SAP has spoken a good deal about conversion, cloud, and intelligent enterprise. The next step for many SAP customers is S/4, but SAP CEO Christian Klein won’t say what happens next. Every builder knows the importance of a stable foundation and adequate architecture. SAP has neither: it lacks both a CCC/CCoE culture and an ERP architecture. The S/4 conversion and the digital transformation to the Intelligent Enterprise will not succeed without an SAP foundation and enterprise architecture. SAP’s cloud computing is at best a possible operating model, but in no way is it an answer to customer’s questions. It was a mistake for SAP to neglect this conceptual aspect in the past years.
Homeless ERP architects in the SAP community
SAP executives are not aware of the lack of enterprise architecture because SAP customers themselves are often not aware of it themselves. Customers often assume that such a feature would be integrated right from the start. On closer inspection, however, R/3 and the current ECC function without an architecture model. SAP developed an excellent IT infrastructure with the three-tier client/server model, and for the CIO that sufficed. In fact, SAP’s ERP functioned without any complaints for a long time. However, customers later realized that the business side of SAP software was missing a business-relevant ERP architecture, as well as enterprise architects.
An ERP system is more than a central database acting as single point of truth, a few app servers, and the users’ clients, (see SAP’s three-tier client/server model). Business processes are decisive in organizational and operational structures. Precisely this is what Professor August-Wilhelm Scheer, founder and director of IDS Scheer, attempted to show 30 years ago with the IT tool Aris. Some members of the SAP community may still remember the endless Aris wallpapers in the business process reengineering workshops of the 1990s. These flowcharts were meant to show users what ERP could do and make all its possibilities more understandable. Even back then, the intention was to provide users with a transparent ERP architecture.
However, Professor Scheer’s Aris was not exactly a resounding success. Later, SAP tried to catch up conceptually with their Solution Manager. Operationally, the SAP Business Suite was stabilized, but SolMan did not succeed in looking beyond SAP’s horizons, which meant there was still no proper enterprise architecture. SAP failed to provide managers with an ERP view. SolMan remained an SAP Basis tool. Managers continued to have no idea what the SAP system and the connected IT system were doing.
The Enterprise Architect
In recent years, the company LeanIX grew out of SAP’s negligence, and with it, a new profession. The position of enterprise architect is not one of an ERP builder and IT engineer, but rather a planner, archivist, and cartographer that designs, maintains, and manages an overall picture of the ERP architecture far beyond SAP’s boundaries. With their maps, the enterprise architect shows management the development possibilities, license costs, weak points, and performance parameters of their own IT system. This is not about cloud computing, virtualization, and client/server, but about operational and strategic architecture models that businesses can and should use as a guide.
Lifeboat for S/4
A holistic architecture model, such as one LeanIX can create, will in many cases be the lifeboat for S/4 conversion. The fastest car, the biggest truck, the safest ship, and the most comfortable plane are of little use without a map. If you don’t know where you’re headed, you won’t get anywhere. The S/4 conversion can only succeed with a master plan: a map made by an enterprise architect. SAP has overlooked this parameter, but has now chosen LeanIX as a strategic partner. SAP’s customers should think about the steps to follow.
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