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Make SAP Content Actionable Across Your Organization

There are a couple avenues companies can pursue when considering an enterprise content management (ECM) strategy for content tied to SAP processes.

IT is likely to suggest archiving content as the SAP database fills up, and there are several reasons that this may appear to be a good idea. First and foremost, it is cost-effective. Regularly offloading unstructured data is necessary to the long-term health of the databases (and is even more urgent when it comes to HANA), and archiving is a supported and practical approach with limited upkeep and maintenance burden on the SAP team.

But archiving solutions serve only one constituency: IT.  Archiving solutions helps keep line of business applications from getting too bloated, thus reducing performance.  However, archiving provides no business value to the organization.  Better information management, wider access and adoption, expanded application possibilities and better integration to other enterprise applications drive more value than arciving.

Enterprise content, and the information it contains, is one of the most valuable assets your business controls. But without access, that information serves no ongoing purpose.

Legacy ECMs: Benefits and Costs

Many larger organizations recognize archiving as an inherently limited approach, and are led to believe that the answer lies in large proprietary platforms such as those of OpenText or Documentum. Like SAP, these are specialized systems that require lengthy deployments, specialized knowledge, and intense change management to achieve success.

They also come at great cost, with total costs running at roughly the same rate per GB as HANA.

What organizations are left with, then, is a very risky proposition: do we save the money at the cost of accessibility, or do we pay dearly (possibly >$4M in the first year alone) for a solution whose implementation is fraught with pitfalls and hidden costs?

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SAP ECM in the Microsoft Ecosystem

But this becomes a false dilemma once you take a full account of the available solutions. Archaic, bloated platforms aren’t the only answer to a lack of access: what about the most popular content management and collaboration platform in the world?

The Microsoft ecosystem is built to support extendibility through third party addons, offers unmatched scalability (up to 12.5 exabytes (EB) on a single tenant), and a familiar interface along with a bevy of available developmental resources.

Defining Costs in an ECM deployment

Gartner laid out the types of costs involved in ECM projects in their research note Actively Manage your ECM Portfolio, Gartner, December 15, 2014. In their paper, they provide the following categories of costs, which add up to over $4M in the first year:

 

Below, we’ll examine how a solution built using Microsoft SharePoint and Gimmal Workplace for SAP can help an organization save over a million dollars in just the first two stages—BEFORE implementation even begins.

Project Start-up

The project start-up phase is typically championed by the business organization (or the designated business owner) who is requesting a solution to fulfill a business need and/or achieve certain objectives. The goal of the phase is typically to gather requirements, perform preliminary analysis of potential solutions, rough cost estimates,  cost benefit analysis, develop a business case, and obtain sponsorship.

Time: The challenge in this phase is typically that the preliminary cost estimates of a legacy ECM platform far outweigh the benefits to the particular business group seeking improved content-centric processes. This presents a significant barrier to entry for the ECM project, and creates a rather long period (sometimes years), of “selling” the concept to other groups to build enough consensus to justify the investment.

Costs: Costs at this stage are predominately internal, with potentially some consulting costs. However, these upfront costs alone can exceed the entire cost of a SharePoint/Office 365 Add-on strategy.

Comparison

Traditional ECM: Gartner estimates this phase to cost $300,000. Although they don’t provide a time estimate, this phase could last anywhere from several months to years depending on the organization’s readiness to adopt ECM principles.

SharePoint/Office 365 + Add-In Product: Because this strategy is an add-on to a company’s existing technology stack, a proof of concept can typically be undertaken for $10-20,000 in only a few weeks.

Procurement

Procurement is a high-risk stage of the ECM project. It largely consists of negotiations between the business sponsor, IT, finance, the software vendor, and a systems integrator.

Time: This can take months, if not longer. The focus is usually narrowing in on the requirements, which requires quite a bit of education on the customer’s part if they are to effectively dissect the proposed functionality against the requirements.

Costs: By far one of the largest costs is the license and ongoing maintenance. While ECM vendors may paint a large vision, companies must also take care to avoid large future licensing costs for add-ons.

Comparison

Traditional ECM : ECM vendors will present a broad “we can do it all” message to the business, but when building the Bill of Materials, will wind up identifying dozens of necessary products and a large price tag that the business will need to evaluate. Scope reductions are common in this scenario, but that only kicks the cost down the road: the ECM vendor is typically the only provider of these add-on capabilities. This locks the customer into the platform and proprietary extensions and puts them in a poor negotiating position.

SharePoint/Office 365 + Add-In Product: Because this solution is built on native SharePoint/Office 365, the upfront investment and procurement time is much less. In addition, the solution can be extended via the vast ecosystem of Microsoft partners and products, allowing procurement to competitively source best-of-breed extensions from the market as opposed to being locked into a single ECM vendor.

But what about the rest?

All told, a strategy built on Office 365 can save an organization between 84 and 96% over a traditional ECM solution. Next week, we’ll discuss how this strategy allows you to sidestep the implementation frustrations that are so common among alternative solutions.

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By Chris Vassalotti

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