On November 19th, our CEO and founder François Rivard was one of the speakers at a round table on the theme “Migration to SAP S/4HANA”. How to build a data-driven migration strategy while improving the knowledge and quality of critical data? Here is his point of view on the subject.
Question: How do you position yourself regarding data migration? What do you think are the issues and challenges?
François Rivard: Data has taken a very important, even central place in information systems and companies today. We talk about data-centric organizations. Is the subject of SAP migration a data migration subject?
Yes, because with data, we have a very stable information system asset in a context that will be changing a lot. Instances of R3 and S4 will coexist, with different cores, different geographies, different modules. The processes themselves will be optimized; everything is evolving and will continue to evolve. All of this requires a bit of stability: the data, or at least the description of the company’s information, is one of the things that will provide a central point in the migration.
Does this justify integrating data into our parameters? This is not a new subject, since it has been more than a decade since large companies began to structure the description of information, particularly in Master Data Management tools. These tools are not linked to SAP. In the context of a migration, we should not be tempted or forced to bring these solutions inside SAP and create a data-centric SAP organization, which does not make much sense. The company must be able to keep its freedom to build and develop its information system as it pleases. And this necessarily requires, on the one hand, integration tools, but also tools for describing and managing data and the proper governance of this data, to maintain maximum latitude in the way the migration is built.
Question: What is your vision regarding the choice of integration?
François Rivard: When we look at what has happened over the last 20 years in many large companies, we can see the arrival of SAP systems with, for the most part, middleware integration systems that are completely agnostic around this implementation. Then, progressively, and this for approximately 10 or 15 years, the largest French companies have been using integration strategies with players such as Tibco. And Tibco today equips a good part of these large companies of the CAC 40.
Integration strategies of the companies have become more refined, and are moving towards players who specialize in this type of issue, use case, or technology. And in my opinion, the subject of migration to SAP S/4HANA is not likely to change the game in the sense that migration is ultimately only one part of the integration strategy. It’s not the whole integration strategy. Migration must be integrated into the integration strategy: this is already in place and must be continued. We could add the increasing openness of IS around API Management, and the need to open up the integration strategy to the outside world. Thus, the set of use cases is much broader than migration. To succeed, you need to be able to manage all these issues in parallel.
Question: How can SAP S/4HANA migration involve moving towards the Cloud? And how can we take this evolution into account?
François Rivard: The Cloud is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve other objectives. Indeed, this migration can or will result in moving systems that are currently on-premises to public cloud systems, private cloud systems, and thus multi-cloud systems. Today’s enterprises are already using cloud providers to power part of their integration strategy. This describes particularly sophisticated environments and contexts that need to be kept alive and evolving. In this context, the Cloud is almost just one architectural modality among many. And companies will be looking to maintain as much flexibility as possible in the way they can both manage their integration strategies and manage this migration, by relying on the flexibility and elasticity of the Cloud.
Question: One of the risks when working on data migration is that we focus on the technical aspects and forget about the relationships with the business. What do you think about this?
François Rivard: On the pure integration part, today we realize that integration projects are generally carried out in agile mode. As a result, we manage to do iterations or even deliveries that make sense for the business. For example, in 2014 we worked with the Tibco teams to implement a method that aims to deliver BPM and Middleware projects based on agile principles. This means that the iterative and incremental dimension of agile brings added value to the construction of this type of project. When it is a large project, it is necessary to coordinate several streams in parallel. For this type of need, I think of SAFe of course, we have already done it and succeeded. And we adapt the methods to the context of the project, to take into account the principle of progressiveness found in migration and which counterbalances the incremental aspect.
Question: What do you think are the direct and future benefits of such a migration?
François Rivard: We will reach the benefits if this migration issue is part of a larger global transformation project. Migration is not intended to become a subject that swallows up all the others. But if it is well managed, in conjunction with other transformation issues, it is, on the contrary, a magnificent catalyst for a data-centric organization and an APIfication strategy. With an organization where “product owners” and “process owners” bring transversality to the benefit of users, while relying on a domain-driven architecture.
We know what is at stake in a migration project. We know that it can mobilize the company’s vital forces and bring them back to it. It’s a risk, of course, but if it’s well managed, with appropriate change management around business processes and all the issues surrounding data and APIs, for example, then we’ll probably have succeeded in taking a significant step forward in the digitalization and transformation of organizations. At least the main benefit of this type of project is to be sufficiently impactful and significant to bring the whole organization to a higher level.