SAP's Digital Transformation Strategy Is Not On Track
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SAP’s Digital Transformation Strategy Is Not On Track

The overall opinion of SAP customers and partners alike can be summarized in one sentence: Cloud and Fiori are nice, but nothing more. Most IT departments are happy if their existing SAP landscape works at all.

The movement towards S/4 Hana has already started, but in most companies, it is still very much a theory and years away from becoming reality. Why aren’t decision makers trying to tap into the business potential of digital transformation? The answer is quite surprising: business and end users are not demanding performance or digitalisation because they are simply used to slow and bulky SAP systems – have almost accepted them, even.

However, there are three main reasons why you should start transforming your SAP interface today. This means imagining the vision of S/4 Hana and simplicity, mobility, IoT and related AI processes.

1. Real digital transformation

Digital transformation begins with your employees and customers learning to work and interact with new kinds of applications. Design Thinking and User Experience (UX) are means to close the gap between your employees current lack of know-how and your future digital business. Whether field sales or office employees, mobile devices with intelligent applications will be a constant companion.

However, real digital transformation isn’t about changes happening all at once. It is about gradually developing new and streamlined applications that help users perform their daily tasks and make their work lives easier.

Digital transformation is a lengthy process that takes a lot of time and resources. The path defined by SAP for S/4 is clear, but for many SAP customers it is difficult to follow this path on a small scale (especially for on-premise customers).

Companies that regard SAP mobility (e.g. with Fiori applications) as the first step to transform their processes almost immediately encounter infrastructure challenges to get these apps up and running. To run a single standard SAP Fiori application productively, customers must comply with a list of requirements: SAP upgrades, oData protocols, and SAP gateway server setup – just to name a few.

For everyone thinking there must be a better alternative, there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel: S/4 Hana. NetWeaver-based low-code development platforms are on the rise to enable companies’ SAP teams to develop UI5-based Fiori applications step-by-step on their existing SAP landscape.

These S/4 Hana certified tools are based directly on the Abap stack and do not require SAP Gateway middleware and oData services. The idea is to start your Fiori journey today and optionally use the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) and oData to lead your SAP landscape into the future.

2. Flexibility and future security

If you look at today’s IT trends, open standards and robust APIs are essential for digital transformation. Businesses need to create robust interfaces to stay competitive. SAP promotes oData as the protocol of the future. At the same time, Abap remains the central SAP language. For anyone wondering: yes, this means that the S/4 Hana core is completely encoded in Abap!

Ideally, your IT architecture combines the best of both worlds. Use and reuse your company’s Abap-based processes, especially all customer-specific coding, and the right oData services for connection to third-party systems or the SAP gateway whenever it suits you.

This approach ensures that the existing SAP business know-how of your Abap team remains the preferred interface and guarantees that applications are fully compatible with the slowly evolving S/4 world.

Furthermore, the IT department remains independent of external know-how, compared to being tied to changing consultants and web development teams with little or no SAP experience.

This “best of both worlds” approach will also increase the budget flexibility of IT departments because there are fewer external consultants and developers. What is more, there are fewer infrastructure changes, process innovations are accelerated and employees mobilized.

Not having to make the big investment today but learning and transforming for the future – that’s what really leads to flexibility and simplicity.

There are large and small SMBs that have successfully migrated their SAP UI to mobile and desktop in the last 3 years without waiting for the big migration to S/4 and SCP. Today, these companies have happy users who already love the user interface as they approach the next steps of the general migration to the digital age relaxed, with no worries.

3. Let users get to know Fiori

Digital transformation essentially means that the user is the focus of attention. It is a mistake to limit Fiori UX to future applications and products by ignoring today’s transactional Business Suite applications.

Companies that want to successfully go mobile should start redesigning their solutions now to improve user satisfaction and performance for the future. Regardless of whether the transformation begins with desktop applications in the browser or specific mobile applications that use devices such as GPS, camera, barcode scanner or offline.

There are tons of transaction processes with great potential for improvement. On-site technicians can work offline, photograph damage and use GPS to find the right technical location. Travelling sales people can create customer orders with their tablets directly with the customer, decision makers can approve order requests and vacation requests on a plane and all employees can take care of their time sheets, travel expenses, vacation requests, pay slips and much more on the device they feel comfortable with.

These are standard requirements that must be implemented today to increase the acceptance of your employees for tomorrow’s digital enterprise.

It is a major management mistake to argue that these new interfaces are “nice, but nothing more”. In the age of digitalisation, companies must ensure that new technologies, powerful devices as well as software are combined to meet the challenge of transforming and optimizing their entire value chain.

Digital transformation is happening now, not sometime in the future. Decision makers need to find the right means to begin this journey step by step, with a strong focus on end users. By integrating Fiori UX into your business applications, you can restructure your user interface on mobile devices and desktops and begin your journey to S/4 Hana.

IT departments need lean tools, like Neptune Software’s app development platform, to implement their SAP landscape today and support tomorrow’s major changes. As you gradually familiarize your end users with Fiori UX, the entire digital transformation becomes an intelligent journey on mobile phones and desktops, supported by motivated users. Because tomorrow is not that far away.

E-3 Magazine October 2018 (German)

About the author

Christoph Garms, Neptune Software

Christoph Garms is Presales Manager at Neptune Software.

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