Interview with Carl Dubler, SAP: With a simpler data model companies can do more with fewer resources

BrandPost By Ima Buxton
May 30, 2017
IT Leadership

Enterprises today need an ERP solution that allows them to rapidly respond to constantly changing market requirements. Carl Dubler, Senior Director Product Marketing for SAP S/4HANA, explains how to lay the foundations for a future-proof IT architecture.rn

What does an enterprise IT architecture need to look like today in order for businesses to stay competitive in the digital world?

Carl Dubler: First, architecture needs to be simplified. Redundant data, often used for operational reporting and analytics, needs to be reduced. And wherever possible, applications for supply chain and related processes need to move closer to the core ERP. A simpler landscape will allow IT to focus on business needs. Second, all parts of a business need to be connected. Many organizations have moved part of their architecture to the cloud for things like SFA and HR. But IT needs to ensure that they don’t end up with more data silos. Applications in the cloud should be connected seamlessly to the core ERP.

What does it mean for the IT landscape and for solutions if business and IT leaders are constantly searching for ways to serve customers better than their competitors?

Carl Dubler: It means IT needs to be ready for anything, especially providing analytics. This is another argument for simplifying the landscape. The old way of populating data marts or operational data stores won’t be good enough because IT had to predict in advance what the business wanted to analyze.

In a rapidly changing environment, or one where business is constantly searching for new ideas, it will be essential to provide live analysis on the same transactional data that is running the organization. We will see more of these “hybrid” data systems that will bridge the traditional OLTP and OLAP data silos. Also, IT will need to deploy user interfaces that allow people to start at a high level and drill all the way down to detail without needing to switch applications or export to spreadsheets.

SAP refers to SAP S/4HANA as the ‘digital core’ of the enterprise. What does that mean?

Carl Dubler: IT departments everywhere always want to show that they can produce more than just operations. They want to show that they can produce innovation – and pockets of innovation are happening around their enterprises, more and more business processes are being digitized. That’s why it’s essential that the system of record – which for the most of these organizations is ERP – needs to keep up with digital business processes.

So SAP S/4HANA as a digital core means that we have redesigned and re-architected the solution to take advantage of digital business processes and tie all of these pockets of innovation together in this system of record. Without having an ERP-core that can keep up with all of this digitization, there will always be a weak link in the innovation strategy of any IT organization.

How can SAP S/4HANA support technical innovation, which is of course a key aspect for enterprises in today’s digital world?

Carl Dubler: We need to do three things: We need to start with a simpler data model, which is going to eliminate redundancies, eliminate data silos, and simplify the landscape for IT. So companies can do more with fewer resources.

The second thing is, we need to allow users – endusers – to go further on their own without needing IT support. And that’s why we have brought in a new user experience that we call Fiori. It is role-based and mobile and allows users to start on a high level and drill all the way down to transactions.

And the third thing that SAP S/4HANA does to drive innovation is to run consistently anywhere it’s deployed – whether it’s in the cloud or on-premise. 

In grown companies legacy IT, silo architectures and standalone analytic platforms restrict possible insights into valuable enterprise data. What role does SAP S/4HANA play in this scenario of technological boundaries?

Carl Dubler: Legacy database systems of the past were not able to handle both transactions and analytics on the same system. That is why companies have redundant data in siloes, on stand-alone, operational reporting platforms.

What SAP S/4HANA is going to do is allow companies to do things like running their production planning anytime they want, instead of running it only once a day, because it had to be on a separate system. Instead of closing the books once a quarter, you can actually run a soft close in finance anytime you want, because there is no separate data system that you have to reconcile.

In which way is SAP S/4HANA appropriate for the use of today’s mobile workforce?

Carl Dubler: Can you imagine, years ago, running ERP-processes on your phone? It is possible today, and what enables it, is something that I mentioned earlier and that is the Fiori user experience, which is role-based and can run on any device.

Now, there are just some things that probably are no fun to do on your phone. I’m thinking of detail-level reporting, for example. But things that are action and response-oriented, for example a problem that needs my attention, or maybe an alert that I could respond to with a quick yes or no, that’s tied back into ERP. Those have the biggest potential for taking your system of record out into the mobile world.

Cloud or on-premise? How can clients choose the most suitable operating model for their organization?

Carl Dubler:

A critical aspect is to make sure that your ERP system runs the same wherever you decide to deploy, whether that be public cloud, private cloud, remains on premise, or some combination of these.

With SAP S/4HANA we have the same code line, the same data model, and the same user experience across all operating models. If a company has acquired a subsidiary, they might want to bring that into their enterprise using public cloud because it is rapid and focused. But at the same time, perhaps they want to keep headquarters on-premise, because they’ve been running it like that for years or even decades. Then we have the same data model and the same user experience in public cloud as we do on-premise, or as we do in private cloud. This consistency is key to freeing IT to focus on the business needs and not on trying to unify disparate systems.

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