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A Long-Standing Partnership
SAP and Open Text have announced a further expansion of their successful strategic relationship. SAP will resell Open Text Extended ECM for SAP under the somewhat lengthy name "SAP Extended Enterprise Content Management (SAP Extended ECM) by Open Text."
Before the recent announcement, SAP was already reselling four Open Text products (Archiving, Document Access and Invoice Management and OCR solutions). While the earlier products sold through the partnership were point solutions, SAP Extended ECM is an entry point for Open Text's entire platform of content management capabilities. The new agreement will enable SAP to provide integration of the ECM platform into the SAP ERP system. In this way, SAP is following the path that ECM itself has taken, evolving from a best-of-breed approach, via an ECM suite approach to a business-process-centric ECM approach today.
The integration has been jointly developed by SAP and Open Text and is addressing seven areas: content access, collaboration, workflow, archiving, record management, content capture, and document management.
Why Does Unstructured Information Matter to SAP?
SAP's successful history makes strong use of data that supports transactions. This structured data fits neatly into fields in columns and rows in relational database tables. However, this transaction data supports business processes, and these processes often create and involve unstructured content.
It is generally accepted by information professionals that around 80% of the content in a typical organization is unstructured rather than structured. The term "unstructured" refers to content types such as documents, spreadsheets, presentation slide decks, emails, faxes, telephone records, scanned files of invoices, sales support information, rich media such as photos and video for advertising, among others.
Unstructured content can become part of a business process in a number of ways. Finance, accounting, and HR departments all need supporting documentation to manage the processes by which an organization is run. Taking the sales process as an example, many unstructured content types are involved. The customer will request a proposal by email or over the phone, the sales person then sends the proposal (word document, spreadsheet, or presentation) by email, and there will be probably several modifications until the customer finally accepts the proposal. Most of this communication is done by email and sending documents, spreadsheets, and presentations around, which are all unstructured content.
Apart from status updates, information will only be entered into the ERP system when the deal is agreed.
This highlights the importance of email and other unstructured content in every business process.
Integrating ECM with SAP's ERP will extend the ability of SAP's ERP customers to take better control of the information in their organizations and accelerate the business decision-making process. Since both structured and unstructured content types can be managed in a common environment, users will see good benefits from the transparency between the ECM and the classical SAP applications. Established business processes don't need to be changed or re-implemented, and training requirements and support costs reduce.
Where Will SAP Start?
IDC expects that SAP's primary focus for this integration will be on a set of content rich business processes, such as:
- Project management and professional services. Project management and professional services involve a considerable number of unstructured documents, such as project plans, project documentation, schedules, work plans, methodologies, etc.
- Quality management. Quality management involves a large number of unstructured (mainly text) documents, which have a minimal link to SAP transactions. As proof that the quality management process has taken place, these documents need to be stored safely and long term. They are not traceable and not shared among constituents. Often in manufacturing, it is a key requirement that these documents should be linked to SAP Materials Management.
- Procurement. The procurement process is often not entirely transparent and often vendors have different types of information contained in various systems with no or little visibility.
- Asset management. Asset management is a key discipline for operational efficiency and compliance. Documentation such as repairs and maintenance means that the life cycle of assets can be monitored better, legal risk can be reduced, and maintenance can be organized in a more optimized way.
- Records management. The key motivator for proper records management is compliance with regulatory requirements. Archiving and the ability to securely search and retrieve historic content becomes a business differentiator in certain industries, when less time is required to search archived content. Legal requirements can be fulfilled much more easily.
Storage hierarchies help to save money by using cheaper storage options for only sporadically accessed data or content. Records management in general enables companies to group unstructured and structured content according to business logic instead of by application. For example, all emails, documents, presentations, contracts, and research results can be grouped into a specific folder even though they stem from multiple different applications. This greatly enhances productivity when, for example, a sales person can view and access all documents relating to the customer in one place.
- Archiving. This is where the relationship between SAP and Open Text (IXOS heritage) started and it is still an important element of the collaboration. By using database archiving to archive outdated content off a primary production system, applications can become more efficient and more stable, because they are not clogged up with inactive content. However, database archiving software solves only 20% of the puzzle, and most companies struggle even more with fast-growing and unstable email systems and file shares. By being able not only to archive database content but also documents like emails and files under the same framework with Open Text technology, SAP can offer customers a complete solution and Open Text gets deeper access to SAP's customer base.
In summary, this integration will strengthen both SAP's and Open Text's market position in the businessprocess- centric ECM space. Although the ECM market is another market falling in to the ERP gravity center (like CRM, SCM, and PLM before it) as industry consolidation continues, there is a strong need to include content as part of SAP business processes. IDC believes customers are likely to benefit from this joint approach to structured and unstructured content.
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