A World of Small Steps

Feature Article | June 4, 2008 by Susann Leder, journalist

“Getting started in the world of enterprise SOA means taking small steps,” says Liebstückel. In his opinion, deploying enterprise SOA is not just a matter of meeting technical requirements. Knowledge of IT and business process management is just as important. DSAG helped provide more knowledge with its Enterprise SOA Day as part of SAPPHIRE 2008 Berlin. As part of the general theme of “Maturity Level in the Real World” SAP customers introduced their enterprise SOA projects and discussed the stumbling blocks they have encountered.

SAP executive board member Peter Zencke provided a glimpse into the company’s strategy for enterprise SOA. Additional topics on the agenda included orientation services and getting-started aids the software giant offers its customers to support enterprise SOA.

Enterprise SOA is still at the start of the innovation curve. Basing his remarks on a survey sponsored by the DSAG, Liebstückel said that it will take longer for enterprise SOA to penetrate the market than it did for enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. According to the survey, 75 percent of DSAG members still have no plans for enterprise SOA. Other customers still lack a good understanding of processes. “Companies think too much in terms of work and do not yet see the comprehensive processes,” says Liebstückel. Zencke added that many customers are still in the middle of ERP projects and have no capacity to deal with new projects.

Enterprise SOA projects in the real world

Three companies gave practical presentations on the techniques they used to bring their enterprise SOA projects to life and the organizational measures they implemented to take to control of processes.

The presentations made clear that none of the three companies wanted to set up enterprise SOA when they started their projects. Instead, they faced a concrete problem whose solution required enterprise SOA. The speakers also unanimously reported that they worked with enterprise services they had developed in house. The reason is simple: SAP did not yet offer any enterprise services when the projects began. Today, companies can use predefined services from SAP, which gives them a clear advantage.

New KPI cockpit at RheinChemie

Marco Lenck, CIO of RheinChemie, a chemical firm based in Mannheim, Germany, spoke of the cross-business benefits of enterprise SOA in establishing a key performance indicator (KPI) cockpit. To continue to improve the quality of service in the company, control business processes, and improve continuously, the company had to improve internal transparency and give management more options for monitoring and control. That’s why managers need simple access to standardized data and KPIs.

The KPI cockpit project was implemented with the SAP NetWeaver technology platform and enterprise SOA; the SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer tool helped with interface development. This approach required modeling the various steps of data access and visualization. No programming was needed. Since the start of 2007, the mangers at RheinChemie have been able to access aggregated information and call KPIs and plan-actual comparisons in near real time. They always have a multilevel overview of individual business processes. The project is a first step toward enterprise SOA, and the company will take additional steps in the future.

Asset management at Endress & Hauser

Jürgen Schrempp, director of business technology at Endress & Hauser, described his experience with setting up a service-based infrastructure that connected asset management systems to external systems. Endress & Hauser is an international supplier of measuring instruments and automation solutions for the process engineering industry. Information on asset management and measuring instruments is basic to the company’s customers.

That’s why the company implemented W@M, its customer portal, on the basis of the SAP NetWeaver Application Server component. Customers use W@M to manage their data on measuring instruments better, find products more easily, and order products more quickly. They can flexibly access uniform information throughout the corporate group with the portal at any time and from any location.

To offer customers even more benefits, Endress & Hauser enhanced the portal with Web services at the start of 2006. The goal was the ability to integrate data from third-party systems. The company developed Web services based on SAP NetWeaver and enterprise SOA to meet this goal. Web services integrate device data from Endress & Hauser with customers’ asset management systems – all with central access to a single point of information on the devices. This development goes beyond device management for the company’s own products and simplifies asset management on the customer side.

Cross-system process integration in the automobile industry

Another presenter at the DSAG SOA Day was Christian Eckert of VAPS EDV-Service & Vertrieb GmbH, the purchasing and service company of German Volkswagen and Audi partners. He described a new dealer management system (DMS) that maps all the business areas within an auto dealership, including purchasing, financial accounting, marketing, and service processing.

The legacy DMS provided the impetus for the project. The aging DMS no longer met the demands of the automobile market in terms of functions or legal requirements. Retailers, vendors, and manufacturers were using ever-more diverse and complex IT infrastructures that were difficult to link to the DMS. Using the SAP ERP application, SAP NetWeaver, and Web services, the service provider developed a DMS that links to non-SAP software easily with cross-system process integration, avoids redundant data entry, and offers better process transparency and user friendliness.

With the new DMS, VAPS can map all required processes and functions within SAP ERP, implement service-oriented process integration in real time and across systems, and provide new processes and functions.

Assistance with the initial steps in a project

SAP customers could learn from each other at the DSAG event. But SAP itself also provided options for leaning about enterprise SOA. Michael Zimpel and Udo Hannemann of the Enterprise SOA Adoption Program at SAP presented a brief overview of program offerings. SAP offers an online starter kit for enterprise SOA that helps companies take the first steps. The kit gives interested customers information on concrete benefits, comprehensive rules, and the methodology of enterprise SOA. The portal also offers user reports and reference studies. The information is available in a free download from the SAP Developer Network site or as a CD.

To close the event, Zencke offered an outlook at the enterprise SOA strategy at SAP. In general, it’s important for the company to meet the challenges of the market and offer innovations early. The most recent example is the SAP Business ByDesign solution for the midmarket – a solution developed on services from the ground up. The solution joins service-oriented applications with an on-demand model.

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