Expert interviews

Expert interview with Dr. Christian Lockemann

Three questions put to Dr. Christian Lockemann, Executive Partner – Your Expert Cluster GmbH, Zirndorf

1. Current issues such as SAP S/4 HANA, cloud solution (yes or no) and the Data Protection Act take up large proportions of time, energy, know-how and resources from enterprises. What do you observe? Does the majority of companies try to tackle single aspects of their IT systems – e.g. improve certain processes – or do they rather assess the whole system and look at the whole picture?

Answer CL: In general, we are observing that companies have come to recognize that a digitalization strategy comprises all aspects of the enterprise such as products, production and internal structures – and that single solutions are only of relative help. Therefore, there is a growing willingness to confront oneself with the overall situation. However, especially small and medium-sized enterprises seem a little paralyzed, because they do not know where to start the implementation. The final decision for one technology, recommended by various providers, should be taken at the end of a whole decision process. First of all, a careful analysis of the customer`s needs should take place, which might lead to certain digital applications and services for products and production. Then attention should be put in particular to – this is the prerequisite for any linkages – clear data structures, complete master data of high quality and reference indicators. Hence, new (or extended) business models can be developed before, finally, the decision for a technological implementation can be taken, no matter what this solution might consist of, e.g. SAP, automation and MES components, middleware or cyber security. According to our experience, companies are coming to understand more and more that such structured approaches are the path to take.

2. Regarding the Data Protection Act – how are cloud (yes/no) and security issues are perceived and addressed: rather as a (tedious) requirement or possibly as an opportunity?

Answer CL: The openness towards cloud solutions has increased remarkably over the last two to three years and this includes the small and medium-sized companies. The advantages are convincing: being able to do without a server and instead have access to more sophisticated security solutions - something hardly possible for on premise installations. There are, however, concerns regarding the safety of the data, especially if they are stored in the USA (Safe Haven issue), so that those cloud service providers are preferred using European data servers. This issue is becoming more acute because of the new European data protection act DSGVO. Cyberattacks on IT and on surface technology are raising the awareness; Everyone knows that reliable production and a public perception as reliable provider will in future only work if one has an appropriate security solution at one`s command.

3. As a service provider, you work together with small and medium-sized companies as well as with large enterprises. What differences in approaching issues such as SAP S/4 HANA do you witness? Do large enterprises behave differently to medium-sized and small companies? If so at which way? If not, could one say that all enterprizes, no matter how big or small, are currently pursuing a similar strategy?

Answer CL: The entire service scope of SAP solutions has so far been tailor-made especially for large companies. Smaller enterprises found it therefore hard and opted for other ERP providers. However, new solutions such as SAP Business by Design or SAP Business One, which are customized solutions oriented according to the needs of SMEs, work effectively and (eventually) well – this is the perception of many SMEs – and therefore many of these companies are willing for the first time to opt for a SAP solution. Once the decision for this has been taken, we have observed, that there is also a willingness to select a cloud solution straight away. The new solutions for SMEs have anyway been built up around HANA. Larger enterprises sometimes need a stimulus (e.g. ERP harmoization as a result of M&A activities) in order to reorganize their ERP system and eventually – gently forced by SAP – opt for S/4 HANA.

Expert interview with Fritz Mosonyi

Three questions put to Fritz Mosonyi, SPP Handelsges.m.b.H., Vienna

What company units will be mostly effected by the DSGVO (Datenschutzgrundverordnung) when it comes to decision-making?

Fritz Mosonyi: If the issue is taken seriously - and the punishments enterprises could face lead to the assumption that this is the case – data protection runs through the whole company. However, areas where the majority of personal related data are administered will surely be mostly effected. Depending on the industry, these areas are HR, sales and marketing. They administer data, whereas the IT department most often is service provider. HR, sales and marketing must therefore be the driving force and demand from the IT to meet all necessary requirements regarding cost-effective protection at state of-art technology. I do, however, note that the DSGVO issue is instead powered from IT, and thus perceived as an IT-subject. The responsibility, nevertheless, according to the DSGVO, clearly lies with the management. Therefore, it is a challenge to the management to create the framework, issue necessary guidelines and support the upcoming compliance project by providing appropriate resources.

Will companies have to rely on SAP tools for the implementation of monitoring or do alternatives exist?

Fritz Mosonyi: SAP offers a variety of solutions in order to meet the demands of the DSGVO. However, SAP landscapes are no longer simple three-system-landscapes but complex structures put together out of a number of different systems.
In order to fulfill certain requirements, set by the DSGVO, a first necessary step is extensive documentation of data flows on the basis of the processes. Those processes almost always involve different SAP systems, as well as non-SAP systems. The emerging picture – the processing register – serves as a basis from which one can then determine so-called technical-organizational measures (TOM), taking into consideration the estimable risks.  

SAP offers a good collection of tools and possibilities within the SAP world. However, when borders are crossed, interfaces are exceeded, even within one`s own system landscapes, these tools can be less practical. What if the data are well-protected within the ERP, but any user is able to export files as PDF? This simple but commonplace example demonstrates where problems exist.

