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User Access and Identity Management for SAP S/4HANA Benchmark Report

In This Report:

User access and identity management benchmark report image

Access management often comes about through necessity rather than planning. Organizations today use a portfolio of systems that not all employees are authorized to use, so proper access management is critical. With cloud systems and remote work on the rise and increasing threats that seek to steal employee access, a more comprehensive approach is required. Enter identity management, which aims not only to know who is using the system but also how they are using the system.

To understand what SAP customers are doing in user access and identity management for SAP S/4HANA, SAPinsider surveyed 222 members of our community in July 2021. The goal of the survey was to understand factors driving user access and identity management for SAP customers and the strategies in place to address these factors.

Read the report to:

  • Learn how your SAPinsider peers approach user access and identity management for SAP S/4HANA, and the results they are experiencing.
  • Discover the most successful strategies for deploying and optimizing user access and identity management.
  • Understand what’s driving and challenging adoption of user access and identity management.
  • Gain an understanding of how you can build a successful access and identity management strategy for your own SAP S/4HANA deployment.

 



 

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Modernizing Logistics and Inventory Tracking Benchmark Report

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In This Report:

Supply chain visibility has been a pain point for companies across industries for many years. But the magnitude of repercussions from lack of visibility has increased exponentially in recent years, and the primary reason is evolving customer behavior and demand. Organizations today serve customers who are much more demanding and expect an immaculate customer experience. In supply chain parlance, this translates into the expectation of receiving the right product, in the right quantity, at the right time. The supply chains that most organizations need to leverage to deliver customer expectations are becoming increasingly complex due to global footprints, product proliferation, systems complexity, and evolving intricacies of key processes like logistics and inventory management. These complexities lead to more risk exposure across the supply chain. This increased risk, in turn, significantly increases the probability of supply chain disruptions, which may then impact customer satisfaction.

Read the report to:

  • Discover what drives logistics and inventory tracking modernization.
  • Understand how SAPinsiders meet their logistics and inventory tracking modernization drivers.
  • Find out which technologies are being used to support modernization strategies.
  • Learn the top requirements for successful inventory tracking modernization.
  • Gain your steps to success.

 



 

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Enterprise-Class Demand Planning at Agilent Technologies

Implementing GIB Forecast Enabled Agilent’s Pathology Department to Replace Processes Based on Email and Spreadsheets with an Automated, Future-Ready Solution

By Matt Gillespie, Contributing Writer, SAPinsider

Agilent Technologies produces analytical instruments, software, and consumables for use in life sciences and other laboratories. The company has grown dramatically in recent years, both in new and existing geographies. In addition to organic growth, Agilent has acquired a number of companies to add capabilities to its analytical portfolio.

In Agilent’s pathology division, such growth has caused the company to experience a rapid expansion of sales, but also revealed that it had outgrown its demand-planning practices, which were largely manual and based on desktop productivity software, instead of a true enterprise solution.

Driven by a need to better support its expanding demand pipeline, Agilent determined to implement a solution with greater ability to scale and more flexible statistical modeling. By increasing the efficiency and sophistication of its demand planning and therefore forecasting, Agilent targeted optimizing inventories, supply readiness, and capacity planning.

Discovering the Requirements for a Smarter Supply Chain

Agilent’s spreadsheet-based methodology included many manual steps that added little value but consumed significant resources, eating into operational efficiency.

Analysts would run queries against SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) and downloaded data into Microsoft Access databases, which they then reformatted and transferred to spreadsheets for analysis with formulas and macros. As the queries grew larger, data downloads became prohibitively slow, and crashes of the Access databases became more frequent. The analysis itself was limited to relatively simple operations such as calculating numeric averages. More sophisticated algorithmic methods, as well as factors such as seasonality and trending, were beyond what could practically be implemented in a spreadsheet.

Ross Fasco, SAP Supply Chain Architect at Agilent, summarizes, “The business case was really that we couldn’t sustain the current Access and spreadsheet-based process; with the growth that was occurring, the manual process just wasn’t going to work.”

Distinguishing between one-time events versus long-term trends was identified as a key forecasting capability that needed improvement. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic almost instantaneously reshaped the global marketplace in unprecedented ways and with unclear long-term effects. Like many companies around the world, Agilent experienced a dramatic fall-off in sales around the end of the first quarter of 2020, as economies responded.

This event was largely an example — albeit an exceptional one — of a demand anomaly, rather than a long-term shift. The division had to ensure that its forecast models did not mistakenly weight those dramatic events as a seasonal change or a permanent inflection point. Fasco suggests that their legacy forecasting model would have fallen short: “We would have identified these outliers, but it would have been via a very slow, manual process. It would have seen the drops in March and April, and it could have said, ‘I’m going to plan for you not selling as much in March and April 2021,’ but that’s not accurate. It could have been a drop because of the pandemic.”

By enhancing the statistical methods to generate forecasts, the company planned to tune its production and distribution pipelines to be as proactive and efficient as possible. Improved visibility and control over the statistical calculations that go into demand planning lie at the heart of these requirements.

Data science provides mathematical approaches and adjustments that can help avoid such missteps, but spreadsheets were simply not created for that depth of analysis. Fasco points out that an important function of the demand planner is to apply one’s intimate knowledge of products and markets to refine the accuracy and utility of forecasts. To do so, he says, “there are quite a few things they can do to really get the forecast to be fine-tuned.”

Analysts may manipulate what historic data is used, make adjustments to respond to current market conditions, or control a wide range of other factors. While doing so necessarily adds a layer of complexity to the calculations, standardized and efficient ways to manipulate the statistical models remain an important capability in the analyst’s toolbox. The Agilent team determined that the ability to make full use of such statistical methods was critical to the success of their forecasting solution.

Bringing Together the Business and Technology Cases

Globally, the company operates a single SAP ECC instance across some 25 manufacturing sites and 15 distribution centers, as well as widely distributed stocking locations and service depots. The SAP supply-chain footprint at Agilent also includes SAP Ariba procurement software, SAP Manufacturing Execution, SAP Advanced Planner and Optimizer, and other solutions, across operations such as procurement, demand planning, and production planning.

To execute and maintain the best demand planning possible to support the company’s acquisitions-based growth strategy, Agilent needed what Fasco describes as “a professional tool to drive fact and analytics-based updates of forecast.”

For further supply-chain intelligence and control, Agilent had already integrated several GIB modules with its SAP environment. GIB Operations Cockpit plays an especially important role in material requirements planning (MRP) to ensure smooth day-to-day operations. “We use GIB Operations Cockpit for MRP exceptions and operational procurement. It functions essentially as a cockpit for the MRP controller to view supply/demand across multiple logistics centers and manufacturing plants. The company uses GIB Inventory Optimization in one site currently, to review the day’s supply and inventory levels. The GIB alert monitor ties all the GIB components together, providing the Controller with better situational awareness and revealing potential delays and shortfalls in one comprehensive grid.”

Agilent’s existing GIB investment helped make a strong technology and business case for adopting GIB Forecast for demand planning. The Agilent team recognized that ease of integration offered a compelling benefit, without requiring dedicated hardware or adoption of unfamiliar application programming interfaces (API). In addition, GIB Forecast loads directly into SAP ECC without introducing a separate interface, so that from the business users’ point of view, GIB is simply part of the familiar SAP environment that they already work with every day.

Streamlining and Deepening the Demand-Planning Process

After about a six-month implementation, Agilent brought GIB Forecasting into production. An early outcome was that business users no longer had to manually prepare and cross-correlate data from massive spreadsheets, a resource-intensive process that scales poorly. Relieved of those repetitive tasks, team members can place more focus on higher-value work. Before human staff gets involved, automated processes have loaded the data, then run forecast models and outlier analysis against it. Fasco says, “they just show up, and then they can start actually doing value-added tasks of getting the data right.”

With the data preparation and preliminary analysis done for them, team members can focus on refining the models to get the best outputs possible. Business analysts may adjust forecasting procedures or manipulate parameters to guide the model’s behavior. Thus, these staff members are able to redirect their focus from data preparation to data modeling, offering more value to the company.

Agilent’s forecasting implementation also enables a self-service modality for business super-users. These users can make configuration changes directly to the production system to modify forecasting procedures, without involving IT. In addition to empowering the business units, this approach accelerates the pace of change, so that demand planning can rapidly adapt to circumstances, guided by the people who know that data best.

Greater process control by business users is a significant benefit to Agilent from its GIB implementation that creates end-to-end visibility and continuity over the forecast lifecycle. Anyone with authorization can examine a forecast to see what model and data were used to generate it, as well as add data about relevant events such as a trade show or sales promotion. Thus, for example, Fasco states, “there’s full transparency now between what the demand planner is doing with the data and what the actual planner — a production planner for example — is going to do to execute that plan.”

