How to Be Transformative with SAP S/4HANA Integrations
Meet the Experts
⇨ Real time is the key differentiator to delivering a successful customer experience.
⇨ Integration is a key component to your SAP S/4HANA planning.
⇨ Transformation architects must decide between a rebuild, a hybrid iPaas approach, or PIP solutions.
SAP S/4HANA Integration Options | What are PIPs? | Key Elements to Consider
Hello, my SAP friends,
Welcome back to my series on integration decision points for your SAP S/4HANA migration initiatives. In my last post, we talked about why integration needs to be a key pillar of your migration strategy, musings on why integration tools haven’t changed much in recent years, and that real time absolutely matters! Real time is the goal you are trying to achieve because your customers expect it, and it’s the key differentiator to deliver a successful customer experience.
I hope you agree that integration is a key component to your SAP S/4HANA planning. In this post, I am going to explore the different options that are available, their pros and cons, and key elements that should drive your decision-making. We’ll also delve into any new ways of integrating, called PIPs, that many may not be aware are available.
I hope you enjoyed Elinor’s story last time. This time, I will start with a real-life dilemma. Then we will discover the exciting result.
Elisa is the IT Application Manager for a US-based food supplier, with a large SAP footprint, including ECC. She is part of the SAP S/4HANA migration team, specifically tasked with planning what integration strategy the company will use to integrate SAP S/4HANA for their many SAP and non-SAP frontend systems, including their CRM, homegrown B2B portal, and service portal. All of these front ends need SAP data, and integrations will be rebuilt.
Elisa worries about the project timeline, rebuilding risks, and lack of resources. Her IT teams are excellent, but there aren’t enough team members to implement all the projects. While the S/4 project is a priority, integrations require significant time and effort.
Elisa has a goal to deliver better solutions for the SAP system when they go to S/4, with improved functionality. But they built integrations over many years, and now they all must be redone in a short timeframe. She realizes the mountain that is in front of her and her teams. I wonder how she’ll solve this challenge…
I am sure we can all identify with Elisa, so let’s delve into what strategies we have today to plan for our SAP S/4HANA integration strategy. To start, it is prudent to evaluate what strategy we are using, to help guide us on what path we want to take going forward. And we should always be asking ourselves, “Will there be any changes in strategy or direction? Why or why not?”
I visualize three buckets when looking at available options: traditional, hybrid, and transformative. Most companies I work with have some blending of strategy, but they do lean toward traditional or hybrid for most integrations.
The “build it from scratch and in-house” option has always been a part of our SAP landscape. It was really the only option back in the day for SAP R/3 instances and even with ECC, for the lower EHPs. We rely on our SAP and frontend teams as experts in this area. Over time, they have built impressive integrations—I’ve seen many in action, and our experts solved critical business problems with their ingenuity and resolve.
However, as we look ahead toward S/4HANA, you and your teams will be rebuilding all your existing integrations, as well as new ones to S/4HANA if you choose to continue with this approach. It is important to calculate the risks and soft costs that accompany this approach.
Many use iPaaS or API management solutions as a second approach This is more of a hybrid approach that may be a fit for your SAP S/4HANA integration planning. This approach starts from a standard base point but allows you to develop from many more standard APIs available for SAP S/4HANA than are available for ECC.
iPaaS solutions can help with your integration strategy. You probably have some iPaaS already in house, and you can pick and choose where you want to save some hard costs, embrace some best practices, and adopt some business enablement. This strategy will still require more time, and increase IT tech debt and soft costs, but may be acceptable at this juncture.
In-house and iPaaS solutions are familiar, but they both will both have unknown project timelines, require increased resources from SAP and frontend teams, along with customization and development to rebuild.
But just as migrating to S/4HANA challenges us to expect more and be more transformative, I would also challenge you and your team to ask:
“Are we building industry best practices, and are we enabling agile, real-time, and scalable business processes, or not?”
If we aren’t rising to meet these goals, then this approach will cost us and your company more in the long and even short term.
The third option decides that our resources are precious, time to value is critical, and IT debt is expensive in the long run, and that it also may be riskier than we might like to admit. This option utilizes prepackaged integration processes, which enables transformative solutions. They move us to embrace the SAP S/4HANA best practices to enable the business to opt for low-code and lower IT debt to pave the way for more agile, and scalable solutions.
For years, SAP experts have used traditional approaches of mapping and replicating data to integrate data between SAP and engagement layers like Salesforce or SAP C4C. There are plenty of iPaaS and middleware solutions that can leverage closer to real-time integrations. But these options have limitations that we either need to settle or solve for. Just as low-code and agile development software options have come on the scene, so have PIPs.
PIPs are Packaged Integration Processes that power your integration strategy. I want to add the term “prebuilt” to this acronym, as PIPs are purpose-built for specific scenarios. They deliver fast time to value as they typically have 80-90% standard out-of-the-box functionality. Prebuilt integration processes can be used for multiple applications, reducing IT debt like soft costs and risk. This is because you don’t have to “build or figure out how to redesign it all yourself.”
Our IT teams are awesome, but imagine…
- If they could easily extend and configure purpose-built integrations that support SAP’s transactional capabilities from within frontend systems.
- If they could work with certified S/4 objects that are optimized for your SAP S/4HANA system.
- Prebuilt also means proven—proven integrations that de-risk projects, reduce timelines, and scale easily.
- And yep—you guessed it—they offer real-time integrations out of SAP to frontends like Salesforce, SAP C4C or ServiceNow, just to name a few.
So, what about our friend Elisa and her strategy for SAP S/4HANA integration planning? Well, Elisa did her due diligence—she looked at all the different areas she would need for the project:
- SAP resources: She has a good team, but only 20% of its time can be devoted to the project.
- Frontend resources: Not enough to support a full S/4 integration project; will need to hire outside help.
- Hardware needed for the project: Middleware, secure connectivity, new costs.
- Project prep: How many integrations, how many team members will need to move over, and new ones that need to be built.
- Project timeline: Difficult to know how long building these will take.
- Functionality and business enablement: Less, same, or more?
After assessing all the components, Elisa decided that her preferred integration method will be the Transformative approach with a PIP that virtualizes and can transact with SAP in real time. Her main drivers are:
- Improved functionality and business enablement
- Real-time visibility into SAP information such as orders, deliveries, quotes, contracts, and invoices
- Value-added work for her resources
- Reduction in timeline
- Least risk of all options available
As Elisa and her team implement their new strategy with the business goals in mind, confidence soars. They can see that this mountain of a challenge they once thought they had is very doable. It will enable true digital transformation for her IT teams, internal and external SAP users, and business success.