“Real-time business” is essential in today’s highly competitive environment. Business processes need to be molded, mapped and controlled in real time to enable companies to respond to the demands of the market, customers or business partners as quickly as possible. However, a number or preconditions must be met if this is to be achieved.
For example, processes which generally extend across several software applications should be integrated not only within the company, but also at suppliers and customers where required. Technical and industry-specific standards are particularly vital where data is exchanged with other business partners. Content management is required to convert unstructured and structured data from the applications into a usable picture. Employees should have information relevant to their requirements and roles at the right time, in the right place.
Recurring processes must be defined as generally available “Shared Services” and it must be possible to access them for new processes that have to be set up. Orchestrating and maintaining a process which is to be mapped requires software lifecycle management. Downtime is no longer inevitable just because applications have to be changed or new ones set up.
Customers explore ESA potential
Suppliers of applications and infrastructure carry out developments based on service-oriented architectures (SOA) to satisfy all these requirements. These enable companies to use web services as technological program modules and implement processes with them. For some time, IT providers have been monitoring the use of service-oriented architectures. But how can these actually be implemented within companies?
SAP NetWeaver from SAP supplies the solution. To a certain extent a service-oriented architecture is already possible with cross-application solutions using SAP xApps based on SAP NetWeaver. In 2003, SAP unveiled its comprehensive SOA-focused concept of an Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA). The processes are mapped in reusable “Enterprise Services” which are made available within mySAP ERP, for example. This enables configuration of process steps and, alongside web services, also provides business management support in the design of cross-enterprise processes. Enterprise Services are used to produce a comprehensive definition of business-related processes and to implement them across a range of IT systems. For example, Enterprise Services break up rigid delivery chains and turn them into cooperation networks that support flexible expansion. ESA is being developed to provide IT specialization and consolidation strategies with the flexibility required on today’s market.
En route to real-time business
SAP has developed its “Enterprise Services Architecture Adoption Program” (ESA Adoption Program) to enable all of its customers to implement their own IT strategies for a real-time business step-by-step. An initial evaluation phase involving joint workshops with SAP and customers will find out how ESA can support the customer’s specific business processes. The next step is to define an ESA roadmap specific to the needs of the company in question. The ESA roadmap uses the customer’s existing architecture to highlight concrete measures for the phased introduction of a service-oriented architecture over the coming years. These measures will be put in place in a subsequent implementation phase. One of the key focuses is on ensuring that the service-oriented architecture is introduced without downtime. Tools are available which measure the outcome of implementing the Enterprise Services Architecture in a cost/benefit analysis and evaluate them in terms of Return on Investment (ROI). The SAP Developer Network (SDN) provides customers and partners of SAP with a more extensive insight into the ESA Adoption Program.
Enterprise Services already a reality
SAP recently unveiled the “ESA Preview System” to give partners and customers an insight into Enterprise Services and enable them to play a role in its further development. It currently contains 500 pre-defined Enterprise Services for key business processes from sectors such as ‘Financial and Management Reporting’ or ‘Sales Analytics’. Further examples of these Enterprise Services include ‘Alert Management’ with warning functions and ‘General Ledger Processing’ for working with balance sheets and taxes. Yet another example is the delivery or procurement processes such as ‘procure-to-pay’ or ‘order-to-cash’. The ESA Preview System shows how Enterprise Services handle such process steps and automatically support the entire workflow for all users. This extends from identifying a problem to finding a solution. The purpose of an Enterprise Service is to retrieve a misdirected delivery and process it properly.
With the ESA Adoption Program and the ESA Preview System, SAP offers its customers comprehensive advice and customized solutions on introducing the Enterprise Services Architecture whatever the size of the company. What is more, SAP NetWeaver lays the groundwork for future competitiveness, corporate success and real-time business.