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Why SAP Customers Need to Rethink Their Business Processes

Insights from PwC

by Brian Vogt and Mike Pearl | insiderPROFILES, Volume-4, Issue 4

October 1, 2013

PwC Insights

In this recurring column in insiderPROFILES, experts at PwC will explore different ways companies are driving business innovation by leveraging new technology, with a spotlight on finance, security, and data management. In this introductory column, PwC consultants Brian Vogt and Mike Pearl dig into some of the broader technology trends in the marketplace, including cloud computing, in-memory technology, mobility, and social media, to help readers determine how they can leverage those technologies to improve business performance.

 

 

 

Brian Vogt has 25 years of experience deploying IT systems, concentrating on large, global accounts. He focuses on supporting SAP deployments as a member of the PwC technology group, and previously held a similar role with SAP for nearly 20 years.

An accelerated pace of technological advancements is changing the way businesses drive innovation. These advancements, from a confluence of emerging technologies and trends such as cloud, in-memory, mobility, and social media, are putting increased pressure on IT organizations to partner with the business to deploy this technology in a manner that allows for maximum flexibility.

In addition, organizations need an operational strategy that harnesses and analyzes the abundance of data that is being created by these technologies and used in new ways across all lines of business and industry types. Legacy systems are often insufficient to keep pace with changing business and technology requirements, and new solutions or enhancements with advanced capabilities often make modifications cost-prohibitive. In short, building a nimble enterprise system today is more complex than a straightforward horizontal or vertical integration, especially when factoring in recent compliance regulations that organizations must account for.

What, then, should a new technology platform look like? Every business, large or small, must consider the interplay of technologies and their overall effect on operations. Here at PwC, we are uniquely qualified to help companies design a platform that leverages emerging technology to enhance existing and future business processes. Rather than focus strictly on the technology, our wide-lens approach provides clients with a strong foundation for process change by linking business strategy with technology platforms. We believe customers must first look at their current infrastructure investments like SAP solutions and make sure they are leveraging them fully before jumping into new platforms.

 

Mike Pearl is PwC’s global cloud computing leader, and is also on the leadership team of PwC’s digital business and emerging technologies initiative. He works closely with PwC clients to articulate value to business objectives through the use of new technologies.

Let’s take a look at what we’re seeing in the market and what customers are saying about business impacts of the changing technology landscape.

Cloud Considerations

The decision to pursue an IT platform or solutions in the cloud should clearly reflect a business culture and risk profile, weighing the option of building out an internal infrastructure as a service (IaaS) against the investments made in a traditional on-premise infrastructure, as well as deciding between public or private cloud offerings.

We are seeing organizations wrestle with the value of exploring a public versus private cloud setting, with concerns regarding hybrid cloud management, including security and provisioning. Because a combination of both will often best address business needs, we are working with IT organizations to create dashboard-like control portals to meet responsiveness and cost factors while maintaining business visibility into hybrid cloud management. Software vendors are aware their customers are looking for choices, which is also reflected in SAP’s efforts to support a subscription model multi-tenant environment, for example. Accelerated revenue from those subscription models indicates that the cloud is a key SAP focus area, allowing SAP to become more engrained in various aspects of an organization through the delivery of technology services.

Real Time Is Now

As is the case with cloud technology, the availability of options is a key facet in determining in-memory technology’s benefits to the business. With SAP HANA, SAP has been at the forefront of espousing in-memory as a game-changing vehicle to drive business innovation, particularly in data-intensive business processes. There are opportunities in the marketplace, specifically for SAP customers, related to delivering SAP ERP and SAP Business Suite solutions powered by in-memory technology. We encounter hesitation from customers who have not yet seen any real-world results of in-memory computing, but we think this wait-and-see attitude may dissipate when they’re presented with results. As an example, we recently created financial data typical of a Fortune 500 company and ran the reconciliation process using in-memory technology. By running this reconciliation process, the results were significantly faster compared to a traditional database platform. Results will vary in different environments; however, in our estimation, in-memory will be a major factor in business process redesign in the coming years, especially for legacy SAP customers looking to leverage newer industry solutions.

A Mobility Revolution

Real-time analytics is a cornerstone of in-memory technology. The natural progression from a business intelligence standpoint is to deliver that information company wide instantaneously, and mobility holds the key. Clients are always asking how they can best utilize mobility across the organization. We recently helped a global food company drive innovation in a major sales division by operationalizing an SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) 7.0 mobile solution for 250 users who are now using mobile devices to capture sales data on customers, contacts, activities, and opportunities. PwC helped the company craft a vision for how it wanted sales reps to interact with customers before bringing the technology solution into the equation. At PwC, we leverage a mobile solution that is tailored for ease of use. This solution is intended specifically for newer employees, and it is a critical part of operations. 

About This Column

Companies face difficult decisions every day about whether their current enterprise systems can help the business meet its strategic objectives. Those companies with aging systems are realizing that updates and changes are necessary to ensure their IT environment provides an optimal innovation platform.

In this recurring column in insiderPROFILES, experts at PwC will explore different ways companies are driving business innovation by leveraging new technology, with a spotlight on finance, security, and data management. In this introductory column, PwC consultants Brian Vogt and Mike Pearl dig into some of the broader technology trends in the marketplace, including cloud computing, in-memory technology, mobility, and social media, to help readers determine how they can leverage those technologies to improve business performance.

We see the mobility trend evolving to one where SAP solutions, combined with the speed of the SAP HANA platform, are increasingly delivered in a mobile-first interaction model consumed on a smartphone or tablet. This model is different from mobile apps today, which are not designed to accommodate the full access a business user would receive with an ERP system, for example. The primary hurdle in this evolving trend is security; roughly half of the companies we’re speaking to are still ironing out how to approach security in the mobility space.

Social Media for Business

With the mobile phenomenon in our personal lives showing no signs of slowing down, its future impact on business cannot be overstated. One reason for its prominence is the growing influence of social media; people want to share and connect, and mobility is the platform that allows for instant feedback.

From a business and solution design perspective, though, it’s yet to be determined how to best leverage social media effectively. How do companies view a free and open environment from the prism of a corporate enterprise system? A big challenge is accounting for the open access that social media provides. We are working with clients to design solutions that harness social channels effectively in business, and strategizing ways to not only monitor social media, but to use it to produce better products and bring them to market faster.

Ride the Wave

Technology advancements are changing the business landscape at an astounding pace. This never-ending wave of technologies and trends is here to stay, and companies are preparing to meet the challenge of using these advancements to best drive innovation. PwC is an acknowledged consulting leader because we take a wide-lens approach; rather than start with the technology and move outward, we focus first on an organization’s entire environment and its short- and long-term business goals before we help design business processes and technology solutions. Our deep industry experience and understanding of these new trends makes us well-equipped to help clients partner with leading companies like SAP who are at the forefront of bringing emerging technologies into the marketplace.

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