Australian print powerhouse transforms into a more customer-centric business with SAP Analytics Cloud and Business Warehouse on SAP’s in-memory database bolstered by Amazon Web Services, a significant milestone in their SAP roadmap designed to delight customers.

From the local corner shop to a meat processing corporation, print remains a cornerstone of modern business operations and nothing short of essential for commercial, industrial and medical progress. Having successfully embraced digital disruption, the print industry is thriving, but, as with so many other industries today, the gap between the top players and the laggards is widening. Here’s how market-leading provider of print technology and services, Konica Minolta, is staying ahead of the game.

Konica Minolta has over two million customers worldwide consuming its sought-after solutions including traditional, industrial and 3D print, robotics and imaging, to its variety of tailored content and print services. Locally, Konica Minolta Australia has about five hundred employees servicing over eight thousand customers – an impressive footprint.

The remnants of change

Konica Minolta’s SAP systems were first implemented in 2007 but since then customer expectation has changed dramatically, and so has its business. Nick Jones, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Konica Minolta Australia explains, We’ve seen the shift from customers buying outright to leasing to subscription consumption and we’ve modified our processes to suit. We’ve developed solutions adjacent to our core business and customised our systems to suit that. Now, we’re into robotics and 3D and needed to change again.”

“Without agility, we started to hit roadblocks. We needed to be able to respond to customers quickly, improve our speed to market and find new ways to market.” – Nick Jones, CIO

With an ageing, on-premise, and heavily customised SAP landscape including ECC6 Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Business Warehouse (BW) and Business Intelligence (BI), Konica Minolta Australia (Konica Minolta) was restricted in its ability to keep up with changing customer demands. Customisation had created technical debt and increased employees’ dependency on the IT department which amplified Konica Minolta’s challenges with agility and speed to market.

It was time to rethink their foundations.

Sequencing their SAP transformation

“A fundamental pillar of our new strategy is Delighting Customers and we’re building out our tech stack to support this.” – Nick Jones, CIO

To forgo the challenges created by the last 14 years in its customised ECC system, achieve standardisation, scalability and bring in new Finance and Logistics capabilities, Konica Minolta decided to deploy S/4HANA on AWS. “We decided early on to adopt not adapt. To follow best practices and leverage the native functionality that S/4HANA comes with, to ensure our business can make use of all the Research and Development (R&D) SAP will do going forward, and ensure we keep our systems in a good state,” says Jones. “It was also important to us to move to cloud infrastructure to achieve greater scalability and flexibility.”

It was determined that a modern data warehousing solution was required to become the central repository and source of truth for historic and ongoing ECC and CRM data as well as for new S/4HANA data as it gets built out.

In early 2020 Konica Minolta brought on Zag part of Accenture (Zag) as its SAP Support partner to help with day to day running of its SAP ECC and CRM systems. Impressed with the quality of service and expertise demonstrated Konica Minolta chose to lean on Zag to deliver its data warehousing and analytics project. Zag proposed the following solution to these challenges:

Pain points related to the old and unsupported BW environment

  • The inability of the BW environment to support newer hardware and software platforms.
  • Non-existence of a central and solid modern reporting solution,
  • No control on which reports were being used and which reporting tools were being used for those reports and,
  • Deficiency in control of which reports were being used effectively and which ones were redundant or no longer needed.
  • Inability to upgrade the BW environment with the latest application and security patches from SAP.
  • Increased risk of system instability and exposure to the ever-increasing threat of cyber-attacks and data theft.
  • Insufficient archiving flexibility and inhibiting data silos due to on-premise data architecture.

Driving insight into action with SAP on AWS

The solution encompasses an upgraded BW environment on SAP’s fast in-memory HANA database hosted in AWS cloud infrastructure, with SAP Analytics Cloud as the reporting and visualisation tool.  These four elements to the solution address Konica Minolta’s business challenges by driving more insights from the magnitudes of data they have and putting it in the hands of the right people to delight customers.

Database & Data Warehousing

Upgrading SAP BW 7.31 (Support Pack 5) to BW 7.5 on HANA provides immediate performance benefits upon the conversion of current data models and, with integration to both SAP ECC and S/4HANA being fully supported, Konica Minolta can extract data from the CDS views layer in HANA for data modelling as well as its current extractors. With an upgraded and fully integrated BW environment, Konica Minolta has a single platform and source of truth for historic and new SAP data that allows their Greenfields ERP implementation to follow best practice standardised processes without compromising Konica Minolta’s ability to execute valuable year-on-year analysis.

