In this post I will share my key takeaways having been involved in connecting Bluefin Solutions’ SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) system to SAP Cloud for Customer (SAP C4C) using SAP HCI.
What is SAP Hana Cloud Integration (SAP HCI)?
SAP HANA Cloud Integration is a pay-as-you-go subscription based Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS). This is hosted and maintained by SAP and can be used to integrate both SAP and non-SAP On-premise solutions to your SAP Cloud based applications.
Bluefin Solutions uses SAP CRM for account and opportunity management. With the latest innovation being Cloud based, and Bluefin Solutions having a largely mobile workforce, SAP C4C seemed like an ideal solution to meet the current business needs of a growing organisation, which included:
- Increased workforce productivity by enabling employees to quickly access the information they need
- Mobile, tablet and offline capability
- Real-time account management and knowledge sharing
- Sales performance analysis
A decision was made that SAP HCI would be used to integrate Bluefin’s SAP CRM system to SAP C4C, with the ultimate aim of creating a hybrid CRM solution to enable both platforms to be used concurrently with bi-directional data replication.
A number of pre-requisite tasks had to be completed beforehand, such as the updating and configuration of the CRM system to enable inbound and outbound connectivity to SAP C4C. Additionally:
- There was huge amount of bespoke development and configuration that had been deployed into Bluefin’s On-premise SAP CRM system
- Large volumes of data had to be cleansed and migrated
- We were working with a relatively new technology which we’d never used before
Six key takeaways
1) On-premise to Cloud integration using SAP HCI pre-configured integration flow (iFlow) saves time and money
Included in SAP HCI are iFlows that enable you to connect to CRM, ERP and HCM. These are extensible if any bespoke configuration is in either the On-Premise system or SAP C4C. Utilising the standard CRM iFlows allowed us to deploy a number of iFlows almost immediately rather than needing to configure them from scratch. This saved days of resource and the associated cost of using long-term integration experts. The CRM pre-packaged iFlows were used to enable replication of master data i.e. employees and org units along with transactional data i.e. activities.
We had a number of integration flows that required configuration to enable us to replicate the additional data that we stored in SAP CRM. The bespoke configuration built upon the standard integration flow, this retained the included content and mapping, and meant that only the additional data mapping needed configuring.
2) There was minimal upfront cost for the business
SAP HCI runs on a subscription basis and will reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) compared with an on-premises solution that would require installation, licenses, maintenance and monitoring. The hosting and maintenance of SAP HCI is included in the subscription cost.
3) Data entered in the On-premise or Cloud solution was set up to replicate bi-directionally to aid information management, keeping both systems data recent and relevant
This removed the need for double data entry that would occur by only sending data from SAP CRM to SAP C4C or the other direction. Upon initial data-loading, test records were migrated to ensure that SAP C4C was populating the data records as expected. This caused a few teething issues due to the way that the data was stored in the On-premise system and how C4C was expecting data, this resulted in a data quality management exercise. For instance, some Business Partners were categorised with a role that SAP C4C did not accept.
4) Data transformations happened within SAP HCI when the iFlow was deployed
This allowed data as it passed through SAP HCI to achieve target system canonicalization. This saved time and rekeying. For example, some CRM activities had redundant organisation codes attached that needed transforming to match the organisation structure that had been configured in SAP C4C.
5) SAP HCI monitors all data that passes through the system to enable periodic monitoring by the system administrator
This means that errors can be examined, and a resolution suggested. These messages can be filtered by type (completed or failed etc.) or iFlow which saves time looking through a long list of messages to find the ones that are of interest or problematic.
6) SAP HCI can connect to both SAP and non-SAP systems
Where no pre-configured content for these systems exist, a bespoke iFlow could be built. The Eclipse IDE has a software plugin for SAP HCI that allows iFlows to be built which can take advantage of a number of different communication protocols, including SFTP, IDOC, HTTP etc. In addition, a web-based tool is included within SAP HCI that is improving with each release iteration, to create and configure content.
SAP HCI is a maturing technology that will be of interest to businesses looking to move their On-premise infrastructure to the Cloud, or to create a hybrid solution. As expected with a maturing technology, we encountered a number of issues. However, once these were resolved, SAP HCI with its graphical mapping was user friendly and changes could be made easily.
With the pre-configured content, you can connect your systems using the provided standard integration content with much less time and effort than would previously be required.