Building a Strong Foundation for Data-enabled SAP S/4HANA Transformation with Pythian

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Key Takeaways

⇨ While data storage security is often emphasized, a holistic view of data's entire lifecycle—from collection to deletion—is vital.

⇨ Pythian is a cloud-based data and analytics firm that helps organizations transform by leveraging data, analytics, and the cloud.

⇨ Pythian offers IP in the form of its Enterprise Data Platform (EDP), which serves as a blueprint that rapidly transforms a client's lack of data infrastructure to a fully functioning platform in 6-7 weeks.

Data, a pivotal asset for any organization, is crucial for shaping business strategies, managing risks, and ensuring regulatory compliance. While data storage security is often emphasized, a holistic view of data’s entire lifecycle—from collection to deletion—is vital. The foundational step in this process is selecting the apt database services tailored to an organization’s unique needs, a task that may pose challenges. An integral part of this technological decision involves cloud infrastructure, especially the choice of database management systems. One such system is the SAP HANA Cloud, a powerful database management tool tailored to cater to diverse applications and workloads. However, when combined with other data sources, the vast SAP ecosystem poses a challenge for many businesses.

Pythian is a cloud-based data and analytics firm that helps organizations transform by leveraging data, analytics, and the cloud. The company focuses on enterprise data ecosystems, including managing complex systems for business operations, spanning platforms like SAP, SaaS applications, and analytical platforms, ensuring optimal data interpretation through various methods.

While a major part of Pythian’s focus is on managing client data platforms, including SAP, its services are equally split between advisory roles and its building, integration, and deployment functions. As Huseni Kapasi, Vice President SAP LOB, Pythian says, “Depending on the trajectory that our customer is on, we can build them an enterprise data platform and then do knowledge transfer so they can operate it and extend it themselves. Or we can build them an enterprise data platform and operate it on their behalf, work towards their priorities and goals and augment the existing IT organization.” Pythian’s three pillars of expertise are:

Advisory Services: Guidance on maximizing data value, utilization, and monetization.

Build and Engineering: Development of data products, data pipelines, and integrations.

Operational Services: 24/7 management of transactional and analytical systems.

The company also boasts of intellectual property (IP) that manifests in two distinct ways during client interactions. Firstly, there’s AvailX—Pythian’s proprietary management and monitoring tool for database platforms. For clients under its managed services wing, AvailX plays a crucial role in overseeing database health, detecting unfavorable trends, and prompting the necessary remedial actions through tickets and team interventions.

Secondly, Pythian offers IP in the form of its Enterprise Data Platform (EDP). EDP serves as a blueprint that rapidly transforms a client’s lack of data infrastructure to a fully functioning platform in 6-7 weeks. This platform, with coded best practices, is a repository of reusable components compatible with major cloud providers like Google, Azure, and AWS. EDP’s goal is to expedite the delivery of valuable, consumable data products for clients.

SAP Portfolio

Pythian owns a comprehensive SAP portfolio, structured around three core pillars:

Migration Services: Pythian excels in aiding businesses transitioning from ECC to S/4HANA, BW to BW4/HANA, or Datasphere. Pythian offers full assessments, performance tunings, implementations, and upgrades (S4/HANA, BW/4HANA, BusinessObjects), data archiving and capacity planning, and planning for high availability and disaster recovery. For customers aiming to migrate from on-premise solutions to cloud platforms, Pythian executes migrations across any cloud.

Managed Services: This model bifurcates into technical and functional segments. Technically, Pythian takes charge of the entire SAP landscape, providing 24/7 management with its innovative monitoring tools. This diverts technical burdens away from clients, enabling them to focus on business growth. Functionally, Pythian offers specialized services in finance, Success Factors, master data governance, and more to back clients’ transformational projects, encompassing design, implementation, and post-support.

SAP RISE: Pythian fills a critical niche in the SAP RISE journey. Many customers are transitioning to SAP RISE. RISE consists of two main components. The first is that SAP does not handle tasks like migration itself. This is where Pythian comes in with its specialized expertise in assisting customers to move to SAP RISE. While SAP undertakes 70% of the tasks related to the services Pythian provides, they leave out 30%. Pythian has positioned itself perfectly to address this 30%, ensuring that customers have a holistic solution once they shift to RISE.

SAP BTP: SAP BTP (including HANA Cloud and SAP Datasphere) is another domain where Pythian excels. Recognized as a notable partner by SAP for their methodologies, Pythian has successfully executed numerous HANA cloud migrations and continues to do so.

Pythian simplifies complex processes for clients. For instance, during the RISE sign-up, SAP presents customers with extensive guides, sometimes as dense as a 1,000-line Excel sheet. Pythian decodes these guides and steps in for tasks SAP doesn’t handle, like transport management systems, output management, and network upgrades. As Pythian’s Joey Jablonski, VP, Global Solutions, says, “We don’t merely complete the project and depart; we remain an extended part of our clients’ teams, ensuring stability and proper documentation. This proactive engagement minimizes potential disruptions, making transitions smoother.”

A notable case is Pythian’s collaboration with a prominent global battery manufacturer that sought a more advanced demand forecasting approach beyond their existing SAP capabilities. After evaluating its specific forecasting needs and understanding its customer behavior and based on Google’s recommendation, Pythian was engaged by the manufacturer to implement a data environment leveraging Google Cloud to integrate their SAP environment with multi-sourced third-party data. This would help to deliver a substantial improvement in forecasting intelligence and ensure that customer needs were met reliably.

