Plotting the IT Roadmap for ERP
At Syngenta, we have increased our offerings of non-core ERP processes in SaaS cloud solutions, such as Workday for human resources, Ariba for procurement, and GT Nexus for 4PL. This enables our on-premises systems to be more focused on core production and supply (P&S) systems and FI systems. It also reduces the complexity of our internal system architecture while increasing our need for good integration and master data management. More benefits include a reduced need for IT and infrastructure support for our applications, and a move away from traditional perpetual licensing toward straight consumption cost structures.
We are also leveraging our core on-premises offerings of AWS cloud computing and Azure, impacting more cost-efficient and scalable ERP landscapes. This includes our public cloud IaaS offering that provides scalability and elasticity of compute, cost efficiency and agility in system provisioning. It also increases our network bandwidth by decreasing network costs that enables a move into public cloud hosting scenarios. We are also implementing cloud-based data lake technology, which decreases our dependency on proprietary data-warehousing technology that is costly and inflexible, ultimately increasing cross-functional data access and scalable
compute power for advanced analytics and data science. We see us moving away from proprietary and expensive DWs to cloud-based DWs. As such, functional data silos will be broken down, which opens up new possibilities for analytics and digital solutions.
For new digital solutions services and offerings where connectivity into our backend ERP for customers and partners, Syngenta is executing a cloud integration and API platform. By exposing our ERP functionality via API, we are opening up a whole new world of applications. ERP users will not directly access ERP systems anymore, but will consume transactional services via smart, mobile interfaces. New digital offerings for customers are being created on cloud platforms with connectivity into our backend systems, helping to create new business models. Our new mobile applications are being used by customers (i.e., WhatsApp or SMS to validate the origin of chemical products) or growers (i.e., seeds quality management) to extend the reach of our core ERP functionality beyond our own company. This provides increased transparency of business data across the entire food value chain.
In the finance arena at Syngenta, S/4 Hana is helping us rethink our systems landscape. A simpler FI data model in S/4 and the improved speed of the HANA database offers significant improvements for finance functions. This will drive investments into master data and process harmonisation, and in many cases the consolidation of our systems. Reducing complexity in our core systems for data and processes will increase our agility in connecting digital solutions. The overall value proposition of S/4 makes it hard to develop a business case; as such, companies will either only implement technical upgrades when needed or look at a step-wise, longer term transition driven by business needs.
"A simpler FI data model in S/4 and the improved speed of the HANA database offers significant improvements for finance functions"
In order to improve our user experience, Syngenta is using technology like Fiori and low code tools. Our goal here is to improve the user experience for occasional users through simpler user interfaces and easier access to ERP via mobile devices to provide faster and improved processes from order taking to customer service through automation. This is also increasing our efficiency in areas where users utilise more than one system to complete their work.
In conclusion, the trends that we see at Syngenta include:
• ERP systems will become more consolidated and focused around enabling all core ERP transactions at scale and at a high level of integrity (plan, make, sell, finance)
• Non-core processes like HR, procurement will also be fully on standard SaaS solutions
• At the same time, ERP functionality will be much more widely accessible to business partners and customers via API enabled digital solutions and apps
• Cloud computing will replace more traditional on-prem data centres
• In many areas, expensive proprietary software will be replaced by cloud offerings i.e., data warehousing, analytics and data science
• Functional data silos will be brought together, allowing for new data science applications and connecting the dots
• Transitions to S/4 will follow the needs of the business rather than an end of support timeline
About Author: Christian Bayer is the Global Head of ERP/SAP and Data and Analytics with Syngenta. In this role, he coordinates all ERP-related IT services, develops the IT roadmap for ERP, builds and scale data analytics platforms and manages key supplier relationships. Christian’s work ranges from Business Services implementation to large scale business transformation to S/4 Hana and SAP Agile development. He has focused on IT services throughout his 29-year career and has worked with commercial organisations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and around the world. He worked on SAP and data and analytics for more than 20 years, helping optimise business functions and streamline process automation. Christian holds an MBA in Economics from FH Offenburg in Germany and a degree in Digital Business Strategies from MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology.