Call for change

Data in systems today is growing at hyper levels, and data in SAP® ERP systems is no exception. As databases in organizations become larger, they result in increased risk, reduced system performance and increased total cost of ownership. Ever-increasing data volumes become more difficult to manage as part of an organization’s normal IT processing. That growth in data volumes poses a risk in the ability of an internal IT organization such as Accenture’s to meet service level agreements.

Given this trend, organizations look to improve system performance and data management through SAP data archiving solutions. Data archiving is the process of relocating data that must remain accessible for business or legal reasons. In Accenture’s case, our global IT organization needed to migrate our archiving solution from on premise to the cloud when Accenture moved its SAP S/4HANA® system to Microsoft Azure, in keeping with Accenture’s cloud-first strategy.

Our global IT team was challenged to lead in the "New" by innovating a solution that needed to "live in the cloud." Doing so would streamline communication between the production environments and the historical archives. This advantage would help improve performance, system stability and reduce costs, while adhering to legal and compliance requirements.

When tech meets human ingenuity

Our global IT team applied leading SAP data archiving practices using Accenture’s SAP Delivery Methods to shape the migration to a cloud-based archiving solution. The team also analyzed data growth in business process areas that are vital to Accenture’s business and prioritized them based on the rate of growth and impact to the business. As a result, the scope of business areas for archiving expanded into new and existing finance functions within SAP S/4HANA, including Controlling (CO), Requisition-to-Pay (RTP), Record-to-Report (RTR), Order-to-Cash (OTC), as well as Personnel Administration (PA), Time & Expense (T&E) and purging system administration data.

To move to the New, our global IT team migrated from an on-premise content management system that had its own infrastructure to a cloud-based SAP S/4HANA archiving solution serviced by a newly selected content management system, both of which are hosted in Microsoft Azure.

The new content management solution is hosted within the production SAP S/4HANA application and interfaces with an Azure Blob Storage device. The enterprise content management platform enables information to be organized, preserved and easily accessible while protecting privacy and security. It also addresses Accenture’s needs for a solution that is enterprise-class, compliant, secure and cloud-based.

The migration involved pioneering a new cloud-based archiving solution embedded in the SAP S/4HANA application and hosted in Microsoft Azure. It also involved migrating the database and archiving attachments. The team replaced aging devices and built strategic partnerships to enable migration and retention management. Both are critical competitive advantages with cloud at the core.

To date, the SAP data archiving solution has delivered 26 SAP S/4HANA objects. Accenture will add more archiving objects accordingly to meet service level agreements. Data is archived on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis depending on the type of object. Archiving is scheduled and validated by the production support teams as part of normal operations.

To further mitigate concerns about archiving, the team developed a low-cost technology and process solution to reload SAP S/4HANA data in the event that critical data is needed faster or was incorrectly archived. Risk mitigation to Accenture’s financial close process and other critical business processes is a prerequisite to any technology change. The ability to quickly reverse an archiving process helped our global IT organization to push the archiving agenda forward.

Accenture’s ERP production support teams maintain the solution, with light oversight to ensure the technology stays current, stable and secure, and to maintain the long-term strategy to meet Accenture’s scale.

Moving Accenture’s data archiving capability to the cloud enabled our team to apply new thinking to shape a leading data archiving solution that takes advantage of the new architecture. Strong collaboration with SAP, Microsoft and the content management vendor helped our team to customize the archiving solution to meet the specific needs of our large, global enterprise. The new data archiving solution not only delivers enhanced business benefits, but also improves the work/life balance of our team as a result of reduced maintenance and a simplified execution architecture.

A valuable difference

The new SAP S/4HANA archiving solution and content management system, both hosted in the cloud, are delivering numerous benefits. This combined solution is faster, more secure, requires less maintenance, has high availability and is lower in cost than the previous, on-premise solution. A cloud-based archiving capability enables Accenture to optimize system performance by managing data growth more effectively, while adhering to legal and compliance requirements.

The SAP data archiving approach optimizes system performance at levels appropriate for Accenture’s growing business. The solution is doing so by keeping data that is needed for key business areas readily available online for end users and archiving data that is no longer needed day to day. It also results in faster searches and eliminates exposure to data that is not frequently used.

Improved performance in turn improves the user experience for finance functions such as Time & Expense, Controlling, or Order-to-Cash and the financial close as the volume of data to be processed is optimized. By archiving data, Accenture has been able to improve performance and build contingency in its financial close and online transaction processing. In addition, with archiving, the batch cycle processing time reduced by 250 hours.

SAP S/4HANA data that is archived and that is no longer active or used on a day-to-day basis is stored onto the content management system, which has enabled Accenture to avoid operational infrastructure costs related to memory and premium storage.

Managing the exponential growth of data volumes in today’s information-intense world is an ongoing challenge for any organization, including Accenture’s. Even as Accenture has continued to grow, our global IT organization can continue to meet the same service level agreements for the business as in the past. Going forward, a cloud-based SAP data archiving approach helps Accenture to keep its single SAP system instance in step with the needs of its constantly evolving business and workforce of more than 500,000 people.

“We are leading in the New, supporting growing business needs with faster, better and lower data-retention service costs, and maintaining system capacity with at least three years of headroom.“

— ABDEL ALTABARANI, Senior Manager – Global IT, Finance Applications, Accenture

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