Putting a Face on Enterprise Service-Oriented Architecture

Feature Article | August 8, 2007 by SAP News

Enterprise Services

Enterprise Services

SAP is making it easier to combine technology and business functionality with enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA). Enterprise SOA is a business-driven software architecture that supports business requirements through enterprise services. The SAP NetWeaver platform is the technical foundation of enterprise SOA, and its tools are used to create the enterprise services that support new business processes. Like Web services, enterprise services are software modules that are based on open standards like WSDL, XML, and SOAP. But enterprise services go beyond Web services; enterprise services contain semantics that have been harmonized for business and clearly map structured business functionality. If enterprise services are combined in a specific sequence, you can define process steps and set up service-oriented business scenarios.

Bundling by business context

Enterprise services bundles (ES bundles) contain enterprise services and their documentation in common business contexts. Examples include the steps involved in managing credit risks and planning production requirements.
With ES bundles, SAP addresses concrete requirements for flexibility and efficiency in business processes and describes solutions and scenarios to show the business benefits of enterprise SOA. The information is available in an interactive Wiki format on the SAP Developer Network site, which provides SAP partners and customers with a community in which they can share their experiences.
ES bundles deliver all the software you need to implement significant service-oriented business processes based on your existing business solutions. Examples include invoice creation and customer communication.

Bringing the invoicing process to customers

In most companies, invoicing customers involves paper. Invoices are written, printed, enclosed in envelopes, and mailed to customers – at a great expense in both time and money. But enterprise services from the electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) ES bundle and the support of an Internet portal can bring the invoicing process directly to customers’ desktops. Customers can access a portal to call up a list of open and paid invoices. Two enterprise services, “find open item by customer” and “find cleared item by customer” retrieve the necessary data from the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) back end.
Additional enterprise services, such as “create due payment,” allow customers to pay invoices over the portal using only a standard Web browser and Internet access. Users do not need to install additional software. You can extend the scenario with additional services, which do not have to come from the EBPP ES bundle. For example, the “change due item payment method” service lets customers choose the type of payment. If customers pay with credit cards, an additional service checks creditworthiness. This approach gives users at the customer’s site and those at the company an end-to-end process that they can use to exchange information and execute transactions without a hitch.

Customer data at a glance

Invoicing is only one area in the business-to-business environment that can be made more efficient with enterprise services. Sales processes also benefit. Sales and service employees, along with management, often have to search for customer information in several applications. The enterprise services in the customer fact sheet (CFS) ES bundle, provide this information in an aggregated form.
Enterprise services can collect all customer information in various SAP applications (including SAP ERP and SAP Customer Relationship Management), the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence component, and the SAP software for credit management. The information can also be merged with other Web services. The difference from CFS solutions without enterprise services is significant. Enterprise services like “read customer bank details,” “find customer quote basic data by buyer and basic data,” or “read sales order” capture information on customer financial data, quotations, and sales orders from back-end SAP software. The information that the enterprise services take from the back end can be displayed in a uniform interface, the customer master data sheet. Any applications can be realized on the front end: Web applications, Microsoft Outlook, or mobile handheld solutions.
The enterprise services in the CFS ES bundle can be integrated with these front ends to record customer orders and to correct customer master data. Additional services check credit information and analyze customer sales, orders, and receivables. The SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management (SAP NetWeaver MDM) component also supports these processes when the contents of the data must be compared beyond the boundaries of individual systems.
Enterprise services can also handle customer communications. If a customer calls a service center to change an order, the “find customer address basic data by name and address” enterprise service automatically identifies the customer. A service employee can use another service, “find sales order basic data by elements,” to call up the information relevant to a sale. Once the change to the order is confirmed, enterprise services route it to the appropriate back-end software so that it is available to everyone involved in the process. A service employee can use other enterprise services to request additional information on customers, such as previous orders or payment behavior. The result? All the customer data stored in back-end SAP software can be used in additional contexts with enterprise services and create greater transparency.
SAP currently offers about 40 ES bundles and plans to offer a total of 60 by the end of the year, including an ES bundle for retail that enables efficient pricing, ES bundles for production companies to optimize requirements planning, and for subcontractors to integrate themselves in the supply network quickly.

No more enterprise services than necessary

To set up service-based processes, you select the enterprise services you need from an ES bundle. No formal sequence for using enterprise services has been set, but you should use them in a meaningful business manner. You can combine enterprise services from various ES bundles.
Because the ES bundles group enterprise services by business context, different bundles can contain the same services. Financial accounting, sales, and service all need to know if a customer has open items, for example, so both the EBPP and CFS ES bundles contain the “find open item by customer” enterprise service. The enterprise service displays the invoice line items that a customer has not yet paid. Both ES bundles also contain the “read customer basic data” enterprise service to call customer master data.

Foundation for composite applications

ES bundles enhance the functionality of SAP ERP, SAP Business Suite applications, and SAP industry solution portfolios, such as those for banking, insurance, retail, and public services. SAP delivers bundled services for SAP ERP along with the related documentation in enhancement packages, which are delivered as software add-ons for SAP Business Suite applications and for industry solution portfolios.
Enterprise services also create the foundation for building composite applications. Composite applications rely on a specific number of enterprise services that you can assign to an ES bundle. They consume enterprise services in a defined sequence and have their own user interface. That makes composite applications – unlike ES bundles – previously designed software applications.

Dr. Andreas Schaffry

Dr. Andreas Schaffry

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