ETR Insights presents an interview with the VP of Information Technology & Services for a large agribusiness enterprise that complements its existing SAP ecosystem with tools from Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft. Our guest offers an evaluation of Analytics Cloud from SAP and explains why Power BI is taking share away. Learn why this company favors Monday.com for project management, how our guest views the RPA landscape, and why they look to consolidate within security.
Vendors Mentioned: Amazon (AWS) / DocuSign / eSentire / Everbridge / Google Cloud Platform / Microsoft (Azure, Power BI, Power Automate) / Mimecast / Monday.com / Okta / Palo Alto Networks / Poly / Qlik / SAP (Analytics Cloud, S/4HANA) / SecureWorks / Skype / Snowflake / SQL Server / Tableau / UiPath
GCP, Azure and AWS. The company leverages existing SaaS solutions within the SAP ecosystem, but otherwise operates on the Google Cloud Platform. They do turn to Azure to better integrate with O365 and are considering its consumer data aspects; AWS is typically only used when favored by a partner organization. The company first came on board with GCP via a managed services provider but has since begun to leverage it more internally. The company’s primary data warehouse is with SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform, but they are experimenting with Google Big Query to analyze external data. “We’re not heavily invested in it [Google Big Query] yet, but for what we’re doing, it’s a good entry point for us to get comfortable with what it can do.”
Database analytics and business intelligence. The company leans heavily on SQL Server. “We have one main [SQL] homegrown, internal application that manages our grower systems, our grower contracts and payments and things like that.” Alongside Azure, they are assessing Snowflake to help analyze first-party consumer data. “[Snowflake] is among those leaders in the data cleaning and consolidating aspect.” Given their SAP ecosystem, our guest favors Analytics Cloud from SAP for reporting and business intelligence. “It’s predominantly SAP data, everything from sales information to inventory information. Our IT shop is doing the modeling, taking various data sources out of the S/4 platform and then moving them into the HANA Cloud platform, and then the Analytics Cloud is more dashboards with the ability to drill down accordingly.” While use cases are still limited, our guest is exploring real time visualizations through SAP Analytics Cloud, a newly available option following the company’s move to S/4 and SAP’s newer generation of data warehousing.
Power BI. That said, Microsoft’s Power BI is beginning to take hold and share. “We’ve endorsed it [Power BI] for the self-service model particularly. They still may be pulling the SAP data in, but many times it may be information that only was in Excel and not in SAP itself. We fought it at the get-go a little bit, but it’s a great tool.” Meanwhile, Qlik usage is also fading in the organization. “We’ll see Power BI take on a little more of that Qlik exposure as well.”
Security. As part of its security stack, this company favors SecureWorks, Okta for MFA, Mimecast for email, and Palo Alto Networks for firewalls; they have enabled many of Palo Alto’s additional security features as well. Our guest anticipates consolidation within the sector and hopes two or three partners can expand into that space as it becomes a little more well-defined. “What we’ve been focused more on is a single tool that can handle more of the security functions, versus having a lot of different point solutions.” Even 80% to 90% of the present capacity offered by a single vendor would be interesting. “If it will save us a little bit of money and help decrease tools that we have to administer and monitor, then it would be worth considering.” The company is assisted by a third-party MSP, eSentire, who handles some elements of security monitoring and tool management. Otherwise, site reliability engineering and log monitoring is addressed by the company’s existing SAP and Microsoft services.
Productivity and Remote Work. At the onset of the pandemic, this firm was well-positioned to transition to remote work, with VPN capacity, remote monitoring, and cloud-based productivity already in place. “We quickly turned on Microsoft Teams for everybody and said here, learn it, jump in, and start swimming. It went very well. We’ve retained Teams, and when they come out with new features, we enable them and educate the users accordingly for ones that are applicable.” First adopted by IT, Monday.com has overtaken Microsoft Project company-wide for project management on its ease of use and collaborative capacity, with Project now reserved for “heavy duty” projects and complex resource management only. A return to hybrid work has posed some challenges in integrating remote productivity applications and in-person audio and video hardware. “We have the Polycom systems in our conference rooms, and there’s a challenge there that they’re not playing well with Microsoft anymore. It gets frustrating for the people coming back to the office.”
RPA. Within robotic process automation, our guest has trialed simple use cases of Power Automate and has begun an assessment of UiPath. “[Power Automate] took a few iterations to get right for the business, but it seemed simple enough. UiPath, I’ll know more in a few months. I see UiPath as more robust, mature, and capable than the Microsoft platform right now, but we’ll see how it takes shape.” To date, the company has been unimpressed by SAP’s RPA capability, though they plan to explore it more within identity management.