Analytics

In terms of visualisation and interaction with this data, SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is a very modern Software-as-a-Service solution based on HANA that utilises the SAP Fiori interface to provide users with autonomy and flexibility. SAP BW 7.5 is supported by SAC and SAC has native integration with SAP HANA-based ERP systems and BW allowing Konica Minolta to have live connections to SAP BW and SAP S/4HANA. This puts real-time information in the hands of Konica Minolta’s users who can develop, share, and collaborate on reports and dashboards. Down the track, the crossover to S/4HANA will be seamless as SAC uses the same environment and interface.

As SAP’s focal point of innovation, SAC gets Konica Minolta onboard SAP’s roadmap for analytics. Quarterly updates are automatically applied to the system bringing new functionalities and fixes without the need for downtime or maintenance by Konica Minolta or its service providers.

Cloud

Konica Minolta saw moving to cloud infrastructure as a critical piece in its transformation and chose to leverage AWS as its strategic cloud partner for SAP and beyond. For Konica Minolta, AWS was an existing and proven partner. They already used AWS for billing in the Customer Solutions department and customers were satisfied with these hosting arrangements. “As a platform, AWS is proven to be reliable, secure, and sustainable – it works 99.9999% of the time, customers are happy, and what they put in there from an R&D perspective is unbelievably good,” elaborates Jones.

“From a partner and relationship standpoint, AWS are awesome to work with, they provide a great customer experience.” – Nick Jones, CIO

Going to BW on HANA in AWS with SAC

“When Zag proposed the upgrade and delivery of BW and SAC in a six-month start to finish project, there was some nervousness given the planning and design for S/4HANA was already underway, but we trusted Zag and we’re glad we did; it was a good decision to complete this project when we did.”

“The Zag team really delivered on this project, they brought their best people and AWS came to the table too delivering the infrastructure within seconds, which was fantastic.” – Nick Jones, CIO

Remarkably, the project was delivered 100% remotely due to COVID-19 inflicted lockdowns. Important learnings concerning remote delivery will be applied to the S/4HANA project. “Another benefit to executing this project as a prerequisite is that it gave a diverse set of our employees insight into what the bigger S/4HANA project might be like,” says Jones. “As we hadn’t been through many system changes in last 14 years, it was good to prepare people for what that might look and feel like.”

Project success factors

  • Proven delivery methodology – “We followed Zag’s delivery methodology that is based on SAP’s Activate methodology which brought assemblance to the challenges we had and a consistency in approach which was great.”
  • Right people working together as one team – “It wasn’t like we were three different companies [Konica Minolta, Zag and AWS]; we were one project team working together towards the same deliverable.”
  • Stayed true to the project’s objective – “We successfully built a repository for old and new data that ensures business continuity and we have delivered an analytics dashboard for each of our four business divisions with more beneficial capability coming in the future.”
  • Effective SAC training and support – “The training was a huge success and I have received some great feedback not only on the content of the training but also on Zag’s trainer and the structure and approach he took,” says Antoniette De Marco, National Manager Business Systems and Applications.

“During the project, we had helpful, robust conversations with our partners – often challenging conversations, and in that process, we built a really strong team that is now rolling into the S/4HANA project with a solid foundation for moving forward.” – Nick Jones, CIO

The upgraded BW environment is the first major system to go live on AWS, with S/4HANA coming next.

Reaping the benefits

The new SAP data warehousing and analytics solution is helping Konica Minolta pull different systems together to gather a 360-degree view of its customers and put these real-time insights in the hands of employees who are interacting with customers to empower their decision making in the moment.

“From a performance perspective, the speed at which people can access data and present data is almost night and day. Even purely from a look and feel viewpoint, it is a huge step up.” – Nick Jones, CIO

De Marco says, “SAC is really starting to be embedded in our business and its capability is a real value add for Konica Minolta in helping us drive forward our digital transformation.”

The overarching benefits and outcomes are:

  • A consolidated reporting platform and central repository of trusted data
  • Single source of truth, all employees making decisions with the same set of data
  • Faster data retrieval
  • Instant availability of data, real-time reports including via mobile for sales staff on the move
  • Visibility of how data was derived, more detailed levels
  • Business users can perform their own analysis and are less reliant on the IT team
  • Removed the need for multiple visualisation tools
  • Ram sized reduced, brings down AWS cost
  • Better performance and data security

“Over the next year or two, there is a six-figure license saving based on decommissioning unneeded reporting and visualisation tools. On top of that, there is resource cost saving too, for lack of needing to manage and support those tools.” – Nick Jones, CIO

Looking to the future

The impact of the new BW and BI solutions on everyday operations is hugely beneficial, and the quick win got employees on board and ready for the bigger S/4HAHA project. “Going forward with S/4HANA, SAC will liberate a lot more functionality, including predictive insights, that our people can use to add even more value to the customer experience,” states Jones.

With a strong digital core in place, Konica Minolta will look to deploy lighter front of house engagement systems, potentially SAP Customer Experience solutions, as the next stop on its transformation roadmap.