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From Risk to Intelligence With Data and S/4

It all started with MDM, Master Data Management. Many years ago, MDM was the first initiative on the IT scene to shine the spotlight on the topic of data economy, which gave rise to many constructs and buzzwords. Another milestone was the start of the S/4 conversion, which was when the topic of algorithms and data structures emerged.
Peter M. Färbinger, E3 Magazine
November 23, 2023
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This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

SAP's customers soon realized that even with the Hana database release upgrade, the future focus would be on valuable data. And Thomas Failer from SAP partner Data Migration International always has an answer.

The topic of data is especially important in the SAP community from a business, organizational, and technical perspective. Data is the foundation and the driving force behind business processes. The organizational and operational structure of the enterprise is flooded with data.

As part of the release upgrade to the SAP S/4 Hana database, data has also gained a quantitative dimension: a data economy becomes extremely valuable if it minimizes the amount of data that needs to be transferred into Hana, while ensuring that archived historical data remains directly accessible. Data therefore has a high qualitative and quantitative value for SAP customers. In the event of system decommissioning with a possible cloud exit, data storage is given a further decisive boost.

According to the German digital association Bitkom, 12 percent of companies currently say that data-driven business models contribute exclusively or significantly to their business success, compared to just 7 percent last year. And 22 percent expect data to contribute exclusively or very strongly to their business success in two years' time, compared to 14 percent last year. The companies also see significant progress on their way to the data economy. 9 percent consider themselves to be among the pioneers—compared to just 1 percent in 2022. 

In the E3 interview, Thomas Failer, founder and CEO of Data Migration International, says that this is only the first step. "It will be more interesting when AI makes suggestions—based on the data and storage locations it identifies—as to how the algorithms for retention management, for example, can be adapted to really capture and manage all personal data in compliance with the regulations. This is no longer possible with traditional approaches, such as fuzzy logic or expert systems alone. Currently, there is also a need for AI beyond machine learning. Then, in the next step, the suggestions can be implemented automatically. This applies not only to rules, but also to business objects that we now need for personal data management."

AI and the data economy

Modern AI algorithms will create a new data economy and DMI CEO Failer knows exactly what needs to happen once that occurs. "Personal data management must, in principle, go beyond the boundaries of specific systems and applications. The projects that we’ve been involved in have shown that around half of the systems and applications relevant for managing personal data come from the non-SAP area. You won't get very far here with purely SAP business objects, whether standard or customized. However, as every system and application landscape is customer-specific, we can’t maintain a de-facto standard of business objects, but instead must build them on a project-specific basis. Such business objects then contain, for example, information on the header and sub-tables of different systems where the a particular person’s data can be found, and how the primary and secondary keys of these tables are linked to each other. Generating these specific business objects can then be handled by a generative AI, which saves a good deal of time and money."

It is clear that the duality of algorithms and data structures is developing in the direction of a data economy, where generating specific data objects includes the processes. The decisive factor is how the algorithms can be adapted for retention management. This challenge exists before, during, and after an S/4 conversion. Generative AI can again take over generating. Generative AI thrives not only off of data, but also Big Data.

Obviously, the accuracy of the results depends on the amount of data. Are the data volumes in the scenarios discussed here even large enough? "This is a fundamental factor," explains Thomas Failer. "Used in companies, generative AI isn’t always synonymous with the public cloud, which is certainly the largest source of Big Data. The relevant data here comes from the company’s legacy and live systems. For very large companies, this is indeed Big Data, even though all legacy data can be accessed via our platform. Of course, this is less the case for medium-sized companies. We believe that there’ll be a collection of sensible prompts that will achieve excellent results. There are more suitable and less suitable instructions in the case of generative AI that can lead you towards your goal. This is the direction we’re pursuing in our development."

