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September 23, 2014

MDG Integration

Recently Infosys implemented SAP MDG solution for introducing data governance on material master for one our clients that has an ERP landscape involving multiple SAP systems and non-SAP systems. We focused on the SAP systems first during the implementation and then came up with a scalable integration solution with non-SAP systems.

The requirement for integration was along the following lines

1.      Integration solution should be scalable to enable to add non-SAP ERP system into data governance as and when such systems are ready

2.      Initiation of integration should not entail any new development effort in the SAP MDG system

3.      SAP MDG user interface should be enabled to allow the data steward to pick and choose the target non-SAP ERP systems to replicate the material master data

4.      Receive and process acknowledgement carrying success or failure message

Scalability is the paramount requirement as the number of non-SAP ERP systems are around 30+, hence having a mini development project for each of such application as and when the regions represented by these applications join the global data governance process is not a feasible. So the integration solution needs to be designed in such a way that any new region joining the global data governance stream is just handled by a master data type extension. This forces us to think hard on coming up a viable solution that achieves this scalability and at the same time is not technical complex to develop in the first place.

After studying multiple solution options we went ahead with standard SAP Classification based solution. The contours of the solution are

  • Every material created by the MDG solution will have a default material class assigned.
  • The class will have characteristic whose value represents the non-SAP ERP system.

    • This way any new non-SAP ERP system is just handled by addition of one characteristic value.

    • Some amount of work in the middleware SAP PI is needed once the characteristic value is defined in MDG but does not involved very detailed development effort in PI too.

From a solution development perspective only major drawback we faced was due the fact that SAP creates a separate idoc (intermediate document) message for material classification values for integration with external systems, which means the middleware has to process to two idoc messages for each material and that can make it complex for middleware. So to eliminate this we had to enhance the standard material master idoc message with additional segments to carry the classification values too. But still this is an one time development effort and we found that there is good amount of effort and cost savings compared to alternate solution which might need a development for each non-SAP ERP application addition to data governance and went ahead with this approach

Recently we presented this solution at ASUG (Americas SAP user group) St. Louis, USA conference. The solution idea and the benefits were well appreciated by the august audience.

Some of the interesting comments received were

From a Monsanto executive

"We have millions of material masters in our system and all the challenges and issues you highlighted are very much there and I seriously yearn for your solution in our system"

From an EATON Corporation executive

"We have a high priority requirement to create material master workflow, I am now convinced after listening to your presentation, MDG is the way forward"


September 8, 2014

IT Service Management - An Overview of Service Strategy

Today, Information Technology is a driving factor in delivering Business Services. Due to this, new avenues have opened up in the field of conventional IT landscape. Thus, a guidance and support about how to manage the IT infrastructure is required to improve functionality and quality in a cost effective manner. IT Service Management (ITSM) forms the core of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) concepts.
ITSM acts as an enabler for IT governance. In a broader sense, ITSM concurs with the principles of BSM (Business Service Management) and IT portfolio management. However, the guidelines & principles for project management are not covered under ITIL terminologies. Some process oriented ITSM methodologies include ITIL, TQM, COBIT, CMMI etc.

IT Infrastructure Library
ITIL is a widely accepted ITSM framework that provides much-needed guidance on how to manage IT infrastructure so as to streamline IT services in line with business expectations. To know more about ITIL history, refer to our previous blog:
The 5 core volumes of ITIL are Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operations and Continual Service Improvement (CSI).

Service Strategy
In ITIL, Service Strategy provides a guidance related to service-provider's investment in services. This helps the organization with the clarity and prioritizing of the services to be delivered. These principles are helpful for developing service management processes, policies and guidelines across Service Life-cycle.
Activities covered in Service Strategy volume include the development of customer markets, service assets and request catalog, and implementation of business strategy. Other key topics include Service Portfolio Management, Financial Management, and Strategic Risks Management.
The key benefit of formulating a Service Strategy is that it helps IT organizations improvise their service delivery. Service Strategy relies to a large extent on a customer satisfaction approach wherein it focuses on business-case development, service value definition, service assets, service provider types and market analysis.

