Why SAP ERP And Office 365 Integration Will Help You Succeed In Today's Digital World
By Vikram Chalana, CTO, Winshuttle
Incorporate Data Integration Tools in Your Cloud Based Strategy to Ensure Business Processes Keep Pace
With Microsoft Office 365 fast becoming the cloud-based productivity suite of choice, and SAP ERP widely accepted as the key system of record–integration between the two platforms is critical in today’s cloud-based marketplace.
The Microsoft Office suite has long been the premier system of engagement for nearly everyone throughout the enterprise. Whether it’s Outlook for email, Excel for data processing, or SharePoint for collaboration–Office has been the de-facto application of choice. Office 365 changed the game with cloud-based deployment of all Office tools. Besides faster deployment and rapid updatability, another big advantage to cloud solutions like Office 365 is that they provide easy collaboration with external parties, like customers and suppliers.
While there are many benefits, there are some challenges that come with a cloud-based system, including pulling and pushing data from an on-premise enterprise system like SAP ERP. On-premise SharePoint instances are often used to display on and collaborate with data that is pulled from and pushed back to ERP systems. However, when SharePoint is hosted in the cloud, as in Office 365, accessing on-premise systems like SAP ERP becomes much more difficult.
ERP systems like SAP are used for most key business processes in the company–from accounts payable to employee on-boarding and new product introductions. Companies often implement ERP systems for two reasons: they’re looking for real-time visibility over the entire business from one application or they’re interested in improving efficiency through business process integration and best-practice adoption. Because using ERP systems is complex, they’re only used and deployed by a small percentage of employees in the company. Most business processes that are supported by ERP are enterprise-wide so there is a growing need to front-end ERP systems with commonly-used systems of engagement like Office 365.
Business Processes That Can Benefit from a Cloud Based System of Engagement
There are several ERP-centric business processes that can benefit from a cloud-based platform like Office 365. Here are a few examples:
Most business processes that are supported by ERP are enterprise-wide so there is a growing need to front-end ERP systems with commonly-used systems of engagement like Office 365
• New Product Introduction (NPI): When a new product (or product family) is setup for introduction in the ERP system, many stakeholders need to collaborate and provide information about that product.The marketing team might need to provide product descriptions, accounting enters the cost and billing information, and engineering weighs in on product specifications. All of this data needs to be collected in a timely and organized way and validated against reference data and rules in your company before it’s created in SAP. Office 365 components such as Excel, SharePoint, and Outlook are often the most commonly used tools for this NPI data collection process.
• Customer On-boarding: Adding a new customer to your system is usually a collaborative effort between sales, accounting, and customer service. There are multiple steps that need to happen before you can get the new customer in SAP such as address verification and credit checks, or gathering other critical information directly from the customer. Utilizing SharePoint online here can greatly increase your process efficiency.
• Procure-to-Pay: The procure-to-pay process (a combination of procurement and accounts payable) can be implemented very effectively in ERP systems. There are many steps in this process that can benefit from better systems of engagement such as Excel, SharePoint, and Outlook. If you work with companies that don’t have a supplier portal enabled, invoice documents are often sent in Excel or PDF files via email. This is another opportunity where the cloud-based collaborative features of Office 365 can add a lot of value.
Choosing the Right Integration Solution
Software that provides integration between Office 365 and SAP needs to have several key capabilities that are shown in the figure below. You need to be able to upload and download ERP data to be available in Excel or SharePoint. You also might need Forms & Workflow capabilities that allow Office 365 users to work with SAP business processes. And you need to ensure all interactions between Office 365 and SAP ERP follow standard IT governance and security standards.
SAP NetWeaver Gateway offers OData based web-services that enable you to build connectivity between Excel or SharePoint and SAP ERP. It also offers security and governance capabilities, but requires app development resources in your organization to create custom apps to upload and download data between SAP ERP and Office 365.
Winshuttle software provides seamless integration between Microsoft Office 365 and SAP ERP. Its SAP data management platform offers a very easy way to upload and download data between Excel and SAP ERP, including S/4 HANA. It provides compelling forms and workflow solutions including Excel workflow capabilities, as well as very thorough governance and security features.
In today’s digital world, your data needs to be treated as a strategic asset. Your key business processes are implemented in your SAP ERP system where most critical enterprise data is created or consumed. Empowering more users to utilize these key business processes ensures that people close to the data are the ones responsible for contributing the data. Making Office 365 the front-end for your SAP ERP business processes promises huge benefits to your enterprise including improved data quality, increased user productivity, and empowered business teams.
Winshuttle software simplifies SAP ERP data management by automating data collection, validation and movement, allowing business users to work directly from familiar interfaces like Excel and SharePoint, reducing the reliance on IT while maintaining governance and security.