Beyond Gravity is modernising its heterogeneous software environment and wants to take advantage of all the benefits of a cloud solution. The aerospace company is therefore opting for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition for its ERP – no ifs, ands or buts. 

Although catastrophic asteroid impacts have been rare in Earth’s history, the threat that asteroids pose to life on our planet is very real. NASA and ESA have therefore launched a mission to test one of the double asteroids Didymos/Dimorphos by deflecting it slightly from its orbit with an impacting satellite. Now, in October 2024, the Hera probe is to set off for Dimorphos in part two of the mission and investigate the effects of the impact in more detail from October 2026. 

Beyond Gravity: Space technology for the benefit of mankind 

‘Protecting the Earth from an asteroid that could threaten all of humanity is a significant and exciting task.’ – Johan Eckerstein, CIO at Beyond Gravity. 

The Swiss-headquartered aerospace company is one of the suppliers equipping Hera with high technology. Specifically, Beyond Gravity is supplying the probe’s two solar panels, for example. In addition to building a wide range of satellite components, the space specialist also manufactures launchers (satellite distribution modules) and is involved in a third, but smaller business area, chip lithography. According to the market data platform Tracxn, Beyond Gravity’s portfolio ranks third globally out of a total of 21 competitors. 

EZYone transformation project sets the course for the future 

Johan Eckerstein, former CIO at Beyond Gravity: ‘Our ambition is to be the best space company: the most modern, the most digitally advanced and the most exciting company to work for,’ explains Johan Eckerstein. As CIO, he sees it as his task to create the technological foundation for this vision. He set the course for this in October 2022 with the EZYone project. 

For the space company, which presents itself as a start-up but at the same time draws on its decades of space experience, the far-reaching digital transformation project EZYone is both a necessary and challenging undertaking in view of privatisation: Beyond Gravity has been operating on the market under its current name since May 2022, but has its origins in the Swiss RUAG Space, the space division of the Swiss technology group RUAG International. 

As the name of the programme suggests, it is all about making things ‘easier’. Beyond Gravity has grown from different companies and locations in the past. Accordingly, there are currently different locations with different IT systems that are not connected to each other. 

With EZYone, we are preparing Beyond Gravity to become a ‘digital-first’ company that will utilise artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR) and many other new technologies. The first step is to build a common digital core that will allow us to create tremendous value and find new ways to serve our customers. 

SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition: turning seven into one 

Beyond Gravity’s business units each have their own comprehensive, established expertise. On the IT side, however, the company’s chequered history has led to complex, inefficient and uneconomical processes due to a mix of legacy systems, including seven different ERP systems alone. 

The project was kicked off in October 2022. ‘We first determined what the basic architecture of the new IT landscape should look like,’ explains Eckerstein. This led to the development of a series of design principles to ensure the success of the project, including: 

  • One solution for each of the business units 
  • Cloud first 
  • Standard first (out-of-the-box) 
  • No technical data in the ERP 
  • Fast go-live in the first quarter of 2024 

All in all, these criteria in the ERP area ultimately led to the decision in favour of SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition. ‘From the perspective of an agile start-up and global market leader, which we want to become, the cloud is the best solution,’ explains the CIO. ‘By opting for a cloud solution, you commit to a provider’s roadmap rather than a static product. And as a medium-sized company, we benefit from a provider that, like SAP, has the infrastructure and manpower to provide the solution reliably and securely.’ This relieves the burden on IT staff and frees them up for more value-adding tasks. 

92 per cent coverage of all processes by the standard 

However, Eckerstein emphasises that anyone who wants to take advantage of the public cloud must follow this path consistently. First and foremost, this means that the standard of the public cloud solution must be adhered to as far as possible when transforming business processes. At Beyond Gravity, the requirement was therefore: 

  • 80 per cent of the processes must be covered by the standard – and adapted to it if necessary. 
  • Essential processes that are not covered by the standard are added to SAP’s to-do list in order to be realised within a certain time frame. 
  • For all non-essential processes, other ways of realisation must be explored: Third-party solution, manual processes or other ‘smart ways’ (Eckerstein). 

The result of this approach surprised even Eckerstein: ‘We managed to cover 92 per cent of all processes with the standard solution. In fact, we couldn’t find a single gap in the financial area.’ In practice, this means, among other things 

  • In future, managers will be able to obtain a status overview of all projects in real time with just a few clicks – regardless of country or currency. 
  • Internal Group processes can run more efficiently, for example through fully automated order placement and confirmation or the tracking of all goods in transit. 
  • However, the small proportion of open processes (8 per cent) can represent a huge gap if even one of these processes is business-critical. 

Incidentally, Beyond Gravity also brought SAP (more precisely SAP Switzerland) on board as an implementation partner at the time in order to be able to communicate with the SAP developers as quickly as possible during the further development of the ERP cloud solution. 

Public cloud ERP requires a calculated willingness to take risks 

Half of the scheduled project time has now elapsed. The solution was built in September 2023. The company is currently in the first test phase. The first go-live is scheduled for March 2024 in Sweden. ‘This speed is only possible in the public cloud,’ says Eckerstein, ‘but only if you have the right mindset.’ In other words, if you want to utilise the benefits of the public cloud, you have to be prepared to take a certain amount of risk compared to an on-premises installation and be confident that the provider’s roadmap is heading in the right direction. ‘This has nothing to do with blind trust, but is a very objective weighing up of probabilities.’ 

This article first appeared on the SAP Germany News Center.