Since analytical results are only as good as the data coming in, Pythian began by identifying any data source issues within the customer’s SAP environment. After validating the data’s integrity, Pythian and the manufacturer assessed the available information to determine what could potentially predict a sales increase or decrease. Pythian determined the Google Cloud Cortex Framework, specifically designed to consolidate data sources, could effectively consolidate and analyze the manufacturer’s data to achieve its goals. Optimizing the environment’s performance required additional integrations, including Google Cloud BigQuery (for more efficient storage and querying) and Google Cloud Composer (for scheduling and orchestrating tasks within Google Cloud). Pythian also recommended and installed AecorSoft, which provides ultra-fast replication of SAP data directly into BigQuery, and Looker—an enterprise platform for BI, data applications and embedded analytics—into the Google Cloud environment.

Pythian managed the entire implementation of the Google Cloud Cortex Framework and its integrations, including building dashboards to provide visuals of the data and providing training for the in-house IT team.

Structured approach to migrating SAP Landscape

When businesses embark on a digital transformation, they are not simply migrating a single system, such as from ECC to S/4HANA. Instead, it involves an intricate examination of their entire ecosystem, ensuring the transformation is cohesive and not just a patchwork of new and legacy systems. Here is how Pythian assists its customers:

Deep Diving into SAP S/4HANA Migration: Migration to SAP S/4HANA is multifaceted as it encompasses technical, functional, and strategic elements. As organizations transition, they are introduced to new interfaces and functionalities, rendering their prior knowledge obsolete. By partnering with Pythian, organizations can unify their disparate data systems, unlock powerful insights, and align on SAP data structures with Google Cloud Cortex. Pythian managed services cover application, database and infrastructure layers and offer full assessments, performance tunings, implementations and upgrades (S4/HANA, BW/4HANA, BusinessObjects), data archiving and capacity planning, as well as planning for high availability and disaster recovery. As a Google Cloud MSP Partner, SAP PartnerEdge Silver Partner, SAP Migration Factory Partner, and Service Authorization for RISE, Pythian uses its experience in cloud, data, analytics, and SAP to turn data into valuable assets.

Advanced Analytics: SAP S/4HANA also brings to the fore embedded analytics, opening the door to sophisticated data-driven insights. Businesses transitioning from legacy ECC and BW systems to SAP S/4HANA often see this as an opportunity to integrate tools like Datasphere, thus consolidating their analytics landscape. Pythian’s Advanced Analytics Services enable organizations to get better and faster ROI on their data through its user-first agile methodology that enables predictive maintenance and powerful self-service along with automated reports and visualizations.

Technical Considerations: Legacy systems, often running on databases like Oracle or SQL, require substantial customization when transitioning to HANA. This involves adapting and optimizing the existing ABAP code to ensure it is in harmony with the new environment. Pythian supports analytics and the migration journey through implementations and upgrades of SAP’s latest technology stack, and conduct audits and reviews including capacity planning, configuration, performance, and security.

Bridging the Skills Gap: Migrations are not merely a system upgrade but a significant cultural shift, necessitating change management strategies. Pythian’s training programs adopt a ‘train the trainer’ approach and aim to equip an organization’s internal trainers who impart this knowledge to the wider team, ensuring that even the frontline users are comfortable with the new system.

Differentiating Factors

Pythian’s approach isn’t just about migrating a singular system but offering holistic solutions that connect all the dots, ensuring that clients derive maximum value from their transformation journeys. Pythian’s differentiation stems from four key areas:

Data-Centric Approach: Prioritizing data is at the core of Pythian. The company ensures data is well-governed, strategized for optimal utilization, and its value is fully extracted. Instead of a mere system perspective, the company emphasizes on leveraging data to its full potential. Data Management Solutions from Pythian allows to consolidate isolated data infrastructure assets while establishing common methods, practices, and processes across the organization.

Global Presence: Spread across 20+ countries, Pythian is positioned to serve customers worldwide. This global reach not only caters to local or regional demands, but also offers cost advantages. For instance, while delivering in the U.S., our teams in India and Brazil allow cost-effective solutions.

Intellectual Property and Expertise: Pythian’s best practices, intellectual property, and tools accelerate project initiation and first-phase deployment, ensuring faster results.

End-to-End Support: Depending on its client’s trajectory, Pythian can either construct an enterprise data platform and transfer knowledge or build and manage it in line with their goals. Pythian’s approach complements existing IT structures.

Addressing the Skillset Gap: Many organizations face challenges when large-scale partners roll out significant projects and then depart shortly, often leaving behind insufficient documentation. This creates a knowledge void. Pythian steps-in to bridge this gap.

What it means for SAPinsiders?

Understand Your Data: Begin any database management or analytics endeavor by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the data at hand. This encompasses knowing your data sources, its quality, structure, and the business processes that both generate and utilize it. Effective analytics and solutions can only be implemented when you have clarity on your data.

Prioritize Data Governance and Selection: A robust data governance framework is paramount. Ensure that practices related to data ownership, access controls, quality standards, and lifecycle management are in place. While SAP might advocate for HANA, always assess and choose the database solution that aligns with your specific needs and budget. There might be alternatives, like BigQuery and Looker, which could offer better speed, quality, and cost-effectiveness. Choose what’s best for your unique requirements.

Optimize Performance, Monitoring, Security, and Compliance: Invest in robust performance monitoring tools. Regularly oversee your database performance, detect bottlenecks, and optimize data access for efficiency. When developing data solutions, the alignment of data science teams with security teams is crucial. Collaborative efforts between these teams ensure better security implementations and a streamlined development process. Keep them integrated to ensure compliance and save time in the long run.

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