Agilent refers to this quality of integration as “natural conversion,” from planning to execution. At a practical level, the approach has been especially valuable for maintaining and adjusting Agilent’s forecasts during the course of a month. The GIB alert monitoring module enables business users to create custom alerts that inform them when actual results are trending outside set ranges relative to the forecast. Agilent uses those alerts to guide dynamic adjustments to forecasts that fine-tune production for cost-efficiency.

Conclusion

Greater forecast sophistication and process transparency at Agilent has enabled collaboration and consensus among business units, as they look ahead together. Modernized demand planning has improved processes and empowered users. Analysts can easily enhance forecasts with real-world considerations, while users in various roles can incorporate inputs from across business units. As a result, forecasting draws from a more comprehensive view of the business, ultimately creating a more nuanced and accurate view of the future, for better efficiency.

 

Company Snapshot

Agilent Technologies

Company details: Manufactures and provides instruments, software, services, and consumables to analytical scientists and clinical researchers worldwide.

Headquarters: Santa Clara, California (global)

Employees: ~ 16,300

Annual Revenue: $5.16 billion (2019)

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Workflow Extensions With SAP Business Technology Platform — Your Highway to the Cloud

By Sebastian Bach, Senior Product Specialist, SAP SE, and Stephan Schluchter, Product Manager, SAP SE

It is fascinating to witness the differences between how organizations handle workflows within their business processes and business process management operations. One organization may have a straightforward process with standard use cases and related business applications. Another organization may handle workflows very differently related to how they manage activities and the individuals contributing to the successful handling of a purchase order, a sales order, supplier quotation, leave request, general journal entry, or change of business partner data. The list of use cases is potentially endless. And let’s not forget the possibility that the systems used by each organization can vary widely, too.

The truth is that these differences present exciting opportunities. At the same time, differences can be concerning when you think about digitization. In this article, we focus on how to view digitization challenges as opportunities, especially when dealing with workflows in hybrid environments.

The Challenge

Digitizing the flow of work and its related business processes is the essence of SAP; it’s in our DNA. With business applications like SAP S/4HANA and SAP ERP, we support thousands of customers in all industries across the globe in running their processes. At the same time, there are specific requirements for processes and related workflows that differ from company to company and from organization to organization. Just think about adding different levels of approvals for a purchase requisition; this is often handled differently in each organization. Such complexity created the starting point for the first workflow solution within SAP, SAP Business Workflow, which is still used in several application implementations.

One characteristic of these workflows is that they are local and run at the heart of the related application. However, the desire to centrally manage different applications with various local workflows becomes a challenge. A solution may include using SAP Business Process Management as part of SAP Process Orchestration. In hybrid landscapes with local, disconnected workflows, trying to include new process participants — such as employees of your partners and suppliers — can be tricky or even impossible.

Another option may include migrating your workflows to the cloud and leveraging all of its advantages, including the following:

· Installation-free service consumption
· Cost-efficient and flexible pricing models
· Managed environment without administration efforts
· Scalability
· Seamless integration into other cloud services.

You may think, do we now need to re-implement all our existing workflows within SAP applications to master these challenges? The answer is, of course not. Investments in the existing workflow implementations must be secured — this is clear. At the same time, you must demonstrate flexibility to build new process innovations and extensions on top of SAP and non-SAP applications.

The need for flexibility has increased across different industries and for different use cases. This may start by bringing former paper-based workflows into a digital format (e.g., a simple leave request). And it can be expanded to complete workflow-centric applications with 300 or more steps, many sub-flows, and several variants. This often happens in cases where customers want to support their uniqueness and differentiate themselves from their competitors. Will you still do this in hybrid landscapes with SAP Business Workflow or SAP Business Process Management? No, this was never the intention, at least not for cloud or hybrid use cases. Though the need for automation of the last mile is there. Organizations want to have one place to manage their workflows centrally, with one end-to-end view to manage the performance and enable a smooth transition to the cloud.

Before taking a closer look at how this can be achieved, let’s examine what tools are needed to make this happen.

The Opportunity

SAP Workflow Management — The Solution for Workflows
in the Cloud

SAP has a long and successful history with workflow solutions, starting in 1996 with the launch of SAP Business Workflow on SAP R/3 Enterprise and later SAP Business Suite and SAP ERP. This solution evolved with flexible workflow, an innovative concept in SAP S/4HANA that includes a sophisticated wizard to let business experts and citizen developers configure workflows on their own. The flexible workflow concept is based on different pre-built scenarios, delivered by SAP or created in a scenario editor by the organization itself.

In 2008, SAP Business Process Management was shipped for the first time, based on Java with one key differentiator to SAP Business Workflow: In addition to extensions or embedded workflows, it was now also possible to orchestrate workflows and processes across different systems and applications. This was quite a milestone, as it already covered some of the challenges and requirements we have discussed earlier. The year 2017 marked the next big milestone. A workflow cloud service was released — SAP Cloud Platform Workflow. Since 2008, it was also not only about workflows, but also the products covered in the management of business rules. It even provided end-to-end insights in the running of processes or respective workflow instances. Last year, these approaches and developments cumulated into SAP Workflow Management, as part of SAP Business Technology Platform. This is a cloud service offering to digitize workflows, manage decisions, gain end-to-end process visibility, and configure processes using a low-code approach.

Figure 1 — The Main Capabilities of SAP Workflow Management

By combining these capabilities (workflow, business rules, process variants, and visibility) organizations can build holistic workflow-based applications and let the business experts and citizen developers drive extension use cases or new processes on their own. The solution empowers them to configure these based on their specific requirements for workflow variations.

  • A number of different types of workflows are supported:
  • Embedded, as part of the application
  • Extensions, loosely coupled with the application or independent

Cross-Line-of-Business Orchestrations, spanning across different applications, systems, and services

As a bonus, SAP Workflow Management comes with pre-built workflow content, including pre-configured process variants, workflows, business rules, visibility dashboards, and user interfaces to simplify the configuration experience in a low code/no code environment. These content packages are available via SAP API Business Hub and are amplifiers for workflow implementations with SAP S/4HANA, SAP ERP, and several SAP business applications.

This all makes SAP Workflow Management an excellent candidate for central workflow management and end-to-end workflow performance views and a starting point to transition to the cloud, while securing the investments into existing workflows in SAP S/4HANA or SAP ERP. Let’s now focus on how extensions can be done in hybrid environments.

Extend Workflows in Hybrid Environments

There are two approaches to achieve workflow extensibility. First, there is so-called “in-app” extensibility. This is what you do whenever you create a workflow in SAP S/4HANA or SAP ERP with local configurations, business rules execution, local inbox, and integration with the related application logic to extend a business process. The other approach, which we will focus on here, is the so-called “side-by-side” extensibility. This means you extend independently of the application, outside the system in one central place for everything without any disruption of your digital core.

The side-by-side extensibility of SAP S/4HANA and SAP ERP on-premise to SAP Workflow Management in the cloud is technically realized by a proxy. You just need to configure the related system with SAP Business Workflow or the flexible workflow concept in SAP S/4HANA as a destination, and hybrid business scenarios connected to the cloud in SAP Workflow Management are ready to use.

From SAP ERP ECC 6.0 EHP7 (NetWeaver 7.40) onwards and in all higher versions, the ability to use workflow extensions side-by-side in the cloud is available. So, for almost all SAP ERP customers the transition to the newest workflow management toolset in the cloud is possible.

Figure 2 — Evolving from On-premise to Cloud, from Developer to Business Process Expert Experience

Depending on whether SAP ERP or SAP S/4HANA is used, the extension workflows differ slightly in implementation, though they have one thing in common — a central place to manage these extensions while accessing the local workflows.

In SAP Business Workflow, an extension flow in SAP Workflow Management can be called via an application programming interface (API) using a background task and two ABAP classes — a handler class and a callback class for receiving the result of the workflow — for execution. In transaction SWF_CPWF_MON all instances can be monitored. So, the ABAP system can remain the system of record with access to all logs, including even the logs from SAP Workflow Management. SAP Business Workflow customers can consume extension workflows, workflow content, and other cloud services in hybrid environments.

This is also the case for workflows in custom scenarios running in SAP S/4HANA. Customers can create more flexible extensions using the Manage Workflows application for business process experts. A specific step type can be used by scenario developers and empowers the business user to define cloud extension steps in the flexible workflow concept of SAP S/4HANA (e.g., to include external partners within an automated and fully digitized workflow without touching the digital core).

