Posted by: Dr. Werner Hopf
CIO, IT assets, SAP, Uncategorized
SAP has been at the forefront of ERP providers with its vision for supporting the “real-time enterprise.” For the last several years, the company has consistently been introducing technologies that are steering business strategy in this direction. Data, obviously, is at the core of this vision. More specifically, SAP’s vision is predicated upon helping businesses store, organize and leverage all this data in ways that dramatically enhance understanding, engagement and responsiveness to strategic objectives.
However, the ever-accelerating speed of business and the quest for highly granular data analysis coupled with explosive data growth has created significant performance bottlenecks in the ways that corporations manage and retain documents and data across their extended enterprises.
These bottlenecks can have crippling effects on organizations using SAP ERP applications, especially if the business is also consolidating data management through a third party Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system. With data generated at historic rates and real-time query applications demanding instant accessibility, an ECM-centric approach to data management can drag down business performance.
The reason? ECM’s raison d’etre was to provide secure, long-time storage, image capture and document management. But it wasn’t designed for the ever-increasing data volumes being generated today. The infrastructures of such solutions have continued to expand substantially, increasing maintenance overhead – and support costs – with the addition of a wide range of extended components such as web content management, business process management, workflow design tools, social collaboration and digital asset management, to name a few.
In the drive towards “real-time” operational and competitive responsiveness, core ECM functionality such as managing the content lifecycle from creation to destruction, delivering, preserving and storing data are essential. In many instances, traditional ECM systems are not able to keep pace when it comes to process changes and can actually slow operations. Plus there may be latency or synchronization issues between the ECM and ERP systems. In some cases, they have become all-encompassing and are zapping both administrative and budgetary resources. ECM solutions were developed as generic retention management systems and don’t have any real ability to be fine-tuned to fit customer-specific needs.
It used to be that the more complex a system was the better; today it is simplicity that takes center stage. Companies are now focused on the value of content rather than the technology. And for solutions, they want a short implementation cycle.
Organizations have made a significant investment in ERP offerings and SAP systems, in particular. The ERP has, in essence, become the ‘system of record.’ But now, there are twenty-first century solutions already implemented that take a more efficient approach when it comes to data management designed to fit SAP’s vision.
These low cost and flexible systems enable archiving to meet performance and legal requirements and support a data management strategy. Dolphin’s best practices now include a much lighter weight option. It uses SAP solutions as the application layer and hard disk storage systems for long-term data retention to deliver fast, reliable access to stored content.
Implemented as “stateless” translation software between the SAP solution and long-term storage devices for archived data, data and documents do not have to be maintained on the content management server. Instead, the server maintains only configuration data and optionally cached data of stored documents for performance improvement. Persistent information resides on the storage hardware layer and within the SAP solution. With stateless implementation comes the advantage of existing backup and replication functionality for both the SAP system and storage hardware. Perhaps best of all, this requires no additional configuration.
The result is a content management system that can be implemented faster and administered simply with rapid information retrieval for business purposes, simplified administration and upwards of 95% data compression for economical storage. Another bonus is that implementation can be completed in just a few days.
The vision of “real-time” operational responsiveness is closer than ever before. The challenge is how to achieve it in the face of ever-growing data generation and consumption. The best approach is likely not with software-heavy ECM systems that were constructed to support the data management requirements of the 1990s, but rather, with lightweight, focused components that emphasize both speed and a lower, more attractive total cost of ownership.
What’s your take on the future of this approach? Is it time to sunset ECM?