COTS is Great for SAP Automation – Here’s Why!

By Clinton Jones on November 2, 2016

Depositphotos_110603168_original smallCompanies that invest in SAP don’t initially think they will completely reinvent the technology to align with existing business processes. Most of them implement the standard ERP and then adjust it according to their requirements.

Sometimes all business processes are housed in ERP, but more often than not there are some that remain outside ERP because they’re hard to standardize or are in a state of evolution. Changing business circumstances requires you to either build additional infrastructure, buy 3rd party products or even invest in cloud solutions to address business needs. This is necessary if you want to expand integration capacity or update the front end look and feel of the base applications or extend functionality.

Deciding to build or buy a solution is nothing unusual in the business world. There are simple factors, such as logistics, quality, and sustainability, which help determine whether a company should in-source or outsource a finished product. From an IT perspective, the decision is based around support and cost. Solutions that  are simple to use and easy to maintain, debug or refresh will be popular with business and IT users alike.

Loading SAP data

Consider the simple requirement of enabling users to load data into SAP en masse (with little or no IT support). It’s easy to see this leads to better data-entry, improved business user productivity and an overall reduction in data management entry and maintenance costs. Business units that have the capacity to build their own loading utilities, with minimal effort and without the need to develop costly single purpose programs, are a step ahead of others. Freedom allows these business users to load data from environments that are ubiquitous and relatively common, environments like Microsoft Excel. This game changing feature is a huge advantage for businesses and extends the life of core SAP systems with limited technology risk, improved audit tracking and tracing and better data quality.

The burden of custom development

SAP ERP transactions contain hundreds of data entry methods and interface opportunities. Business users are generally only exposed to those that are required to achieve their specific objectives.

These same users become intimately familiar with the quirks and nuances of these entry screens or existing tools. Implementing a batch entry method that stages the data in advance is straightforward, but applying an interface to the staged data typically requires a custom program. The business will  be forced to choose whether to build or buy something very specific for this scenario

Usually custom development in ABAP requires a high level of functional and technical expertise for design, implementation and on-going support. A highly personalized approach to solution delivery can result in a substantial hidden cost to the business for custom integration if it requires frequent modification post initial go-live. For example, Amazon.com’s business is different from their competitors by virtue of their systems.

Amazon obviously chose to build their systems themselves. As their CTO, Werner Vogels, points out: “Build your own infrastructure for performance, reliability, and cost control reasons. By building it yourself you never have to say you went down because it was company X’s fault. Your software may not be more reliable than others, but you can fix, debug, and deploy much quicker than when working with a 3rd party.

If the Amazon model is not optimized for your business – then why build technology super highways to interface with your back end systems if someone has already developed something that is ready to use?

Extending the life of ERP

Re-facing legacy applications and systems renewal isn’t particularly new. The newest generation of solutions for SAP application development environments don’t simply emulate the behavior of the existing back end system. Solutions like FIORI on S/4 HANA require significant rework to your existing infrastructure. If the direct benefits aren’t clear – why would you do it?

System renewals are inevitable, but since most major renewal projects take time and carry a significant burden, it is incumbent on IT and the business to look at measures that can be put in place today.

Without changing the underlying core architecture of the backend system solutions like those from Winshuttle in the form of flexible software, common-off-the-shelf (COTS) can extend the life of your ERP system –  Studio and Foundation can be implemented alongside your SAP ERP as it looks today without changing core technology.

The approach offered by Winshuttle is safe and SAP certified.  This pace layered approach is more secure, faster and almost always cheaper than engaging in custom application development to renew aging platforms, and gives you a little more breathing space to consider your systems renewal options.


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About the author

Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.


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