Integration has always been a technical matter that few people have given the importance deserved.
“Integration is like Air, you only notice it, if it is not there”
Within enterprises, there are many systems at work. When there is a problem between systems, you will quickly notice, and when they are not able to communicate correctly with each other, you may see the whole system fall apart. In the old SAP R/3 systems, all of your company processes could be run on just one server. So people would talk about integration within the ERP system itself, where they would ensure that all business processes were working across the landscape. The Integration Architects were responsible for making sure all modules worked well together within the internal system. Some parts of the process could be extended to SRM or HR systems, but since all were on the same technology, it was fairly simple to ensure they could interoperate.
With the rise of cloud applications and SAP’s acquisition of the likes of SuccessFactors, Concur and Hybris, there is no longer just one platform. They have been built in separate ways on different platforms, so there is not be an option of running them side by side.
One big topic at SAPPHIRENOW 2018 was integration. Customers are no longer just purchasing separate applications, they want one integrated solution that can help them, where they don’t have to spend huge amounts of money on integration. It is one of the principles of the Intelligent Suite from SAP (which is the new name for the collection of integration-ready applications).
If a customer purchased SuccessFactors they would expect it to be much faster to integrate it with the rest of their SAP environment, than if they opted for an alternative product from one of SAP’s competitors. They would expect it to be fairly simple to synchronize master data like employees or cost centres across the landscape or to send payroll data to Finance. For the first couple of years, SAP was selling Dell Boomi, which is a competing integration company, because it had a set of integration to allow the ERP and SuccessFactors integration to run faster. Customers wanted to get the system working as fast as possible so it was the only option for integration. Since then SAP has been building a new SAP Cloud Platform Integration (CPI/Cloud Integration) tool that enables customers to integrate the systems more quickly. One of the key reasons to get the tool was that it contained a lot of pre-delivered content, accelerating the integration process. The pre-delivered content has since been expanded to other cloud application making the integration process a lot faster. The quality of the content varies, although it seems to be improving over time. There is currently still a fair amount of work involved in setting up all the integrations. So, for now, it does not just click and run, but if it helps with 80-90% of the integration work, this still reduces implementation cost and time dramatically.
At SAPPHIRENOW SAP also started to talk about Master Data Management as a service. It makes a lot of sense since nothing can run successfully without having the correct master data. It is often a problem to synchronize the master data and validate it correctly, so build it into the platform, so all of your SAP product sees the same customers with the same data, it is a huge step forward. When data is changed on the platform it is reflected all other platforms instantaneously – This should now be possible with the new Data Hub that allows in-memory access and data transformation.
Such services will make it a lot faster to integrate all of your SAP products because you don’t need to worry about ensuring that master data is synchronized. You can therefore just focus on the specific attributes required in each application.
It will be interesting to see how SAP will be able to implement this and increase implementation speed. It will also be interesting to see how these services can be used for 3 party applications.
Integration will continue to be a hot topic and it will be the key reason for many customers choosing to keep all of their applications with SAP, especially if it can also promise them faster implementation.
There will also be more automation for handling parts of the integration work. There will still be a lot of integration going on, with the parts that are not included in the standard flow or other applications.
SAP has been expanding the different tools that can be used for integration, so there is an increasing number of different applications you can now use to solve the specific business needs you may have.
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