Why You Need to Automate to Innovate When Shifting SAP to the Cloud

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Shifting SAP to the Cloud enables you to innovate, and ultimately allows for a far-more agile operation. But how do we get there?

At the start, it is important to remind yourself why you’re embarking on this digital transformation journey. Typically, from my experience, organizations are looking to achieve four key things, which are: to reduce costs, remove complexity, increase flexibility, and improve security.

These four areas are the backbone of SAP in Cloud innovation, and your strategic approach needs to focus on each area in kind.

The Power of Automation

The IT team is responsible for executing a huge number of services, all of which should be defined in the service catalog. Some of these include installing new SAP systems and extending and patching existing systems, etc. Altogether, these tasks classically require a huge amount of manual effort from the SAP technical teams. In order to make a change, the IT team first raises a change request, then provides all the data needed to make the change, work out the impact on cost and security, and go through multiple levels of approval, before finally getting to the point where they can implement the change.

For the majority of customers with an on-premises model, this would be done using manual steps and hard-coded documents. However, things can be different when you’re on the Cloud – this is where automation comes into its own.

For example, if a business wishes to change their SAP HANA database from a 2TB to a 4TB size, automation can create a change request in your ITSM systems, and provide details on how the development would impact security and cost, saving the team huge amounts of time and with more accurate information. This extra detail becomes the basis for the technical change itself – the automation can assess and execute the change faster and with more accuracy, avoiding the risk of human error or having to duplicate efforts when mistakes are made.

Automation helps reduce the technical effort within the IT process, allowing teams to focus on more value-add activities. Everything within the service catalog can be prioritized, starting with the most critical, or the most expensive, or the quick wins – whatever the focus is for the business.

A common example of when automation delivers true value is when teams need to access old SAP systems in archive mode. Every so often, someone needs to log on to query old purchase orders or bank records, ideally without having to manually start and stop a system – which could take days to complete if requested and executed manually.

Instead, if the business uploads archived systems onto the Cloud, then with automation available through a start-stop button, they can start the system on-demand, conduct their query, and then shut it down at any given moment – saving costs, reducing wait times and eradicating unnecessary complexities.

Streamlining your SAP systems

Automation also streamlines the process of taking data from one system and transferring to another – known as system refresh.

This process is different for every business and has long been a challenge for SAP customers. Removing the manual steps with automation, which can facilitate custom changes to fit each environment, means no system is deemed unsuitable.

When used to refresh Test Environments, a test cycle will gain more up-to-date data, which will facilitate higher quality testing and help avoid potential defects. For a Prototyping use-case, being able to try out an idea on a copy of the production system in an isolated environment creates a real opportunity for innovation. With automation, teams can assess how projects are funding innovation and track the outcomes. It gives structure to innovating around SAP without incurring huge costs (which has always been a challenge in the past), inspiring a culture change across the team.

This is a great example of how automation essentially brings innovation to life.

Reinforcing your Security

One of the realities of Cloud is that there is a greater number of moving parts than on-premises environments. This, combined with it being in the public domain, makes for a much more complex security environment.

While the tools offered by hyperscalers are equally as sophisticated as the challenges business face, the complexities often overwhelm teams when it comes to day-to-day management. On public Cloud, privilege access management is a mandatory rule, which means establishing fine-grain definitions across a broad number of security objects.

The amount of work required to design, build, and maintain the security environment is much greater than on-premises, and teams often fail to realize the importance of automation when it comes to scaling operations post-migration.

Prioritize User Experience

It’s easy to tell when an organization has implemented automation in their operations post-migration by simply looking at user experience. If starting up an SAP system takes days from the request rather than hours, then they’re not automated.

The Uber app is a perfect example of how automation revolutionizes a service and prioritizes efficiency and customer experience. The company analyzed the process of ordering a taxi to get from A to B and removed all possible manual steps. Beforehand, a customer would have to research a taxi company, call them up, provide their location (as accurately as possible), confirm the destination address, be given a quote or started on a meter (so the cost isn’t confirmed until the end of the journey), hand over the cash, and wait for the driver to write up a receipt. Uber has taken each of these steps and automated them through the app.

This is the result of automation being weaved into an operating model from start to finish, or what many people refer to as ‘digitization.’ 

The End Goal is Innovation

Businesses that prioritize driving innovation in their SAP on Cloud operations will undoubtedly pull ahead in the race to future-proof and boost the resilience of their business. The key is to assess where changes can be made to deliver the biggest impact without major operational disruptions. 

All developments should align with at least one of the core pillars of digital transformation: reducing costs, removing complexity, increasing flexibility, and improving security. Assessing how automation is benefiting the organization at each stage will give teams a transparent overview of how the operating model is faring and will demonstrate where further innovation is possible.

Innovation is underpinned by agility, and automation provides the foundations for agile SAP on Cloud operations.

Eamonn O'Neill, Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer
Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Lemongrass