In a data-driven economy, the strength of your business depends on your ability to access, manage, and interpret data from everywhere it exists. Business shifts and disruptions of 2020 have pushed many of us to pursue a more robust data-management strategy. The proliferation of edge devices, Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud deployments have also brought new focus to the challenge of breaking down data silos.

In this five-part series, Brian Sturgis and Rob McLaughlin, fellow SAP specialists at Dell Technologies, laid out the four big ideas dominating interactions with SAP users as the effects of a global pandemic make their mark on everyday business operations. In the second post, we explored the heightened focus on the cloud and the need to build a cloud-first strategy. In the third post, we delved more deeply into the scale and performance conversation to understand how it’s evolving and how recent experiences can better prepare you for long-term SAP success.

In this fourth post, Rob Mclaughlin shares his perspectives around the critical issue of data management strategy.

Bonnie: First, can you provide some background on the data silo issue for SAP environments? How has it evolved, and what has changed over time?

Rob: Since its founding in the early the 1970s, The SAP software platform has been evolving. It was initially purpose-built on mainframe computers to run finance and logistics data. Fast forward to 2020 and SAP now supports the entirety of all major industries and business processes, from finance to production planning, HR, CRM, SCM, and so on. SAP has become the predominant software platform running the majority of corporations today.

In terms of reporting across all these business processes, SAP has integrated its SAP HANA, SAP Business Warehouse, and own reporting capabilities across the SAP landscape. Tools and mechanisms are in place to support a federated reporting model.

The thing is, customers don’t run their businesses on SAP exclusively. Data lakes, customer insights, analytics, global data warehouses, and other off-the-shelf software packages are also part of most of my customers’ enterprise data strategies. This introduces the data silo issue, with isolated volumes of data essentially off limits from one another, leading to limited analysis outcomes.

SAP does a decent job of integrating and reporting across its own platform, but the introduction of outside tools, databases, data marts, and data lakes proves cumbersome and requires customized integration.

Bonnie: Given the technology disruptions of this pandemic year, how has the focus on data silos and data access for SAP changed?

Rob: The pandemic has easily been the largest disruptor, fast-tracking the need for digital transformation. CIOs and IT leadership are looking to gain a competitive edge. Treating IT, including its data, as a competitive asset is where that transformation begins. Corporations want the ability to drive complete customer insight: embracing experiential data from edge devices, analytical platforms, mobile apps, core- and cloud-based workloads. This data can be captured and processed to provide additional capabilities and enhancements to the way they do business. It’s a never-ending feedback loop, but the software and infrastructure platform must be agile enough to allow for this evolving framework.

Bonnie: What kind of strategies do you recommend for overcoming such data access barriers?

Rob: With the core platform running in a hybrid cloud model, companies can integrate all existing systems, processes, and crucial business knowledge to become connected and thus capable of making accurate decisions with agility and speed.

Additionally, companies need a software integration approach that offers greater business agility, lower TCO, accelerated development of new process flows, and reduced implementation time—from months to weeks or days.

In short, what organizations need is an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) approach: a low-code, cloud-based environment that rapidly connects any combination of older, legacy on-premises systems with modern cloud applications and services. The Boomi integration platform from Dell Technologies is a leading example of iPaaS. The SAP teams I work with are leveraging Boomi to accomplish these three most essential data integration priorities:

  • Connect everything: Create a fabric of connectivity across data, applications, things, and people.
  • Engage everywhere: Automate business processes and experiences across any platform.
  • Run anywhere: Deploy applications across public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, or on-premise.

Bonnie: What are the short- and long-term benefits of taking an iPaaS approach?

Rob: Getting data and underlying data silos under control is essential for driving digital transformation and gaining competitive edge under any economic conditions. Applying a common language of data and insights across the application landscape allows every decision-maker to see the big picture of the entire business.

Furthermore, supporting this capability with data management, data integration, and data integrity processes and technologies helps ensure the information communicated is actionable, granular, understandable, complete, reliable, and timely. Eliminating these silos provides limitless growth potential by offering continuous insight into the entire business—an invaluable capability for surviving short-term uncertainty and pursuing long-term success.

Questions or comments about data integration and overcoming data silo challenges? Please reach out. We’d like to include them in other posts and conversations.

Have you upgraded your EAM technology stack, navigated an SAP S/4HANA migration, or solved an operational business challenge through technology or process improvements? Your peers are eager to learn from your experience at the upcoming ASUG Best Practices: SAP for EAM virtual conference on April 13-14, 2021. Submit your presentation abstract for an opportunity to share your SAP journey.