Things (IoT), networks, and storage tools are connected to SAP systems. As such, they can present tempting targets for potential hackers, who are aware that when SAP solutions are in place, the data being protected is of especially high value.

While many firms rely on SAP software, some have outdated employee security policies that can lead to lax password and sloppy network security. This oversight can be a fundamental indicator of an overall poor cybersecurity strategy that devalues effective, long-term data security for the sake of immediate convenience.

In the long run, the most effective approach IT and security teams can take is to monitor operations in a continuous fashion, regularly conducting unscheduled system checks that can, as a best practice, readily identify system vulnerabilities and implement corrective measures.


About the Author:

Jhansi R Bandaru is a PMP certified IT SAP Security/Compliance Lead with over 12 years’ experience and expertise in design and implementation of SAP Security/HANA/BW/GRC/Audit and Controls. In addition, Jhansi has worked on several ECC, BW/BI, GRC Upgrade and Support related projects and had managed several SAP Security and Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) projects and teams. For more information, please email: jhansiratna@gmail.com



Change Is Coming to Financial Planning and Analysis:

SAPinsider looks into FP&A and talks with Bryan Lapidus, Director, FP&A at AFP

Financial professionals are extremely focused on FP&A (financial planning & analysis). As SAPinsider prepares our 2020 studies, “The State of the Market for SAP Financial Planning and Analysis” and “The State of the Market for SAP Finance – a Benchmark Study,” we had a chance to converse with Bryan Lapidus, FPA&A Director, FP&A Practices at Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), about the state of finance and FP&A for 2020 and beyond.

“The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed”

Lapidus quotes writer William Gibson to observe that, though “the future is already here,” in many meaningful ways, in FP&A, “it’s just not evenly distributed.” Spreadsheet technology makes a good case for discussion, because they are so embedded within finance. Today there are advanced ways to use spreadsheets, including as the front-end to robust databases and business intelligence tools; plus, collaboration and security tools.

Most people only use a fraction of its capabilities, even though, if we add up usage statistics from Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, Apple Numbers and others, there is ample grounds to propose that “spreadsheet,” not English, is the world’s second-largest language.

Lapidus points out that “there are FP&A professionals who are emailing basic spreadsheet templates to collect data, and at the other end of the spectrum, others are creating budgets and forecasts based on predictive algorithms. We also see practitioners who write variance reports with natural language generation software packages.”

 Bryan Lapidus 2Bryan Lapidus, 

FPA&A Director, 

FP&A Practices, 

Association for Financial Professionals (AFP)

What we’re seeing

SAPinsider’s recent study, “Assessing Intelligent Automation in Finance,” shows that fully 20% of automation laggards self-identify the accuracy of their company’s financial projections as somewhat (13%) or highly (7%) uncertain. That’s a sobering statistic if you happen to be CEO. In contrast, even among average performers, uncertainty hovered comfortably below 5% (and 2% each for “somewhat” and “highly”). Most dramatically, only a single respondent among the automation leaders spoiled the clean sheet and reported even a “somewhat” uncertainty with their projections. Presuming that almost every large company in the world utilizes spreadsheets for some portion of their planning process, it’s clearly the quality and sources of the data within those worksheets that is making the difference.

SAPinsider’s baseline research also confirms that interest in financial planning dwarfs every other concern with an asterisk for perennial interest in streamlining the financial close  – which still comes in second with 53% and 52% of responding organizations citing these two, respectively, at the top of their lists and everything else comes in a far distant third). Riz Ahmed, Chief Research Officer at SAPinsider, observed, “Pain related to FP&A hasn’t changed. What has changed is executive impatience for the solution.”

“May you live in interesting times”

Blessing or curse, the “interesting times” in this adage are recognized as a challenge. Yet, sometimes, what’s “interesting” is clearer in retrospect than foresight. At the center of his comments on FP&A, AFP’s Lapidus points out the irony that FP&A professionals so deeply engaged in modeling the future might be missing some writing on their whiteboard walls.

Credit finance for having successfully evolved beyond simple recordkeeping and compliance filing mandates. (Case in point, the first name in planning has long been theirs—”Financial Planning & Analysis”). Yet, as Lapidus also observes, this is not immutable. As corporate information expands, so does the value of market and supply chain system insights. The “P&A” department of the future may well follow that value, and wind up belonging to the organization(s) that best deliver it. Finance departments may find their role of analyzing information falling into other business units, and the FP&A role reduced to consolidation of forecasts.


Expert advice from practitioners to practitioners


Lapidus’ final example describes the experience of a large restaurant company, and the creation of their first “data lake.” Given a trove of new information, the finance department stopped creating new metrics based on their general ledger data (already widely covered) and instead aligned their data and dimensions to their customers and customer-oriented systems. The insights they have developed, according to Lapidus, are being recognized across the company for their value. That sure sounds like the type of future that FP&A wants to design.


What does this mean for SAPinsiders?


  • Companies looking to improve their planning process should look to improve the sources of their data, and not just their technology. Customer and supply chain systems often contain forward-looking information that is useful for forming predictive insights.
  • Making time for analysis, beyond recordkeeping and reconciliation, is important. Better automation of recording and compliance tasks can free resources for higher-value activities. Understanding business drivers related to customers, markets, and supply chains, can unlock insights that aren’t illuminated by traditional focus on accounting data and variance analysis.
  • Executives will increasingly turn toward sources delivering the most valuable predictive insights and analysis. Finance departments need to recognize the implications of the rapid increase in information on their role as traditional custodians of the FP&A process.