Helping “Data-Rich, Insight-Blind” Organizations Make Sense of Their Complex SAP Systems

Bas Kamphuis, General Manager of the Productivity Business Unit at Magnitude Software, reveals his role in helping companies unlock the value of their enterprise data

After more than 20 years of corporate strategy and alliance roles at Amazon Web Services, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Accenture, and Capgemini, Bas Kamphuis brought his proven record of success to Magnitude Software in January 2020. As General Manager, Kamphuis leads the Magnitude Productivity business, capitalizing on the digital revolution by defining and executing the company’s global strategy in the SAP ecosystem, driving product definition and the product roadmap, and growing revenue and market share via a customer-oriented culture and strategic partnerships.

Magnitude’s focus is on helping customers unlock the value of enterprise data. SAPinsider spoke with Kamphuis, along with support from CMO Simon West and CTO Darren Peirce, on how Magnitude helps SAP customers not only see into their data, but also gain actionable insights from it. What follows is a summary of that conversation.

Bas Kamphuis, Magnitude

Bas Kamphuis, General Manager, Productivity Business Unit, Magnitude Software

Q: What are the big questions on the minds of SAP customers today? Are there any trends specifically in the areas of data management?

Bas Kamphuis (BK): For years, SAP has been the leading provider of enterprise applications that serve mission-critical processes, serving one of the largest and most complex customer bases. Many SAP customers have discovered that it’s easy to get data into the system, but harder to transform that data into useful information within and across critical business functions. This challenge is compounded by the billions of dollars enterprises spend in implementing and customizing ERP systems, and in bolting on business intelligence (BI) tools to aid in reporting and analytics. Most recently, there has been a tremendous disruption based on the cloud, with a business goal of reducing operating costs while improving speed and agility, but which introduces still further complexity into enterprise SAP landscapes.

Businesses have been wondering, “How do I get data out of my SAP system in a way that helps me run a better company?” When factoring in the financial and operational stresses of a volatile environment under COVID-19, companies are asking, “Where do I have challenges in my global supply chain, and which customers are not being served as well as they should?” Looking ahead, companies are moving toward a vision of continuous intelligence — a data-driven enterprise powered by systems that continually monitor the state of that business through the data it generates, and that extract insights from the data that can be used for a strategic advantage.

Many companies today are data-rich but insight-blind — that is, they generate data in abundance, but lack the tools to efficiently transform the information into business insights in a fully automated way. The size and complexity of core business systems, particularly when implemented inside large enterprises that have interdependencies with other complex organizations, means these businesses have systems generating and exchanging enormous amounts of data.

One observation customers make is that it requires deep expertise to make sense of the information coming out of the system, and traditionally, getting data out of those platforms has been left to highly skilled business analysts and data scientists with the help of complex tools. Business users and executives need to know what is going on in global supply chains, for example, without depending on people to build custom solutions to interpret data for them at certain moments. Being able to see quickly enough to act decisively can be complicated, because asking a question that hasn’t been asked before or asked regularly can lead to a complex analytics project. Consequently, we are seeing the rise of movements such as data democratization, founded on the principle that data should be unlockable and knowable by the business user.

Q: How are you helping customers extract and interpret these massive stores of data and find answers to their pressing questions?

BK: Some of the value that Magnitude brings to customers is our development of no-code business reporting and end-user analytics tools that provide the ability to make those insights more readily available and consumable. Good data is key in driving outcomes, and with our Every Angle product, we help companies identify opportunities and optimizations that ensure a resilient business, giving them transparent insight into each sales order, materials purchase, or manufacturing job. Thus we’re showing organizations how to fully understand the ramifications based on ripple effects through the entire value chain, with improved visibility into everything from manufacture to inventory to delivery, allowing for on-time fulfillments while reducing production cycle delays.

Q: What specifically does Magnitude offer to help SAP customers get the most from their data?

BK: Magnitude has almost 20 years of experience in managing and analyzing enterprise application data. Organizations are more successful — particularly in transformational business initiatives — when they have figured out how to turn data into a competitive advantage. The purpose and the power behind the tools we offer is ultimately in unlocking data to be more democratic — getting the right information into the hands of the people making business decisions.