Do companies pay sufficient attention to the issue of Change Management?

Fritz Mosonyi: In some enterprises they do, in a majority of companies still not. The increasing number of changes, the growing complexity of system infrastructures - but a non-growing number of IT-staff; the increasing requirements for compliance – DSGVO being just another one - all this together reason enough to implement automatization of a change process to achieve added value within short time. And next to all this, highly topical, the very rapidly advancing digitalization which will make processes faster again and enhance the IT-usage further – and as a result we will become still more dependent on IT.

Expert interview with Jörg Tresbach

Three questions to Jörg Tresbach, Procurement Management - Information Technology MEWA Textil-Service AG & Co. Management OHG

What is the most important challenge for IT decision-makers in relation to your system?

Jörg Tresbach: From IT’s point of view system decisions, regardless of their nature, are always medium to long-term decisions. However, the business is changing more and more quickly, which is why the biggest challenge is to make the right system selection in the context of the company strategy.

In your company would you be inclined towards a green or brown field cloud solution?

Jörg Tresbach: Whether Green or Brown Field is not primarily a question of the cloud. The question is:

  1. Whether the current processes will be good and will continue to be good in the future. If this is not the case, a renewal of the systems must be based on a Green Field approach, regardless of the cloud.
  2. Provided that the processes remain largely unchanged the question arises as to whether the application requires a "renovation". In this case a Brown Field approach may be more appropriate.

However, it is very likely that the first variant will be used for very large CRM or ERP projects.

In order to create a successful strategy the opinion and experiences of which parties (internal and external) should be included at the plannung table?

Jörg Tresbach: As a matter of principle, the policy competency lies with IT, but we always follow the approach of involving the relevant departments in the planning.

Expert interview with Markus Schümmelfeder

Expert interviews with Markus Schümmelfeder (Corporate Vice President, IT) from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG

What is the motivation for companies to switch to HANA and S/4 HANA?

Markus Schümmelfeder: "With the announcement to end mainstream maintenance for SAP Business Suite in 2025, there has been the need for Boehringer Ingelheim, to reconsider a new ERP roadmap. The slackening innovation in the SAP Business Suite products and the need for future investments require the development of a new global template based on the S/4HANA technology.

This development takes time and has started at Boehringer Ingelheim at an early stage to take account of the constantly changing business requirements, as well as ensuring a timely switchover.

It is also important that there are opportunities for employees to work with an advanced technology in which everyone has the same starting point, or even employees can be a pioneer."

What added value could already be realized in your company?

Markus Schümmelfeder: “In the Business Warehouse environment, we have seen improvements to the legacy systems through significant "Runtime" improvements. In other areas we are still in the implementation phase so it is too early for a statement here.”

Expert interview with Prof. Dr. Andreas Pasckert and Prof. Dr. Peter Gordon Rötzel

Expert interview with Prof. Dr. Andreas Pasckert of the University of Aschaffenburg and Prof. Dr. Peter Gordon Rötzel

In your experience what is the motivation for companies to move to HANA and S/4 HANA?

Prof. Dr. Andreas Pasckert: „In particular, a transition to HANA offers options for modernization and performance improvements through the elimination of bottlenecks. In addition, S/4HANA provides an opportunity to build the potential for strategic success. Through the extensive options to analyse mass data and the possibilities to speed up and automate transactions, companies are hoping to create essential conditions for the development of business models based on the digitization of business processes. In addition they hope for the transformation of more efficient value-added processes, as discussed in the context of the term Industry 4.0.“

Prof. Dr. Peter Gordon Rötzel: „The reasons for the switch are very heterogeneous. Medium-sized companies often are afraid of migrating ERP systems since a large number of resources are involved and both cost increases and delays can occur. In my opinion, it is essential that the required resources are identified and operationalized and flow into the operational stage before the migration. The potential of S/4HANA and HANA is significant, but there are too few studies that examine the broad range of success factors for an efficient switch. That's exactly where we want to start.“

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for IT decision-makers in dealing with their systems?

Prof. Dr. Andreas Pasckert: „A key challenge is to ensure compliance requirements. The main strength of HANA and S/4HANA is the creation of a high level of transparency for the users of the system. But this is precisely the danger. IT decision makers should pay close attention to role assignments, considering which system capabilities are granted to which ERP user.“

Prof. Dr. Peter Gordon Rötzel: „It depends. If you are doing business in an industry that is characterized by high market dynamics and strong technological change, you need to keep your system up to date.
On the one hand you must not miss out on significant innovations (e.g., cloud solutions, use of smartphones for ERP solutions). On the other hand, there are some innovations that are not yet widely adopted (e.g., spectacle displays, virtual reality). From a IT decision-maker’s viewpoint, you have to constantly consider what technological innovations you should implement. Decisive competitive advantage will only be only gained if you can use your IT to leverage strategic potential at an early stage, streamlining business processes and providing a better overview of the "data treasures" in your company.“