SAP announced earlier this year that they were developing a standard SAP ERP & Concur integration solution that would be released Q2 for ‘early adopters’ and Q3 for general availability. For a lot of people this resulted in a resounding ‘Hurrah, it’s about time’. Let’s take a look at what this means for your Concur Travel & Expense Management solution within the SAP landscape.
Until now one of the concerns for SAP customers, either using Concur or thinking about using it, was how it would integrate with their backend ERP system, how complex that integration would be, what tools and skillsets they would need and if it fitted into their current integration strategy? Of course the answers to all of these questions are specific to individual customers based on their environment. Just to clarify: SAP and Concur integration has always been possible and for many clients works very well. The main options that currently exist are:
- Integration using DELL BOOMI Financial Connector
- Custom integration via SAP PI/PO or any other middleware application
So what is this new integration?
In the same vein as SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer and the now obsolete SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense, SAP will provide add-ons to be implemented into your SAP ERP system that will contain all the objects necessary to implement integration. SAP will provide 2 new add-ons to be implemented into your SAP ERP system that will contain all the objects necessary to implement the integration. These are:
- CTE_HCM 100 – ERP HCM Integration
- CTE_FIN 100 – ERP Financial Integration
Like with any SAP add-on you will need to ensure that any system upgrades (if required) are performed and that a regular maintenance plan is developed in order to keep in line with changes – remember Concur is a cloud system that has centrally managed releases.
How will it work?
The add-ons will allow data to flow between SAP ERP and Concur for the main master data objects and transactional data objects related to Travel and Expense as shown in the diagram below:
This is the typical layout of objects when integrating with Concur. The following master data feeds are exported from SAP ERP and imported into Concur:
- Employee Master Data
- Cost Objects (Cost Centers, Internal Orders, WBS’s, etc…)
This master data will allow users to be created in Concur that reference the SAP ERP Employee master data. The cost objects are needed in order to allow the users to link their expense in Concur to the correct SAP cost object i.e. WBS Element.
The transactional data feeds work as follows: Financial postings are exported from Concur and imported into SAP but in this case the integration will be bi-directional as confirmations and status changes are sent back from SAP to Concur i.e. when an expense is paid. This accommodates for the scenario where an expense is submitted, then approved and is then ready to be processed as a financial posting in order for the employee to get reimbursed.
How will the integration be set up?
As I mentioned this is currently being implemented with ‘early adopters’ whilst SAP make refinements before releasing but the process will follow these 5 general steps:
- Set up any Concur prerequisites to enable integration
- Download and install the SAP ERP add-ons
- Run each SAP add-on’s supplied integration set up programs, including any additional configuration steps as specified by the SAP add-on documentation
- Ensure the field mappings are consistent
- Set the data integration process
Does it remove the need for middleware?
Yes it can, but ultimately it also depends on your integration strategy. Some clients I’ve worked with have a policy that any external traffic must pass through SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration (SAP PO) so in a case like this one would still need some integration work. This would simply be to use SAP PO as a proxy to pass the messages to and from Concur without the need for any specific mapping or complex development.
So it looks like one of the fruits of SAP’s acquisition of Concur is bearing fruit which I for one think is a great step in the right direction. Does this mean that integration will now be worry free? Ideally yes, but if not it should be more ‘standard’. Of course there will have to be functional and technical due diligence to ensure that if your system is customised it will be supported by the SAP interfaces. If it isn’t going to be supported then decisions need to be made on whether to revert to standard, enhance or implement on of the current existing options like a custom PI/PO interface. Currently the employee replication is only supported with SAP HCM and not with Success Factors Employee Central.
For me personally having used the SAP Add-on integration approach with SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense and SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this and seeing how the implementation process works in reality and how it helps customers address their integration issues.