One approach that I saw striking a chord with customers from an ESA roadmap standpoint is how firmly are you on the ground before you try to reach out and shape the future? Many organizations, having gone the customization route, have built stable processes in specific industry verticals. These initiatives are projects managed within specific IT budgets, funded by business. A fair chance for ISVs and SI, the SAP NetWeaver Platform now enables us to leverage in-house process expertise towards a long-term ESA roadmap. Great. Who cares? One approach I decided as a Solution Architect, to take with a customer is what I would like to discuss here in this blog. With this approach, we got some concrete deliverables ironed out, concrete next steps arrived at, clear cut definitions of the way forward, including of trashing of legacy applications and maybe best-of-breed applications, arrived at.
With more initiatives being planned around Enterprise Portals, Business Intelligence and Exchange Infrastructure with the existing SAP customers, corporate interest in these technologies continues to grow. Corporate IT groups struggle to find meanings to the same, having approached the SAP NetWeaver platform from a product-based paradigm, finding it now difficult to get the concept sold to the Business users and project sponsors. Loose alignment with business goals & high-visibility projects, soft budget justification, coupled with an array of choices spell doom for this direction-less projects. These projects threaten to pigeon-hole the SAP NetWeaver initiatives as pure esoteric and learning initiatives for the internal POC teams. But most of these POC-driven projects struggle to find a reason to exist. The key reason for such a miserable existence is the lack of a long-term ESA vision and roadmap that would address business issues, wherein technology is a mere enabler. For that, one concrete start-point could be the high-profile IT initiatives planned out for the year.
Let me take the example of the sample storyboard of a fictitious organization called ORGA for which we may need to take a different approach towards creating an ESA roadmap:
ORGA decides to leverage SAP NetWeaver. Based on the SAP NetWeaver integration and application platform, the SAP Composite Application Framework (CAF) provides ORGA an environment for the design and use of composite applications which also include SAP xApps. As CAF is based on the Enterprise Services Architecture and comprises an abstraction layer for services and processes as well as design tools, ORGA decides to create a Business blueprint that will enable it to create Composite applications as above following the ESA roadmap of SAP.
Quick look at ORGAs top priority projects for the year
A short description of the same is given. Note that in every project there are linkages to your SAP NetWeaver initiative. These have been highlighted.
1. Zurich e-Procurement (e-Proc) – Zurich eProcurement implementation scope includes the POC migration of Indirect Procurement applications using the Ariba Spend Management Suite towards SAP EP to do away with Ariba Buyer 8.x. Notably, the catalog spend is higher and most of the catalogs are local catalogs hosted internally and not “Punch-Out”. The POC is to achieve the “doing-away” of Ariba Buyer with a custom solution built with EP integrated with Lotus notes workflow. (We will discuss this in detail in one of my next blogs in context with MDM 5.5) leading to key integration requirements (BW, Ariba, SAPHR & Custom Apps) as well as the doing away with the thought of deployment of EBP/SRM within ORGA. Linkages to MM-Purchasing, MM-Goods Receipts, MM-Invoice Verification, FI-Accounts Payable, FI-General Ledger, Imaging, Scanning Workflow, Invoice Approval Workflow, Shopping Cart Approval Workflow, EDI/XML, Electronic invoice approval workflow, three-way matching of POs, regularization of suppliers across the supply chain is the immediate focus in this regard. The overall objective being to gather spend data for standard indirect procurement across the board.
2. New Product Development and Introduction (NPDI) The aim of the project is to design an improved, ORG.A-wide, NPDI approach to create capacity and decrease time to market. The chosen application will take the route of a compositre application that will interface with other applications. Today, this initiative is being looked upon as a translation of existing best practices within ORGA with next practices using Guided procedures. Internal processes within ORGA are considered to be well in place – better than competition.
3. SOX Compliance (SOX) – Sarbanes-Oxley 404 compliance warrants the need for mandatory financial control objectives to be assessed and tested for specific applications that consolidate key business processes. SOX assessments and Internal Audits have determined that user profiles in ORGA’s key systems are inconsistent and highly complex leading to the thought process to consolidate the user management across all applications from a central repository standpoint. SAP HR is being evaluated as the single source-of-truth for all applications with a POC around data massaging with a pilot of MDM 5.5. As a result, maintenance is difficult and profiles allow users the ability to execute high-risk conflicting transactions . Last year, proactive control reports were used to assess the high-risk activities and will continue to be used this year until profiles have been cleaned up that lead to inconsistent reporting. Focus to streamline UM linked to roles, job responibilities and functions across regions and applications to minimize inconsistencies to provide consistent reporting across ORGA is being taken on priority to address concerns coming from the CFO’s office.
4. Master Data Initiative (MDM) – Leading on further from the above high-priority project, a Global master data management initiative that focuses on a central environment in which the materials of all business units are be created, maintained, synchronized and distributed in tune with internal guidelines will be rolled out to different geographies in a similar manner. Extending the above POC with MDM 5.5 is being evaluated. However, ORGA feels that SAP has taken a step backwards with version 5.5 from 3.2. Being looked upon more as a catalog solution, the initiative cannot be taken on a bigger scale today. (I will be covering this in my next blog)
5. Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) – Create a Business partner extranet to develop VMI Capability globally for ORG.A strategic suppliers. The objective here to reduce dependance on 3PL organizations, where ORGA is spending a lot of money on today. Building, testing (EUR) and rollout of the VMI solution across EMEA as well as for key distributors using the SAP NetWeaver platform is on the anvil. Having this as a global VMI solution is to be done by FY05 end.
