We argue that downloading SAP data to Excel for further manipulation causes damages in the short term and yields a personal ERP (pERP) in the long run.
ERP systems (SAP included) hold the organization’s most sensitive information. Yet, one can often find countless Excel sheets with SAP data scattered around in employees’ laptops and as email attachments.
The Who and why:
Indeed, Sales and Purchasing interact with the external world (customers and vendors correspondingly) on a daily basis using Excel. By the same token, upper management, who seldom logon to SAP, requires data to be sent to them in fancy format. Both cases are bounded in use, repetitive and thus could be automated by SAP, and most importantly, have definite owners.
Business end-users, on the other hand, turned Excel to be their tool of choice for every problem they encounter in SAP. This way, reports with too long execution time are background scheduled and sent thereafter to their inbox as Excel attachments. In case they have content that exists outside SAP, they will download SAP content to Excel and Vlookup both sources. Yet, the most common practice for SAP business end-users is to download excel data as Excel for further processing. Sensitivity checks and goal-seeking are of the favorable tasks handled at Excel by SAP business users. Graphs, conditional formatting, and pivot tables are the favorite Excel features they utilize.
It’s all about the Last Mile activities that could not be easily and quickly done within SAP boundaries. It is not easy to admit that you have written a cheque, and it is a monstrous cheque, but by the end of the day you still use Excel for the last mile.
Working with Excel yields dispersed islands of content/knowledge ending up with a pERP (personal ERP) paradigm – many small Excel-based ERP systems located on employees’ laptops. What could possibly go wrong with such an environment?
Stale – As soon as data leaves SAP, it becomes stale. This basic fact is well known and needs neither further explanation nor emphasis. However, when one needs to manipulate data every single time, information turns to be a liability rather than an asset. Complicated Excel files are seldom refreshed depriving business end-users of the ERP advantages.
Out of context – Working Offgrid denies users of standard ERP functionality e.g., drill-downs, DB lookups, units of measure and data writeback.
Trust – Missing the AAA technology cornerstones (Authentication, Authorization, and Audit-trail) compromise both Security and Privacy. While antivirus software keeps bad things outside the organization boundaries, Data Loss Protection (DLP) aims to keep the good things in. Alas, as soon as data left SAP, Data Loss may flourish. Soon, the organization’s assets will find their way outside the organization, leaving no trails.
One Truth – Lack of a single corporate truth and language. Many overlook this one yet, having one truth is the main reason organizations parched SAP in the first place.
As the above-described situation looks like an Information Officers’ nightmare, who benefits from it? In a nutshell, end-users love it and managers cannot afford to live without it.
With Excel as the industry standard for spreadsheets, end users master it and use it to carry their skills between jobs – in and out of the organization. ERP suites may vary and evolve yet Excel serves as a safe and solid ground to which everything is downloaded.
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” [Abraham Maslow].
Another aspect that drives some business end-users to utilize Excel is job security. When your knowledge is kept close to your chest in the form of Excel functions, your job is better secured.
In the article “Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staffs” [Tatyana Shumsky, The Wall Street Journal – 2017], the author nicely drafted the Excel end of the road.
How come, then, Information and Finance officers of organizations did not ban out the use of Excel for handling SAP last mile? It’s either the employees will do their tasks outside SAP or will not do it at all. In that case, C-level officers chose the Use or Perish principle – Picking the greater organization good.
What has changed:
RaibnowSAP – The ability to walk the extra mile within SAP boundaries is a game-changer.
With InsightSAP building reports and interfaces directly in Production in hours and without code is a fact. InsightSAP brings the best of both worlds: the Excel ease of use together with SAP profound business processes.
Moreover, in the case of content that was born in Excel (so to speak) using InsightSAP it can now be uploaded to SAP allowing v-lookups within SAP.
InsightSAP gives C-level officers the power to say NO. No to replicating SAP onto employees’ laptops.