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Author's profile photo Joost Janssens

Integration: a cloud’s silver lining?

In a recent survey, nearly 60% indicated that customer data is not shared well enough between sales and other parts of their company. Is it because people prefer keeping the information to themselves? Not very likely, and research proofs it. Rather, sharing is not done “because data is contained in two completely different systems” (source).


No company can go without keeping track of its customer information/data and documenting important aspects like complaints. Dependent on the type of business, a customer’s date of birth or important stakeholders are noted down. This can be registered in any CRM system and is very useful to better understand who we actually sell to. Such a CRM system can be installed on a local server of a company (on-premise). More and more often, however, cloud-based solutions are chosen because of their advantages:

  • They are scalable
  • No maintenance has to be done by the company (lower TCO)
  • Updates are applied automatically
  • Mobile and offline capabilities are offered

This has led many CIO’s to go for a CRM solution in the cloud. As a consequence, companies are filling their cloud solutions with valuable customer information. Taking this to the next level is less evident though: what if we want to integrate the gathered information with other systems and reuse it? For instance, when a customer moves, we don’t want to change the address in our logistical system as well. And what about linking a complaint to an invoice?

In this blog I’d like to highlight some of the key challenges in our project and how we have overcome them.

Why this project?

Our customer is a worldwide market leader in their industry. As with any big company, they have various local and regional tools to capture data about their customers. Next to that, they have global on-premise systems (SAP ERP, CRM, BW, and PI) for logistics, service, reporting, and the integration between them.

Some countries are very happy with their local tools. Others face the boundaries of theirs as business grows or requirements change. Logically, there is little consistency: on a regional or global level it is hardly possible to compare or share data. Next to that, information is not always sent between local CRM and on-premise systems. This implies that the different departments can only partially share the valuable information they have captured. Recently, the company implemented a cloud solution. Although flexibility was high, integration was hard to achieve.

This integration issue was one of the reasons to replace the cloud solution with SAP Cloud for Customer: while maintaining a degree of freedom for local countries to be flexible, the new solution ensures that information can be integrated in a better and easier way.

Main processes

The tool will primarily be used for sales force automation and in-store execution. Typically, the back office prepares tasks to be done by sales reps. These reps will be utilizing an iPad, so the native app will be used very often.  In the project, we have ensured that all developments also work on the iPad app.

SAP PI as hub

Because the customer already utilizes SAP PI, this system has been selected as the hub between Cloud for Customer and all relevant existing systems. Cloud for Customer will contain all prospect and customer data which is being fed from various sources, both SAP ERP and local CRM systems. This way, management on any level can execute aggregated reports, both operationally and strategically.

Flexible but completely integrated

Next to the integration, flexibility should also be considered. This was highly appreciated in the current cloud solution and the customer was happy to learn that it is easy to create new fields in Cloud for Customer. We have set up all the relevant additional fields, both global and local. These fields are also directly available for:

  • Data Migration (for manual uploads)
  • Integration (for instance via SAP PI)
  • Reporting
  • Localization (translation of field labels and values)
  • Mobile and offline usage


With the new solution, the customer is able to utilize its cloud solution in the best possible way: all customer information is available in one single place that is fully scalable, flexible, and available on mobile and offline. It is great to be part of the team of SAP experts that is bringing this solution to life, thereby providing more value to the client’s business.

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