(Left) Figure 3 — Extension of SAP Business Workflow (Right) Figure 4 — Extension of SAP S/4HANA Manage Workflows

Process Visibility for Hybrid Workflows

SAP Workflow Management provides capabilities for end-to-end visibility in the executed workflow instances. You are free to select different process participants to measure performance. And you can even add a Qualtrics survey. Your investments in SAP Business Workflow are secure, and you have end-to-end visibility. Following some configurations in SAP S/4HANA (on-premise or in the cloud) or even in your SAP ERP system, you can easily create a visibility scenario. This scenario, which will be displayed as a dashboard, can be enhanced with meaningful phases for important business activities, defined target values, calculated attributes, and several process performance indicators. The solution already comes with some pre-defined indicators for your convenience. You can understand the progress of the workflow, identify bottlenecks, gain actionable insights, and use these indicators as a starting point for optimization. You can even define actions to be triggered in order to solve any business-critical situation. Now comes the best part: you have everything in one place, no matter where the workflows are executed.

Figure 5 — End-to-end Visibility for Any Workflow

Intelligent Workflows — The Next Evolution

What’s next? Managing all the workflows centrally is already a big step forward. But there is also the need to reduce the time people spend working on these workflows and to provide guidance if a decision or an approval is needed. Normally, for time-consuming, repetitive, and routine tasks, you would consider a digital bot, built with SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, to do the work for you. Nevertheless, there are cases where you cannot or are not allowed to let a digital worker make decisions for compliance and accountability reasons. Also, there are cases where the context information is missing or there is some lack of knowledge on the part of people involved in a business process. So, we need to infuse more intelligence into workflows. We plan to provide recommendations with confidence levels, backed up by machine learning-based explainability, along with the assigned tasks for an informed decision. This allows for mass approvals of work items based on these confidence levels.

Managing workflows in a hybrid landscape can be a tough operation. But with the extensibility driven by SAP Workflow Management, you have everything you need to handle this with confidence. In fact, you will increase your in-house workflow community. You will be able to move beyond on-premise use cases while providing a rich set of capabilities not only for classical workflow actions, but also enriched with business rules, process visibility, and use of pre-defined workflow content in a low code/no code environment. You can reduce your costs with easier process extensions. More importantly, your investments in your current workflows and applications are secured by the flexibility of SAP Workflow Management. And finally, this can be a first step for you to elevate from a pure on-premise implementation via a solid hybrid landscape to the cloud. Make this your “highway” — a fast lane from your workflow roots to the bright and wide branches of workflows in the cloud.

Learn more about SAP Workflow Management in the SAP Community and join us to discuss the workflow topic further.

About the Authors

Sebastian Bach, 
Senior Product Specialist, SAP SE

Sebastian Bach is a senior product specialist for SAP SE. He joined the BPM Product Management in June 2021. Prior to that Bach worked for 14 years as a consultant for several IT projects with an industry focus on Public Sector and Higher Education & Research. As a consultant for SAP, Bach’s focus was on workflow development, training, and process optimization with SAP Flexible and Business Workflow. He is passionate about digitizing processes and organizations to help customers run better. He is also involved in SAP Workflow Management and explores the possibilities of Hybrid Workflow Scenarios. He is currently working toward a certificate in professional software development.

Stephan Schluchter,
Product Manager, SAP SE

Stephan Schluchter is a product manager for SAP Workflow Management. His focus is on enabling customers, partners, and colleagues on the related services. Schluchter has more than 10 years of experience in the Business Process Management domain and is a regular speaker at international conferences like SAPPHIRE, SAP TechEd, ASUG, and DSAG.

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How a Specialty Chemical Company Handles Integration in a Hybrid SAP Landscape Amidst a Move to SAP S/4HANA

The company has subsidiaries in 100 countries, manufactures in over 300 factories, and employs more than 25,000 people

by Lauren Bonneau, Contributing Writer

Despite financial and other crises that have arisen in the market along the way, a Swiss-based multinational specialty chemical company that supplies to the building sector and motor vehicle industry has experienced continuous growth and innovation. In fact, since 2015, the company has made 25 acquisitions, added 11 new national subsidiaries, and opened 44 new plants.

“We’ve been growing at almost double-digit figures for the last several years. Compared to our industry peers, that is quite a high growth rate, and there are a couple of key reasons for that,” says the company’s Head of the SAP Development Cloud and Integration (DCI) team. “First, we invest a lot of effort and resources in the research and development of innovative products. Second, we are a very lean organization so decisions happen very quickly, which helps us grow and be on top of our game.”

The DCI team is responsible for every technical aspect of the organization’s SAP landscape, including overseeing all development, integration, and implementation of new systems or processes. The DCI team is in charge of managing the integrations for this growing hybrid landscape that includes around 70 applications, including on-premise and cloud SAP and non-SAP applications.

Prioritizing Integration as a Strategic Imperative

A substantial part of the organization’s business is supplying components and parts to almost every major automotive company. Today, more than 50% of the cars that are manufactured worldwide contain the company’s products and technologies. With the organization selling to those in the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) sectors, rather than directly to consumers, it has a large number of B2B interactions with heavy electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions.

“The automotive industry is a just-in-time business that runs primarily on EDI-based processes,” says the Head of the SAP DCI team. “When we started our SAP integration program, we focused on EDI as our main use case since a large part of our business integrations involve integrating with contractors, external partners, and large distribution businesses. With automotive customers expecting fast response times — in some cases, in as little as 30 minutes — we always have to be on our toes and monitoring systems 24/7.”

The DCI team is a global team, with resources located in Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, India, and the US, and most recently in Mexico and Asia Pacific. This dispersed team helps ensure that someone is always on hand to support business needs or address any application programming interface (API) or integration issues that arise.

While EDI is its primary integration use case, the enterprise has experienced several other use cases as well, such as when it acquired a company that required SAP integration with a certain product it was using, when a business requested to integrate with an internal on-premise company system that had no out-of-the-box integration, and when the use of cloud-based non-SAP and SAP applications, such as SAP SuccessFactors solutions, increased.

“The in-house expertise and SAP technology in place at that time allowed us to build integrations to those systems,” says the Head of the SAP DCI team. “Our yearly usage of SAP Process Integration jumped multifold when we started integrating not just EDI, but non-API gateway applications as well.”

Factors That Led the Company Toward Integration in the Cloud

With business channels such as online sales increasing in importance in the current economy, the DCI team faces new requirements for integration — for example, providing catalogs to distribution stores, such as Home Depot and Lowes, so they can integrate company data into their online stores. Using APIs to integrate with these stores and big online retailers such as Amazon, the company can seamlessly share data such as pricing information, digital images of assets, documentation, and safety sheets.

When the Head of the SAP DCI team first joined the company, certain products used a file-based integration model, where the integration was based on files generated from nightly batch jobs run in the SAP system. The team lead describes this process as tiresome and resource-intensive, and adds that it consumed more than $100 of CPU time each night just to generate files for one system. “When the opportunity came to replace those systems, we wanted to also update the integration model from file-based to real-time web services-based integration. That way, instead of generating all the data, we push the data out only when there’s an event or change.”

Cloud-based integration would eliminate the need to consume CPU time to generate a few files and, in turn, free the DCI team to focus on running mandatory nightly business processes more smoothly. Two other organizational shifts also contributed to the decision to move integration to the cloud, according to the team lead.

First, the team wanted to discourage duplicated effort in building similar APIs. “We had built a lot of integrations, for historical reasons, where we distributed the same data, and we wanted to replace that. We wanted to expose not just data as APIs, but also business processes — making the consuming applications not dependent on a point-to-point integration, but free to use that data.”

Second, the team wanted to offer the business more self-service for integrations, according to the team lead. “We wanted to be able to generate alerts for business users in real time for any integration errors so they can then access the system, trigger those interfaces themselves, and fix the data error on their own. And we wanted to expose an API and present data and business processes to users in a way that was familiar to them. For example, having a salesperson or customer service representative look at a CRM solution they are comfortable with — rather than forcing them to look at an SAP screen — will help grow our business.”

About this time the company was invited to attend various SAP-led workshops to preview features planned for SAP Integration Suite. SAP incorporated feedback from the company into the product deployment, which was a key reason that the organization decided to implement SAP Integration Suite for cloud-to-cloud integration and on-premise-to-cloud integration, according to the team lead. “It’s faster, quicker, and easier to maintain, build, and deploy. Because it’s in the cloud, you can work on it from anywhere, and it’s easier to train people on. There is no learning curve every time we have to do a new integration.”

Prior to using SAP Integration Suite, the company used a third-party add-on for a certain B2G integration, which created its share of challenges, according to the team lead. “Having an add-on within the on-premise system means every time we do an upgrade, we have to validate with the vendor if there is a support pack available or an upgrade required, which slows down a project. We faced issues like this during our SAP S/4HANA migration, where we couldn’t complete our testing cycle because of some of the packages, which resulted in us having to push back certain activities.”

A cloud-based system for integration eliminates those types of hardships, according to the team lead. He also says that fast and easy integration is doubly important when considering mandatory compliance with various countries’ legal requirements, such as reporting invoices to the government within a certain number of days. “For example, say a requirement from a government changes, and it’s now an easy process to deploy an updated version. We don’t have to worry that an integration won’t work after an upgrade, or worry about new regulations in countries, because that updated package is provided by SAP.”

