Looking at Tomorrow Today

The participants enjoyed a view of a bend in the river Elbe – a wonderful location for the second-largest event sponsored by DSAG. Approximately 1,200 users from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria attended 100 sessions covering the latest developments in SAP software and technology. Gerhard Oswald, a member of the SAP Executive Board, used the record-breaking number of visitors to joke, “We just built the SAP Arena here, and if it’s too small, we’ll soon have a stadium that seats 40,000 not too far from Walldorf.”

In his keynote address, Oswald sketched the technology schedule for the current year and emphasized the importance of enhancement packages to SAP’s product strategy. SAP will use enhancement packages as the primary means of developing SAP ERP. “The pulse will certainly be much faster,” said Oswald. But complete new releases will also continue to appear, including one this year. “It will include new business processes that use Enterprise Services Repository,” he said.

Oswald gave the audience current figures that indicate about 1,000 new customers are convinced of the advantages of SAP NetWeaver each month. SAP also gains an average of 40 midsize customers every day, which documents the breakthrough in the midsize market that has occurred.

No support without customers

The keynote address of Uwe Hommel, executive vice president of SAP Active Global Support, showed the effects of the product strategy on operations. His address focused on end-to-end solution operations and SAP Solution Manager as the guarantor of secure integration processes. Hommel said these processes are important because of increasingly complex requirements for the integration of third-party solutions, home-grown solutions based on Java, and the steadily increasing number of users. SAP Solution Manager is the central tool for managing applications uniformly.

Hommel emphasized the importance of customer collaboration, particularly for support. There’s a reason he keeps in touch with 35,000 customers as directly as possible. With SAP Solution Manager, every support engineer can use remote support from any supportcenter in the world to analyze and solve problems. According to Hommel, this service will also become available within the next six months for applications of Business Objects, a SAP company. Another new feature in SAP Solution Manager is built-in traces that log all steps and make it easier to identify problems.

The application guarantees that processes are integrated with a uniform quality standard. A network of experts can jump in quickly when needed, which shortens the time needed to diagnose and solve problems. SAP’s goal was to drive the required standardization and make it available to more than large customers. SAP Solution Manager serves all customer segments securely.

For operations: Run SAP

More detailed sessions clarified one of the most important innovations in SAP Solution Manager 4.0, SP 15: administrative functions. SAP Solution Manager also has a new work center, which bundles all tasks in the life cycle of an application, for example, those for management and monitoring.

Matthias Melich, vice president of product management for SAP Solution Manager, emphasized the importance of the Run SAP methodology for operating SAP solutions, which is based on standards for solution operations that are realized in the work centers. Run SAP is to solution operations what ASAP is for installation.

IT in the real world

Beat Hauenstein, CIO of Oettinger Imex AG, a part of the Oettinger Davidoff Group, spoke about how IT successfully supports corporate strategy in various business areas at multinational locations. Hauenstein showed how his IT department developed from a punching bag and “cost terrorist” into a respectable part of the company within five years. The absolute foundation during this development was, according to Hauenstein, a clearly defined IT design. The key to success was “continuous innovations with a reasonable use of technology.” In this context, he defined “reasonable” as “as much as needed, as little as possible.”

Hauenstein used SAP ERP 2004 to consolidate his company’s IT landscape, because it is proven technology. His strategy was to maintain existing solutions and to sustain the quality of the system landscape with ongoing investments. He also recommended that IT directors develop project strategies in collaboration with business managers, “promising only what you can deliver.”

An update on SAP NetWeaver

Franz-Josef Fritz, vice president of product management for SAP NetWeaver at SAP, gave a technology update on SAP NetWeaver. Fritz looked at the past, the present, and the near future and offered comprehensive insight into the current status of the technology platform. Users can expect the first enhancement package for SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and SAP NetWeaver 7.1, so the functionality of both versions will coalesce by the end of the year.

The enhancement package enables a connection between SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and the next release of the SAP Business Suite family of applications. SAP is also offering new releases of the SAP NetWeaver Portal component, the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation application, and the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence component.

Deep insight

Attendees split into working groups on the second day of the conference. Most of the sessions focused on concrete examples from the real world of SAP users. Participants discussed the limitations of SAP solutions and how to overcome any weaknesses – for a reporting solution within SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence, maintaining an Internet presence with SAP NetWeaver Portal, or managing risk.

Once again, Technology Days proved to be the second most important event sponsored by DSAG – right after the annual conference. Michael Weber, service manager at Munich Re, summarized the meeting for all participants: “Technology Days are a must for me. I learn about the latest developments here. Of course, I have to read a lot and talk with a lot of people, but here I get the most recent information from one source.”