In the Service of Enterprise Services

September 20, 2006 by SAP News

Enterprise services are the key elements of enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA). They can be used immediately and contain universal business semantics, which help to map processes flexibly and change them easily as required. Enterprise services are the building blocks to develop composite applications that support cross-enterprise and cross-application business processes.

When developing enterprise services, SAP works closely with customers and partners, such as software manufacturers or system integrators. Since April 2006, the Enterprise Services Community (ES Community) has been the cross-industry forum for the definition of services. The aim of this partnership is to continually develop the set of enterprise services that SAP offers as packages. The process and interface descriptions of the services are stored in the Enterprise Services Repository, which is delivered to customers individually with the Business Process Platform. The ES Community is the only channel via which customers and partners can request new enterprise services or license the solutions based on them.
The ES community supplements SAP’s existing partner network and its membership has grown from around 60 to nearly 100 since its foundation. In a number of working groups, the enterprises involved are able to directly influence the business requirements and technical basis of the enterprise services contained in the mySAP Business Suite with its applications as well as SAP NetWeaver and the Business Process Platform. The detailed set of rules by which the ES community operates ensures that the members are informed about existing and planned enterprise services and protects the members’ intellecutal property (IP) rights. The membership agreement ensures that members control their IP and what they contribute to the working groups. Those contributions are protected so that other members of the group cannot use them outside of the service definition results. Members are assured of a royalty-free license to consume services defined in the groups, ensuring all members can take advantage of service definitions to create consuming applications.

Industry-specific working groups

The Enterprise Services Community consists of a central steering committee and dedicated working groups – definition groups and advisory groups – which are set up to deal with individual issues and are disbanded after around three to six months when the work has been completed. Participants in the “request definition groups” request new enterprise services, draw up proposed changes for existing services, and formulate technical requirements. The “review definition groups,” on the other hand, test the enterprise services prior to implementation. At the moment, there are definition groups for the healthcare industry, the banking industry and for RFID technology across several industries. Other working groups are being formed around contract data management in the aerospace industry and defense industry, tax and revenue management in the public services, and sales order change management in the high-tech industry.
The “advisory groups” are the second type of working group within the ES Community. They accompany and support the work of the ES community by drawing up documentation for best practices and white papers, for example. Thus the advisory group for network services is currently developing best practices for suppliers of routers and other network infrastructure. The members include the enterprises Akamai, Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems, and Juniper Networks.

70 new enterprise services for the banking sector

As one of the first working groups, the definition group for the banking sector, which included the financial institutes ABN Amro, ABSA, Banca Intesa, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Barclays, BBVA, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Postbank, ING, Nordea, and Standard Bank successfully completed its work at the end of July. It created almost 70 enterprise services and a total of 18 service interface definitions – far more than the 35 or so service definitions that SAP expects on average from the groups.
What´s more the group developed

  • a taxonomy for common language and guidance,
  • an enterprise services landscape that describes common banking operations,
  • enterprise services definitions on the topics of business partner management and account management that describe the main elements for implementing and running an enterprise SOA in a bank

This work will ensure a nondisruptive, step-by-step movement toward next-generation solutions and help banks integrate new functions and services into their existing IT environments. To gain high industry acceptance these enterprise services address the business concerns of banks today. The question is how to provide an integrated banking services offering from multiple operations and how to extend multichannel access to such integrated banking services offerings.
For example, the banking definition group has proposed services definitions for managing accounts and business partners in banking operations because these are core business services common to all banks. To provide integrated banking service offerings across multiple banking operations, sometimes across national borders, a standard service description for account administration is essential. This service description, encapsulated in the enterprise services delivered by SAP, will provide a unified look for account administration functionality. All new consuming applications can leverage this enterprise services, and enable IT the opportunity to consolidate assets by retiring redundant applications.

Direct route to solution development

A carefully prepared process ensures that the results of the working groups are directly incorporated in the further development of the SAP solutions. To make sure that ideas are not put on hold, SAP only sets up groups if there is great interest in them within the community and if it is highly likely that their results can be implemented within a period of nine months. This probability is measured through factors like the complexity of the proposal, how closely it matches the immediate needs and portfolios of development teams, and the customer demand. The selection process and coordination of partners is therefore controlled by the Industry Business Units at SAP together with the industry-specific partner forums, the Industry Value Networks.
To ensure that the process runs smoothly, SAP has integrated the ES community in the existing partner network, stresses Aaron Williams, Director of the ES Community Program Office at SAP: “As ES Community offers the only means for the SAP ecosystem to directly impact SAP’s delivery of enterprise services, which are the building blocks of critical industry composite applications, customers and partners who are involved in various SAP ecosystem initiatives can leverage their participation in the ES Community to propose the enterprise services that they can directly use in their composite application development process. Customers and partners who participate in the ES Community will have the opportunity to propose the enterprise services that SAP should deliver to lower their integration effort and to enable partners to leverage SAP’s existing business processes and enterprise services as re-usable building blocks to deliver composite applications. In addition, through participation in the ES Community, members of SAP’s ecosystem will have early-access to SAP’s planned enterprise services and the process transparency to SAP’s Enterprise Services roadmap to help design and synchronize the delivery of their composite applications that use these services. These benefits from the ES Community provide the enterprise services foundation where additional innovation around business processes and composite applications can happen quickly and easily.”
The basic preparations pay off, as Aaron Williams explains: “We got positive feedback with regards to the fact that SAP is really collaborating with customers and partners. So rather than just being a suggestion box where everybody comes by and drops his good ideas instead we have a process to take these ideas and integrate them in our products. One of our biggest challenges is to manage expectations correctly. From that perspective we are not doing a group in every area. This is better than accepting the input and then doing nothing.”

TechEds showcase example implementations

The new enterprise services for the banking sector are clear proof that the ES Community is not a discussion forum but actually produces tangible results. These services will be presented at the TechEds in Las Vegas, Amsterdam, and Bangalore and exemplify how services function and what they can be used for. In addition, SAP is preparing about ten workshops on the subject of enterprise services for the conferences. The workshops give the existing working groups of the ES Community the opportunity to meet up, on the one hand, and on the other, they offer a forum for gathering ideas for new working groups. This approach proved valuable at the SAPPHIRE conferences in the spring. In the short work sessions, the participants were able to identify a series of important topics from a customer and partner perspective. For example, in the workshop for the public services industry around tax and revenue management, the topics of registration and tax filing were identified as being high priority for service enablement, and were scoped for definition group formation.
Aaron Williams is therefore extremely satisfied with how the community has developed and been embraced by the customers and partners. “The community is making an important transition from being something that had been talked about and hyped to something that is producing results and value. We are ready for the next phase, and instead of having five or six active groups at a time, we’ll soon have 15 to 20 groups running concurrently. That’s a big challenge for us over the course of the next two quarters – meeting the expectations internally and externally. We have to scale the community up and meet the high level of demand and interest we are seeing.”
Further information:
http://esc.sap.com

Sabine Höfler

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