The team lead especially appreciates the pre-packaged content of SAP Integration Suite, since other products require manually building integrations from scratch, which takes a lot of time, money, and effort. “The functionality of SAP Integration Suite allows us to seamlessly deploy this content with a few clicks in the cloud.”

Preparing for an Integration Explosion with a Dedicated Competency Center

The company has come a long way over the past decade with the number of interfaces and types of integration scenarios built by the DCI team, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, according to the team lead. “As we move our SAP landscape into new regions and emerging markets — and as we consider the current situation, where we need to connect more electronically with our customers and distributors — our integration requirements are going to explode in the coming years. We will be well prepared to handle this explosion because of how we built a dispersed resource model and trained in-house resources.”

The enterprise has no plans to outsource the governance of its overall integration and development strategy, according to the team lead. In fact, in 2018, when the company set out to define its integration strategy, a main pillar was to create a governing competency center, which the business plans to establish by the second quarter of 2021. This center will be a central place where different people from various internal business and IT teams can discuss their opinions and make decisions together about the right products and types of integrations to use.

“Considering the scale of integration the DCI team is working on and what other teams at the company are involved in, having such a team and oversight body is a very important step,” says the team lead. “It will help us keep track of the technology and also make sure we are not just following a single source of truth for data, but for the business processes — as all integration starts from a business process.”

A Growing Hybrid SAP Landscape

Approximately 70 systems comprise the company’s hybrid SAP landscape, which includes on-premise SAP applications such as SAP ERP 6.0, SAP Extended Warehouse Management, SAP Transportation Management, SAP Global Trade Services, SAP Business Warehouse, and SAP ERP Human Capital Management, as well as cloud-based SAP applications such as SAP Integration Suite, SAP SuccessFactors solutions, SAP Concur, SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain, and SAP Business ByDesign. There are also many homegrown and non-SAP systems that connect to these on-premise and cloud applications.

The company’s SAP landscape is continuously expanding due to organic growth and many acquisitions. In 2018, the company recognized the need for a better way to integrate smaller acquired companies with just a handful of employees and no need for a large-scale and complex ERP system, as well as newer acquisitions of larger organizations not yet on the SAP ERP system. To address this need, the DCI team began rolling smaller companies onto the cloud-based SAP Business ByDesign, and in 2019, it kicked off a project to migrate everyone else to the on-premise SAP S/4HANA system.
According to the team lead, the company elected to keep the management of its SAP S/4HANA system in house, and it plans to follow a regular upgrade cycle (every three years) starting in 2022. “We run a single-instance system that is used 24/7 across the globe, so we can’t have a downtime maintenance window every quarter, for instance, for regular update cycles. That’s why we decided to operate the system on premise, where it’s under our control and we perform our own updates.”

The DCI team will have its hands full handling the integrations for this growing hybrid landscape amidst these concurrent rollouts. “While a large part of our processes and systems are — and will remain — on premise, the usage of our cloud-based processes and systems is increasing daily,” the team lead says. “By 2025, our target is to have all the companies across the board running an SAP product as their core ERP system — be it in the cloud with SAP Business ByDesign or on premise with SAP S/4HANA.”

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A New Era In Analytics: SAP BusinessObjects and Journey to the Cloud

Lessons from the pandemic reinforce the need for digital transformation and the agility offered by the cloud.

By John Yuva, Editor, SAPinsider

Where will your company stand against its competitors in the future?

It’s a question being contemplated by nearly all businesses as they navigate a marketplace recovering from a devastating pandemic. Many companies with agile business processes and technology platforms prior to the pandemic were able to weather the storm and maintain supply chain continuity. The ability to share critical data with trading partners and leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning was imperative to business stability.

Many enterprises that have since implemented digital transformation into their operations are thriving as the world enters pandemic recovery. For SAPinsiders who have yet to pursue a digital transformation, COVID-19 has made clear the risks of not moving to a cloud environment.

SAPinsider sat down with two SAP executives, Timo Elliott, Vice President Global Innovation Evangelist, and Iver van de Zand, Vice President Solution & Product Management — Planning & Analytics, to discuss how SAP users can transition from SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise and leverage the power of the cloud.

Drive Toward Digital Transformation and Agility

Over the last three decades, SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise has amassed an immense userbase. As a leading solution for enterprise and ad hoc reporting, users continue to rely on the software to compile large amounts of data into universes for analytical modeling and report against it.

However, as changes in the market occurred and the needs for business intelligence evolved, SAP created a new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product in SAP Analytics Cloud. Complete with data visualizations and interactive dashboards for real-time data analysis and enterprise planning capabilities, SAP Analytics Cloud serves a new, innovative set of business requirements in the age of digital transformation.

What was the differentiator for companies that remained competitive during a volatile and uncertain time? One word — agility. According to Elliott, companies that had already implemented some form of digital transformation and moved to the cloud were able to scale their operations. He says it’s clearer than ever that moving to the cloud provides a major opportunity for agility.

A great example: “It was a scenario where retailers had to massively ramp up their online sales and restaurants suddenly found their establishments empty. In both cases, a cloud infrastructure proved critical by enabling retailers to shift computing power to the e-commerce side of the business, while restaurants simply dialed down their IT needs and avoided the fixed costs of on-premise server rooms,” Elliott says.

“A major benefit of the cloud is the ability to operate anything from anywhere. If you need to be connected from anywhere, then you need to be in the cloud. Whether you’re mobile, in the office, or in another part of the world, you have access to critical data.”

Agility and digital transformation go hand in hand, van de Zand says. He suggests that as companies face greater complexity of data, higher data volumes, and easier data access, holding these three elements against the need for agility means digital transformation is the only route to accomplish it.

“When you talk agility, what you’re really saying is that companies want to become data-driven enterprises,” says van de Zand. “They want the ability to make rapid business decisions without latency but with the trust of data governance,” van de Zand says.

Approaches to Implementing a Cloud Move

The ultimate go-forward solution for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise users is SAP Analytics Cloud. With SAP Analytics Cloud, companies have capabilities like business intelligence, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and planning all working together in a single solution for making fast, confident decisions.

A number of SAP BusinessObjects customers have yet to move to SAP Analytics Cloud. Some advanced reporting capabilities are heavily relied upon by companies, with tens of thousands of legacy reports residing in their systems. Now, these companies have options to leverage some benefits of the cloud.

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise users can make that first step in their journey to the cloud with SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Private Cloud Edition. Companies maintain their business-critical reporting capabilities while moving their operations to the cloud.

“The beauty of the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Private Cloud Edition is that it gives companies the capabilities of taking that which they could only do on-premise before, and bring it up and run it in the cloud,” van de Zand says.

According to SAP, moving from on-premise to the cloud provides several key benefits:

  • Pre-configured, dedicated SAP BusinessObjects system landscape hosted on hyperscaler of choice (including Azure, AWS, Google, etc.) or SAP cloud infrastructure, including everything required to run the application as part of a standard service package
  • Eliminates the need for ongoing maintenance by the users
  • Provides a significant cost savings by moving to a subscription model
  • Recategorizes the software from a capital expenditure to an operational expenditure
  • Presents critical data in a modern format for simplified analysis
  • Enables greater agility and flexibility in business processes with real-time visibility

The Best of Both Worlds — Another Step Towards The Future

Historically, there has been a divide between BI/Analytics tools and planning applications requiring customers to stitch together multiple separate products to conduct planning and analysis. SAP Analytics Cloud was designed from the ground up, built as a SaaS application with planning and analytics in one place, with everything needed to make better decisions — which analytics is ultimately about. Over time, companies will operate in a world without different modules and reporting and instead with a simple set of data services that answers questions for the user regardless of where the data originates.

Recognizing the reality that some customers cannot instantly switch, in some cases, thousands of SAP BusinessObjects reports to SAP Analytics Cloud, another approach is to subscribe to and run SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP BusinessObjects side-by-side. Customers can operate the services in parallel and then commence a phased move over time.

This approach helps enhance and build upon mission-critical reporting use cases while leveraging universes, document structures and assets in conjunction with the BI, planning, and predictive innovations provided by SAP Analytics Cloud. Live connectivity offers the chance to deliver up to the minute information for real-time insight and decisions, and share data, whether on-premise or in the cloud.

This allows organizations to use SAP BusinessObjects (either on-premise or in the cloud) to extend analytics capabilities and self-service user analysis across the entire organization with SAP Analytics Cloud while continuing to use enterprise operational reporting and their semantics layer, universes, and SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence models.

“We encourage people to use the newest approaches and consider SAP Analytics Cloud when they’re doing new projects to make it as easy as possible to move from reporting to more modern data analysis,” Elliott says. “SAP Analytics Cloud allows business users to ask more questions without as much reliance on IT control. Moving to the cloud makes for a much easier environment for people to ask their questions online.”