CEO Thomas Failer's long-term goal is: "With the help of AI, by 2027 we want to be the leading provider of intelligent data management and intelligent, company-wide data fabric. We’ve defined milestones along the way." The extended functions in the field of retention management, i.e. personal data retrieval and business object generation with the help of AI, should be available to customers as early as spring 2024 with version 11 of DMI’s platform for information management, JiVS IMP.

One Click Transformation

The more advanced options for generating mapping and transformation rules using natural language input will be released in 2025 as part of version 12 of JiVS IMP, which will then include the suffix NG for Next Generation in the product name. "At the same time, we’ll gradually add AI algorithms to our One Click Transformation Cockpit, JiVS OCC, in order to refine and accelerate the different possible analyses, such as the data reduction potential analysis, when switching to SAP S/4 Hana," says Thomas Failer, outlining plans for the next few years.

DMI also knows that AI is many things, but of course it’s not everything. Another focus of DMI's product development is the integration of JiVS OCC into the solutions of leading providers for application lifecycle management (ALM). The basic idea behind this is that the lifecycles of data and applications are different but must be finely tuned to each other and continuously synchronized.

SAP has designed Cloud ALM as the successor to the legendary, equally successful SolMan. SAP's ALM acts as an open suite and is set to grow continuously over the coming years. "Systems and processes go hand in hand," says SAP CEO Christian Klein. "Together with LeanIX, we want to offer a unique transformation suite to provide our customers with holistic support in their business transformations. Based on our decades of expertise, we’ll integrate generative AI to offer self-optimizing applications and processes that help companies achieve important goals such as maximizing their cash flow while minimizing their environmental footprint."

Thomas Failer gives a concrete example: "During the S/4 transformation, not all data from the legacy systems has to be transferred to the new world, nor should it be. As a rule, companies only need 5 to 10 percent of their legacy data as operational data in the new system, which of course massively reduces the transformation effort. However, legacy data that is not required should not be deleted for legal and business reasons. Instead, it should remain accessible.”

 SAP's solution suite for business transformation is intended to provide customers with a comprehensive overview of business processes and applications, including process dependency mapping and visualizing the impact of potential transformations in their IT landscape. Platforms such as SAP BTP and JiVS from DMI enable SAP customers to create a culture of continuous adaptability and improvement.

DMI strategy

There is a key difference between the SAP and DMI strategies that clearly reflects the aforementioned dual principle of algorithms and data structures: ALM solutions focus on systems and processes.

"We focus on the data lifecycle," emphasizes CEO Failer. Just as ALM solutions manage every transformation step at the application and process level, the JiVS IMP platform does this at the data level, providing companies with a 360-degree view. "Both levels and solution areas complement each other perfectly," says Thomas Failer, who is fully convinced of the added value for SAP customers. "From our customers' point of view, it would be very helpful if they could forward the results of the analysis, which show what percentage of legacy data they want to transform and from which systems, directly to an ALM solution during the preparatory phase of their transformation projects. This is something we’re working on."Process and Data TransformationThe LeanIX transformation of IT landscapes in conjunction with the Signavio process transformation, RISE with SAP, and the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) enables SAP customers to create a culture of continuous adaptability. "For over ten years, we’ve stood for seamless ecosystem integration and have become a leader in the enterprise architecture management category," says André Christ, co-founder and CEO of LeanIX. "Our strategy is to enable companies to continuously transform in a rapidly changing business environment."

Process and data transformation

The LeanIX transformation of IT landscapes in conjunction with the Signavio process transformation, RISE with SAP, and the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) enables SAP customers to create a culture of continuous adaptability. "For over ten years, we’ve stood for seamless ecosystem integration and have become a leader in the enterprise architecture management category," says André Christ, co-founder and CEO of LeanIX. "Our strategy is to enable companies to continuously transform in a rapidly changing business environment."

But there are other integration scenarios: "Of course, we also aim to exchange information with ALM solutions after the preparatory phase, especially during implementation. For example, we could imagine transferring aggregated status messages on the transformation of the various archives and systems to ALM solutions. And anyone who then wants to find out the details can look them up in our transformation cockpit. We want to develop our cockpit into a monitoring center," says Thomas Failer, describing a future scenario for the SAP community.

