First look at SAP's Data Migration Solution

Recently my role in SAP has changed a bit, still in solution management but now focused Data Migration.   My first steps have been to learn the scope of the topic, what is going on with the topic, who's involved, all that good stuff.  Being a big fan of SCN I went to check out who is posting what and saying what about data migration.   I expected to find a lot of discussion on the topic since data migration is a common topic and really a practical requirement for implementation, instead I found only a few discussions, and even fewer discussions by customers.   (Please send any good links you have!  I did find a few good posts, but compared to other topics I've covered, it seemed there was very little information on the topic! )  Maybe it's not talked about because it's not seen as much ‘fun' as new development, or maybe no one has taken the time to write about their experiences. Either way, I hope to share what I'm learning and hear about what you already know on the topic! 
In this first blog I'll discuss what I've learned so far about SAP's provided solution for Data Migration.   Then, I'll continue to blog about working with the tools, how hard/easy they are to learn, and effort it takes to up-skill on our offerings for Data Migration.  So, first things first, let's talk about what SAP offers for data migration projects:
Option 1 - New SAP customer who's migrating data into an SAP system.   Also, current customers who are bringing in new plants, new business units, etc., and need to migrate data to an SAP system. 
This is the option I am currently exploring and downloading relevant software on my laptop, so this is the one I'll be blogging on moving forward.  SAP provides software, primarily Data Services, there is some other software too (like the Metadata Manager and some reports, but Data Services is where the bulk of the work takes place).  This is good news for me!   Last year I did some blogs and e-learning on SAP101 for Business Objects experts, and I've been trying to up-skill on the Business Objects offerings.   Before this position I had dabbled in Data Services.  I downloaded it and got a small transform working moving data from SAP.   I was impressed because it only took me about ½ day to go from knowing nothing, to reading something, downloading, installing, and getting a small job running.   So, I was glad I'd be learning more about Data Services!   If you are an expert in SAP and want to learn about Business Objects offerings, maybe you should start to work with Data Migration!
In addition to software, SAP also provides Best Practice Content.  I've always known that we have a Best Practice organization.  I worked with them previously on some Best Practice content for SAP NetWeaver Process Integration, but I didn't really understand the depth of the offering.  If you go to the help portal, there is a tab for "Best Practices".   In the Overview Page you'll notice it says "SAP Business All-in-One", but don't let that scare you away from exploring the content.   The content for Data Migration can be found under the Cross-Industry Packages.  Then select Data Migration.     This is like finding a gold mine for data migration!   Or maybe an encyclopedia would be a better description!  This content has everything you need to get started on migrating non-SAP data to an SAP system.   In a subsequent blog I'll walk through the steps I took to read, learn, download, install, but for now, the important thing to know is that content plays a big role in fast development.  The content includes the following:  guides to install data services and other components required for the migration, actual content to load that includes jobs to load data into SAP via IDOCs, mapping tools to help you map the non-SAP data to the IDOC structure, and some reports.   It includes IDOC mapping and structures for objects like material master, vendor and customer masters, pricing, BOM, cost element, some receivables content.   I haven't explored all of it in detail - but I did notice once I installed the content and documentation I had a whole folder of word documents on each piece of content, for example a document on Material that is a 39 page word document, covering the IDOC structures, what you need to know, and how to map data to the structure.    At this point I have data services installed and the content installed -but I'm still checking out everything that gets delivered. 
The third item delivered by SAP for data migration is services.  Of course, data migration is more than the software and technical tool-set, you also need a methodology for the project, testing, ensuring project success, etc.  SAP provides that service - we have an expert consulting community ready to assist. SAP Data Migration Services consist of a framework, templates, methodology, tools and expertise to analyse, extract, cleanse, validate, upload and reconcile legacy data into a SAP ERP environment.  SAP Data Migration Services provide a mature information management infrastructure and enables data governance best practices that live on after the project.  SAP's Data Migration Services extend  the content delivered and the software provided with additional templates, a methodology, and  the holistic view of how the data migration project fits in with the overall SAP implementation and how to use data management/goverance to ensure data is a strategic asset, enabling successful business process execution.
For a full list of EIM available services look here.
If you'd like to see a good demo of data migration example using data services, you can check out the demo available from the service market place.  It's part of the page
In addition to migrating data to SAP, the decision must be made on what to do with the source system.  Does it remain, should it be archived?  Maybe the system should eventually be decommissioned to save costs.  SAP also offers capabilities to decommission systems via Information Lifecycle Management.   I'm not an expert in this area, but it is part of the data migration story, so I am trying to learn more about the offering. 

