As the enterprise platform manager at Shell, it’s Frank Westerhof’s job to keep the SAP ERP systems running smoothly while identifying new products that will keep the company’s data environment healthy. In the 40-plus years Shell has worked with SAP, its ERP landscape had grown in scope and become uneven in places as the global energy giant acquired new companies. When Frank and his team looked at the future of their ERP, they saw clouds ahead.
Moving Shell into the Public Cloud
Westerhof admits that going to the cloud may seem counterintuitive. “If you tell most people that a big, complex company like Shell is considering going to the cloud, they look at you and say, ‘Hang on, that’s still a very immature product,’” he explained. “They are really surprised by the fact we’re taking such a huge risk.”
But Westerhof has his reasons. A company like Shell is too large to make big changes quickly, so it must proceed systematically and intentionally. The change to a next-generation platform could take as many as 10 years to fully complete, so it needed to start envisioning these moves by picturing what it wants its future state to look like.
Ready or Not, the Cloud Is Coming
“One thing that is really staring us in the face is that all the dominant business software providers, of which SAP is one, are already adopting a SaaS business model,” says Westerhof. In other words, the cloud is already coming. SAP HANA, for instance, which is at the core of present and future SAP products, is built to function on either the public cloud or a private cloud.
The question for Westerhof’s team, then, was how Shell should prepare for this data future. Extreme focus was necessary and led the team to an uncommon conclusion: nearly all of Shell’s standard business processes could be accomplished by what it considered market standard processes. “We wanted to work with SAP to create a road map to get us to that end goal, but we didn’t want the solutions to be specific to Shell,” Westerhof explained. “We want industry market standards for these technologies.”
Westerhof addressed Shell’s motivations behind this ambitious project, the effects of the project on its competitors, and some early successes he’s seeing with Ann Marie Gray, VP of content at ASUG.
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