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How CPGs Can Simplify and Modernize Complex SAP Environments

Like many organizations, SAP-centric enterprises are faced with having to modernize their systems. Modernization, or digital transformation, includes migrating a company’s technology systems—for ordering supplies, managing inventory, servicing customers, etc.—to the cloud, and making them accessible from anywhere. Modernization provides benefits such as enhanced productivity and operational efficiency. In addition, the total cost of operations is lowered thanks to a more streamlined, cloud-based architecture.

But large enterprises with enterprise resource planning (ERP) environments, such as SAP, tend to rely on custom code to support their unique business processes and integrations. In fact, Pillir and the American SAP User Group (ASUG) recently conducted a survey of more than 100 SAP users that showed that 91% of respondents were dependent on custom code. These ERP systems support accounting, customer records management (CRM), accounting tasks, manufacturing, logistics, inventory management, and ordering processes—all mission-critical disciplines. These business processes have been designed and redesigned many times, resulting in complex IT environments. The ASUG survey also found that 45% of these custom applications had been designed at least six years previously. This means that, for almost half of the SAP-centric companies out there, their most valuable custom SAP code was originally developed six or more years ago, thereby providing ample time for these applications to be upgraded, patched, and redesigned as these businesses evolved. In many cases, there is little documentation of the changes, which makes modernization more difficult to achieve.

Furthermore, many of these ERP environments have been programmed in legacy languages, such as Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) for SAP and PL/SQL for Oracle. These require high-level developer skills to maintain, change, or upgrade. They also require significant developer resources, which can be challenging to find.

Many SAP enterprises want to update to the newer SAP S/4HANA product, but this move would require them to upgrade their systems all at once, which can be risky, expensive, and time consuming. This is why the 2021 ASUG survey reported that only 33% of SAP companies have migrated to SAP S/4HANA.

Low-code Integration: Simplifying Complex SAP Environments

For SAP-centric companies that choose to modernize, a critical decision is finding a way to maintain the business logic built into their original systems, thereby resulting in a cleaner ERP core that is easier to upgrade and maintain. An effective way to achieve this is to opt for a rapid yet cost-effective deployment of low-code application updates, which can significantly accelerate ERP modernization without affecting the all-important SAP core.

AWS Partner Pillir’s low-code/no-code, rapid application development platform helps enterprises migrate their business processes to the cloud by automatically converting customized code based on ABAP and creating cloud-native applications. This cuts away a huge chunk of the time and labor involved in stripping down environments and redesigning systems, all while keeping the business logic built over the years. Pillir’s EdgeReady Cloud lets companies convert their business processes to cloud-ready versions in days or even hours, not months or years.

Simplifying Business Processes in Complex IT Environments

Pillir’s low-code solution for ERP environments is proving to be a game changer in use case scenarios from household-name brands and companies that supply in-demand products worldwide. Let’s consider a few ways that Pillir’s rapid application development platform has helped these companies successfully utilize low-code/no-code for their cloud migrations.

Delivering Customer Success

Brown-Forman sees 30% less technical debt and lower TCO

Founded in 1870, Brown-Forman produces American alcohol brands, including Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Tequila Herradura, and America’s first bottled bourbon, Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

With 4,500 employees worldwide and 25 brands in more than 170 countries, Brown-Forman needed to evolve its workflows to better support its global presence and maintain its continued growth rates. Its SAP ERP challenges included offline/online connectivity issues, inventory issues, and beleaguered manual processes that created delays. Their legacy platform was 18 years old.

Brown Forman needed to:

  • Modernize and future-proof its existing, robust SAP core, which required low maintenance as well as adaptable hardware and handheld computer equipment updates.
  • Implement a streamlined solution that accommodated in-house maintenance without heavy coding.
  • Digitize its manual and paper processes for inventory management and logging, even when connectivity is down for several hours.
  • Lower its total ownership cost.

Using Pillir’s platform, 15 low-code, cloud-based applications were created that integrated with their SAP ERP processes and complex IT landscape. These applications addressed areas such as inventory location management, log procurement, shipping, and more. The EdgeReady Cloud platform was able to recreate these applications with little-to-no coding and make them accessible both on and offline. Improvements included flexible, offline capabilities and seamless hardware compatibility.

Brown-Forman gained a clean SAP core by reducing legacy ABAP code, thereby making it easier to build and maintain current and future apps and upgrades. Operations and inventory management also improved, as did location tracking, log procurement, and shipping processes. Pillir was able to lower TCO for Brown Forman by 30%, thereby relieving the technical debt associated with its older applications.

Wine Warehouse streamlines processes and increased efficiency

Wine Warehouse is a California-based wholesale distributor of fine wine, beer, and spirits. The company faced challenges with their SAP ERP platform, which combined finances, order entry systems, and the management of stock, shipping, sales orders, and invoicing processes. SAP helped to facilitate these processes, but due to large warehouses with limited connectivity and driver routes across California, a percentage of their processes remained paper-bound and manual.

These speed bumps reduced real-time insights into inventory and limited their capacity to efficiently receive materials and move products out the door. For example, Wine Warehouse printed the physical bin locations of products using an SAP application, then physically walked that paper to the warehouses and distributed them to pickers, who would then organize materials for stocking prior to delivery. It was a long process and a drain on resources. Similarly, keg returns tracked in SAP were not well-organized due to deliveries frequently occurring in locations with less than reliable connectivity. This delayed the accounting process and negatively impacted customer satisfaction.

Wine Warehouse needed to:

  • Resolve delays caused by manual processes and connectivity issues.
  • Streamline operations across finance, order entry, stock management, shipping, sales orders, and invoicing.
  • Modernize outbound deliveries to customers and inbound deliveries from vendors.

Using Pillir’s low-code/no-code platform, they modernized the company’s existing customized SAP ERP code. They created a customized app to track assets in real time, which is accessible on and offline, while still providing the full user experience and supporting the business logic behind it. Creating the solution required little programming skills and no additional infrastructure or operational overhead.

The results included streamlined processes as well as improved ongoing inventory visibility, regardless of connectivity conditions. Keg delivery and receipt processes have been automated, thereby reducing paperwork, speeding delivery, and enhancing inbound and outbound inventory and product traffic.

Overhaul Legacy Systems with Pillir

Pillir’s low-code, cloud-based platform helps SAP-centric companies overhaul their legacy ERP applications, creating bespoke, cloud-based versions that address their individual needs, even in a variety of connectivity-challenged environments.

By turning to low-code, rapid development, the most difficult part of the digital transformation process is automated. This lets businesses redesign their systems without advanced integration skills.

Moreover, using Pillir’s solution lets companies automatically streamline and digitize their existing business processes while limiting the need for change control. All of this can be done in less time, with far less risk, and at a much lower cost.

Originally publish in AWS Blog, read more.

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