Importantly, the cloud subscription model for SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP BusinessObjects Private Cloud Edition provides a flexible commercial framework and options as usage patterns change over time. Plus, it provides an opportunity for evaluation of the value of existing assets and reports to determine whether they truly need to be moved.

What Lies on the Horizon for Enterprises Moving to the Cloud?

First and foremost, the move to the cloud is inevitable — it just makes too much sense. According to SAPinsider’s State of the Market report, moving to the cloud is a strategic priority for more than half of survey respondents (53%) who rated cloud adoptions as an area of significant investment.

With the exception of companies in highly restricted and regulated industries, moving to the cloud is really a question of when and how to do it, Elliott says. With that said, companies that are satisfied with SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise can now remain on that platform for the foreseeable future. However, the latest technologies such as SAP Analytics Cloud offer big opportunities that SAP can help facilitate.

Since a straightforward technical upgrade is not always possible when moving from on-premise to the cloud, SAP works closely with its partners to transition organizations to SAP Analytics Cloud. In fact, to help companies with their investment decision, SAP introduced three tiers of its SAP Business Technology Platform with upcoming free versions to aid in cloud adoption.

When Elliott speaks to customers that have implemented digital transformation or other innovative initiatives, he hears a familiar answer when asking if they would do things differently a second time — it took us much longer to resolve data issues than we realized. Technology tools like artificial intelligence are valuable for large amounts of high-quality data, where training a machine learning model to assist people with data decision-making is quick and simple.

“However, very few organizations have a large quantity of high-quality data — much to their surprise. Companies that want to make a big step forward often have to take a small step backwards and invest in a data foundation,” Elliott says.

“It always takes more time and effort than people realize. The good news is that the tools exist for data governance, data quality, and so on to comb data, but it does require an effort. The ROI of high-quality data can be a difficult business case to make when companies don’t realize how poor their data is,” Elliott says.

The Information Worker Emerges

As chief information officers retire, their successors are likely to embrace the cloud and self-service usability and shift their focus to high-quality data. In many cases, those who need analytics in organizations have been the most underserved, having to rely on IT and business analysts to create and distribute information. With a modern mindset, a new analytic user persona will emerge — the information worker, van de Zand says. This individual could own a business process or department or drive a line of business.

Where today’s SAP power users may spend hours on data analysis, an information worker will provide value to the company by quickly using analytics to make or confirm business decisions. As an example, a business may evaluate two suppliers and consider replacing them due to underperformance. In a span of two to five minutes, an information worker can quickly use analytics to confirm the performance issues, gain guidance from the data with the assistance of machine learning, and receive suitable supplier replacements.

To this end, SAP is enabling information workers by embedding SAP Analytics Cloud capabilities in all SAP Cloud Line of Business (LoB) applications to help provide contextual analysis. “Information workers are not analytics experts. Rather, they use analytics to confirm or make business decisions,” van de Zand says. “Imagine people in human resources (HR) using SAP SuccessFactors to analyze attrition weights and other HR data. They need to rapidly access analytics without being an expert. So, the technology must be extremely adoptable and guided because there’s no time to connect to a data source. This is what analytics will evolve to.”

Final Thoughts

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise has its reporting capabilities. However, SAP Analytics Cloud brings modern analytics and machine learning that are designed to make business operations and decision making easier for end users, Elliott says. For people to use business intelligence widely in the organization, ease of use is key.

“With machine learning, simply typing or voicing a question makes it easier to ask new queries or examine a dataset and automatically see the outliers,” Elliott says. “Whether it’s identifying data quality issues or potential opportunities or disruptions, machine learning creates a whole different mindset toward analytics.”

He adds that at the heart of the move to the cloud is finding the business opportunity, which most often is focused on a specific business need. The decision, he says, is not based on the ROI of moving from SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise to SAP Analytics Cloud — that’s the wrong way to frame it.

“Instead, consider the ROI of better analytics for the marketing team, for example. If the marketing team were able to ask questions and have AI and machine learning automatically reveal key patterns, is it possible to improve marketing campaigns by 1%? Is that a reasonable expectation? And what would 1% improvement in your marketing campaigns do to your bottom line?” Elliott says.

“If it’s several million dollars, then a cloud move would be a worthwhile investment. That’s how you build the business case for cloud, with concrete numbers and a new paradigm where people are using data more strategically and with greater agility in the business.”

Ready to learn more? Begin your journey to the cloud and learn more about how SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Private Cloud Edition can help on your digital journey.

 

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders 

  • To influence end users to adopt new cloud technologiespreferably with SAP Analytics Cloud or – in case-specific reporting needs – SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Private Cloud Edition, provide them with the analytics that help them in their day-to-day business decision making.  
  • When moving to the cloud, begin with building your data foundation, the core of your digital transformation. Invest in that initiative to successfully make the transition to the cloud. Data that is clean, reliable, and accessible is the most critical asset.  
  • If you want to go to the cloud, it is essential to have a closed loop (i.e., planning coupled with BI monitoring) in place from the beginning. This applies regardless of whether the customer is using SAP software. Customers must approach planning from a broader sense, together with BI monitoring. Without that closed loop, moving to the cloud is difficult.   
  • In today’s world, end users don’t accept latency. In analytic terms, it means having analytic capabilities that are live in real time. It is unacceptable to wait for a system update or data refresh. End users must be able to have a real-time view into business operations in order to make critical decisions on the fly.   

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By Uemit Oezdurmus, SAP Global Head of Managed Security Services, and Gunnar Kosche, SAP Service Offering Manager for Cybersecurity and Compliance Services

RISE with SAP focuses on bringing core business systems (SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition) into a customer environment that is cloud based, process driven, easy to scale, and easy to use.

Geopolitical tensions, environmental challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing companies to change their business processes more quickly than ever. RISE with SAP is designed to help organizations adapt to this rapid pace of change by running their processes in the cloud.

Hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, Microsoft Azure, or Alibaba are running well-managed and highly secured (physically and technically) data centers worldwide, but where do their responsibilities and liabilities end? What does this mean for customers who want to utilize those environments? How can customers make sure that every aspect of their current landscape’s security is being reflected? How does security for hybrid landscapes work?

While trying to answer these questions, you can uncover additional questions about tooling (are there new/additional solutions to be used?) and processes (do we need to re-design security-related processes?) that relate to the organization’s setup.

When embarking on a RISE with SAP journey, the authors of this article recommend that you tackle the following three topics in parallel:

  • Business transformation (business adoption)
  • Technical system transformation
  • Post-go-live activities

The following sections will shed some light on the main concerns involving the process and try to answer the most relevant questions.

Let’s start with a look at liabilities and responsibilities (Figure 1). In the classical on-premise world, everything was under the control and responsibility of the customer. Now, with the transformation approach, SAP customers are required to re-think roles, responsibilities, and liabilities.

Figure 1: RISE with SAP in a Nutshell

 

Source: SAP

In the new working model, hyperscaling vendors must fulfill their part of security and compliance while the rest of the tasks remain with the customer.
RISE with SAP offers the following:

  • Business transformation in the cloud with predefined packages
  • Bundling several products into one offering
  • One contract covering service level agreements (SLA), operations, and issue management

The idea is to offer a solution for the transition of business processes to a cloud environment. This includes one of the key pillars — business process intelligence — to review and refine the customer business processes.

Additionally, SAP is offering process discovery for SAP S/4HANA transformation and RISE with SAP. This provides insights to understand an organization’s current business process performance and identify SAP S/4HANA functionalities to support ongoing business goals.

RISE with SAP also contains the integration of operations to get the application as a cloud offering.

RISE with SAP is an offering provided by SAP that includes business advisory services supporting business transformation and collaboration with the SAP partner ecosystem (Figure 2).

This article is focused on the SAP Customer Success program, which includes consulting, support, and operations.

Figure 2: Overview of RISE with SAP

Source: SAP

Secure Operations Map

The transformation to a cloud model hands over parts of cybersecurity to a company’s hyperscaler partner and SAP. SAP takes care with certified processes to keep your data secure — but some responsibility and tasks remain with you.

To address cybersecurity areas from different perspectives like identity and access management (IAM) or for a specific solution like SAP S/4HANA, SAP designed the Secure Operations Map (SOM).

The SOM (Figure 3) offers you guidance on how to build a strong security and compliance foundation for your SAP landscape.

Figure 3: Overview of SAP Secure Operations Map

Source: SAP

The SOM is a reference model that structures the broad areas of cybersecurity and creates a solid base for a 360-degree review of cybersecurity and compliance practices in customer landscapes.

The SOM was designed based on SAP’s view of security topics, needs, and branches, but it can be mapped to other widely known cybersecurity frameworks such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework or the German Federal Cyber Security Authority’s IT-Grundschutz. What is particular to the SOM is that it can be used globally for the SAP environment.

