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Welcome to Part 6 of the SAP’s ‘Integration as a Strategic Imperative’ blog series. In this blog post, we will focus on the concept of Integration and Analytics

This integration blog series takes a hard look at how digital transformation has reinvented the ways that enterprises manage and connect to their data and business processes, searching for ever more value in an economy that requires fast paced intelligent innovation. But raw data is not inherently valuable; its value needs to be extracted and developed into valuable insights. These insights themselves are also of limited value if they are unable to drive real-world action. The most agile companies are the ones that are able quickly identify signals in their ever-increasing mountains of data and respond to these signals with the appropriate action in a timely fashion. But as the amount of data increases and the number of software systems expands, extracting those signals and converting them into value-creating actions is becoming increasingly hard.

Complicating things even more, cloud applications are the primary engines behind the digitalization of the economy. Cloud-based SaaS solutions offer pointed differentiated capabilities that many organizations stitch together to form their end-to-end business processes. This distributed architecture leaves important data scattered across numerous siloed systems, each with their own methods for extracting and interacting with data and business processes. Being able to aggregate information from all these systems and databases is crucial to be able derive the necessary insights to operate your business and respond to your customers and stakeholders. Compounding the complexity is that each of these systems has its own data model, own security model, and exposes the data through differing proprietary and standards-based APIs.

Acquiring data insights that give a complete picture of the overall organization, its operations, and how well the business is running requires accurate, reliable, harmonized data that is free from errors.  Converting these insights into necessary action also requires data veracity, as well as a security and governance model that ensures the correct people are executing the correct tasks.

Agile, intelligent, responsive organizations need to extract value from real-time data stored across numerous cloud and on-premises repositories and turn these insights into actions by creating or executing APIs across a similarly wide range of technology stacks and standards.

Whew! That is a definitely a complicated problem. Let’s take a closer look…

The Strategic Combination of Data Analysis and Integration

Prior to joining SAP in 2015, I worked on no less than two dozen SAP ERP implementations stretching back to SAP R/3 3.0A in 1998, focusing mainly on integration and extension topics. The technical areas I supported was typical WRICEF stuff—Workflow, Reports, Integrations, Conversions, Enhancements, and Forms for those of you lucky enough to have missed this paradigm. One letter notably absent from the WRICEF model is “A” for Analytics.

It used to be that the Venn diagram of data analysis and application integration were two, non-intersecting circles:

Advancements and convergence in technical capabilities between these two seemingly dissimilar areas has given rise to the interesting value proposition of a combined enterprise integration and data analysis platform. This is one reason why having a Chief Integration Officer—someone who can share the full potential of what an integration platform offers at the C-level—is so essential. This is even more relevant for organizations that wish to uncover new markets and new sources of revenue, since untapped data gleaned from a fully integrated and analyzed landscape is key to converting these data insights into actionable business opportunities.

Having holistic integration and data management layers combined with API services on one unified platform delivers agility to support today’s high-volume digitized business processes. What does that look? It starts with a high-performant data store, like SAP HANA, that is able to access raw federated data in real time, store information in a multi-temperate data store, perform data aggregations and calculations on the fly, and most importantly, easily expose cleansed, verified, augmented information as consumable APIs and data models available for applications and analytics alike. From there, data from any source (legacy systems, 3rd party on-premises and cloud applications, etc.) can be connected and made available through easily consumable APIs while minimizing impact on critical business systems.

This approach addresses hybrid landscapes and can be further expanded with purpose-built micro services to deliver custom business logic in an agile and scalable manner.  To borrow an analogy from my colleague Harsh Jegadeesan—these SAP Cloud Platform data, analytics, and integration services act as LEGO blocks, seamlessly interconnecting with each other to provide a unified and secure public cloud experience.

With a flexible analytics tool like SAP Analytics Cloud, organizations can build and embed reports, dashboards, and visuals into any business application and explore business data via live connection to maximize data-driven insights that can lead to immediate in-application actions through the integration of business APIs. With real-time access to data, all information remains within the source system and does not need to undergo the lengthy process of extract, transformation, and loading into a separate database. Central management of the data modeling promotes good security and data governance practices. Inclusion of integration capabilities extends these best-practices to process and application integration making holistic security cheaper to attain and maintain.

A Digital Integration Hub Ecosystem

The SAP Cloud Platform Integration Suite including the Business Technology Platform’s (BTP)data management services from an in-memory data platform like SAP HANA, a microservice runtime provided by SAP Cloud Platform, and real-time data pipelining and machine learning from the BTP’s SAP Data Intelligence provide a connected ecosystem that gives enterprises the capacity to unify, connect, and manage business logic and data—whether on-premises or in the cloud—as well as the analytical insights in the most seamless way possible. An effective digital integration hub like the one described above can help generate successful digital transformations without disrupting any part of the core business while also protecting legacy back-end system from onerous workloads.  With a digital integration hub powered by the SAP Cloud Platform, your APIs can do the work for you.

The digital integration hub brings the concepts of data cleansing, enrichment and modeling to gain analytical insights together plus the power to act on these insights in real-time. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, providing detailed understanding and insight that is just not accessible with one approach operating alone. Like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (chocolate with peanut butter), a digital integration hub, as it pertains to the SAP Cloud Platform and the Business Technology Platform’s data management, analytics capabilities , elevates two amazing things into something even better.

Murphy Oil is one of many SAP customers that was able to realize the benefit of analytics and integration systems talking to one another—accessing data, applying predictive analytics, then turning those insights into direct action. With the SAP Cloud Platform Integration Suite, Murphy Oil is able to run predictive analytics on all the information coming in from their oil fields, including sensors on pumps, for example, which can than alert operators to potential problems, like a significant drop in output on a particular pump, so service can be scheduled preventatively instead of waiting for the pump to fail and losing hours or even days of productive time waiting for maintenance.

Delivering Business Value

As integration, data management, and analytics work together to provide increasingly more complex and granular insights into an organization’s operations, the time between analysis and action grows ever shorter and the reach of integrations grows ever longer. The  benefits of the Chief Integration Officer’s innovations accrue to the end customer in the form of world-class experiences that are expected in today’s digital economy.

With the digital integration hub capabilities of the SAP Cloud Platform seamlessly at work behind the scenes, a Chief Integration Officer is poised to deliver unprecedented business value. Integrating processes and connecting data that will fuel the evolution, innovation, and growth needed to ensure continued business success for decades to come, no matter what the future holds.

Next Steps

Thank you for following along with my colleagues and I as we explored the strategic imperative of integration. If you are not caught up on all 6 blogs that encompass the series,  please be sure to start with the first blog post in this series to orient yourself. And, for more information on the SAP Cloud Platform Integration Suite please reach out to any of us for more information or check out the website.