Whether SAP ECC companies are still planning or are already in the process of switching to S/4HANA, integration has to be taken into account for migrations as well as greenfield implementations and are usually tied to additional effort and costs. They can usually be split into two categories: SAP-to-SAP and SAP-to-non-SAP integration tasks.
From our experience on S/4HANA projects, Seeburger has gathered the following data:
- 70 percent of integration tasks concern SAP-to-non-SAP integrations.
- 20 to 40 percent of the budget is used for system and application integration.
- 60 percent of SAP users view integrations as costly and time-consuming.
- 40 percent of SAP users think that underestimating integration is a risk which could delay their S/4HANA project goals beyond 2025.
The true scope of integration challenges can be illustrated by a simple SAP-to-SAP example: The SAP community rejoiced when SAP announced that it would provide four business processes as out-of-the-box integrations for “SAP ERP to SAP Cloud Applications” scenarios. SAP currently combines more than 300 products and roughly 200 cloud services in its portfolio, which could lead some to say that four core integrations isn’t nothing, but it’s not exactly much. Furthermore, using the offered integration content and SAP technology is only free of charge if integration scenarios do not deviate from the standard in any way. Ongoing operating costs could, therefore, also be affected.
S/4 migrations bring a number of innovations, as well as surprises. For example, integrations in existing SAP ERP ECC environments cannot be transferred to S/4 systems unchanged. This becomes clear when looking at robust, widely available ALE/IDoc interfaces: The available IDoc types in S/4 have changed compared to ERP ECC.
The devil is in the details
The number of IDoc types has been reduced. Consequently, all existing IDoc interfaces have to be analyzed and, most likely, adapted. SAP S/4HANA Cloud Essentials (multitenant) no longer offers IDocs or ALE technology. Some SAP integration architects have become hesitant in S/4 projects, understandably wondering: Does the IDoc and ALE technology have a future? Tried-and-tested approaches like JCO, BAPI, or RFC are also under scrutiny. Everything ERP ECC users had accepted as standard when it comes to integration is now up in the air in S/4. However, through experience of many completed S/4HANA projects, Seeburger can attest that robust IDoc interfaces continue to be used efficiently and successfully, especially when it comes to S/4HANA on-premises projects which only need the reduced set to meet project requirements. All of this poses a different question, though: If all existing interfaces have to be analyzed, adapted, and tested regardless, wouldn’t it be easier to just opt for future-proof, efficient integration options in S/4HANA?
What possible alternatives are there? OData interfaces as synchronized API interfaces seem to offer a modern, future-proof alternative for all integration requirements. Risking a glance at SAP API Business Hub leads to a certain disillusionment: The technology’s availability for a broad palate of integration tasks still needs some work, but the good news is it is actually being done. Furthermore, these synchronized interfaces are not suitable for every integration scenario. Even if the technology’s availability will be expanded, it unfortunately cannot serve as a universal solution for all scenarios.
The proprietary SOAP SAP Reliable Messaging (RM) offers asynchrony and coverage of more possible interface requirements. SAP RM could therefore be an interesting alternative to ALE/IDoc technology in S/4HANA, for example, where document-based integration for EDI or B2B scenarios is concerned. Like OData, SAP RM is available for all S/4 options.
For event-based integration scenarios like master-data synchronization, Business Events is the obvious choice. Because Business Events have been available in SAP ECC since 2020, they also are perfectly suited for brownfield projects to guarantee data consistency between SAP ECC and S/4HANA. Integration specialists are waiting for further development and availability of the SAP One Domain model as well as the implementation of SAP Graph as essential key factors for integration scenarios.
These are all integrations of the SAP-to-SAP variety. What about the SAP-to-non-SAP integrations, though?
Integrating non-SAP systems is the biggest challenge
For SAP customers, integrating non-SAP systems is still the biggest challenge they face in S/4HANA projects. The scope of necessary integration technology is dictated by existing legacy systems, analytics solutions (for example of public cloud providers), shop floor systems, IoT platforms, cloud-based applications of third-party providers like Salesforce, Workday, and Coupa, shop systems, industry platforms, and many more. Necessary integration scenarios range from push-and-pull projects and events to real-time or batch processing.
Besides supporting different technology (SAP and non-SAP) as well as integration scenarios, central integration platforms have to tackle the task of simultaneously processing bulk and streaming data without impacting synchronized processing of granular information objects in real-time processes. This is where the wheat will separate from the chaff – which many SAP user companies have yet to realize.
Pathways to success
From previous experiences with integration in S/4 migrations and Greenfield implementations, Seeburger feels there are two critical elements for project success. First, the involvement of experienced integration experts with profound, perennial SAP know-how; and second, the utilization of an efficient integration platform that takes all integration requirements into account. Seeburger Integration is the combination of our technology, which includes our integration platform Seeburger Business Integration Suite (BIS), our services, which includes our cloud services, consulting and support, and our people. Together, Seeburger Integration helps companies connect with clouds, applications and people so they can utilize and share information across their ecosystems.
If you want to learn more about Seeburger’s solutions, you might also like this article about how they can help in SAP S/4HANA migrations.