The SOM is further interpreted in the context of SAP systems, although the model also could be applied to non-SAP realms.

Business Transformation with Business Process Intelligence

The intelligent business process re-design as part of RISE with SAP affects cybersecurity and compliance. It uses constant benchmarking to analyze, design, improve, roll out, and monitor business processes (Figure 4). From this perspective, cybersecurity and compliance follow the same approach.

Figure 4: RISE with SAP BPI Component

Source: SAP

The authors of this article recommend that you revisit security on a regular basis. New functionality and new technologies require new security measures. New attack patterns arise and need to be countered, and your processes need adjustments.

Remember, security involves measuring risk, so you can have a higher or lower level of security based on risk.

In the case of SAP S/4HANA and IAM, the business process re-design with RISE with SAP impacts several SOM layers. The “organization” and “process” layers are the less technical side of the SOM compared to the other layers. At the “organization” layer, it is important to define the environment for SAP systems and SAP cloud solutions. It sets the stage and defines needs and requirements as inputs to be considered.

General security awareness is an important pre-condition to achieve security. Not everyone has to be a security expert, but everyone needs to contribute to the security of the organization. Ignoring or even circumventing security rules and mechanisms can endanger the whole landscape. Awareness thus is directly linked to user-friendliness and ease of handling security mechanisms or configurations.

A re-design of an intelligent hire-to-retire business process as part of RISE with SAP — using automated distribution, modern user interfaces, and a secure single sign-on with multi-factor authentication and robust IAM — will significantly improve your security awareness.

Technical System Transformation — What to Consider When Transforming Your Business with SAP S/4HANA

A good starting point to get an overview of your landscape and security settings is using the SAP Early Watch Alert as part of SAP’s services and support offerings. (Read the blog post “Displaying Security Alerts in the SAP EarlyWatch Alert Workspace” and learn how to get information about the security status of your system landscape.) With this dashboard you get an overview and details about your landscape, so you can understand in which areas you could benefit the most from the different cloud options we offer with RISE with SAP. It depends on your requirements and adoption level of the “as a service” offerings. This decision also changes the level of detail you must manage regarding different cybersecurity and compliance topics.

RISE with SAP is a holistic enterprise transformation and change process. SAP pulls its knowledge from the SAP Customer Success program and packages that knowledge to help customers with their technical migration. You can benefit from the improved automation to roll out the recruit-to-retire business process and the corresponding IAM processes, tools, and knowledge. You have the choice to extend your IAM or redefine it with SAP’s Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions.

An SAP S/4HANA transformation with IAM already contains changes like the use of HTTP interfaces with web services and SAP Fiori apps. The existing SAP GUI-based authorization concept requires a review, including SAP Fiori catalogs and our SAP best practices recommendations. This information guides you through the process and offers authorization concepts created automatically based on your authorizations and usage.

SAP S/4HANA also introduced the concept of the business user, which combines the detailed data of a business partner with a user and reduces the redundancy in the corresponding user entity. This requires a review of the user flows, including new interfaces to manage the entities. In the SAP One Domain Model, the user includes a subset of attributes of a person and other information like IDs and authorizations. This split of entities is important for the master data flows and user flows of the intelligent enterprise.

RISE with SAP comes with SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution that integrates and extends your SAP landscape. The SAP BTP includes new user, authentication, and authorization concepts.

The different cybersecurity and compliance topics for business transformation are covered with templates, reference architectures, and guidance from services and support as part of the RISE with SAP offering. Cybersecurity and compliance follows a benchmarking and review process, which includes a hand-over after the SAP S/4HANA transformation to the SAP Cloud Application Services to operate the solutions.

Post-Go-Live Activities

Once a successful implementation and configuration has been achieved following SOM best practices, the journey starts with the new hybrid cloud environment (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Secure Operations Map — RISE with SAP and SAP S/4HANA

Source: SAP

Now, the day-to-day activities running in a highly secure and compliant system landscape must be planned and processed, keeping a focus on static system security.

While it is advisable to cover static system security with a sophisticated patch management program, there must be a security strategy plan and execution for all aspects of a dynamic system as well. Here the managed security services provided by the SAP Cloud Application Services team come into play with a holistic and mature portfolio of services. It is very helpful to outsource day-to-day activities to SAP experts and free up resources internally for other innovative topics and activities of the core business.

For example, the initial segregation of duties (SoD) checks and the new authorization enhancements are a base for building and adjusting roles and authorizations as requested by the lines of business. All adjustments and newly created roles and authorizations need to comply with regulations and must be auditable. The challenge here is that the entire landscape must be considered: Where to create the users, roles, and authorizations? How to ensure SoD? What should reporting look like? What is the process for creating and changing roles and authorizations?

There is a need to add, delete, connect, and disconnect systems securely. Managed security services provided by SAP Cloud Application Services deliver sophisticated advisory, planning, and execution of these tasks, with a focus on hardening systems and interfaces and regular penetration testing.

When it comes to custom coding, it must be made secure prior to release. Custom code needs to be checked for any security gaps, miscoding, or even hard-coded backdoors. Only coding checked for vulnerabilities should be released to avoid any breaches or misuse.

Another very important aspect is security monitoring. Having SAP’s Early Watch Alert Management service is good, but not enough. There should be a combination of Early Watch and SAP Solution Manager or SAP Focused Run to cover all aspects of a static system security. In addition, SAP offers a sophisticated solution for in-application real-time monitoring called SAP Enterprise Threat Detection. This is a valuable addition to the entire monitoring strategy and can be combined with an existing security incident and event monitoring (SIEM) solution.

Managed security services provided by SAP Cloud Application Services offer support with experts taking over monitoring tasks and helping customers with forensics and countermeasures. There is also a new offering for SAP Enterprise Threat Detection Cloud, which is being delivered in combination with a baseline set of SAP Cloud Application Services managed security services.

Indeed, a well-planned and executed transformation is a must to be aligned with all involved vendors. Especially when it comes to security, there must be a clear strategy to co-operate over the entire landscape in a secure and compliant manner.

RISE with SAP provides a path to the intelligent enterprise for every customer, independent of starting point or complexity. SAP experts are in place to guide, support, and act as the trusted advisory in any stage of your transformation journey.

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By John Yuva, Editor, SAPinsider

Utilities serve a basic but critical function as part of infrastructure networks around the world. While electricity and natural gas represent core services, the move toward clean, renewable energy is imperative to combat climate change. Equally important is providing safe and reliable service to customers whether they reside in regulated or unregulated markets.

Utilities that are publicly traded companies are also subject to various audits under the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act. Beyond recordkeeping and reporting, accounting & finance deliver an important strategic function across the enterprise and serve as a critical differentiator by supporting safe and reliable service, providing financial insights, and partnering between the Office of the CFO and the business. Associated technology that enables modern financial processes leads to higher-value accounting & finance teams.

A Transformation Toward Efficiency and Cost Reduction

For UGI Utilities, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UGI Corp., continued transformation is a key facet in accomplishing those objectives. The Denver, PA-based natural gas and electric utility serves over 730,000 customers in 45 Pennsylvania counties and one county in Maryland. It’s one of four subsidiaries under the UGI Corp. umbrella, including UGI Energy Services, AmeriGas, and UGI International.

According to UGI Utilities, the company expects to spend more than $265 million in 2021 on its infrastructure replacement plan — replacing natural gas mains and associated facilities. The initiative’s fiscal year plan targets nearly 68 miles of cast iron and bare steel mains. Over the last 10 years, the infrastructure replacement plan has led to nearly 600 miles of retired non-contemporary pipelines.

Accounting & finance are critical factors for ensuring success for such initiatives, and for supporting organizational innovation and business transformation. This sentiment was echoed by Laurie Bergman, Chief Accounting Officer and Corporate Controller for UGI Corp., in The Wall Street Journal. According to Bergman, the finance function can contribute to organizational growth and capacity through investments in technology and skills. “COVID-19 has given us good reason to focus on technologies that help us reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and increase insights that can be delivered to business leaders.”

UGI Utilities clearly understands the importance of accounting & finance being a core component of the company’s continued success. Through the development of a strategic roadmap, the organization can better anticipate the internal and external demands of the business — from both an accounting and IT perspective. Technology played an essential role as the company centralized and standardized its key financial close processes focusing on efficiency gains.

Accounting

Vivian Ressler, Senior Manager Sarbanes-Oxley, Plant Accounting and Accounts Payable for UGI Utilities, oversees SOX compliance and the testing and maintenance of controls, including account reconciliation controls, for the business.

“UGI Corp. and each subsidiary, with the exception of UGI International, operates its own accounting function. There’s an overall desire for a centralized, leveraged service center that serves all the business units to capture cost savings as well as develop process standardization across the organization,” Ressler says.

