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Author's profile photo Javaid Awan

Dark Data and SAP S/4HANA

Digital transformation has been a buzzword for many years. It is widely used by our customer, partners and folks from SAP. However, creating value from it has seemed elusive for many organisations despite millions of dollars of investment. Data is a bit like matter in physics for organisations. It is everywhere. Some is seen yet most is not visible. Thus the most pervasive force in organisation that exists and is not used is called Dark Data. I talked about Dark Data many years ago in context of SAP S/4HANA for central finance as something that is there but not used as an asset. Since then, things have moved on and third parties have started to use the same definition in one form or another.  Today, given changes in the environment and technological advances, I would like to give it a new or more meaningful definition that can help organisations define themselves.

Dark Data is defined as an economic asset that has not been identified, stored, managed or used in a coherent and meaningful manner to enhance strategic, tactical and execution economic value of an enterprise regardless of size and sector. It is like having a tonne of bricks you need lying in a yard right in front of you but you go past it every day to buy more bricks from a building merchant. The focus is not analytics but economic value that is generated by use of dark data as this is what really matters.

As one CEO put it to me…I don’t know what I need but I do not know what it is and how to get it. The ‘what’ generates more procurement of data and technology. You have more of what you need but less of how to make use of it.

SAP S/4HANA combines the power of data, processes and analytics in a single place. It solves the problem of a data universe. Combined with the SAP HANA database, it allows you to store and use data at any level within an organisation from task execution to the final mile of reporting. But this represent a universe of data. To solve multiverses, one gets into the world of a bigger form of Dark Data. By multiverse we mean different technologies, data models, nomenclature, different vendors and so on. Dark data from multiverses is the real challenge that organisations face as it would be unreasonable to assume that all organisations are linear.

SAP deals with both universe and multiverse dark data using native integration. The trick is to use SAP S/4HANA and its solutions to harvest data in a single data platform.  A universe on top of a multiverse in essence.  For a universal approach, SAP S/4HANA can be used as a single instance with all business activities connected into a single login. For a multiverse approach of dark data, you create S/4HANA for central finance on top of any number of sources of dark data to get your universe of connected data into a single login.

Using SAP S/4HANA or SAP S/4HANA for central finance deals with the economic value that is generated by identifying, storing, managing and using dark data in a coherent data platform that gives you quality driven data, and processes.


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