When Standards meet Innovation

Feature Article | November 28, 2005 by admin

The theory looks straightforward. Prominent management consultant Geoffrey Moore regards differentiation and productivity as key pillars of success – a view that makes sense. Productivity in the company is ensured via a standard software package that provides an efficient and cost-effective means of managing common business processes. However, if a company is to set itself apart from its competitors on dynamic markets, its IT must also permit innovative ideas to be transformed into business processes quickly and flexibly. This mixture of standardized “core” and innovative “context” can only be achieved using an ERP application based on an Enterprise Services Architecture.
mySAP ERP maps all key administrative and operational standard business processes and has been used to support the Enterprise Services Architecture since 2004 through integrated Enterprise Services. This platform based on Enterprise Services also serves as the enabling technology for innovative business processes. These are generated by recombining individual services in a new context. As of 2006, mySAP ERP will be supplemented by the first SAP ERP Content Package, which SAP and partners will then expand on an ongoing basis.
These Enterprise Services are held in a Service Repository. Composite applications provide solutions for new tasks. For the first time, business processes are created from a business point of view rather than from the developer’s perspective. This delivers results with far greater speed and efficiency than is possible with customer-specific coding in response to changing market needs.
Four examples will illustrate how ESA also supports the implementation of new tasks in “classical” ERP applications.

Individualization of the SAP Procure-to-Pay process

Administration Intelligence AG (AI) – a German midsize software company with over 300 employees – specializes in electronic procurement solutions for public tenders. German law requires that public authorities have to publicly announce each and every acquisition and then award the contract to the most attractively priced bidder. Public institutions require software solutions that will do the job. How did AI solve this task? The SAP Procure-to-Pay process provided the jump-off point. This process was adapted to the needs of public procurement through a budget check, an RFP publication, an offer management system, an evaluation process and a selection of the winner. AI uses the standard SAP Budget Check for the budget-check phase. All named functions are integrated into AI’s solution via web services.
The remarkable thing in this case is not AI’s ability to implement, what in some cases are highly specialized requirements, but rather the fact that it actually has relatively little experience of SAP. Without Enterprise Services, real-time integration of the SAP functional modules would have been hardly ever possible. Using Enterprise Services, however, two employees completed the task in around a week. They simply integrated customer-specific solutions without any programming.

Mendocino – link between Office and SAP software via ESA

A further example is the Mendocino project involving SAP and Microsoft. Mendocino integrates Microsoft Office applications and SAP solutions. Take the example of a leave request. Although this may appear straightforward, it actually involves a variety of background processes. At least two steps are required when a company employee submits one of these requests. He or she starts by completing a leave request form. In many companies, this is done electronically via the SAP HR component, and the request is then presented in electronic form to the employee’s superior. When permission has been granted, the second step follows, namely entering this period of time into the electronic Outlook calendar. These two steps are in fact redundant.

How does Mendocino handle things? Here the leave request is recorded only once, “tentative”, in the Outlook calendar. The system then automatically forwards the procedure for approval. If a member of staff still has remaining leave in his or her SAP Human Resources account and the superior approves the request, the status is automatically changed to “out of office” for this period in the calendar. Several services make up the interface between SAP HR planning and Outlook. One of these transfers the data in the Outlook calendar to HR planning, and from there back to Outlook.

Management reports

The above example illustrates the data path from Microsoft to SAP. The link can be used in the opposite direction if decision-critical reports are required on a regular basis. Mendocino can automatically collect data, create reports, and distribute these to users. Each requested report arrives at the workplace at the required frequency and is treated like an e-mail in Outlook.

These reports draw on consistently up-to-date information from the SAP solutions as they link directly into the database and are not simply a copy of the results at the time the service was executed. Authorized staff can request these in accordance with their role without needing any specialist knowledge of SAP.
The key thing about both examples is that they did not involve any customized programming by either Microsoft or SAP. Both manufacturers employ Enterprise Services, which they use to expand the range of functions available and to boost the productivity of their software solutions.

SAP xCQM – Cost and Quotation Management – a composite application

SAP xCQM is a stand-alone product that does not form part of any other SAP solution. xCQM is a useful product pricing tool that factors the customer’s circumstances, such as his or her creditworthiness, into the equation.
No programming was carried out when developing the product. The composite application was created from SAP functional modules using visual tools. In order to fulfill its tasks, xCQM draws on functions from SAP Business Information Warehouse, SAP Enterprise Portal, SAP Exchange Infrastructure, mySAP ERP, and mySAP SRM and merges these into a single business process using Enterprise Services. mySAP ERP already provides services that make solutions like that from AI possible. Mendocino and xCQM are also based on these services and were created using SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer.

Creating innovative business models

Innovative business processes can be created from existing services using tools such as SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer. To do so, service objects are arranged graphically in accordance with their intended run sequence and then combined. The resulting programming code is generated automatically. The composed service is displayed as a URL that can be activated using any browser.

The mySAP ERP Solution Map displays a variety of functional areas contained in mySAP ERP. “Speech bubbles” in the Solution Map show the number of services available for a particular functional area. The figures

Dr. Wolfgang Schaper

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