“We’re establishing best practices that four business units can utilize rather than each adding vendors or creating account reconciliations manually,” she says. “With a standardized process, one service center can meet the needs of every business unit.”

Information Technology

Jena Sweigart, Senior Manager Applications Development for Enterprise Solutions for UGI Utilities, says the IT component of the strategic roadmap crosses every functional area from finance to operations. The IT department works closely with each area of the business in an on-going process to ensure technology projects are prioritized across the enterprise.

“As new technology partners are introduced into our IT space or applications expand beyond traditional areas and grow more robust, we need to include those trends in our IT roadmap. Existing in-house and new technology tools can help innovate our business and further benefit the bottom line.”

Paving the Road with Transparency

While UGI Utilities’ technology transformation was underway prior to 2020, the pandemic served as a catalyst for the strategic roadmap and its initiatives. BlackLine has been one of the focus applications during this transformation. BlackLine is leveraged as an application platform solution for UGI Utilities’ financial close task management, balance sheet substantiation, and audit facilitation processes.

The merging of four separate accounting functions into a single technology platform established process standardization across the organization. Ressler says implementing best practices, coupled with more dynamic processes, is also anticipated to result in cost savings.
“Uniformity now exists through a self-service process when internal stakeholders and external customers check an account balance or reconciliation detail,” she says. “We’re also looking for future opportunities to streamline the process further for greater enhancements and efficiencies.”

Sweigart adds that one of the core benefits of the business units coming together is elevated cross-business collaboration. “As we look for transformation opportunities, we’re learning about each individual business unit’s unique operating practices and experiences. It’s opening up networking across the UGI family of companies,” she says.

BlackLine Unification

UGI Utilities’ use of BlackLine extends several years. During that time, AmeriGas and UGI Energy Services also implemented the application platform for their account reconciliation and task management processes. Sweigart says the timing supported the decision to bring the three business units under one BlackLine platform, while also expanding its functionality to UGI Corp.

“The business units were utilizing the same financial functionalities. As we explored streamlining the configurations and consistencies to align with our finance unit and move toward an application-sharing model, we saw the benefits of bringing three separate BlackLine instances into one for a unified view,” Sweigart says.

Sweigart adds there’s value in bringing BlackLine to other areas of the business and utilizing more of its functionality in the future. An immediate benefit of the BlackLine unification project was the streamlining of IT support processes. UGI now has a centralized IT team administering BlackLine and supporting user administration, which allows the Accounting & Finance groups to focus on their core financial activities.

SOX Efficiencies with BlackLine

The SOX Act requires financial transparency by public companies, ensuring their data is secure and accurate. Ressler oversees testing and maintenance of SOX for UGI Utilities. She says the task functionality within BlackLine provides intuitive controls for SOX compliance.

“Users perform controls and upload supporting documentation into BlackLine, and then utilize electronic workflow for sign-off,” Ressler explains. “Key documents are retained in the cloud, and audit evidence like certifications are automatically captured where they can be accessed from anywhere. Auditors also have access and can see audit trails and pull the documentation when needed.”

BlackLine’s Partnership with SAP

Several of UGI Utilities’ business processes, such as procure to invoice, invoice to pay, and record to report, occur in SAP ERP within the SAP S/4HANA platform. UGI Energy Services relies on SAP S/4HANA for its order-to-cash process and plant maintenance functions. UGI Corporation also uses SAP ERP and other SAP software across its enterprise.

SAP integration and compatibility is a key consideration for UGI when evaluating other software partners. BlackLine is an SAP platinum partner offering solution extensions that complement SAP ECC, SAP S/4HANA and other SAP software to modernize accounting.
SAP recently recognized BlackLine with a Pinnacle Award for Partner of the Year — Solution Extensions. With this recognition, BlackLine is one of only 21 partners honored out of more than 20,000 in the partner network.

Several functional areas use partner applications within SAP ERP to support specialized functionality. BlackLine serves as a partner SAP extension for the accounting & finance area.

“BlackLine helps manage our controls processes, perform our accounting reconciliation, and provide a more centralized location for our audit groups and functions to access the materials they require,” Sweigart says. “Routine integrations occur from ERP to BlackLine during our month-end close processing. Finalized month-end account balances then feed into BlackLine for account reconciliation.”

The efficiencies gained from automated processing of account balances are significant. It’s now unnecessary to manually verify that the reconciliation amounts tie to a separate ledger. Ressler says the integration removes those manual requirements that were once time consuming and posed a risk for errors.

She explains that new accounts are immediately populated into BlackLine and await assignment to an account reconciler, approver, and reviewer who confirm the appropriate supporting account documentation.

“It’s beneficial to anyone who wants to ensure all of our accounts are appropriately reconciled and reviewed,” Ressler says.
Transforming Efficiently Without Disruption

The success of UGI Utilities’ transformation projects came largely from its preparation and established processes prior to implementation. During the onset of the pandemic, continued execution of the strategic roadmap was required and the criticality of workflow processes and solutions to the business became clear.

While the unification of BlackLine instances, for example, was planned pre-COVID-19, Ressler says the pandemic solidified the purpose and support of what BlackLine offers. While the business transitioned into the initial complexities of remote work, a strong technology backbone was already in place to support the transition, in many aspects.

“We did not experience any large disruption to our account reconciliation and key controls processes as we shifted to working remotely or as we transitioned to a single BlackLine instance,” she says. “The process was smooth. Advance preparation made it possible to ease employees into and out of the pandemic workflow environment.”

The transformation opened opportunities to share insights and BlackLine functionalities with other business units.

“Providing additional insights into functionalities and sharing information about processes can help everyone leverage their solutions and accomplish things they’re not already doing,” says Sweigart.

Aligning New Functionalities to a Strategic Vision

With the recent completion of its BlackLine unification project, UGI Utilities looks to the next phase of its relationship with the solution provider. Understanding BlackLine’s own roadmap and upcoming functionalities is critical for alignment with the finance organization’s strategic vision. UGI considers BlackLine, along with SAP, to be strategic vendors and will continue to look for new ways to automate using these technology solutions.

Stability and Agility a Measure of Success

During UGI’s transformation journey, UGI Utilities looks to its before and after performance to measure its success. Sweigart says through its SAP ERP system and BlackLine solutions, UGI Utilities proved its ability to adapt to new and different situations in the work environment.

“Our SAP ERP and BlackLine applications allowed us to sustain business activity stabilization under challenging circumstances, both internally and externally, which is something we’re very proud of,” says Sweigart.

She adds, “If you’re part of a larger organization, no matter how much you know, there’s always room to learn about other areas of your business. This will only make your business stronger. Leverage the opportunity to understand the bigger picture and provide insight to create efficiencies.”

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By Joe Mullich, Contributing Writer, SAPinsider

For all the talk about the importance of a great customer experience (CX), many companies are struggling to provide it. Only 26% of respondents to a survey conducted by SAPinsider said they are currently investing in CX initiatives and could confidently say that their organization has a dedicated CX budget.

This lack of commitment proves perilous for businesses as today’s customer expectations rapidly evolve across the buying landscape, including direct to consumer (D2C), business to business (B2B), or business to consumer (B2C).

A well-designed CX uses technology to anticipate customer needs, while promoting continuous innovation based on an ever-greater understanding of those customers as individuals.

COVID-19 has raised the ante on CX even more. “There has been a dramatic change in how we all shop,” says Don Swalinski, Vice President, SAP CX Practice Leader at Capgemini, North America, a multinational technology consulting firm. “What got us to buy yesterday isn’t the same thing that gets us to buy today.”
Convincing customers to buy and creating great customer experiences starts with your own buy-in to the CX.

A Total Commitment

Creating a great CX is not an initiative a company launches, but a commitment that resonates through every part of the organization.

It begins with the statement: I want to be a trusted partner in the solution, product, or experience I’m selling. Digital transformation is about listening to customers, and driving a one-on-one interaction that not only satisfies, but also delights and connects with the customer. “This approach requires more time and personal attention, but it results in a larger reward because you are truly engaging with the customer,” Swalinski says.

The challenge is bringing that attitude and that CX to the entire selling ecosystem. “Transformation is not just about how technology interacts with the customer, but about how every function — from the sales team, to the executive team, to fulfillment, to customer service, to supply chain — touches, influences, or impacts the customer,” Swalinski says. “A lot of change management needs to be thought through and communicated as you make these changes. The companies that succeed in creating a compelling CX think about keeping customers engaged from beginning to end.”

Few companies are doing that extremely well, even as they realize its importance. The Capgemini Research Institute (CRI) found that 80% of consumers are willing to pay for a better experience, across sectors. Around 9% are actually willing to increase their spending by more than half to receive this great experience. But this is where the disconnect starts. Some 75% of organizations consider themselves to be customer-centric; however, only 30% of their consumers agree with them. Many customers don’t see the great CX that companies believe is being delivered.

