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The “x” in Partner xApps

So, here we are at a new paradigm in the application area, building xApps.

If you are an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) with some unique ideas for extending the reach and strength of your application – you are in the right place. xApps are built on three main pillars: The partner application, NetWeaver and the x part which makes it an xApp

x Factor: Back in those days, we had the “x”Ray – named because Dr. Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen saw the presence of radiation but needed to understand it. These days we have the XBOX, OS X, Generation X, X Files, X games etc. But the “x” we are after, is based not only on the dimensions of the landscape and the business scenario, but needs to be able to constantly evolve and interact with other x’s (applications) in the market. It isn’t easy to articulate this precisely.

Please keep in mind, that simply porting your application to NetWeaver will not always make it an xApp. It will certainly enhance the strengths and capabilities of your application, but there needs to be more, something eXtra to get to the status of being an xApp. This eXtra can be in the form of understanding of the industry, the business process and the needs of the customer. There are no xApps for the sake of slick new technology, no, they are always built for the functionality and business value that they provide.

Here are the main building blocks for an xApp that you need to understand before building one:

The Partner Application: First and foremost, your application’s core capabilities are what will be used as the base for our xApp. After spending many person hours, writing millions of lines of code, testing the application, getting the marketing team to really write about the product (and not what they think it should be about), packaging the application, and making sure it installs, etc., you are ready to take the product to the next level by joining the xApp world. In this phase don’t lose sight of the strengths of your own application that you are bringing forth, however this by itself will seldom form the “x” that you are trying to create.

NetWeaver: The second part of the xApp equation is NetWeaver. NetWeaver is an essential factor that helps make the “x” possible. Just keep in mind, that due to resource constraints and deadlines, taking a phased approach is highly recommended. There are several aspects that we need to bring in with NetWeaver: Portal, BW, MDM, XI etc.

First is People Integration through the Portal/Collaboration tool; we can bring in appropriate components of other relevant applications that are integrated into the xApp. Next step is Process Integration and Data Integration through XI and BW. You can integrate your application with XI, and through XI, you can get your data to BW, which will provide the analytics for your xApp. Since XI is pre-integrated with SAP, you can set rules inside XI to send data back and forth from all the backend applications involved in our xApp. Based on specific requirements, additional NetWeaver components like SAP Web AS, MDM, Mobile Engine, etc. can be used. I have intentionally left out CAF for right now and will further discuss this in the upcoming “CAF for Dummies” blog.

The xApp: We have seen the way the applications have evolved over the years and given us a very diverse and extensive and expensive landscape. Here NetWeaver can help you enhance, integrate and leverage the strengths of the landscape. So in other words, NW can help emulate functionality from an underlying application which can be reused in the new xApp. And the “x” will be the part where the Partner Application’s functionality is added to the business processes exposed by NW, thereby creating a new enhanced and efficient business process. With this it solves an end-to-end business scenario where the solution is spread across several different functional areas and you have done this without having to create another separate silo.

Furthermore, as you evolve in building the xApp we will find more and more business processes where we can derive synergies. If we have managed to understand and create the “x” we have certainly taken the whole thing to a new level.

One of my colleagues likes to see it at the “x” in neXt practices. But here is another shot at it with an example:

Here at SAP we have an xApp partner, Digital Fuel. Start with their app ServiceFlow, which has several capabilities. At a very high level one capability is that it does SLA (Service Level Agreements) monitoring for vendors, suppliers, VAR, internal organizations etc. They integrated to NetWeaver, but the “x” part specific to their application comes from NW’s ability to expose transactions / business processes from an underlying SRM system, for example, and add ServiceFlow’s capabilities to it. Functionality-wise, the new aspects of the xApp are

  • Specific sourcing of vendors based on SLA’s set for them,

  • Attaching SLAs to Requisitions, POs, Bids and Contracts,

  • Accessing SLOs (Service Level Objectives) from SAP shopping catalogs,

  • Filling the hole in Services lifecycle management,

  • Improving Requisition-to-Payment cycle time Closed-Loop Business Process.

Value: Reduced Service Processing Costs and Freed-up Working Capital.

In the customer service area the ServiceFlow xApp can provide capabilities that would otherwise not be possible, and does so without having to reinvent the wheel. For example the xApp can enable a call center agent to automatically assign a service order from a call ticket to a vendor based on his SLAs. This specifically is accomplished by exposing adequate processes from the CRM system, combined with ServiceFlow and creating a neXt process. The xApp also completes the end-to-end business process by providing invoicing and payment capabilities, by exposing these processes from an underlying Financial system. The xApp also collects performance information giving you the KPIs for a vendor. Moving forward, the ServiceFlow xApp can be set to manage IT orgs, Internal Call Centers, etc. without excessive development.

Here we see that business processes exposed by NetWeaver are integrated with the strengths of the partner applications, without creating a new silo. We have effectively managed to reuse master data, transactions and processes – and create the neXt practice with the “X” in it.

In my opinion, xApps are one of SAP’s ways of bringing forth innovation to the market. Innovation that is scalable, usable, adoptable and adaptable.

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  • I’m confused as to exactly xApps are of great benefit. Mr. Ashvini does elude to many great benefits, and what you will have to do to make an “X” app, but that “doing” is exactly what I think would kill the ROI. Even then.. what miraculous event will an X-App perform if it is still just a highly integrated iView.
    I just cannot understand what xapps provide besides a consulting revenue for sap. Maybe you can convince me otherwise, but I see X-apps as basically an application written for the portal. If you specifically need sso & and easy integration into sap transactions and functions that is great.. but what is so special about an X-app that will make me say.. hey.. I want X-apps. This just seems hype to me.
    Currently, if you want integrate something into the netweaver suite/portal and it is not, “out of the box” then it calls for a steep learning curve delving into the portal development kit, learning sap’s api to access portal roles, users, user mapping etc.. which takes some expertise, time, and preparatory knowledge of the sap systems and how they function. I’m thinking that X-apps are somewhere in this type of integrated application. But most recently SAP has announced the SAP GUI Machine which I hope resolves much of this and puts the coding/creation & access to BAPI’s and other specific sap backend data access in more of a lay position.
    X-apps.. hmm..are they general enough where I can simply import the package/par and they will work for me? Do they need to be custom designed at a cost that I may as well design a system out side of sap? If they are the 800lb gorilla of iViews.. then what makes them so special.. how are they different from packages on iviewstudio.
    I’m not looking for another re-badged iView/iviewstudio package, and I still think “Portal/WAS/Unifier” when I hear the term “NetWeaver” The way it is marketed it is making me think maybe there is more to this than its simply being an awesome iView, or really cool toy to have in the portal. If there is a case study where X-apps have saved considerable money, time, end-user work effort, or have aided in a netweaver ROI.. then I will definitely take note, but I have not seen such information. SAP does that information exist?
    Please show me the light at the end of the tunnel..
    • First of all I am glad to see your interest in this new paradigm of packaged composite
      application development. These are great questions! To fully understand NetWeaver
      and xApps you need to take a step back from the individual SAP NetWeaver components/technology
      and look at the underlying business problems NetWeaver and xApps are addressing.
      See my Weblog titled “Partner xApps, hmm….” for more information!