Solve the digital Rubik's Cube with intelligent information management & SAP, Part 1
Digitalization is like a Rubik's Cube: intelligence is key to unlocking the winning sequence of moves. Each turn makes an important contribution to the big picture. Yet trying to solve the digitalization Rubik's Cube with SAP alone will only result in a half-finished, semi-intelligent solution. The missing piece of the puzzle? Intelligent information management. In part 1 of this article, I’ll breakdown the shortcomings of SAP and demonstrate how an intelligent information management system, integrated with SAP, offers flexibility and end-to-end digitalization, also in the cloud – all urgent requirements many organizations need to fulfill to survive the current crisis.
At a recent SAP user community event, the organizers used the analogy of a Rubik's Cube to refer to the many faces of digitalization. Yet the last few months have shown that, when it comes to digitalization, many companies are still far from finding the right sequence of moves. In some areas, inadequate or a complete lack of digital solutions brought operations to a sudden and complete standstill: Employees working from home had no access to documents and SAP data, and business processes ground to a halt. With company performance already buckling under the strain of the fragile economy, the effects remain to be seen. The true cost will be revealed at the latest come the year-end.
It’s crucial that companies take measures to counteract these revenue losses. The Rubik’s Cube analogy offers a practical answer: Companies need intelligent strategies and solutions for digitalizing their information and processes. They must continue to strive for digital transformation, optimize workflows and adapt services. Their goal must be not only quick wins that create short-term security, but also to establish the strength to withstand the pressure that comes with future change and the ability to create new solutions. Staying with the digitalization Rubik's Cube analogy, this means that there is no one single solution with one-color sides that, once solved, stays that way forever. Like the Rubik’s Cube with its virtually endless permutations, companies need to focus now on creating new, dynamic solutions that will buoy them up through the crisis — the more intelligent the better.
Where SAP is smart — and where it’s not
SAP helps companies make great strides towards achieving their vision of an intelligent enterprise. Rather than being a passive bystander, the new ERP system is designed to simplify work for users with intelligent processes. It promises the perfect customer experience. SAP delivers on this promise by using operational data from the business side along with “experience data” to further improve customers’ experience of the company. In turn, the aim is to boost customer satisfaction, loyalty and — most of all — willingness to buy.
It's a great idea, particularly given the current downturn in sales. But the customer experience is doomed to failure if the back office lacks an intelligent basis. It’s not only about cute interactions with AI chatbots and personalized product recommendations. What the customer really wants is a signed-and-sealed contract and swift responses to requests and orders. Short lead times in processing and intelligent inbound goods and production planning are key pieces of the puzzle. Companies need to react quickly and flexibly to uncertain delivery terms which especially now are suffering at the hands of the fluctuating market.
Putting all this in place calls for close collaboration across multiple locations in the face of artificially generated distances, as well as streamlined processes and better quality for the same effort. This is where automation and AI assistance are urgently needed. SAP’s answer is its intelligent ERP system. However, it has a narrow focus, concentrating predominantly on data-driven processes. Yet business processes comprise much more than just data! As any office professional will tell you, business processes revolve primarily around documents. But it’s precisely documents which are not SAP’s specialty area — and the result is a half-finished, semi-intelligent solution: Users cannot automatically forward documents and tasks to the right colleagues and are given no help with selecting the correct processes, e.g. to ensure the proper review of contract approvals. And while it’s already difficult in SAP to locate specific process-related documents, it’s even harder to find non-SAP documents. Users themselves are responsible for ensuring compliance with deadlines, retention periods and escalation mechanisms.
The missing piece: Intelligent information management
SAP’s shortcomings in this respect are nothing new. But in times of the coronavirus, they are thrown into even sharper relief. A customer who tries to solve the digitalization Rubik's Cube with SAP alone will come up against a major hurdle: it lacks the full set of building blocks. Here at the SER Group, we have long focused our attention on delivering the missing pieces of the document-driven process puzzle — in the form of intelligent information management. Our enterprise content management (ECM) platform, Doxis, is designed specifically with this purpose in mind. Doxis offers manifold benefits for business: It gives users access to the right information at the right time and in the right process, makes decision-making far easier, and automates time-consuming manual tasks. Yet even companies like the German national railway, Deutsche Bahn — for whom these benefits were the chief motivation behind choosing a combination of intelligent SAP and ECM — still have not only the challenging conditions prevailing on the market to contend with, but also have another battle on their hands: SAP’s product strategy.
A wonderful new cloud world?
In recent years, SAP has substantially broadened its portfolio with a number of acquisitions. While this represents a growing number of solution offerings, as a multinational corporation SAP must pay close attention to data harmonization. Without it, end-to-end automated processes with seamless switching between systems and unrestricted user access to the range of SAP solutions are an impossibility. And a fully integrated platform is essential if SAP is to perform AI analytics on all existing data and deliver the promised experience enhancements. SAP is tackling the issue of the patchwork landscape with the SAP Cloud Platform, via which users can access SAP solutions and third-party applications. But the problem is that SAP has once again glossed over the document aspect. The platform doesn’t include the ArchiveLink interface. How do SAP users file their documents in the cloud? How can they get an overview of their processes?
Companies migrating to S4/HANA face a similar situation. Regardless of whether they use the cloud or on-premises versions, no thought has been given to how documents are to be transferred as part of the migration to the latest SAP product generation. It’s no wonder that SAP customers balk at the prospect of change. But complaining doesn’t help either. A pragmatic solution is needed! And one exists: With the Doxis SmartBridge for SAP connector, transferring documents to the cloud is as easy as moving them between SAP and ECM via ArchiveLink used to be. Not only does it synchronize documents and data, but it also responds to events in SAP and launches document-driven processes, e.g. creates new files that bundle SAP data and all related documents in the right context. One less thing to worry about: documents stay safe and secure. And it’s not limited to a migration to the SAP Cloud Platform. With Doxis, users can work in both the old and new SAP worlds: When migrating from SAP ERP to SAP S4/HANA or SAP S4/HANA Cloud, the ECM system just keeps on running and providing unimpeded access to documents. It even works with design changes, so users can continue working with the ECM system regardless of whether they use SAP Fiori or SAP Classic UI. Now that is how a sustainable platform should work!
ECM in the cloud
Do you want to use SAP in the cloud? You can also deploy your ECM in the cloud: Find out here how Doxis-as-a-service provides maximum flexibility and minimum IT resources.Read now
SAP users struggle with processes even in S/4
The inherent lack of document support across all SAP generations is not the only thing that provokes the furrowing of brows: the processes are also a cause for concern among users. According to a recent SAP user survey, over half of the respondents who have already migrated to S/4 find the processes more complex than expected. That’s despite the fact that the next-gen platform was supposed to streamline them! SAP customers must first add the missing intelligent building blocks to the digitalization Rubik's Cube — for processes both within and outside of the SAP world.
How ECM enhances SAP modules
In part 2 of this article, I’ll show you how ECM completes the digitalization Rubik’s Cube to unite process and document management across all SAP modules. For example, you’ll learn how ECM – based on automation and intelligence – enhances business-critical processes in areas such as invoice processing, contract management, purchase-to-pay, customer service, HR and more.
This article was originally published in the German publication E-3 Magazin in September 2020 ⯈