Option 2 - Migrating from one or many SAP systems to another SAP system
In this option maybe you have multiple SAP systems on different releases, so one on 4.6c, 4.7 and you want consolidate to a single ECC 6.0 system.  It could also be the case you don't take everything, but only parts of the data.   As part of this scenario you could do system decommissioning with Information Lifecycle Management as with the previous option.  For the actual conversions of the SAP systems, SAP offers a system landscape transformation offering by the SLO group (Systems Landscape Optimization).  This group specializes in ‘carving out' parts of SAP, like a company code, to move or to convert.  For example, when the Euro was introduced, a new currency was just not added to systems, but some conversion was required as well.  SLO specializes in these sorts of SAP-centric data conversions.  SLO understands the customizing/configuration, meaning in addition to the data it understands the business context for the data, and can convert the data and the associated business process rules and configuration.   I'm learning more about this area and will be happy to share what I learn in the future!
Option 3 - Migrating to other systems, for example master data management or data warehouse
This option includes migrating to any other system.  It could be master data management, a data warehouse or another sytsem.   This option will still use the Data Services software, and it will also use blueprints which are guides for Data Services that include content for common ETL and data quality scenarios.   I haven't investigated the blueprints yet.  If you have experience in this area please post away!
If you're interested in this topic, please blog your experiences; I'll continue to blog mine.   I'll be speaking from the perspective of someone new to data services and migration projects.  I hope you'll join me along the journey!! 

Why machines can learn from peanut butter sandwiches and why they should forget about it over time

You might remember my last interview with Matthias Kaiser about semantics and apples. In that interview Matthias addressed the aspect of objects and how machines need to be able to give a description of an object the correct meaning. In that interview Matthias used the example of an apple that could either be something to eat or could also be a computer.
I met with him again and this time Matthias explained to me two other aspects of semantics. Machines don't just need to know what kind of object (e.g. an apple) they have, but also what kind of context the user has who e.g. searches for specific information. In the business world this context is normally a role of a user in a company. Combining search results of a user with a specific role and using that information for other, maybe similar searches for users with the same role, makes a search algorythm much more precise and relevant for an enterprise user.
But it's not only about storing this information. It's also about being able to let the machine "forget" certain information that might become irrelevant over time.
Listen to Matthias and find out what peanut butter sandwiches have to do with all of this and how these concepts find their way into SAP products.
I really loved talking to Matthias how he explained to me this complex topics and during the interview he also started talking about a new concept he developed called "Unified Information Access". But that will be part of another interview with Matthias.

BRFPlus and MDG – future ahead:

Recently I was going through documentation of MDG and I was wonder struck with the offerings SAP has given, particularly the integration of BRFPlus and SAP Business Workflow with Master Data Governance (MDG).
All the views provided here are my personal opinions and based out of my experience with Data Management and do not necessarily reflect my employer’s. Please treat the inputs in this blog as just opinions and you should definitely seek professional expertise and opinion before making your business decisions.

BRFPlus is one of the core components in this Master Data Governance.
The way SAP has integrated BRFPlus while loading data into MDG is mind blowing. Unlike the traditional way of writing ABAP code for doing validations and derivations, SAP has closely knit BRFPlus with MDG to carry out these operations. This will give flexibility for business users to do modifications to business rules without much dependency on technical team.
BRFPlus can be used to define validation rules and derive values as per the business rules. We can use Rules, Rule sets, Decision tables and trees and many other features of BRFPlus to carry out these activities.
Of course SAP has still given the option of using BADI's for writing these validations and derivations.
Another important feature SAP has provided is the close integration of BRFPlus with SAP Business Workflow in MDG. SAP has given many pre-configured features and standard workflows for this purpose. These will be handy for creating and modifying complex rules in workflows using decision tables and decision trees which will be very effective for the ever changing business demands.
With BRFPlus going to be the core for Business Rules management, and ever increasing usage in SAP applications like CRM, Transportation Management, Social Sector, Tax and Revenue Management to name a few, Techies should focus more on BRFPlus and understand the full potential of BRFPlus.
There is a huge potential for BRFPlus in coming years particularly using BRFPlus in Workflows, Validations and Derivations in MDG, integration with third part decision management systems and many more. No doubt, this will give clients return on investment (ROI) and true value, and more significantly business users are empowered to modify business rules with ease to the ever changing and dynamic business decisions.

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