It’s helpful to compare framework technology with the operating system of a computer. Various programs are installed on a computer; each has an entry in the system registry. For example, if a user clicks on a file in Windows Explorer, the operating system – on its own – finds the correct program to open the file, starts the program, passes the file on to another application, and closes it when the user finishes work. The operating system maintains control of the concrete program at all times. It can minimize it, end it, or place it into the foreground.
The service provider framework works in a similar way. Programs (service providers) register themselves in the framework. To build upon the previous example, compare these service providers with the programs used to post SAP SD orders or vendor invoices. In some sense, service providers handle existing objects or objects from non-SAP applications. Concrete configuration variants can be performed on service providers in the application registry. For example, here users can define which concrete workflow definition is used for a process that can be started from a file for a concrete file type, such as an application procedure as part of a personnel file.
New service providers – new programs – are also entered into the registry. At runtime, the service provider framework acts as a broker between the various programs involved in an SAP solution. In the case of SAP Records Management, files and the documents they contain communicate over the framework just as they do with vendor invoices or orders. In the process, files, orders, invoices, and documents must be considered as independent objects that exhibit an independent implementation.
Customizing or enhancement by implementation?
Well-known companies such as the Deutsche Postbank, KarstadtQuelle or the Westdeutsche Immobilien Bank already count on SAP Records Management. All these customers required that non-SAP components supplement SAP Records Management. For example, groupware systems or special systems to appraise property were linked to the file management solution. The strength of the framework approach is apparent here: The non-SAP programs simply had to be entered into the registry as services so that they could interact with existing objects. The solution is consistently open so it guarantees freedom to make modifications.
The ability to enhance an application without customer-specific modifications is an additional advantage. Framework technology often proves superior to designs that offer extremely complex customizing or multiple configuration options that cut standard software down to fit concrete customer needs. Often, it’s much simpler to implement enhancements for a specific customer situation with framework technology. The goals of a customer-specific implementation generally correspond to real customer needs much more strongly because the enhancements are created in collaboration with end users.
The disadvantage? Enhancements that arise through implementation demand much more specific knowledge on the part of those involved in the project – much more than simple system configuration through customizing. A decision about which approach better leads to the goal can be made only when dealing with real-world situations.
Additional applications based upon the service provider framework
Other SAP solutions take advantage of the service provider framework developed for SAP Records Management. For example, mySAP Financials processes disputes, such as complaints about invoices, and logs all the documents that arise during the dispute management process in a procedure file. mySAP Financials can also document the creation of a balance sheet and quarterly reports in a form that meets the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the new U.S. law requiring greater transparency in reporting. mySAP Customer Relationship Management also contains procedure management for processing service requests. And mySAP Public Sector provides a records management solution for official files.
SAP is delivering more and more solutions that place objects in relation to each other with the service provider framework and that contain the preconfigured functionality of SAP Records Management. These solutions display added value of SAP Records Management that is based upon the framework design. The solution’s openness does more than guarantee the creation of tailor-made customer solutions. Reuse of the framework and the objects realized in it in various SAP applications particularly profits customers who now encounter uniform architecture and uniform interfaces in various applications.