It all started in 1997 with a business idea to develop tools for the daily collaboration in planning, aiming to make it more effective, secure and transparent. Now, with more than 25 years of experience in planning and purchasing, developing and operating cloud-based solutions, we are moving on to the next challenges: The enhancement of the FUTURA Cloud Platform 2.0 by means of FUTURA Apps and the development of supplier management.
In the beginning, in 1997, it was all about the digital building concept and the networking of alphanumeric and graphical data. With software for the construction industry, which facilitated and specified the work in planning offices for large buildings, Futura Solutions was able to impress as one of ten national winners in the “StartUp” start-up competition in 1998. Based on this, we developed the so-called “three-book method” using FUTURA AVA to exchange data with CAD systems. By doing so, we had created a first integration and the result was impressive. With the 3D drawing, elements of the three-book method were already accessed at that time and with each component constructed in this way, a so-called automatic item list could be generated – a calculation that always corresponded with the drawing. Even back then, the digital building concept interconnected various stakeholders and reduced media discontinuities.
As early as 2000, we launched the first cloud-based tendering and auction platform, myFUTURA. With Bayer AG and BASF, we had two top-class customers right from the start. In a next step, we linked planning and purchasing by coupling myFUTURA with the on-premise solution FUTURA AVA. By doing so, we implemented our ideas at a very early stage and integrated both planners and purchasers as well as bidders or suppliers into our customers’ business processes via the hybrid FUTURA platform.
The next decisive step was taken in 2005: we linked the FUTURA applications to the SAP system via interfaces. BASF, RWE and Salzgitter Flachstahl were among the first customers. Back then, we already provided a generation of SAP interfaces and called it “integration”: Beyond a pure technical connection of the systems, entire workflows were and still are implemented via the networking of business elements of the FUTURA and SAP systems. Even at that time, it was possible to interactively operate or remotely control the SAP system via FUTURA. The great advantage for users: They only have to work in one system and they receive information about the processing of documents in the other system via the so-called error handling.
In the period 2009-2019 we implemented the cloud-based FUTURA service procurement and became the market leader for SAP-integrated service procurement. We developed more than 35 SAP integration modules, which today allow to map the most diverse purchasing and procurement processes, seamlessly with SAP ECC 6.0 as well as S/4HANA. These include investment measures as well as maintenance and repair services – with various account assignment options. All the stakeholders involved – purchasers, consumers or planners, approvers or bidders, suppliers and service providers – they are all seamlessly interconnected across departments in real time.
Consequently, sourcing, purchase-to-pay and AVA are fully integrated in just one application and, on top of that, these process flows are integrated with the SAP system. Isolated shadow systems as well as media discontinuities are a thing of the past. The FUTURA workflow engine, which can design completely individualized workflows for each customer, comes into play where the cooperation of all actors is to be seamless and based on specific, predefined criteria. The process is controlled automatically via previously specified ” playing rules” and the stakeholders are informed about necessary actions. The great advantage: As a result, even the most complex processes with their various sequences can be handled quite easily because the workflow runs according to the stored scheme
With the latest generation of the FUTURA Cloud Platform 2.0 and the move to a modern microservice IT architecture, we are taking another big step towards customer benefits. And these are not only benefits for the IT department, but for every user and not least a strategically deployed SAP system. In this regard, the technology directly serves the user experience. Operation becomes easier by using the FUTURA Apps and a front-end integration as well as an SSO with SAP. In addition, customer requirements can be implemented much more flexibly and quickly through agile development.
We use open API connectors so that data can be exchanged in real time and business processes can be automated across system boundaries. The benefit? Quite simply: in each case, operation takes place through one user interface, via one app, and different systems are operated simultaneously in the background.
Thanks to new technologies and the microservice architecture, new perspectives are opening up for SAP-based purchasing and procurement. Using a single source in SAP and operating via apps, e.g. from the SAP Launchpad, suppliers and service providers are directly connected and integrated into the business processes, and all this with an outstanding user experience.
The times of monolithic applications or software suites are actually over. They are too cumbersome and inflexible. In addition, there are components that are good and others that are not – with a software suite, you must live with that. Exit strategies are difficult. Too often the effort to change is avoided. So today, the adequate approach “Best of Breed” or “Best of Service” is the first choice.
Ultimately, this approach will only be successful by using the right, i.e., modern, technologies that enable “Best of Service” to be put into practice. The microservice approach is currently a trend-setting decision in this regard. Modular and container-based, microservices are delimited by specific and clearly defined tasks. This means that microservices can be developed and maintained separately so that there is no impact on other microservices. This is what makes agile development, among other things, possible in a meaningful way.