6. Global Marketing and Sales Application (GMSA) – The objective is to create a central repository for all ORGA retail products for sales and marketing that currently resides on disparate internal systems and databases, in files and folders, individual desktops and laptops and other local repositories. A central repository to consolidate this enterprise-wide information is the end objective. This project will provide the data infrastructure to support development and implementation of sales and marketing mix modeling across the ORG.A Company, as well as provide ad-hoc storing and reporting capabilities
7. HCM OneSource User Management (HOME)
– Create the use of existing the SAP HR instance centrally to have this as the UM source-of-truth application. Especially with all the new dimension products and the projects undersway, this includes upgrading the environment to mySAPERP 2004 in Q4 2005 to support SSI functions, Web dynpros, usage of enterprise services for Composites, Rollouts and enhanced functionality to create a Global Organization Structure.
8. Key and Global Account Management (CRM) – Siebel to be making way for SAP CRM (a discussion in process of being ) for key account management. Since the business users favor Siebel and the IT users prefer SAP CRM as SAP is the core backbone for ORGA, the decision is open. This project is to help ORGA better manage its business planning and customer information by using at Partner Contact/Profile Database, POS Data Collection System and Process,Global Partner Portal Solution, Marketing Resource Management Solution, Online Learning Management Solution, eCommerce Functionality, Campaign Management and Lead Management System. The platform preference to SAP NetWeaver influences this decision in a big way.
9. Analytics – The objective os to develop a flexible customer service center analysis tool to support the increasing business need for detailed and better information across the value chain . Cutting across multiple applications and using the existing BW application, the areas covered will be Logistics and SCM. In scope for this phase of the project are Europe and EMEA.
10. Logistics Reporting – The Project objective is to provide a summarized planning units information in weekly buckets for key business. This includes a central view of the business with benchmarks and achievement calculation against planned (business update) and previous year’s actual. The planned data is to be compared against the actual data with the benchmark that is driven by industry standards. The reporting needs to be enabled for different units of organizational roles with specific dashboarts for each role using a central UM repository. The summarized structure of product category and individual product based reporting with advanced analysis represent families of products will be used as the showcase project to be rolled out world-wide.
The Solution Approach towards an ESA roadmap
Analyze each and every initiative, you would note that it is a good way of using the same as a starting point. Once you have addressed the priority of the projects from a technical and a business standpoint, the same can now be used to create the ESA Charter. Take the key impact areas from the the projects above. From the initiatives above, superimpose the SAP NetWeaver stack to address various levels of Integrations and a high-level super-imposition on the SAP NetWeaver stack. On top of that we bring forth the initiative that you have planned for within ORGA on SAP NetWeaver. The point to be noted here is All your internal initiatives can be brought together through a single initiative that you have planned around SAP NetWeaver. The charter helps you create a bubble-chart of all the applications in the SAP Business suite to be leveraged/not used.
Identify the reusable components in this area and see what are the functionality that can be reused in other projects. These could be the best candidates from business process consolidation. If these areas predominantly fall in the “R/3 Object zone”, then these need to be validated with the enterprise services & the web services that SAP has as part of the agenda with mySAPERP 2004 or later. Making the client move most of the key business processes onto the R/3 platform now, before the upgrade makes sense because of this. This way, you have the option of letting SAP do the job of creating enterprise services for your future plans.
To lay down an ESA roadmap, one has to start by incorporating enhancements that bring tangible returns in terms of design, development, and use. Portal-based user interfaces are created to extend current, underlying SAP applications and functions to a broader audience. Custom applications are created using SAP CAF (Composite Application Framework) that combine data from multiple sources and allow users to interact with the applications in a coherent and user-friendly manner. Deploy applications within ORGA that can easily use a variety of applications and technologies: role-based user interfaces, SAP NetWeaver integration tools, Web services, components from mySAP Business Suite, legacy applications, and applications from other vendors along with Lotus Workflow Integration.
Identify the key Objectives for ESA
Once the analysis has been done, the next step is to now carve out the charter. This would form the basis of all your new SAP NetWeaver-centric initiatives towards laying down a technical architecture for the new system and business landscape, the reusability of business components
To make SAP NetWeaver deliver their expected returns from a business perspective, most importantly, to be used as the diving board for ESA initiatives, organizations will need to abandon their IT-centric /product-based mindsets, do away with the “SAP NetWeaver initiatives” alone and will have to consider individual projects in isolation to match-up with specific IT initiatives for the global consolidated view of a business solution where IT is only an enabler, with SAP NetWeaver as a facilitator and ESA, the enabler for new initiatives.
The SI community continues to be more interested in grabbing new business, than on focusing on the Business Solution with SAP NetWeaver for the customers, the focus on creating an ESA roadmap using the SAP NetWeaver plaftrom, is lost. A Solution architects paradigm of understanding the business and IT landscape of the customer towards the ESA or the true value derived from SAPs roadmap needs to take the spotlight.
Then again, the road to ESA is not something that can happen overnight. For IT organizations to enable business agility, they must ensure that enterprise applications are not only high performance business engines driving efficiencies, but also become flexible building blocks of future business systems. A clear blueprint for new and existing business initiatives and IT projects is needed. Web services enabled a large step forward toward flexibility across a heterogeneous landscape. However, current implementations have yet to unleash the true power of Web services. Most Web services today expose functionality of individual applications and are too application-centric to be efficient building blocks for enterprise-wide business processes as can be seen with mySAPERP 2004. The usage of the ABAP stack on WAS makes this even more promising venture.
The systems created, managed, and maintained by a bunch of coders now serve as the engines of the enterprise. The time to market for the new and high-priority projects and the subsequent maintenance and enhancement costs have become important considerations in whether or not to go forward with new business initiatives. Transforming core business processes to create strategic advantage increasingly involves people, processes, and information across multiple organizations and systems now the enhanced role of a Solution Architect to nail down the ESA roadmap for Organizations. Mighty big challenge. Yes. But aren’t we all underpaid and overworked?