When defining a service, the strategist should think of the service on the following lines:
Value creation: Creation of value to the business
Asset service: Assets required to build, deliver and operate the service.
Service provider types: Whether the Service Provider will be an Internal Service Provider, External Service Provider or a Shared Unit.
Service structure: Defining governance structure to ensure smooth operation of service

The key stakeholders & processes involved in Service Strategy are:
Service Portfolio Manager
• Strategic service assessment: Assessing need of new service
• Service strategy definition: Definition of goals, customers & customer segmentation
• Service portfolio update: Aligning service offered with the strategy definition
• Strategic planning: Controlling and Definition of projects required to execute the service
• Demand Management: Understand how to best meet the needs and expectations of customers, clients, partners& enablers and deliver a proper forecast and sizing of demand.

Financial Manager
• Financial management support: Define structure for managing costs and financial planning data
• Financial planning: Estimate financial resources over next cycle of the service
• Financial analysis and reporting: Analyse financial costs and service profitability.
• Service invoicing: Raising invoices for the provisioned service.

Service Strategist
• IT portfolio management: Applications and tools to manage the activities, projects and investments in a systematic manner.
• Business relationship management: It is an approach to understand, define, and support a plethora of inter-business activities related to knowledge and service management in a multi-vendor scenario.

Key takeaways from Service Strategy Phase:
Service strategy enables the transformation of service management from an organizational capability to an asset that can be leveraged for strategic decision making. It helps an organisation to objectify the relationship between services, systems. This helps in alignment of processes, business models and their objectives.
A strong service strategy enables strategic decision making for investment in services sets; this, in turn leads to a better performance towards customer satisfaction.

Check out this space for our next blog on ITIL - Service Design.


September 2, 2014

SAP Fiori with ERP integration a Game Changer in ERP Market Share

SAP Fiori with ERP Integration to play Major Role in gaining ERP Market Share for SAP

Currently SAP owns around 24% Market Share in overall ERP Market. Though it's a huge Market share with main competition from Oracle, Sage, Microsoft, SAP's End user still complains of inflexible User interface it has developed for most of its core and add-on applications.

While using SAP, customers want that it should be flexible enough to modify their own dashboards so as to bring important aspects of their daily to do list in Dashboard at the front. Customers also have in their wish list that while using applications for creation, modification or approval of documents they should be able to do the activities as ease using their mobile devices so that overall transactional process is faster and device independent. In addition, their expectation is that they need not logon to multiple systems once entered into main Dashboard.

To bring Customer Wish list in reality, SAP has developed and still developing multiple applications called SAP Fiori. It calls it SAP UX which means SAP Fiori user experience.  These applications can cater to individual areas within SAP like ECC, CRM, SRM, HCM, GRC, PLM, SCM, TM, EM etc.

With Fiori, SAP is trying to gain ground on 3rd party applications which uses HTML or Java or other to design user Dashboards which are really easy to use but requires separate integration with SAP Applications. These increases licensing cost of Customers for 3rd party applications as well as for SAP ERP.

Below chart depicts SAP's market share by ERP and cumulative application share by ERP Type.


Graph for Market share for ERP and Cloud products.jpgReferences: Forbes, Gartner & Zdnet, Panorama

Reference Link:

When it comes to cloud applications like CRM cloud, SAP is in fact is not the market leader.  Salesforce has taken the lead due to pleasant working experience on its cloud based applications, easy and flexible dashboard use, quick to plug Mobile infrastructure availability and reduced pricing due to SaaS (Software as a Service) model.

Though SAP Fiori is not exactly a Cloud Application, it makes user experience working on the applications far too pleasant. Customization or enhancements of Fiori applications are quicker as they are developed specifically for particular operations like Purchase Order approval. When individual business wants a change in Purchase Order approval flow, it can be easily done by doing the enhancement only Purchase Order related Fiori application. 

In coming days we'll also see fierce fight in User interface and ERP integration market and how companies launch different products or applications either to retain or enhance their market share.

This competition is likely to be among SAP, ORACLE, Salesforce, Microsoft, Infor, Sage, Google etc.           

Who knows we may see altogether a totally new brand appeared from nowhere and followed unexpected approach to become Market Leader in this space.


Siddhant Metkar

Lead Consultant, CSI MFG,

Infosys Limited

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