Expert interview with
Dr. Christian Lockemann
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?
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.