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What an automated data integration implementation means – TechTarget

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One of the core responsibilities for IT organizations is to partner with business units to fully leverage the potential of enterprise data, but achieving this goal is increasingly challenging. Instead of transforming data into actionable insights, many organizations are drowning in their own data.
Not only is the amount of data growing, but the number of application data stores creating the information is also expanding at a rapid pace. The more data and different types of data stores an IT shop must contend with, the greater these challenges become.
A 2020 IDC Global DataSphere forecast stated “the amount of data created over the next three years will be more than the data created over the past 30 years, and the world will create more than three times the data over the next five years than it did in the previous five.”
When you add data generated by legacy systems, social media, mobile apps, IoT, database as a service (DBaaS) and IaaS, the challenge of combining and leveraging all this disparate data becomes painfully clear.
The ever-increasing growth of data and the wide array of applications generating it is compelling IT departments to find solutions that reduce the amount of time they spend collecting, storing, analyzing and presenting information to end-user communities.
To facilitate the analysis of information, many organizations turn to data marts, data warehouses and data lakes as their source platforms for business intelligence and enterprise reporting applications.
Data integration is the process of collecting the data from disparate source systems, then refining and formatting it before loading the information into the target platform. The industry acronym describing this process is ETL, for extract, transform and load.
A newer variation changes the sequence of the process to extract, load and transform, which refines and formats the data after it is loaded into the target data store.
Process automation has a wide range of applications — but for data integration, the goal is to use automation and AI to reduce the human labor required to transfer data between the source and target systems. 
Whenever there is a perceived need to automate a process, you’ll find an enterprising set of vendors that provide solutions. From industry heavyweights such as Oracle, IBM, Informatica, SAS Institute Inc. and SAP, to smaller vendors that focus specifically on data integration, there is a wide and ever-growing array of offerings available. 
Organizations interested in automated data integration platforms have a robust and somewhat bewildering set of products, technologies and features to evaluate. Below are several recommendations to help you jump-start your automated data integration product evaluation.
Follow a standardized product evaluation methodology to facilitate the selection process. Evaluation best practices include selecting the appropriate team, performing a thorough needs analysis and creating a robust set of weighted evaluation metrics. Use the evaluation metrics to create a vendor short list and execute a deep-dive comparison of the remaining vendors.
Visit the competing vendor websites to gain a better understanding of the features that are available. Add the additional features that are important to your evaluation matrix.    
Understand and document your business needs by answering the following questions:
Prevent budgetary surprises by thoroughly evaluating how the vendor will charge you. Cost models typically range from simple software purchases to cloud-based systems that charge by usage. To try to figure out costs, estimate initial and future workload volumes.
Also visit vendor, peer review and big data discussion forum websites. Gartner’s Peer Reviews website is an excellent place to learn how the IT community rates various vendor products. Vendors often purchase distribution rights for Gartner’s Magic Quadrants and make them available for the public to download.
Depending on your preference, you will need to identify if the product installation supports cloud, on-premises or both environments.
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​SAP HANA to go live on Microsoft Azure, eases Office 365 integration – TechRepublic

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SAP and Microsoft continue to build on their longstanding relationship announcing from Q3 2016, SAP HANA will be able to run on Microsoft Azure.
A new distribution partnership between SAP and Microsoft was announced during 2016 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, Florida, which will see the SAP HANA platform deployed on Microsoft Azure to simplify the integration between SAP and Microsoft Office 365.
Specifically, the partnership will mean organisations with large workloads will be able to deliver critical applications and data analytics, including SAP S/4 HANA, as well as run development, test, and production workloads on Microsoft Azure.
At the same time, the integration of the two firms will see Office 365 communications, collaboration, calendar, documents, and other data combine with cloud solutions from SAP, including Concur, SAP Fieldglass, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP Ariba solutions.
SAP CEO Bill McDermott said on Tuesday that the partnership signals the company’s ability to “empathise” with customer demand.
“What I see now is we both have very large workforces, and we both have very important customer relationships,” McDermott said. “I think the more the customer says ‘hey, I like what I saw I want to see more and more use cases for my industry, my line of business,’ you’ll see us continue to innovate and push the envelope on what’s possible; that’s the game plan.”
