Should We Outsource Our SAP Environment?

The ability to maintain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace is often driven by a company’s ability to match IT capabilities with business strategy and processes. Many companies have implemented SAP to automate internal business processes in order to achieve business goals. However, in today’s global economy, business to business (B2B) integration with a global trading community is just as critical to success as internal application integration.

The decision to outsource your data is not an easy one. It consists of at least two major steps:
The first step is for you to make a decision that you want to outsource your SAP environment; in other words, you decide that you would like to entrust a 3rd party with providing ongoing managed services for all your SAP operations;
Then, once you’ve decided to outsource, the second decision is for you to select an outsourcing partner; be mindful that it is a partner that you are choosing, not a vendor.

SAP is one of the most popular ERP systems on the market today and is widely used across many different industry sectors.  However many of today’s SAP implementations have been very internally focused and often forget the complex and diverse integration requirements of a community of trading partners. Due to the demands placed on a company’s IT resource during an SAP related project, enlisting a partner to manage the B2B integration infrastructure for an SAP system can bring significant operational and financial benefits to a company. B2B Managed Services offers companies a way of acquiring the necessary SAP to B2B integration skills on a short term or project by project basis. Skills such as mapping, trading partner on-boarding and SAP integration can all be acquired through a Managed Services approach.

A recent study by AMR Research highlighted that 43% of respondents said that their B2B integration staff were working on SAP related implementation projects. If your internal resources are tied up ensuring that an important SAP project is launched on time, how will you manage the ongoing requirements of your B2B infrastructure?

Implementing Document Maps – Document mapping is one of the most complex tasks to undertake during an SAP to B2B integration project. Mapping experts must understand the relationships between data structures used by external trading partners and the information needed in SAP.

Status Reporting – Outsourcing SAP project to business network provides business process visibility and exception-based monitoring for both you and your customers. Visibility is delivered through a simple web based interface that provides tools such as related document queries, role based views and proactive monitoring/alerting capabilities.

Monitoring Data Quality – One of the major problems with SAP systems is that much of the information entering SAP actually comes from outside the organisation. This information will have been created in different systems, using different standards.  However, many companies think that there is no reason to clean this data before it enters an SAP system. Companies can spend millions of dollars implementing an SAP system, which only provides ROI if it is fed with clean and accurate information.

SAP Connectivity – B2B integration platforms must be connected to the numerous different instances of SAP running at local manufacturing plants, retail stores, shared service centers and headquarters locations.

High Availability – Ensuring that your external connections to trading partners are highly available is critical to the smooth running of your integrated SAP/B2B environment. If external connectivity is lost for any reason then this will interrupt the flow of information going into your SAP environment and any downstream business systems.

Managing Trading Partner Communities – Most SAP upgrades are not purely technical in nature.  Functionality upgrades are usually the justification for investment. With new modules or expanded user-communities comes the need to connect to a broader range of supply chain partners. With larger companies having globalized their operations, the on-boarding and integration of trading partners across different time zones can be difficult to manage. In many cases, companies simply do not have the resources to manage the on-boarding of trading partners in different geographical regions.

Program Management – SAP projects require an immense amount of co-ordination across the extended enterprise. B2B integration managers must ensure that maps are created correctly, trading partners are connected properly and data validation rules are reflected within the B2B system as well. If companies are looking to introduce further SAP functionality, for example implementing a transport management system, then the project management challenge becomes even more complex.

Source: Opentext by GSX

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