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The Connected Enterprise: Are you doing it right?

by - ThoughtFocus | June 10, 2020 |

Recently Reddit users had a good laugh over a post titled “Mom, you are doing it wrong.” Somebody’s mom was making hard copies of recipes off her iPad by placing the iPad’s screen directly onto the photocopier.


I laughed, too, but a little ruefully. After all, I spend a lot of time helping manufacturers deploy new technology in pursuit of powerful benefits. No matter how exciting those benefits, when people face disruptive change, they tend to bend the new back to the familiar. Mom wants hard copies of her recipes, iPad or no iPad. Users want to keep their old familiar processes, new technology or not.


Not surprisingly, hobbling new technologies with old processes diminishes its benefits. When the benefits do not materialize, users are disillusioned (“We went through all that and this is all it does?) and buyers are flummoxed and unhappy (“Where is my competitive advantage? Where is my savings?”)


Digital revolution
Because the near future will be dominated by disruptive change – in the form of the digital revolution – it’s a good time to focus on this vulnerability of new technology deployments. What is one of the most powerful platforms supporting that revolution in the business world? SAP S/4HANA®, now being embraced across all industry sectors, rewards companies for digitally transforming the enterprise. It lets them take economic advantage of exciting advances like Big Data, Internet of Things, Predictive Analytics, Cloud and Mobile solutions.


Absorb, analyze, and react
Without such a platform, with its in-memory processing and database technology, companies would drown under the sheer weight of the endless real-time flood of big data from the new world of connected enterprise and industry 4.0 technology. With the platform, they can not only absorb and analyze the valuable data they receive from a variety of internal or external sources (smart IOT devices, social media feeds, click streams) but more importantly, they can react in real time. Not only can they be made instantly aware of, say, a maintenance issue with their equipment, but even as they are made aware of it, the technology can also be pursuing the appropriate fix. Critical failures are prevented, equipment uptime is maximized, people error is mitigated


BUT, that can happen only if, in this example, the maintenance team adapt their own processes to permit the technology to exercise its full potential in real-time analytics – if they fully adopt “event stream processing,” a major departure from traditional analytics. Yesterday’s traditional ERP systems would receive and store the data, then prepare it for consumption through ETL (extract transform load) processes, and finally present results and share insights as needed. In an increasing number of situations, these insights are too late.


But SAP S/4HANA® enables a vastly different, more rapid, and instantly valuable Smart Data streaming process. It starts with store queries /analysis, then it receives data (from thousands of sensors and internet-connected devices), then processes the data, and immediately, pushes the results to trigger an appropriate reaction. It is revolutionary, not evolutionary. No matter how fast the data moves, how much data there is, or how many data sources it is being pulled from, it is all under the user’s control via a single, intuitive interface. Users can define patterns and address scenarios from all aspects of the business, enabling them to stay agile and tackle issues as they arise. Properly deployed, it upends old processes.


But old processes are comfortable. What if people mistrust the accuracy of the data, or simply find its speed unsettling and imprudent? They do what seems prudent and slow it up. All that real-time data gets batched up and sent around to be reviewed the next day. All those alerts that were supposed to trigger a rapid reaction (“Shut down pump #4312 and notify maintenance that its pressure has exceeded safety parameters.” or, “Notify procurement that a vendor shipment is significantly delayed.”) fall on deaf ears until it is too late. And worst of all, the company’s opportunity for competitive advantage goes by the wayside, with all parties wondering what happened.


Making the most of S/4HANA® means adopting a strategic view and taking a radically different approach from the conventional. It also requires new skilled resources who can help analyze processes and data across the entire event spectrum to inform what data and sensors are needed where and when, what queries and analysis need to be established upfront, what new patterns of insights are relevant for business to react real-time v. batch – and ultimately to provide continuous interactive monitoring for situational awareness in a new, digitally connected enterprise.


It is one thing to use an iPad and a photocopier when all you want is paper recipes that people were producing long before smart devices arrived. But if companies want to thrive in the digital age where disruption seems inevitable, they will have to cultivate new processes that reap the real value of new technology.