Guy Vorster, Principal Solutions Consultant, Reltio
Weekends don’t get any more entertaining than a good game of rugby. And I’ll let you in on a secret, we talk business too! Yes, the scores, physical exhaustion, tees in place of suits – they don’t deter us from sharing the occasional business tip. In fact, the relaxed atmosphere brings out some real wisdom in us.
Last Saturday I spotted Ralph as I reached the club. “Why so glum? Not feeling up for today’s match?” I teased. But he was in a real sore mood.
“Not sure I can stay for the game, my team is stuck at work.”
“What’s the problem? And why can’t they resolve it themselves?”
“It’s the sheer mental fatigue and they can’t think anymore. You know we have been at this SAP S/4 HANA migration for well over a year, and nothing seems to go as planned. My team is fast losing steam and I have to lend a hand constantly!”
“Don’t I know that feeling? Let’s sit somewhere and talk about it for a bit, maybe I can offer some advice.”
“Is that even possible? We are facing a budget overrun, the legacy data seems to be a mess, and the expected timeline makes little sense now!”
Ralph sat on a stool across from me, but not before a quick phone call to his team members.
“We thought we had properly analyzed all the risks when we started. While we were aware that 50% of these types of projects fail, lag badly or greatly exceed the budget, we thought we would be the exception.” Ralph wiped his brow.
“When you started this project, did you also think about the data-related risks? The projects that succeed are often the ones where the data is thought about as a core asset by itself. And not just a by-product of the operations of the ERP application that needs to be moved to the new app.”
“That’s an interesting point.”
“But to do that, you need to think a little differently, and improve the efficiency where it matters, especially when it comes to your master data.”
“Are you going to tell me about how Reltio does it?”
“At Reltio we deliver innovative data solutions that help to reduce risk and increase efficiencies during complicated data migrations such as yours with SAP S/4 HANA.”
“Even though your migration project is already underway, you still have a long way to go. So it’s not too late to think about including a purpose-built data management solution to reduce the data related risk in your project”
“What exactly do you mean by data related risk?”
“Think about why you are doing this migration in the first place. The fact that your ECC version will go onto extended maintenance in 2025 is not the main reason, is it?”
“No, this is part of a complex digital business transformation we are undertaking and we have decided that HANA is the best platform to support this business transformation.”
“Exactly. At the heart of that transformation is your master data about customers, products, suppliers etc. If you’re like most companies, the quality of your master data has naturally degraded over time, leading to duplication and inconsistencies within and across your applications. These inconsistencies impact productivity of your users and also impact customer experience across channels.”
“Agree, what we have seen so far indicates that our data is a real mess. It seems that people are busy doing one-off cleanups all over the place.”
“We see that all the time. If you don’t use this opportunity during the migration to fully address your data quality problems in a formal manner, you run the risk of moving bad data from ECC to HANA, which is a recipe for disaster. It would be like putting diesel into a new Ferrari and hoping it will work. The car may not even start, and if it does, it’s not going to run well at all, and your big investment will be wasted. Would you ever put anything but the best fuel into a Ferrari?”
“Exactly right. Your HANA investment is a big one and you need to fuel it with master data that is what we call “fit for purpose.” Think premium fuel for a premium car, OK? Two added complexities when going to HANA are the new business partner construct and the new architecture of the database itself.”
“Yes, it looks like a very different beast compared to ECC.”
“It sure is, and you can’t take on a beast with your bare hands alone. So what worked in the past will not work now. You need a different approach because this is not a lift and shift. The business partner construct in HANA requires a different level of master data consolidation compared to ECC. Because a bunch of disparate objects from ECC have been combined into a single construct in HANA. This one is all about the data because a significant amount of data remediation and cleanup is going to be needed.”
“Yup, that makes sense.”
“Also, if you’re like most complex organizations out there, you probably have thousands of custom Z code programs running in ECC today generating additional data. In HANA, many tables have been removed or modified, and you need to consider where the data generated from the Z code should go. Here you have data coming up again. It’s at the heart of this whole thing as I said earlier.”
“We are facing that problem right now. I can see now why a data-centric approach is necessary.” Ralph nodded.
“Exactly. Now you throw in the fact that these migrations can last a long time because each instance needs to be moved in a phased manner without business disruption. That’s a tough ask, and it needs very careful planning. Think how hard it would be if our entire rugby team had to change our rugby cleats during a final rugby match, change our shirts and carry the water bottles from one side of the field to the other side without letting the opposition score, while the clock is ticking down to the end of the game that we must win or we will be relegated to a lower division of play!”
“Ha! That would be a tough ask for sure and you’re right, some serious planning would be needed!”
“That’s where Reltio Cloud platform comes in. We focus on three objectives – reduce risk, increase efficiency, and accelerate post-migration business transformation.”
“Guy, many customers don’t assess the post-migration scenario enough. We have burned our fingers already.”
