May 25, 2017

Understanding the Value in SAP Content Management

7 minute read
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Last week, we discussed the importance of enterprise content management (ECM) for unstructured SAP data, and compared how the project startup and procurement stages of such a project tend to play out between traditional and Microsoft-based systems.

The whole point of this exercise is to establish what kind of value and organization can expect, and when the organization can expect it. As established in the prior post, Office 365 and a third-party addon beat legacy platforms by over a million dollars (and save months of planning) before implementation even begins. But what comes next?

To answer that question fully, we must explore how we are defining time to value. Specifically, what value are we measuring against?

Time to what value?

Does the clock start when the implementation begins, or earlier? When the solution is acquired, or when the vendor is selected? At the beginning of vendor evaluations, or way back when the need is identified?

We also need to define when the clock stops. Does it stop when the first live transaction goes through the system? At the completion of a pilot? When the first department is on-boarded? When a solution is deployed enterprise wide (if that is the intent)? Or does it stop when some measure of ROI or internal rate of return is met?

Starting with time, there are really four key milestones we might consider. The first two set aside – or are independent of – cost, while the latter two focus on time and value relative to cost.

  • Time to deploy: This is measured from the time the need is identified to the first live transaction in the production system.
  • Time to tangible business value: This would align with the initial project completion including the onboarding of the first department or solution user group and decommissioning of any associated legacy systems.
  • Time to break even: Very simply, when does the benefit, tangible or intangible, exceed the total investment to date?
  • Time to expected benefits: This is when all the expected benefits of the initiative are realized or minimally, when the Internal Rate of Return reaches the expectations set when the project was approved.

When considering the value of a mission-critical system, all these milestones must be kept in mind, and should be examined.

Now, let’s look at the remaining ECM implementation stages, and see how an Office 365-based solution compares.

Implementation

Once procurement has acquired all the relevant licensing, the actual implementation begins. It can include planning (if not done in previous phases), design, provisioning, installation, development, integration, testing, and production roll-out.

Time: Depending on the scope of the project and strategy, this can range from months to years. Companies must adopt a strategy that delivers value iteratively to maintain continued investment.

Costs: Cost will largely be dependent on the scope of initiative. Traditional ECM projects can be expensive, depending on the availability of skilled resources and the overall scope of the project.

Comparison

Traditional ECM: Traditional ECM solution implementations suffer from a variety of factors that extend timelines and cost. These include

  • Hardware and software procurement and provisioning to support the platform
  • A lack of knowledgeable best practices and communites in the organization
  • A lack of knowledgeable consultants and implementation teams
  • Having to make decisions without understanding the knock-on effects of those decisions, leading to potential re-work.

Implementations typically run in the millions in the first year.

SharePoint/Office 365 + Add-In Product: Your SharePoint solution for can be extended to support SAP content in as little as 6-12 weeks. Leveraging SharePoint/Office 365 drastically reduces time and cost associated with implementation by :

  • Leveraging your existing SharePoint infrastructure: on premise, cloud, or hybrid
  • Leveraging your existing SharePoint expertise
  • Leveraging your existing SharePoint extensions/applications
  • Leveraging an abundance of knowledgeable consultants on the Microsoft stack

Training

Now that the systems are in place, training begins. This includes training the system administrators and implementors, as well as the business owners and end users.

Time: Training impacts timing in a few main areas. Implementors and administrators will need to have the knowledge to implement the systems that will impact the overall time to deploy, and end users will need training impacting the time to tangible business value.

Costs: Costs associated with training for a new platform can be quite high for everyone involved in the project.

Comparison

Traditional ECM: Again, traditional ECM platforms require specialized knowledge from both administrators and users. Looking at a leading SAP ECM vendor’s training catalog, there are 14 courses for SAP ECM adminstrators, totalling 80 days of training that should be completed to compentently implement and administer the solution. This doesn’t include training the end users on how to actually use the new platform.

SharePoint/Office 365 + Add-In Product: There is no additional training required for administrators to add SAP content into their SAP strategy. Existing SAP and SharePoint administrative resource can learn all they need to know about installing and configuring the solution via a hands-on implementation methodology. Both SAP and SharePoint users continue to use the standard capabilities of each platform to access the content, eliminating change management challenges.

Hardware & Related Software

But there’s another cost we’ve not yet account for. Implementing a new ECM platform can require quite a bit of investment on top of what is procured from the ECM vendor. Development, test, QA, and production environments all require hardware, operating systems, databases, monitoring tools, as well as redundancy and backup strategies.

Time: Procuring and provisioning additional hardware and software has the strong potential to delay projects. Not always because of the availability of the products, but often due to the bandwidth of those responsible for approving and provisioning these new, complex environments.

Costs: While in the relative scale of things servers and storage are coming down in price, some database technologies are becoming more expensive.

Traditional ECM : A new ECM platform is likely to require new, high end application servers, indexing servers, databases, archiving servers, storage management, and new redundancy and back-up strategies.

SharePoint/Office 365 + Add-In Product: These solutions can be installed entirely on your existing infrastructure.

Are you prepared for the “death of ECM?”

Even discounting the obvious and extensive cost and time benefits of a cloud-based platform we’ve just listed, your plans should be future-proof.  Is it truly feasible to trust a traditional ECM system to be there for your content as long as it may need to live?

With Gartner now declaring ECM dead, is it not wiser to choose a solution that is built to serve your content, your users, and your processes, instead of one built to serve the needs of the technology? Through this lens, these cost and time benefits are just a cherry on top of the obvious decision.

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