In brief, our software helps enterprises access and integrate data from distributed business applications, increase productivity and time-to-action through automation of key SAP transactions and functions, and provide business insights accessible to the end user, with tools that also empower business analysts and data scientists.

Q: Can you share an example or two of a “data-rich” client you helped achieve insights?

BK: A large e-commerce retailer recently came to us because it had multiple people working to extract data out of the SAP system and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to present to the business, only for the business to tell them it’s not quite what they had in mind, and they would have to start all over again. Every month, they would do this, with mostly manual processes, and they wanted to be more efficient. The value of our solution was in reading the entire configuration of the SAP system and extracting the necessary data without dedicating multiple personnel to that function.

Another example is an SAP customer that had 10 to 20 different purchase order types — some dealing with refurbish orders and others with direct and raw material orders. This customer asked us to come up with a solution based on how its system was configured. The business wanted to give end users the ability to “slice and dice” the data as needed, allowing a more free-flowing process for requesting information.

In this challenging time of COVID-19, many organizations face supply chain disruptions as they seek new sources of raw materials and inventory or change their go-to-market models from retail to direct-to-consumer. For example, another customer of ours is a large global agricultural and pharmaceutical company. During the pandemic, we helped this business ensure it had product on the shelves of its retail customers even as the core supply chain became increasingly unpredictable. This continuity during crisis was in part possible because Every Angle provided cross-process insights to demonstrate where potential bottlenecks might start to emerge. As the organization’s supply chain in China became constrained in the early days of COVID-19, the company’s BI tool, connected to our data model, quickly produced a dashboard, extracting data from the SAP system and translating that information in a way that business users could understand. Our customer was able to see which facilities were running out of inventory and which still had inventory not yet spoken for. Armed with that insight, the business could correct its transfer orders and continue delivering vital medicine where it was needed.

Companies like this are extracting intelligence from their enterprise application to make informed decisions. They must have clear insight into everything from raw materials to product life cycles to what sites have inventory that could be leveraged as a substitute product — all so they can continue to run their production cycles and meet customer obligations. Our products not only provide reactive support for problem resolution, but also proactively help organizations improve the use of their SAP systems.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for companies considering a move to SAP S/4HANA?

BK: The faster customers get to SAP S/4HANA, the faster they realize that the hybrid analytics are why SAP introduced it in the first place. Magnitude developed solution extensions designed to speed and ease complex SAP S/4HANA implementations and help customers more effectively realize the value of this migration. For example, our Process Mining solution helps customers quickly understand how processes are currently performing and where the bottlenecks are in their current manufacturing, procurement, or supply chain processes. Armed with this insight, customers save time when implementing SAP S/4HANA as they can address the shortcomings of the legacy implementations more easily and with greater confidence.

Occasionally, customers will assume that a migration to or implementation of SAP S/4HANA is the answer to everything. It’s a huge value proposition in and of itself, but on its own it might not get you the end-to-end insight into process and analytics you’re looking for, and depending on your landscape, it can be complex to implement and integrate. The Central Finance deployment option is immensely valuable as a first step on the SAP S/4HANA journey, and together with SAP, we co-developed our SourceConnect solution to complement its power. SourceConnect provides the “plumbing” of third-party data connectivity and integrations for central finance, and allows customers to streamline and integrate third-party data while significantly decreasing risk and accelerating deployments. In addition, Magnitude’s offerings are not limited to serving finance landscapes — we provide solutions that allow SAP users to maximize value across multiple critical business functions.

Q: Do you see a connection between being “insight-blind” and getting outpaced by competitors?

BK: Absolutely, and third-party analysis bears it out. Everyone collects data and is trying to figure out how best to unlock its power, and there’s a direct correlation between companies with that capability and those claiming success in digital transformation. In a digital world, competitive advantage is predicated on how well you use your core enterprise data to make informed business decisions that will help you outmaneuver competitors. We believe a truly digital enterprise is a data-driven enterprise, and Magnitude’s purpose is to help companies achieve that state.