Based on our own experience with most of our customers that own SAP, as well as talking to many others, it seems that the IT folks are initially rather cautious when it comes to integration of Best-of-Breed supply chain planning systems to SAP-R3®, or any other ERP system for that matter.
It may come as a surprise that there are only about 15 core data tables used in supply chain planning systems, and only some of these data will have to come from transactional-based ERP systems, whether its SAP-R3, ORACLE®, QAD®, or any other. So the hard part is not the actual integration to these ERP systems, but making sure the incoming data from them is accurate. In fact, moving data in-and-out of brand-name ERP systems is through fully standardized mechanisms or Adaptors, especially with SAP.
On that note, there is a well-defined architecture to move data around with SAP. It is broken into 3 main parts: 1) SAP’s ERP Interface, 2) An API and Middleware adaptor, and 3) The Supply Chain Planning Master Data Management module. The set up is straightforward:
SAP’s Production Interface serves three functions; it moves static data outbound from SAP, it receives static data inbound to SAP, and it moves transactional data both in and out of SAP.
The planning API is broken into 2 functional areas. The first functional area deals with the movement of static model data such as: product, BOM, or Route information to the applications and results data such as Forecast, Production Plan from the supply chain applications to SAP, and the second area with real-time transactional data. The final process is used to transform the customer’s data into the form needed for the planning modules. This is accomplished through the Master Data Management layer.
Once you peel back the integration hype (or sheer panic in some cases), you will see that that all supply chain planning systems bolt-on to SAP in the same way and just as easily—whether its by a third-party or SAP, itself. This makes it almost effortless to tap into the standard interfaces and have ready-to-go integration available. What this means is that the actual movement and transformation of the data is not going to be the risky part of a supply chain planning project—so there is no need to panic.
The focus for managing risk should be on the process and where the data has originated instead, i.e. SAP’s core transactions. Any good planning system will provide a strong Master Data Management module of its own to help you clean and efficiently structure the small amounts of data that are coming from your transactional systems or any other sources.
Feel free to comment below on how your experience has been when it comes to integrating planning data to SAP.
For more information on this topic read the paper: Integrating Planning Data Is Not That Scary!