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“You’ll see HANA and S/4 HANA pick up even more steam because Azure will be another large channel for HANA and S/4 HANA in combination with Microsoft. We feel, right now, SAP has never been in a stronger position between the core, the cloud, the network, and the ecosystem,” he said.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who joined McDermott on stage, said the latest partnership brings together the best of SAP and Microsoft’s hyperscale cloud.
“What that means is SAP is certified on Azure, S/4 HANA is certified on Azure, SAP HANA is certified on Azure, and that’s a fantastic capability to be able to run your test/dev and production workloads,” he said.
In addition, SAP has announced SAP Fiori will be integrated with Microsoft Intune, the same management capabilities used by Office 365 mobile apps. It will allow SAP customers to build and deploy customer mobile hybrid SAP Fiori apps on SAP HANA cloud platform with an open standards plug-in framework, while being protected.
Both the Office 365 and Intune integrations will be available by the third quarter of this year, the company said.
McDermott and Nadella both confirmed this latest partnership is just the start of more to come between the two tech firms, which continue to build on their alliance of 20+ years.
The partnership follows on from another announcement SAP made with Dell this morning, where the pair announced they were deepening their partnership to make it easier for Dell shops to deploy SAP solutions in the cloud and quicken the pace for data analysis as well.
1. SAP and Microsoft announced SAP HANA will be run on Microsoft Azure making it easier for integrations between SAP and Microsoft Office 365.
2. The announcement means organisations, particularly with large workloads, will be able to deliver critical applications and data analytics, as well as run development, test, and production workloads on Microsoft Azure.
3. SAP continues to closely align its business with Microsoft to give businesses the ability to speed up workload delivery and analytics processing.
Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to 2016 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW courtesy of SAP.
Since completing a degree in journalism, Aimee has had her fair share of covering various topics, including business, retail, manufacturing, and travel. She continues to expand her repertoire as a tech journalist with ZDNet.
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SuccessFactors New Release Focuses On Returning to Work – HCM Technology Report

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SAP SuccessFactors launched new features to help employers return employees to the office after 12 months of remote work. In addition, its 2021 first half release included new tools to optimize workforce planning and improve the employee experience.
The update’s primary feature is a free health and vaccination monitoring portlet, added to SuccessFactors Employee Central. The portlet allows employees to share their vaccination status. That data can be combined with other employee and company information to help create reopening strategies and provide travel recommendations. The system can also identify and support employees who are considered at high risk because of their location, age and area of work.
Meanwhile, Work Zone for HR, the digital workplace launched by SAP last year, added a new guided experience to provide personalized information and recommend actions employees need to take before they return to the office.
Within SuccessFactors’ People Analytics, the Stories reporting feature was expanded to include data from SuccessFactors Learning, such as information on training compliance and skills development.
Several items included in the update are meant to provide users with a more consumer-grade experience. Among them:  
Earlier this month SAP competitor Oracle launched Oracle Journeys, which extends its approach to guided employee actions within Oracle Cloud HCM. The company describes Journeys as a platform HR can use to create and deliver customized workflows to address personal and workplace tasks.
By using, HR teams can help employees access resources and tasks across the organization. Employees can access and complete their Journeys on any device including desktop, mobile, chat applications, or Oracle Digital Assistant.
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SAP technology helps Stater Bros. recover from pandemic-related challenges – Grocery Dive

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Though many retailers closed their doors during the pandemic, grocery stores flung theirs wide open. As essential businesses, grocery stores were tasked with providing the population with food as the nation battled COVID-19. Unexpected supply chain disruptions left many grocers with bare shelves, frustrated customers and a sudden shortage of critical frontline staff.
Stater Bros. Markets, a grocery chain operating 170 supermarkets with 18,000 employees across seven California counties, quickly recognized the need to pursue digital transformation as a means to avoid future challenges like those faced during the pandemic.
Like other grocery sellers around the United States, Stater Bros. found their existing technology solutions tested as COVID-19 began to spread. Constantly shifting health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), California Department of Public Health and local governments required the retailer to communicate rapidly changing policies across its workforce.
