Integrating GIS to SAP has many advantages to an organization’s GIS team, its SAP user base and the enterprise bottom line. Defining the expected benefits in your organization and understanding the requirements of integrating to SAP are the first keys to a successful integration.
The first thing to consider for GIS teams looking at integration is the scale at which SAP is deployed. SAP applications typically touch ten times more users in an organization than a GIS. This presents an incredible opportunity to bring geospatial insight to the organization as a whole. It also means that integrations frequently have direct visibility to the CIO and will require robust business case analysis and push your GIS to scale in new ways. The ArcGIS Platform is capable of this scale, but needs to be integrated and configured professionally to ensure success.
Framing the Business Problems & Solutions
Locana recommends outlining a formal framework to identify and prioritize the desired outcomes from integration. GIS users inevitably find one set of benefits while SAP users see others. Objectively characterizing and prioritizing these benefits will help ensure the integration program maintains support from both groups and from the CIO. Be sure to document and quantify the impact each benefit has on the business – process efficiency, cost avoidance (staff time, rework, penalties associated with errors, regulatory fines), and revenue increases. These will vary from organization to organization. If you need help, hire a firm like Locana with experience integrating SAP and GIS and building business cases at the enterprise level.
Non-integration Has a Cost Too
As you review how to achieve the benefits you’re looking for, don’t neglect documentation of the current-state risks associated with not having your SAP and GIS data tightly integrated. For example, many organizations are running asset work order systems separately from their GIS systems which leads to lags in availability of data in one system while the other is more current. This can result in unexpected conditions for field crews, inability to deal effectively with emergencies and improper system planning, management and utilization. Many of the common recurring costs of non-integrated systems can be estimated by reviewing financial records of recent year’s remediation activities like emergency actions, added scheduling, write offs, added shifts and labor, re-planning, and additional service coverage needs. In industries like utilities and oil & gas, unsynchronized asset data, workplace safety data, ecological, environmental, and maintenance data also presents serious risk of very large, unplanned contractual, legal, and regulatory costs.
Identify What to Integrate
With desired benefits in-hand, get specific about how you’ll achieve them. Identify and document gaps in your existing business and technical processes that need to be overcome. For example, saving staff time or reducing errors may require reducing repetitive tasks or duplicate entry. Look at places where data are input into SAP systems for asset work order management and then again into a separate GIS specifying where the work was performed. Find the specific inefficiencies in your processes related to the continuity between processes, redundancies, the data synchronization issues between systems, and the tools currently utilized to carry out work.
Getting the Numbers
Once you have the benefits identified and an idea of what needs to change/integrate to achieve them, you’re ready to pull numbers together. Accounting leaders and division leaders are always interested in hearing about ways to cut down unplanned costs and can help you define those costs. Make realistic assumptions about what percentage of each type of unplanned cost you might be able to save with your planned integration. Ask your executive sponsor for help getting an estimate of the value of an x% reduction in the probability of specific types of contractual, legal or regulatory failures as each company manages these differently. Finally, get a qualified SAP-GIS integrator like Locana to provide an estimate of the cost of the integration activities you’ve identified.
Once you’ve built a solid business case and defined the level of integration needed, you’ll want to validate cost-benefits and improvement targets. You’ll also need to develop technical and business road-maps to delivering the SAP-GIS integration infrastructure and the business processes and applications that let your user base realize the benefits of the integration. A future blog post will address those issues specifically.