Charting Innovation in SAP Business Suite

March 12, 2012 by Christiane Stagge

SAP Business Suite is the total package when it comes to software for major companies and corporations. With it, such organizations can manage all of their key business processes, including those in finance, production, procurement, product development, marketing, sales, service, human resources, logistics, and IT.

SAP Business Suite consists of the following core applications:

  • SAP ERP 6.0
  • SAP Product Lifecycle Management 7.0
  • SAP Customer Relationship Management 7.0
  • SAP Supply Chain Management 7.0
  • SAP Supplier Relationship Management 7.0

Large corporations and companies export their products all over the world, which often means they have expansive networks of suppliers and subsidiaries at their disposal. Luckily, SAP Business Suite is available in a wide variety of languages and supports virtually all of the accepted legal standards and compliance requirements. Companies can also use special interfaces to integrate their branch offices, thus providing all of their organizational units with access to the same software.

With all the new apps and on-demand solutions SAP has released in recent years, many customers were beginning to worry that the company was bidding a gradual farewell to SAP Business Suite. At the annual meeting of the German-speaking SAP User Group (DSAG) in October 2011, co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe dispelled these fears by declaring that the suite’s on-premise applications would remain an integral component of SAP’s product strategy.

In his keynote, Snabe not only extended the maintenance agreement for SAP Business Suite to the year 2020, but also promised new functions and improvements in line with the motto “innovation without disruption.” Here, customers will have the option of installing enhancements and minor improvement packages once per quarter while enjoying additional security in their long-term planning. To read more about Snabe’s keynote at the DSAG, see the SAP.info article: “SAP Business Suite 2020”.

On the pages ahead, we examine the details of these pending improvements:

New functions and improvements

The improvements on the way will affect a number of specific functions, technologies, and business scenarios, as well as how the applications are used.

Let’s start with the individual functions and scenarios. In supply management, users will be able to analyze and better monitor the performance of suppliers within their partner networks. Employees in marketing will benefit from a new user interface that displays target groups and customers more clearly by segment – a boon for marketing campaigns in particular. In addition, the new UI does a better job of depicting marketing budgets and larger quantities of data.

SAP Enterprise Asset Management will also be sporting a new user interface that includes new risk management functions for employees in maintenance.

A new addition to SAP Business Suite will be the application SAP Travel Management, which is intended for use in travel planning and expense accounting.

Employees in the field of finance, meanwhile, are set to benefit from side panels that provide improved overviews and new analytical functions. The master data governance component now tracks and documents changes, and a shared service framework centralizes the administrative functions that see use in financial and human resource departments. HR employees will also profit from rational compensation planning.

In addition, SAP ERP users will have access to improved functions in cost planning, while enhanced features for service procurement will help procurement management users achieve more effective control of costs stemming from external service providers. Elsewhere, product developers will have the chance to incorporate construction and production structures into production processes. Finally, logistics departments will be able to improve their planning of third-party orders and provide forecasts of both shipment duration and vendor capacity.

Innovations in SAP HANA

SAP Business Suite will also be enriched by new technologies, led by the SAP HANA database and its ability to accelerate analysis and reporting. In addition to its support for both OLTP and OLAP analyses, SAP HANA gives users the opportunity to define their own analytical processes and functions based on the available SDK. In particular, this includes operative reporting in SAP ERP.

The SAP HANA database makes it possible to process large amounts of data. SAP Smart Meter Analytics software is among those applications that will benefit the most from the SAP HANA database. Energy companies can use SAP Smart Meter Analytics to study their customers’ energy consumption patterns and provide them with more targeted energy services.

SAP HANA is also behind the burst of speed that SAP CO-PA Accelerator provides in applications related to general ledgers, material ledgers, and cost centers for product cost analysis.

In addition, SAP HANA is giving rise to an array of new applications that take advantage of in-memory technology. These include SAP Trade Promotion Management, which aids in liquidity risk management and strategic workforce planning.

Two of SAP’s offerings for small businesses and midsize companies – SAP Business One and SAP Business All-in-One – are already integrating analytics powered by SAP HANA. In the future, entire applications like SAP ERP and the rest of SAP Business Suite will run on the database.

The SAP Business Suite road map

In the model most commonly used right now, SAP Business Suite runs on a database and the SAP NetWeaver 7.03 technology platform. Alongside this setup, there are further mobile and cloud-based applications that interface with the suite. SAP Business Suite covers a comprehensive industry portfolio while offering additional integration options for other business scenarios. The “Customer Connection” feature also enables users to suggest improvements and new functions.

In phase one, further functions and analytical features are to be added. SAP Business Suite will run on the SAP HANA database, which will accelerate data analysis and make additional types of analysis possible. New mobile applications are also planned.

In phase two, SAP Business Suite will run on a native SAP HANA database application with integrated analysis and other native applications.

Using SAP Business Suite

Additional innovations are on the way regarding Customer Connection, legal requirements, and the user experience. Here, SAP now differentiates between occasional and professional users. Occasional users are set to benefit in particular from support for HTML5, with this modern Web standard making flexible homepages possible. Web browser interfaces will also adjust dynamically to the screen of any device displaying an application. Intended for professional users, meanwhile, are the new side panels that present clearly arranged contextual information. Integrated social media and SAP BusinessObjects applications are also in the pipeline, as is 3D visualization following SAP’s purchase of Right Hemisphere.

SAP plans on achieving further advancements in current business processes and release new functions on a quarterly basis. These will include industry-specific features – such as demand-based logistic chains, commodity management, a demand signal repository for retail, and transactional banking – as well as compliance with legal standards like IFRS.

Implementation

SAP will be releasing new functions in the form of notes, support packages, and enhancement packages (EHPs), or as side-by-side implementations in which select solutions are installed as add-ons.

Support packages contain corrections, adjustments to legislative changes, and functional enhancements. Customers will need to select those they wish to activate. The content is consistent with that of the EHPs, and the installation process is said to be quite simple.

During side-by-side implementations of upgrades in add-on form, new functions are installed independently of enhancement and support packages. They require explicit activation, the coding for which is delivered in support packages. Side-by-side implementations of add-ons are not just for the SAP Business Suite applications; they also apply to specific technologies, such as SAP HANA and SAP NetWeaver. Add-ons typically involve industry-specific enhancements or mobile applications, which are integrated through interfaces or extensions introduced in support packages.

Rapid-deployment solutions, meanwhile, can significantly reduce the time required for implementation. These preconfigured offerings map all the essential business processes and support installation in extremely short order without necessitating major operational disruptions. In the process, SAP Solution Manager aids administrators in managing their SAP Business Suite applications and monitoring the total costs incurred.

Cloud and mobile

Companies can connect their subsidiaries to SAP Business Suite either directly or through on-demand scenarios involving SAP Business ByDesign or other on-demand solutions, such as SAP Sales OnDemand or Travel OnDemand. In the process, the flow of both master and process data between the on-premise and on-demand installations is ensured. Collaboration software like SAP StreamWork and B2B network providers such as Crossgate can also be integrated.

Based on an SDK, partners can create their own applications for SAP Business Suite and make them available through SAP Store. The corresponding application development involves a container-based approach that supports multiple operating systems and provides all of SAP’s partners with the same infrastructure.

The SDK also enables customers and partners to program mobile applications that give users access to select data in SAP Business Suite while on the go. The gateway and reverse proxy are integrated, and companies can manage all of their mobile devices with the help of Afaria.

You can find more information on the upcoming innovations for SAP Business Suite on this SAP.com page and in this webinar.

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