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Nov 12 2019

Infrastructure. Indispensable

The best infrastructure is invisible – but that’s no reason to forget it

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We all depend on infrastructure. It’s not a sexy subject, and it’s hardly ever on the news until it fails. Then commentators and politicians suddenly start talking about how it’s indispensable, while the people who depend on it suffer. As Joni Mitchell might say, ‘You don’t what you’ve got til it’s gone’ (Big Yellow Taxi if you didn’t know already). And that’s the paradox of infrastructure: when it works at its best, it’s invisible to all but the engineers and planners. When it doesn’t work – everything stops.

It’s not surprising that the ‘infra’ in infrastructure comes from the Latin word for ‘beneath’ which is why it’s so easy to take it for granted. But when things stop in business that’s bad news for all stakeholders. So, what I want to talk about in this blog, and two subsequent ones, is the importance of seeing your digital infrastructure as a dynamic, ongoing process of change, improvement, and evolution.

We need to focus on the digital infrastructures which support retail operations, factories, and transport networks in the same way as the (slightly more visible) physical infrastructures which underpin them in the real world.

And that’s where SAP’s S/4HANA comes in. It’s the next logical step in the progression of any enterprise’s digital infrastructure. It’s not an arbitrary change. It’s not just another upgrade. It is a step forward in the evolution of the digital infrastructure which underpins our modern world.

 

Migrate to achieve constant sustainability

It’s important to embrace the migration to S/4HANA as a positive step toward a sustainable infrastructure. I stress that to customers because there is always a temptation to see SAP’s move as just an upgrade – and a forced one at that. It is not.

It’s an opportunity to improve the sustainability of your digital infrastructure and to embrace new technologies from in-memory computing to cloud. More importantly, it provides you with the flexibility you need to configure your infrastructure in ways which suit your specific need: for instance, you can achieve hyper-convergence through SAP environments to balance traditional IT with leverage of the power of cloud computing.

Yes, it is possible to have the best of both worlds. That’s why S/4HANA is so important. It also means you can cut complexity and achieve a more seamless environment free from siloed departments and functions which can make your enterprise less agile. And agility is key in a world of disruption. But you know that. It’s something you’re being told all the time. The point is act at a deep level within and across your organization to avoid what I might call ‘infrastructural sclerosis.’

 

Let’s be obvious

I’ve been talking to customers across three sectors recently; manufacturing, retail, and transport. What I’m hearing is a desire to ‘tell it as it is’ – to recognize that talking about infrastructure is not only necessary, but it’s a constant need. It should be front and center of business discussions about the present and the future – especially the future.

Each sector has seen massive change over the last two decades in terms of the markets they serve and the way in which they interact with customers. Digital has changed the way just about everything is purchased. In manufacturing, customers want to be able to buy faster, in smaller lot sizes, and to be able to tailor products almost instantly. That’s meant adding a digital layer to already automated production lines and changing the way the factory floor works and interacts with supply chains - in and out pf the factory.

In retail, disruption has been enormous. Physical stores have suffered a huge decline, but the demand for in-person shopping has not. The creation of a more seamless online and offline retail experience which is frictionless and efficient is vital as margins plummet and competition for consumers increases.

In transport, the need to reflect the changing demands of passengers – who are, after all retail consumers too – is vital. Again, the offline world has to be integrated into the online world where ticketing is easy, and passengers can use their devices to enjoy a truly connected and seamless journey from, for instance, a taxi to a bus, a local train to a long-distance one, with maybe a plane in between.

So, let’s be obvious: it ALL needs infrastructure. Physical and digital. That’s why it’s indispensable. My argument is, see SAP’s S/4HANA in the same light as a thousand miles of rail, or a network of 200 stores, or factories large and small distributed across multiple territories. They all must be joined up. Supply chains need to be seamless and responsive.

So, this is not migration for the sake of migration: it’s an intelligent upgrade of a vital element in your core infrastructure and should be approached in the same way.

Find out more about how can be intelligent, together and make the most if the S/4HANA opportunity – we have specific examples here.

Part 2 of this blog will be available soon.

 

Susanne Brügelmann

 

About the Author:

Susanne Brügelmann
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Global Marketing – Susanne is responsible for Product Marketing of Fujitsu's SAP Infrastructure Portfolio globally. Her background includes localization,...

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