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Catalyst ITJul 10, 2024 4:21:24 PM4 min read

Free your SAP data: Why your SAP modernisation project is the perfect time to rethink your approach to data

In 2027, support for SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) will come to an end. This deadline is the reason many organisations are currently deciding on the best way to modernise their SAP systems. Do they remain using SAP ECC and pay a premium for support? Do they switch to the new S/4 HANA staying on premises? Or do they migrate their SAP systems to the cloud and then modernise on S/4HANA? Which cloud provider? Should they consider RISE with SAP? How will licensing be impacted?

There are many options and decisions to be made. But one of the critical considerations should be what their future data strategy is going to be.

Your data strategy will impact the future success of your organisation

 In a survey done by Deloitte, 61% of Chief Data Officers (CDOs) said that creating, updating, or implementing a data strategy was one of their top priorities in 2024. That’s because data is the digital currency driving organisations forward and it’s the foundation of AI and machine learning.


But for organisations who run their core business processes on SAP, much of their data is trapped in SAP Business Warehouse (BW) systems. SAP data warehouses are designed for numeric, tabular, structured data. For example, a manufacturer using SAP would have data that tells them things like how many widgets they have sold, how many widgets are left on the shelf, or what orders are coming in.

But what about the unstructured data that now makes up 80% to 90% of all corporate data? Text, image, audio and video files, web pages, social media conversations, customer feedback, open ended surveys, IoT data from sensors - all of these data types have enormous value that can grow sales, improve customer satisfaction and identify new opportunities or risks.

For a sense of how big unstructured data is, IDC predicted that in 2023, 73 zettabytes of unstructured data would be generated globally. One zettabyte is equal to one trillion gigabytes. To put that into context, all the words ever spoken by mankind are estimated to be about 5 exabytes. The same IDC report showed that only 58% of unstructured data is ever reused more than once after initial use, leaving vast reserves of untapped opportunities. (Source)


SAP isn’t designed for unstructured data

Organisations have reams of unstructured data across multiple siloed systems which themselves are often completely separate from the business critical, structured data found in SAP systems. Breaking the silos can be a challenge due to technical complexity, inconsistent data standards, company politics and a lack of a data strategy.

But organisations need to be able to free data from these silos if they want to benefit from the huge opportunities available with AI, business intelligence and machine learning. If organisations are considering the future of their SAP systems, a major consideration should be where the data is housed. And CDOs should absolutely be part of the conversation.

Here’s the issue: while moving to a SAP data warehouse solution seems the obvious choice, it’s not that simple.

SAP Data Warehouse Cloud was not natively built for the cloud and is not designed for unstructured data. Chief analyst at Amalgam Insights, Hyoun Park, said, ‘SAP Data Warehouse Cloud lacks certain capabilities to support the variety of data needed to support real-time and machine learning use cases without additional augmentation.’ While the upgraded version of SAP Data Warehouse Cloud - SAP DataSphere - integrates data from multiple sources and takes a step closer to unifying structured and unstructured data, it is an expensive option and many worry about vendor lock-in.

SAP understandably wants you to keep your data in their systems, and for some organisations this will be the right option. But for those companies who want to disrupt the status quo and free their SAP data from the constraints of traditional siloed SAP systems, they can lower costs and create a faster data pipeline by looking at alternate solutions.

ELT (Extract, Load, Transform) tools like Qlik Data Integration combined with cloud-based data platforms like Snowflake can be implemented immediately without waiting years for a full SAP modernisation programme to be completed. Given the rate of data growth and the need for real-time data for effective business decision-making, it’s a matter of urgency to create and implement a data strategy.

In the second part of this three part blog series, we will explain how to achieve this and how to extract valuable insights from this unified data structure. In part three, we will look at some use cases and how to apply business intelligence to your SAP data to drive growth, including how Catalyst helped Ineos Automotive maximise their return on investment from their SAP data while ensuring efficiency and quick results.

If you’re a CDO in need of support on what to do with your SAP data, here’s how Catalyst can help:

  1. We conduct data strategy workshops to understand what you have today and where you want to go in the future.
  2. We conduct a gap analysis with required features and functionality that you need to support your business strategy.
  3. You get a data strategy document with recommended next steps and approaches
  4. We give you a suggested target architecture based on your business requirements
  5. We identify costs, where savings can be made and expected ROI to secure funding
  6. We run a proof of concept on a subset of data from SAP BW
  7. We apply a business intelligence tool to interpret data so that you can get meaningful insights

Contact us to book a Data Strategy Workshop or get our ebook: Disrupt the status quo. Free your SAP data.