“That’s where Reltio is different. For us, there are two parts to this story just like we have 2 halves in a game of rugby. The migration itself can be thought of as the first half of the game, and all we are doing in this half is setting ourselves up for victory in the second half by making the hard yards and wearing the opposition down. So after the first half, your ECC instances are migrated, and in the second half we focus on further enabling your transformation by modernizing the architecture supporting your third applications and external data sources that were previously tightly coupled to your ERP.”
“That sounds really interesting. I was thinking of this whole thing as a one-off migration and we are done.” Ralph was looking positive.
“Your migration to the new ERP app may be done when you’re live on HANA, but the business transformation and innovation continues!. Your business is about way more than the new ERP app after all. It’s like the painting of the Sydney harbor bridge. The job is continuous because when the painters reach the one end, they circle back and start on the other side again to keep it pristine and in good working order. Your business transformation is like that Ralph, it’s never really one hundred percent finished. In fact tomorrow your business leaders may come and say “hey we are acquiring company x” and guess what comes with that acquisition, more migration work, more apps to integrate, old apps to deprecate etc. So the reality is what you are doing now should be thought of as part of a constant stream of work to make you stronger and protect you from threats. You can make that work truly rewarding if you do it in a smart, innovative way and always ensure the data is treated as an asset in and of itself to continually support your transformation.”
“Agreed. I can see how your data-centric solution will help us do that.”
“Exactly! So what Reltio Cloud does here is act as an intelligent API-driven container for the core master data being migrated. You can accurately consolidate different data records from ECC in Reltio to provide the foundation for the Business Partner shared entity in HANA. Get it?”
“Yes. That makes sense.”
“Reltio Cloud has a flexible model and its extensible architecture can also offer a home to the additional master data elements. Remember the data generated by the Z code in ECC? Data that may not have a place to live in HANA?”
“You are not letting any data escape!”
“That’s our game plan, just like we don’t let the opposition get past us in a rugby match! So once you have your master data sorted, your process improves considerably. Then during the phased migration, the Reltio Cloud acts as the bridge between ECC and S/4HANA. That ensures proper sharing of any common master data required until ECC is fully deprecated.”
“Play smarter not harder, that’s the key. Reltio Cloud also acts as the governance platform to address the data quality problems before S/4HANA ingestion. This approach of creating a separate layer between ECC and S/4HANA significantly reduces the risk of a failed migration. See, your stakeholders can be remediating problems with the data in Reltio while the heavy lifting goes on behind the scenes to build all the data movement routines and get them ready.”
“I can see that if we separate the data from the applications and treat it as a standalone construct, we can offer a dedicated solution for our users to actually visualize the issues and deal with them. I mean compared to spreadsheets and SQL code flying around everywhere!”
“Yes. With automated rules and machine learning data quality monitoring built in out of the box, the Reltio Cloud gives you a reliable modern data management platform to get visibility into the data. With that, your team can focus on remediating the exceptions only and not looking at everything out there. See where I am going? More time to think. More intelligent solutions. Higher efficiency. Lower risk of failure. And for you, no more frantic calls from the team!”
“You got me there, Guy!”
“You can also run more end-to-end load simulations to increase confidence in the quality of the migration process itself. The more you can uncover issues in the data early and issues with the end-to-end tests, the more you move risk to the left side of your timeline vs. the right when you’re deep in testing and ready to go live. This is exactly why we run our rugby plays so many times at practice so that we can get them perfect come game time.”
Ralph was visibly relaxed. So I decided to share the last bit about the post-migration value realization and get ready for the game.
“Ralph, a successful migration to SAP HANA creates a strong platform to accelerate business growth, that’s why you’re doing it as you mentioned. Remember that after the migration you now have the master data as a freestanding asset in Reltio Cloud and a fully operational integration to S/4 HANA. You don’t want to throw away this valuable asset that you have created because it can now add a huge amount of additional value in your business. If you’re truly transforming your business, it’s about much more than just the ERP app, it’s about all the touchpoints in your business.”
“The Reltio Cloud can now power the experience you aim to deliver across all your touchpoints because each one requires accurate, updated data about customers, suppliers, or products. You can now introduce new applications much more rapidly to meet your changing business needs because you have the data available for all to use in a separate intelligent container. You can now think about the myriad of third party apps you have out there. Think warehouse management, logistics, CRM, e-commerce, loyalty, and what not! Work on integrating those with Reltio to add more agility into your environment and to improve the experience delivered by all those apps.”
“You know what, after this game today I’m going to go back to the team with a clearer head. Don’t know how much to thank you! I have a couple more proposals coming up for SAP S/4 HANA Migration, and I am going to pitch for the Reltio Cloud solution. No two ways about that!”
“I like it.”
“Yes. It’s an elegant solution. Don’t fret about data during the migration, just get Reltio Cloud deployed as part of your migration architecture and at least take one big worry off your plate.”
“It’s still going to be a tough journey because there are a lot of moving parts. But the risk of failure will be significantly reduced if you add Reltio into the migration architecture. It’s all about setting yourself up for victory by doing the hard yards early. That’s why we focus on this preparation. Like how we do for a game. You know the dictum. It’s what you do before the season starts that makes a champion!”
We had a wonderful game that night.