SER Blog  Innovation & Technology

Reciprocal effects: The big picture with SAP and ECM

Bärbel Heuser-Roth

Everything that can become a platform will become a platform — so goes the dictum in the IT world. While business platforms like those of Amazon, Airbnb and the other giants are important, companies also need high-performing technology platforms to manage content and processes across their businesses.

The so-called digital pioneers are using their business platforms with their new business models to disrupt old economy companies. While this is certainly a big topic, it's easy to overlook another equally important one: to continue the digital transformation and implement the underlying business processes, companies urgently need to establish company-wide technology platforms. This is the only way to manage information and business processes in a diverse range of company areas. The SAP community already began grappling with this topic last fall at the DSAG Jahrestagung, the annual conference for SAP users in Germany. One topic of discussion there was how existing ERP landscapes can be transformed in a way that they are both extendible and can be combined with non-ERP processes in hybrid cross-enterprise scenarios. Good question!

This is the point where SAP systems start to meet their limits. Companies need a comprehensive platform that handles not only classic data-driven processes, but also unstructured content — which coincidentally makes up almost 80 percent of all content in a company! SAP and enterprise content management (ECM) must work hand in hand to make the most of their potential synergies. When the two systems interact, they can efficiently manage and plan resources, handle information in the context of processes and projects, and integrate everything from networks to complex business ecosystems.

ECM is THE central information platform

The potential of platforms is growing: Information must be used in a profitable way. The more digitized value creation is, the greater the economic impact that scalable and agile ECM platforms will have. These platforms manage information of the value creation process and of business relationships. ECM is THE central information platform within the platform economy. It also complements SAP, the transaction platform, where ever document-based processes and documentations of business processes are necessary. For compliance reasons, documentations are required in many enterprise situations, from audit-proof archiving to the fulfillment of the EU GDPR.

The scaling effects of this new platform economy are achieved by essentially establishing services and solutions on one technological foundation, which only needs to be extended or adapted to accommodate further company or activity areas. This is what we call a content services platform. The ECM platform is the technological basis of a modular system. Parallel to SAP, a state-of-the-art ECM solution such as Doxis offers an open and digital content services platform that enables companies to create all kinds of content-related applications. It also builds a bridge to customers, suppliers and business partners. This kind of flexible and extendible ECM technology reduces costs, IT resources and launch times.

Seeing the big picture

All areas of a company and its operations — from development to sales, from accounting to service — can benefit from this ECM platform. And they won’t have to build components of it themselves. Only customizing in certain areas or functions is necessary, but even for this there are many different industry-specific and use-case templates that reduce the amount of work involved. This kind of blueprint does, however, need to be placed in the context of the big picture, i.e. a digitalization strategy with an ECM system. In the context of the big picture, the value proposition to customers must be a top priority. Which brings us back to our first point: The success of Airbnb, Amazon, Uber and the other giants is due in no small part to the fact that they have placed the customers and their value proposition right in the focus of their big picture.

(A version of this was originally published in E-3 magazin,

Bärbel Heuser-Roth

For many years now, Bärbel Heuser-Roth has been dealing with a wide variety of ECM topics, from information logistics, process management and compliance to the use cases of intelligent processes for automated information management. She has also spent her career researching and writing about the implementation of ECM projects at companies and organizations.

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