Truly Understand Your Customer

In an ever-changing business landscape, companies need to examine their customer interactions with fresh eyes. This is especially true in light of the changes brought by COVID-19, which has accelerated buying trends and customer expectations.

Pam Koerper, Principal, Digital Customer Experience at Capgemini, cites the example of a large grocery company. Prior to the pandemic, people who came to the grocer’s online site were more often browsers: they would shop over several days and often abandoned their charts.

As we move to a new normal, the grocery company has noticed a shift in online customer behavior, with customer shopping becoming more focused: they spend more time on the site, build their carts faster, and check out, buying larger amounts more frequently.

The starting point for creating a great CX: make sure you are in lock step with your customers. For example, the way you direct and market to a browsing customer is very different from how you should support a directed customer.

“Don’t assume you know your customer. We’ve learned it is critical to truly understand your customer’s wants, needs, and buying channels and communication preferences. It is important to learn about your customer by investing in research,” says Koerper.

Most organizations know the value of site analytics. However, utilizing feedback management tools such as Qualtrics allows companies to validate assumptions and identify customer needs and pain points to avoid surprises. This first-party feedback can be utilized to drive prioritization of investments for technology innovations, internal process changes, and brand experience changes.

Another set of feedback information can come internally from an organization’s own employees. This can be done by internal surveys, benchmarks, and key performance indicators (KPI) that in turn lead to a better customer experience.

Personalize Content

When it comes to successful customer experiences, personalization is the key factor, and “has to move beyond a persona level to a one-on-one level,” Swalinski says. Personalization could be achieved through content delivery, by analyzing previous orders, or by analyzing what solutions customers viewed.

Consider a company that sells a wide range of products, on both the high end and the low end. “If you put all these products in front of your customers, they have information overload,” says Koerper. “They have too many choices to make a decision.”

Instead, companies should personalize the content they show based on previous shopping and buying experiences. If the customer previously bought a high-end couch from Brand A, for example, then prioritize showing them items in that same class category and brand when they are searching for end tables. That’s what a good CX is all about.

In both B2B and B2C, creating a satisfying CX means having an end-to-end perspective of the customer journey. “You need to understand the customer journey from presales to sales to post sales,” says Sree Gogineni, Chief Technology Architect at Capgemini. “You need to thoroughly understand each interaction the customer has with your product or service, and then you need to use analytics to understand the trends and patterns that emerge from those interactions.”

This approach enables companies to use recommendation engines to suggest additional products based on the clickstream and/or purchasing habits of previous customers. For example, SAP Commerce Cloud context-driven services can be leveraged to increase conversion by recommending products to specific users/segments based on several parameters, including product sales performance and predictive analysis of what the customer is most likely to click next.

Successfully following this approach requires having a data solution that allows all customer data, from any physical or digital touch point, to be in one place to provide a unified profile of the customer. “You can then get to a state of truly understanding the customer and making that understanding actionable in all the different channels where you interact with the customer,” Gogineni says.

Maximizing personalization across multiple brands requires a centralized customer identity and profile. SAP’s new SAP Customer Data Cloud helps to quickly identify and profile customers using its social login capabilities, and dramatically improve customer conversion rates from unknown to known. The solution can further be used to establish a central identity and authentication across all of your brands, channels, and services to your customers. By putting customers in the driver’s seat and allowing them to manage their data brings transparency, confidence, and brand loyalty. Companies can also lower the cost of compliance and operations while centralizing these processes. This leads to customers feeling a sense of cohesiveness with a seamless experience and increasing trust.

Self-serve Enhances the Buying Process

Customers today, both B2B and B2C, are digital natives. They are used to being able to get the information they need to make decisions right away. They don’t want to make phone calls; they want to go online and self-serve.
Consider how Fast CPQ for SAP Customer Experience solutions, specifically developed by Capgemini, can quickly and efficiently transform configure, price, and quote (CPQ) processes. According to Capgemini, the solution offers buyers intuitive self-service capabilities and fully integrates data flows between SAP Commerce Cloud, CPQ systems, and SAP S/4HANA. From car companies to phone companies, organizations across all industries are developing new solutions and the CPQ process is where multiple customer journeys begin to intersect.

Self-service and data integration capabilities allow customers to be in control of configuring a complex product. For example, the customer might ask for a quote based on a specific configuration. That information is routed to a salesperson, who might suggest a different and better configuration. This virtual mechanism takes the place of a traditional face-to-face sales interaction.

The emerging expectation that self-service will be available is having widespread consequences. Gogineni points to a manufacturer that had traditionally used manual processes to serve its customers. The company’s national account reps would take calls and process orders. This long-standing approach became insufficient — and it was the customers themselves that pushed for a change. To satisfy them, the manufacturer implemented a self-service portal that customers could use to place an order, track it, and put in a request for assistance if an issue arose.

The manufacturer implemented a CPQ system with a visualization tool that allowed customers to see the configurations of all the parts, as well as the landscape of all the solutions the company offered. This experience engaged customers, drove better self-service configuration of products, and reduced sales team costs, while improving customer interactions and the overall CX.

Other companies have seen a tangible payback from bringing B2C capabilities to the B2B arena. A manufacturer that provides specialty pipe and tubing products faced numerous problems with its standard approach toward customers. The customer-facing sales experience was slow and cumbersome. Call-in orders often took more than an hour to process. To solve this challenge, the manufacturer built a tailored e-commerce site that uses a customized load builder and enables customers to pick and place the parts they need while optimizing delivery times — a key factor in profitability. This presented a win-win outcome: 21% of all orders now come from the site, representing 80% of revenue from new on-boarded customers.

Another manufacturer transformed its selling framework by launching a subscription model. “This enabled the business to transform its selling model allowing for enhanced engagement through self-service capabilities,” Swalinski says. The manufacturer was able to create subscription products based on those customer interactions leading to a 300% increase in subscription revenue and a 350% increase in total customers.

Why B2B Companies Need to Care About a Better CX

CX has long been considered the province of B2C companies which must identify and satisfy the needs of a large customer base. The B2B space, which often focuses on large sales and dedicated account reps, has traditionally taken the stance that CX is inherently baked into their processes.

“Historically, much of the B2B industry was about relationship selling,” Gogineni says. “The customer experience wasn’t a function of technology in that space.”

However, B2B customers are not immune to the D2C trend, nor to the “Amazon effect,” where ease of use being offered to consumers is now expected in every buying situation.

“Those needs and wants are being funneled to the B2B space,” Gogineni says. “B2B customers are asking: Why can’t I have an online system where I view order status, configure my products, see what inventory is available in real-time, and pay my invoice, just as I do on consumer sites?”

How SAP Technology Supports the CX

Swalinski notes that reshaping the CX is not an “all or nothing” approach of a portal or online offering. It’s about providing the right experience to customers in the channel they want to use. The online channels satisfy customers who might need a switch or panel — the type of one-off orders that the company didn’t even realize it was missing out on before.

The SAP Customer Experience portfolio provides a suite of products that deliver a unified digital CX, from marketing to commerce, to service after the sale. As Gogineni notes, the point is not to simply provide good CX — it is to provide a unified omnichannel CX. Customers should feel they are dealing with the same company, and having the same experience, whether they are buying on a mobile app, a commerce solution, or placing a phone call to a sales agent.

“Piece by piece, the SAP Customer Experience portfolio is compelling and unique,” Swalinski says. “But the real difference is how the pieces all tie together.” Those pieces include SAP Commerce Cloud, which ensures a personalized, comprehensive e-commerce experience with end-to-end commerce processes; SAP Service Cloud, which bridges the gap between front-office engagements and back-end processes; SAP Marketing Cloud, which enables marketers to successfully generate demand, increase lead conversions, and drive more sales; and SAP Customer Cloud Data, which allows customers to manage their own consent data, and shift from anonymous visitors to loyal customers.

“The biggest conversation is always about how to integrate systems together,” Gogineni says. “SAP has different components that solve different parts of the puzzle, and they all come pre-coupled and pre-integrated. That enables you to get to the end solution quickly and leverage the true benefits of a unified solution and landscape much faster.”

And quick is good. Because customer expectations are changing rapidly and constantly, so companies must be ready to turn on a dime — and keep turning as those needs change. As companies work to improve their CX, the key principles to keep in mind include the following:

  • Good CX is all about truly understanding the individual customer through rigorous research.
  • Personalizing the experience is critical; and this can only be done by truly knowing your customer.
  • Think about self-service as it enhances the buying process and the overall customer and employee experience.
  • And finally, rethink your business model through the lens of CX.

Keeping these principles top of mind will ensure your company can: 1) pivot when needed to meet the changing expectations of customers; 2) deliver successfully and seamlessly across the entire customer journey; and 3) drive revenue and growth for the business.

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