SMBs are often seen as reactive rather than proactive, struggling to commit to new initaitives until the benefits are proven. Despite this, they have embarked on quite a few automation ventures set to take shape over the coming months. One important part of this is the move of applications and data to the cloud. The industry association Bitkom found that around three-quarters of companies (73 percent) are already using computing services in the cloud. However, the current Digitalisierungsbericht Mittelstand, a digitalization report for SMEs written by the KfW Bankengruppe, found that around two thirds of small and medium-sized companies in this country are still delaying implementation of their digitalization projects.
Bucking this trend is the Schluetersche Media Group, or Schluetersche for short. This medium-sized media service provider headquartered in Hanover is positioning itself for the future, and demonstrating innovation and resilience through technology. That is why this established company, founded in 1747, was the first German medium-sized company to move its SAP ERP environment, consisting of a development and production system, to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). Its project and implementation partner was DXC Technology Deutschland GmbH.
From printed hymnals to digital content, the products and services of Schluetersche have undoubtedly changed over the past 270 years. Nonetheless, the company’s strong focus on the concerns and requirements of its customers remains steadfast. The media group's offering includes marketing services for small and medium-sized companies, with a focus on business directories, websites and online advertising. In addition, Schluetersche develops cross-media specialist content and learning opportunities and organizes leading industry events. Its unifying corporate motto is ‘expertise and marketing under one roof’.
What sets the publishing house apart is its sense of innovation and its culture of courage to try new things. For example, the company has now transferred its financial accounting (FI/CO) and human resources management (HCM) processes, which are controlled via SAP, to the Oracle Cloud. This includes financial accounting data, such as accounts payable and invoicing, as well as information relating to employees, such as payroll and personnel management. For Schluetersche, migrating from SAP to the Oracle Cloud is the first step towards moving away from its own data center.
For a long time, Schluetersche could service its IT systems cost-effectively and efficiently on its own computers, in its own data center. However, lately the company has reached its limits. When it came to modernizing the SAP system, a new solution had to be found. Schluetersche was using its own Oracle licenses with a minimum number of licenses per computer core. But without a cost-intensive extension, these could no longer be used with the hardware that was or on the existing virtualization platform. Therefore, they sought a service provider who could offer a suitable technical environment that also ensured compliance with the license. The project team ultimately decided on OCI.
The DXC consultants have both SAP and Oracle expertise, which was essential for a project like this, since Oracle does not perform its own SAP migrations. With the old system, Schluetersche was no longer able to properly perform the necessary upgrades and updates. A switch to S/4 HANA was discussed, but this endeavor was deemed too time-consuming and costly for the mid-sized publishing house. Since the previous environment ran on Oracle and a modernization was planned, the conversation soon turned to the Oracle Cloud. The advantages of OCI were convincing, especially since Schluetersche has only a small IT operations team.
This was the first project of this kind for DXC. "We had no previous experience with the Oracle Cloud. So we had to get accustomed to the technology," said Antonio Steinhäuser, SAP Technical Architect for DXC Technology. He praises the collaboration during test migration and integration. "When you do a project like this for the first time, you always have a few questions, but together we were able to answer them and resolve our queries quickly," he added.
With initial meetings taking place in December 2018, this was followed by trialling OCI in a test environment. The next phase of the project and installation then proceeded seamlessly and collaboratively. "One challenge we faced was that a solution had to be found that matched Schluetersche's size and requirements," explains Michael Eisner, Head of IT Services Operations. Other cloud transformations, he says, are larger and more complex. What was desired was a more modern and much higher-performing – as well as scalable – environment. "All in all, the migration went off without a hitch," says Eisner. He also praises the cooperation with DXC and Oracle: "The support really was excellent." In total, the project took significantly less than a year.
SAP has been certifying the Oracle Cloud, or Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), since 2017, focusing on OCI certification for the central SAP NetWeaver component SAP Application Server ABAP/Java. This enables SAP users such as Schluetersche to use their business suite applications with ERP – as well as NetWeaver-based finance, BI, CRM or SCM applications – in conjunction with Oracle databases or with the Oracle Exadata Data Machine in the cloud as "Infrastructure as a Service" (IaaS). In this context, the performance of OCI is significantly higher than the compute services of other providers. Memory processing, block storage and network processing are also significantly better.
So what exactly has changed as a result of moving these financial systems to the cloud? "For SAP users, nothing has changed in terms of workflows; at the same time, performance and readiness for the future has been optimized," Eisner notes, adding: "Response times have improved significantly." In the long term, OCI offers Schluetersche the opportunity to reduce its operating costs. In data centers, for example, UPS, air conditioning and maintenance all cost money – now, Schluetersche is making these savings, thanks to the cloud.
When German SMBs are asked what is holding them back from a cloud transformation, many cite security concerns as the biggest hurdle. Michael Eisner is keen to dispel these concerns based on his experience: "SMBs are always under huge cost pressures. What SMBs can afford in terms of security and data protection has to be considered in relation to what reasonable cloud providers offer. In my opinion, we are well positioned in terms of security by moving our servers to the cloud, because a large provider such as Oracle can offer much more in this respect than most companies could ever do with their internal know-how and their own resources. This is why, in many cases, the cloud even offers a greater degree of security. The cloud is gradually replacing in-house data centers. This development offers so many advantages."
Eisner feels it is important to highlight another aspect: "Digitalisation does not put jobs at risk, because the work of administrators is not tied to a piece of hardware. Rather, it’s tied to the number and complexity of systems and applications." No matter where this system runs, whether in the company's own data center or in the cloud, the support is the same.
Now, the goal for Schluetersche's IT is this: “All systems, including ERP, BI or CRM, are to be moved to the cloud in the next five years."
Schluetersche is a great example of how a medium-sized company can automate and modernize its IT systems. Many other companies are currently in a similar situation: they need to standardize and digitize. While IT is moving towards a more automated model requiring less effort, at the same time, new innovations are always in demand. Those who rely on the cloud, like Schluetersche, can easily automate and scale so that IT teams can concentrate on value-adding tasks.
Schluetersche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG is a media service provider for small and medium-sized businesses. With its nationwide holdings and locations, it forms the Schluetersche Media Group, where about 600 employees support more than 70,000 customers. Schluetersche develops advertising and marketing concepts for its customers - digital, print or cross-media, all from a single source.
The range of services includes entries in business directories, the creation of corporate websites, and search engine marketing for optimal visibility online. In addition, Schluetersche has extensive industry knowledge: its portfolio includes more than 30 trade journals and newspapers, online media, numerous books, and industry-relevant events. Schluetersche's goal is to provide the ideal marketing presence for its customers by combining industry expertise and media services. This is underlined by the company motto: ‘expertise and marketing under one roof’.