SAP ECC – To innovate or not to innovate?

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Do you wait until you complete an SAP S/4HANA transformation before you innovate, or, do the barriers justify waiting? While consultants harp on about innovative solutions and your backend is still on ECC, what’s your move going to be?

Implementing an Intelligent Enterprise with an SAP S/4HANA® system at its core enables organizations to tap into a range of previously unavailable business possibilities via new technologies, new sources of data, etc., for quicker ways of adapting to volatile, uncertain, ambiguous change. Although S/4HANA plays a pivotal role, SAP Cloud Platform and similar PaaS solutions are the real game changers. Whether it´s using machine learning, IoT, blockchain, or rapid development and deployment tools, the magic truly begins outside your core ERP system.

Innovate outside the core

Capgemini’s Renewable Enterprise and the Multi Pillar S/4HANA Architecture (MPSA) help look at the core ERP and realize the related future innovations.

We contextualize your landscapes based on the core ERP system and loosely coupled extensions for innovations. For instance, SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) and other PaaS solutions offer a selection of tools and services (ML, IoT, data management, predictive analytics, etc.) to realize, build, deploy, and run innovative solutions.

Technically it’s possible to tap into cloud-based machine learning capabilities directly from ECC (via custom ABAP development), but that does not provide the full benefits of the cloud platform(s), eventually making it difficult and expensive to migrate developments to S/4HANA. With our Renewable Enterprise offering and MPSA framework, we help build your logic on a cloud platform. This mitigates risks and improves the ability to respond quickly to dynamic business changes via a decoupled lifecycle vs. ECC development when moving to S/4HANA.

Why SAP certifies our accelerators!

As the Europe Cluster Innovation Lead at the Capgemini SAP Center of Excellence, our team has been tasked on fundamentally rethinking applications and bringing innovation to the digital core for a future-proof powerful, flexible, and agile business. Several such solutions and accelerators are SAP-certified, and Trusted Goods Consumer Dialog is one of them. The solution enables retail store managers to validate product quality and history data before posting a goods receipt, and end consumers to obtain information on product quality measures, origin, and sustainability via natural language interaction. We realized this using:

  • AI in form of natural language processing (NLP) for the user interaction
  • Blockchain to persist product quality and condition data from various stakeholders throughout the supply chain
  • IoT to receive quality, condition, and location data from trucks and spectrometers
  • Other cloud services, like portal, connectivity, and persistence.

The solution uses a range of services from SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) as well as external data obtained via IoT and the blockchain. Fiori-based UI was available for business users and NLP-based chatbot interaction was hooked into Telegram messenger for end consumers.

The interaction with the backend ERP (e.g., order data, goods receipts, etc.) uses APIs available in both ECC and S/4 HANA, and the lifecycle of the cloud components was decoupled from the used (standard) ECC logic. Thus, changing the underlying ERP system from ECC to S/4HANA would only require a minor technical destination configuration on SCP, which in this case is not even specific to a single application only.

While this example uses multiple cloud services and data sources, it´s important to notice that:

  • Not a single line of custom code is needed in the ERP system
  • The solution works identically whether the backend would be ECC or S/4HANA
  • The user gets a unified Fiori-based user experience as with S/4HANA, regardless of where the underlying data comes from (ERP, blockchain, cloud persistence).

“What happens to my innovative solutions around SAP ECC when moving to SAP S/4HANA®

In the best case – nothing. They´ll keep working like they did with ECC. In worst case – they become obsolete or even hinder your operations. Luckily, with some smart planning, the best-case scenario is much more likely, as in the example case above. Assuming you implement your innovation outside the core ERP, designing the integration between ERP and the cloud platform with the future S/4 HANA transition in mind, you can minimize or even eliminate changes needed due to the backend system changing from ECC to SAP S/4HANA®. With the loose coupling between the innovative solution you´ve built on the cloud platform and the (standard SAP) logic in your ECC system, the change is mainly a regression testing effort.

SAP ECC and SAP S/4HANA® partially share APIs and other connectivity options. In some cases, they don’t. In either scenario we have developed solutions that make transitioning your innovation solutions (or ECC cloud extensions) to SAP S/4HANA®easier than expected.

Of course, there’s more than just technical integration to consider. Moving from traditional ECC-based ABAP development to an Intelligent Enterprise introduces new aspects, such as licensing (of used services as well as data use), security, cloud application support, and organizational change management. To me, this is all the more reason to start your journey to the Intelligent Enterprise now. You can start reaping the benefits before SAP S/4HANA®, and at the same time you´ll be better prepared when the actual SAP S/4HANA® transition is a reality.

If you´re interested in starting your innovation journey now, or want to hear more about how to get started, get in touch with me, Antti Eivola, my colleague Olli Sihvonen, or visit us in our Innovation Centers.

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