Innovation & Technology
Extrovert or introvert?
Not a question of taste (in software)
People who always have to take center stage are frowned upon in society. In the SAP Community, many are wondering if SAP invariably has to take center stage or if other systems like enterprise content management (ECM) can also have a leading role.
Which system should or must be the leading one? There is no straightforward answer. It depends on the use case. This article shows you how different companies organize their SAP and ECM applications and the rationale behind their decisions.
Extrovert or introvert? To what extent does software need to be center stage? Or rather in the background? There is no clear-cut answer; it must be decided based on the use case in the company. SAP's strengths are in data processing, while ECM systems such as Doxis4 from SER exceed at handling and processing documents. When business processes are dominated by documents, then enterprise content management (ECM) solutions take center stage. In this context, they are extroverted. However, if business processes are focused on pure document archiving to supplement SAP transactions, then ECM plays an introverted backstage role and manages the archive function missing in SAP, unbeknownst to the user. The use case scenarios in the SAP context of the company are diverse. Depending on the IT strategy and the tasks at hand, companies decide how extroverted or introverted a system will be. And every company comes up with its own solutions, as the following examples reveal.
Application diversity in the insurance sector
Administrative processes in the insurance sector follow the life cycle of an insurance contract, a claim, etc. Workflow systems manage the sub-processes and handle the processor assignment. The workflows also dynamically monitor load balancing and differentiate by system levels. Documents that are required in a process are stored in digital records – e.g. in personnel, contract, claims or loan records. These records are then connected to the workflow system and the policy management systems. New inbound documents, e.g. applications, claims reports, etc., are already digitized upon arrival, then archived, assigned to a digital record and filed in the processor's mailbox for further work. Depending on the processing step, the focus is on the data or the document that needs to be worked on. For this reason, the policy management system or the ECM take center stage. Company-wide applications must be based on modern ECM technologies that, once installed, can be organized and connected in a variety of ways according to the area of application. The processes, structures, components and functions must be freely combinable and scalable. This requires a platform-based ECM technology, e.g. Doxis4 from SER, that provides all components of enterprise content management through a uniform technological platform and allows these components to be freely and flexibly combined and connected in a redundancy-free way. And not to be forgotten: There needs to be a high-performance "engine room" to handle these complex company-wide solutions with regard to load (e.g. data volume, number of users, etc.) and security (e.g. high availability, clustering). The employees of DEVK, for example, support approximately 4 million customers across Germany with over 14 million policies in their insurance LOBs. Doxis4 is the leading system in the business areas that handle new applications, contract modifications, and more. DEVK also uses the workflow of the ECM system to manage their case processing. When processing inbound invoices, the ECM system serves as a document archive for SAP FI/CO. The invoices are connected to the transactions in SAP. The claims department of DEVK uses the archive component of the Doxis4 iECM suite of SER as its document archive for claims management with SAP CM. The logic and structure of the digital claims record comes from SAP, but it can also be searched via the ECM frontend. Processes in claims processing are managed via the SAP Business Workplace. ECM and SAP were simultaneously implemented in the claims departments to ensure they are in full alignment.
Project management in planning and construction
For a project management firm in charge of planning and building federal highways in Germany, enterprise content management is a must. Its complex projects require a constantly up-to-date and complete overview of the entire documentation, which includes contracts, supplemental documents, blueprints, correspondences, etc. To always have the latest information, it is crucial to work with the latest document versions. In this situation, Doxis4 iECM is an information linchpin to SAP. For Jens Düssel, Head of IT and Organization at DEGES, a German federal highway planning and construction firm, the SAP data must be connected to the related documents in the ECM system. The question of which system leads is of secondary importance. In contract management, DEGES uses further business applications other than SAP and ECM so that the information for a use case can be integrated in any other applications.
ECM in the industrial sector
Process support was an important reason to start implementing enterprise content management at the FEV Group, one of the world's leading developers and designers of engineering systems. "A modern ECM system not only acts as an archive system for SAP, but it also allows documents and metadata information to be integrated into other processes. This is the true value of ECM," comments Georg P. Genender from Product and Demand Management, Corporate IT at the FEV Group's headquarters.
Collaboration in production
The supplier Eissmann Group Automotive operates production sites across three continents. ECM and SAP are the supporting strategic IT applications of the company. SAP and Doxis4 iECM work together throughout the company's business areas. One recent project is the collaboration solution, the Doxis4® iRoom®. It is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution and was recently given the Digital Leader Award. The solution, integrated into Eissmann's supplier portal, enables over 1,000 partners across the globe to work together with Eissmann's purchasing department. The Doxis4® iRoom® is integrated into the portal and linked to digital supplier records which contain SAP system data as well as non-SAP documents. The virtual information room gives suppliers a way to, for example, update their certificates, upload images of tools, and view and comment on their reviews.
Introverted or extroverted. Backstage or front and center. When it comes to software, it's not a question of character, but of taste. In many cases, the question of which system leads is secondary. It's much more important that the user has a 360-degree view of information and is supported throughout business processes.
(A version of this article was originally published in the magazine E-3, https://e-3.de/2017/09/12/extrovertiert-oder-introvertiert/)