“Everything was moving quickly in the grocery space,” said Gil Salazar, senior vice president of information technology for Stater Bros. Markets. “We’ve got 18,000 team members across the company and our biggest challenge was our ability to connect and communicate with them.”
The legacy system used by Stater Bros. wasn’t built to handle the workforce challenges generated by a global pandemic. The existing technology lacked the proper functionality to track COVID-19 infections among employees and manage related leaves of absence associated with mandatory quarantine periods. It also hindered the company’s efforts to rapidly hire new team members.
“Other industries were crippled by the pandemic, while demand for our products grew significantly,” Salazar said. “We had to go through a pretty rapid hiring and onboarding process, and our current systems didn’t facilitate an easy transition. At the height of the pandemic, we ramped up hiring to about 3,000 additional teammates. That created significant stress on our existing resources to do the majority of that in a manual way.”
Though the company got the job done with its existing systems, the Stater Bros. leadership expedited a search for a new Human Capital Management System (HCMS) that would help them better manage their employee base in the future.
“We established enough confidence in our foundational systems to take a step back and focus on what the pandemic did and how we should respond as a business,” said Salazar. “We unanimously agreed as a leadership team that our number one focus should be replacing our foundational HCMS. It became obvious we needed to do something dramatically different.”
After an exhaustive RFP process that included input from across the Stater Bros. organization, the retailer awarded SAP’s SuccessFactors talent management solution as its new HCMS solution. SuccessFactors was selected for its organized structure, granular capabilities and ability to streamline a transition from existing legacy technology.
“Within the SAP SuccessFactors platform, everything is at our fingertips,” said Salazar. “We have full 360-degree contributions from all angles of our business. The foundational organization chart was appealing to the HR team; retail evaluated how different capabilities would impact the employees out in the stores; the distribution and warehouse leaders explored how they could create advantages for their teams through the platform; public relations focused on the ability to connect and communicate with all teammates in stores and the distribution center. We collectively came together and recognized that SAP’s capabilities led in these areas.”
The digital transformation at Stater Bros. Markets didn’t stop at talent management. Prior to the pandemic, the grocery chain had already initiated a sourcing process for a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. COVID-19 put that search on hold, but the need for a new ERP became clear as the company managed a volatile supply chain.
Stater Bros. has 12 major systems focused on moving products to stores, supply chain replenishment and customer delivery. The existing legacy mainframe and associated solutions perform these functions in batch processes, offering little in terms of useful data or real-time supply chain management capabilities.
“We have to be in a position to make rapid decisions, especially when you think about the challenges the pandemic presented. We were faced with stockout situations where our suppliers weren’t able to deliver in a timely manner. They were actually eliminating SKUs to focus on products they could move quickly. We were challenged in our ability to maneuver, adapt and respond to the changing market,” Salazar said.
While most of these challenges weren’t new, they were definitely exacerbated by the pandemic. Stater Bros. had already planned to change the way it aggregated, batched and processed data. Like other companies using legacy systems, Stater Bros. found its foundational system had become difficult to maintain due to a lack of skilled COBOL programmers who could understand, support and modify it. As with their HCMS solution, they turned to SAP after a similar RFP and evaluation process.
“SAP was a clear winner for us for its ability to solve the majority of our business needs and help us become a more responsive and data-driven company,” Salazar said. “Today we spend 80 percent of our time wrangling the data and 20 percent making business decisions on the data. We’re really trying to reverse that and get to a point where it takes us 20 percent to wrangle the data and 80 percent consuming the data and making critical business decisions. We feel like we’re in a good position to actually do that by leveraging SAP’s capabilities.”
Given the purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon, recent news of technology investments by Kroger and similar grocery industry news in recent years, the leadership at Stater Bros. recognized the need for an ERP that would empower data-driven business decisions. As more grocery retailers strive to recover from the pandemic and pursue organization-wide agility and resiliency, digital transformation efforts will undoubtedly accelerate in the grocery space. 
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Customization tools like shoppable recipes and product recommendations are helping consumers cut through the clutter of center store. But retailers are only scratching the surface of what's possible.
Grocers are finding that offering tech-enhanced, customized tools can deepen loyalty among customers shopping online and in stores.
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