According to DMI, live systems should be relieved of legacy data that is no longer required, and this premise not only makes sense during an S/4 transformation. "The benefits can be maximized if data that is no longer needed from the Hana database, which still requires expensive main memory, is regularly transferred to our platform and managed there until the end of its lifecycle," says DMI boss Failer, explaining the technical process. It is possible to automatically transfer all order data older than three months to JiVS IMP with the DMI platform because the data remains accessible at all times. According to current estimates, this can reduce the total cost of ownership of an S/4 Hana landscape by up to 25 percent over its lifecycle. "We are currently working on supporting the central S/4 business objects in order to be able to access legacy data directly from the standard S/4 transactions," says Thomas Failer, describing the added value of the DMI platform. The mapping rules that DMI defines for "Technical Structure Mapping" help enormously. "We already have the first of these business objects in use," reports the DMI boss.

Monitoring has become a central topic again in connection with application lifecycle management. "The idea is that we monitor the development of data volumes in S/4 as well as usage behavior in terms of access to legacy data," says Thomas Failer, outlining the company's own project. "With that as a basis, we want to make suggestions on how SAP customers can keep the S/4 landscape continuously lean and streamlined. From the customer's point of view, the data from our transformation cockpit JiVS OCC and from our platform JiVS IMP isn’t just interesting for ALM solutions throughout the lifecycle of their system landscape . Here I’m also thinking of enterprise architecture tools, development and analysis platforms, as well as operational systems such as ERP and CRM. Synchronizing the lifecycle of applications lifecycle and in-house developments, etc. with each other holds enormous potential for efficiency."

SAP and Non-SAP

Over the past few years, the SAP community has undergone a sustained transformation process that constantly provides new options and innovations for customers. "Our platform and our cockpit are designed for both SAP and non-SAP systems," emphasizes Failer in the E3 interview. "We currently support around 2,000 business objects from the SAP environment from S/4 to R/3, version 3.0, and a further 1,000 for third-party solutions such as JDEdwards or Oracle EBS etc. Our platform also enables access to this legacy data. This provides huge consolidation and harmonization potential for SAP customers during their transformation to S/4, as they can use our platform to completely decommission their legacy systems from SAP as well as those from third-party providers and continue working with a single modern ERP system." 

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Peter M. Färbinger, E3 Magazine

Peter M. Färbinger, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief E3 Magazine DE, US and ES (e3mag.com), B4Bmedia.net AG, Freilassing (DE), E-Mail: pmf@b4bmedia.net and Tel. +49(0)8654/77130-21


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Working on the SAP basis is crucial for successful S/4 conversion. 

This gives the Competence Center strategic importance for existing SAP customers. Regardless of the S/4 Hana operating model, topics such as Automation, Monitoring, Security, Application Lifecycle Management and Data Management the basis for S/4 operations.

For the second time, E3 magazine is organizing a summit for the SAP community in Salzburg to provide comprehensive information on all aspects of S/4 Hana groundwork. All information about the event can be found here:

SAP Competence Center Summit 2024

Venue

Event Room, FourSide Hotel Salzburg,
At the exhibition center 2,
A-5020 Salzburg

Event date

June 5 and 6, 2024

Regular ticket:

€ 590 excl. VAT

Venue

Event Room, Hotel Hilton Heidelberg,
Kurfürstenanlage 1,
69115 Heidelberg

Event date

28 and 29 February 2024

Tickets

Regular ticket
EUR 590 excl. VAT
The organizer is the E3 magazine of the publishing house B4Bmedia.net AG. The presentations will be accompanied by an exhibition of selected SAP partners. The ticket price includes the attendance of all lectures of the Steampunk and BTP Summit 2024, the visit of the exhibition area, the participation in the evening event as well as the catering during the official program. The lecture program and the list of exhibitors and sponsors (SAP partners) will be published on this website in due time.