Moving up to the Cloud: SAP’s UK & Ireland Forum

Posted on 23 May 2012

TM was on hand at SAP's UK & Ireland Forum this week, where the enterprise application software giant exhibited some of its latest developments - cloud computing being one of the main focuses.

Things move extremely fast in the world of IT, and from talking to some of SAP’s people at the Forum its clear they are not taking any chances of being left behind. Rob Enslin, president of sales at SAP and a member of the Global Managing Board said in his keynote that “you have to become a serial innovator to survive in this world”.

Highlighting the prevalence of mobile computing, he also revealed a somewhat stunning statistic: there are more mobile phones in operation across the globe than there are toothbrushes.

Accelerating into the Cloud

As was recently announced, SAP acquired SuccessFactors in an all-cash deal for $3.4bn (around £2.16bn) to boost its cloud capacity. Mr Enslin announced that SAP was investing in 5,000 people dedicated to “designing, building and delivering beautiful cloud solutions,” and said that the newly formed Cloud business unit would focus its efforts on four solution areas:

  1. People – SAP is integrating SuccessFactors’ Employee Central system to help HR departments evaluate their employee’s performance more effectively; determining key performance indicators (KPIs) with ease.
  2. Money – customers are now even more able to capture and process expenses directly from their mobile devices.
  3. Customers – new developments allow customers to interact more effectively with the company via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Suppliers – SAP  will continue to leverage its supplier interaction capabilities. Enslin revealed developments in network-based invoice management and new capacity for information exchange for the procure-to-pay process.

Adapting to a changing world

John Hammann, Industry Principal for Manufacturing at SAP talked of a “nervous world”, where there is a “lot of uncertain demand from demanding customers”. In order to ensure manufacturers retain existing customers but are still able to acquire new ones, Mr Hammann emphasised the importance of ensuring reliable order fulfilment. “Everything that gets done [in a business] should happen in this way – it should drive everything,” he said in one of his presentations.

Referring to manufacturers with sites spread across a geographical area, Hammann said: “Most manufacturers have multiple plants, some of them they own and some of them they have outsourced operations. Capacity erosion is a serious issue – as soon as we know that a part or multitude of parts is not going to be made on time, SAP’s offerings can come up with solutions – fast.”

John Hammann
John Hammann, Industry Principal for Manufacturing at SAP

Questions that SAP asks are “can we look for somewhere else [that can deliver the parts]? Is there hidden capacity somewhere else to make sure we can meet customer demand?” he added.

Hammann also highlighted the way in which waste can be avoided using SAP’s offerings: “Quality issues are also important. In certain chemical processes, if a product that is planned to be manufactured is not acceptable to a particular client because of an acceptable grade, a lot of organisations simply scrap it. We think its better to find out whether or not another client would accept this product.”

Logistics made easier – with a room made out of paper

TM talked to Anand Lakhani, Senior Consultant at Unipart Expert Practices – the logistics arm of the group. Unipart has had a long-standing relationship with SAP – going back to 2000 when Unipart partnered up with Jaguar to provide more efficient distribution networks.

Before SAP, the group had a variety of different in-house systems, along with a lot of mainframes.

“[The mainframe systems] did the job to be fair, but what we realised is that if we really wanted to grow the business we had to invest for the long term,” said Mr Lakhani.

Unipart’s work with Jaguar, or Jaguar Land Rover as it’s known today was one of the reasons SAP was chosen as a partner in the first place. Anand described what he called the ‘Jaguar Global Control Centre’ – or the Paper Room as he fondly remembers it. Known today as Global Control Centres, Unipart has turned what used to be a room covered from wall to wall with printed-out metrics that measured everything from suppliers delivering the product, to the delivery to the distribution centres into a something much more modern. The room is now covered in interactive screens.

Although, according to Lakhani, the paper version was impressive, times have changed and Unipart has changed accordingly.

“The Business Intelligence toolkit within SAP has allowed us to create the same paper room, but with lots of screens. When you click on the screens, it goes into the level of granularity that you need, so it now becomes an even more useful room,” he explained.

Lakhani went onto to explain the breadth of which this solution has been implemented across Unipart’s logistics division: “Its not just for the leadership team, all the teams within the business use this room, sometimes on a daily basis depending on what they are doing and whether its a strategic decision or a tactical activity that is taking place. They can see the information at a glance and they can connect to our other distribution centres around the world at the press of a button – they can have a real life conversation about problems that are occurring in order to deal with them. I don’t think we could have done this without the BI tools provided by SAP.”