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Prelude:

Using the current IT roadmap of an Organization as the starting point for an ESA roadmap alignment defines the role of an ESA Architect. This is probably the most important step for a Solution Architect as the stepping stone towards an ESA roadmap. In this blog, I would like to share my experiences where we jointly worked on a strategy definition initiative (Strategic, Tactical and Operational) for a client, who wanted wanted to align their existing IT projects targetted for the current fiscal year, to be aligned with an overall SAP NetWeaver initiative, which would lead them down the path of ESA. It’s a classic chicken and egg situation – what comes first – existing IT projects or an ESA Roadmap? This customer, let us call them Org.A (per our ESA storyboard), is one of the industry leaders in their vertical, and has grown mostly through acquisitions in the past. Org. A has a myriad of manufacturing facilities world-wide and employs more that 18,000 people. The need of the hour is to address the existing business pain points with an SAP NetWeaver initiative that would lay the ground for an ESA roadmap. An initiative that would act as a blanket for all initiatives.

Business background:

ORG.A has grown primarily through acquisition. Each new acquisition provides a new suite of software applications, platforms, and architecture. ORG.A has six main business units and each unit runs a different business application. Although Org.A is committed to standardizing on one application platform, due to the size and complexity of each business unit, this task will take years to accomplish.

Org.A has defined Standards for Hardware, O/S and Infrastructure. These standards currently do not always extend or apply to Internet, Intranet and Extranet requirements but will do so in the future. Furthermore, the technical landscape continues to change based on new and evolving technologies.

Corporate IT manages one primary data center in Central Europe, with a development and disaster recovery site in the US. In addition, most plant locations throughout Europe contain midrange systems that support plant manufacturing and financials, and all contain standardized Microsoft office systems and network components. Corporate IT also provides centralized standards for office solutions, security, e-business, infrastructure, and technical support, as well as administrative coordination of IT expenses and activities.

Current IT Environment:

Org.A currently manages one Corporate Intranet(which is a host of intranets), one Corporate Internet site and many Customer extranet sites. Org.A IT staff developed most of the company extranet and intranet sites. Most of the extranet applications use Microsoft IIS/ASP/.Net technology. Most of Org. A’s customers access their extranet applications through an authentication application. Although this application supports single sign-on functionality for most of the extranet applications, internal Org. A users do not use this application.

The Org.A Intranet currently does not support a full-blown single sign-on security. Org.A uses PeopleSoft for HR and Payroll, Ariba Buyer for T&E applications, SAP for Corporate Financials, a custom application for Time and Attendance and a range of packaged and in-house developed systems for order management, fulfillment and Invoicing. The primary Web Development environment for Org.A is Microsoft ASP using IIS. Peoplesoft, SAP, Ariba and the custom applications are running on Web Application servers other than IIS and are primarily Java Based – IBM Websphere and Bea WebLogic. Org.A supports many portal-type applications including Intranet, Internet and Extranets. Most of these applications contain user security and users often need to remember multiple passwords. ORG.A has not yet implemented a “Single sign-on” architecture. As new business requests are initiated, ORG.A ITD often creates new applications that are not integrated with the existing applications.

The Problem definition for Org.A post the ESA Workshop:

Org.A can choose to start with an SAP Enterprise Portal implementation across its enterprise. The primary objective of this phase of the ESA initiative is to ensure the SAP NetWeaver platform in place to address the current need to crystallize the need for an intranet solution for the employees along with an extranet solution for its key customers and suppliers.

Since Org.A has approximately 5,000 networked users with laptops or desktops, there are also many hourly employees who do not have a company issued PC or network-id. The enterprise portal team will implement the foundational elements of a version one enterprise portal. ORG.A will continue to develop new content and integrate additional applications outside of the initial scope in subsequent versions of the Portal. For Content Management, Org.A uses Vignette. The objective is to nail down specifics aligning the business goals to arrive at an immediate operational and tactical SAP NetWeaver initiative.

Let us take a look at some of the results of the ESA workshop, which promises to help the customer identify the immediate steps towards a strategic and tactical SAP NetWeaver engagement. The benefits to be achieved through this effort are both strategic and tactical and include:

Strategic Bent:

1. Standard Hardware, software and application services that would support a portal and that is aligned with the company’s stated growth initiatives.

2. A published, agreed upon future statement of direction that should assist IT with technology purchases and direction and should have a direct impact on resourcing.

3. The ability to implement a Service Oriented Architecture that would support the needs of the Org.A Business units going forward along with increased and improved collaboration with employees, customers and vendors.

4. Leverage, not replace, existing investments in 3rd party applications with a view of creating applications that could be extended to newer acquisitions defining best practices. Some of Org.A’s custom applications are worth their weight in gold. (As seen through the eyes of IT)

5. Create an online store for customers fully integrated with Org.A’s backend ERP for Master Data Management and synchronization leading to GDS and alignment with Industry standards to create B2B marketplaces for the specific Industry vertical.

The objective of this program is to provide flexibility to Org.A as below (by moving most of the processes to SAP and retaining the rest in custom apps for future composites):

image

Tactical Move:

1. The ability to leverage technology and resources across the extended collaborative enterprise for employees and business partners.

2. Initiate a move towards having a common platform that allows inter-operability and data sharing across the value-chain.

3. Single sign-on capability that would support a more agile and secure environment.

4. Initiate a high-Impact program that touches upon all planned and ongoing project for the year, centered on SAP NetWeaver. This should be a front-facing web applications project for employees and pilot business partners.

5. Upgrade to mySAPERP 200x by mid-march, 2006.

The High-Impact SAP NetWeaver Initiative

An “Enterprise Portal Project” has become an increasingly popular method of communicating and collaborating with customers, partners and employees. This strategic initiative has often been proved to be the catalyst towards ESA. This project will include refining the current architecture and framework that will allow Org.A to align itself to an ESA roadmap. This architecture that is formulated incorporates technology needs, security needs and business needs. Also included in this program is the need to leverage the existing DMZ environment and implementing changes required to enable robust external portal access for the employees, customers and suppliers. Bearing this in mind, the next step was to clearly lay down the objectives of the project that would act as the pivot for the ESA roadmap.

1) The Employee Portal

Create an effective Employee Portal that encompasses:

Single sign-on capability that is included with the portal software

Collaboration including:

– Project/topic specific team rooms

– Information and document sharing

– ELM – People awareness and locating Subject Matter Expertise

– Current Portal Workflow in Lotus Notes to support limited business process re-engineering

Locale specific Company news and Company information through the portal

Replace the current Org.A Intranet with a branded “My Org.A” portal that would allow for user specific content and customization.

Key transactions as web dynpos:

1. Sales Order, Delivery, Invoice(Create/Change/View)

2. Plant Maintenance (Create/Change/View WorkOrder)

3. Bank Information and Personal details for employees

4. Demand Forecast and Supply Outlook

5. Purchase Order (Create/Change/View)

6. Key reports from BW

7. Others as the case may be

Access to Industry specific news feeds for subsets of portal users

Web service for auto-translation using babelfish (optional)

Access to the following applications:

– Those currently accessed via the corporate intranet.

– Web applications that are accessed directly through URL’s before being phased out with EP

Those listed in the integration section below

2) Customer Portal

Create a Customer Portal that would support Org.A’s current customer E-business requirements as well as enable extended functionality for our customers including:

Migrate/integrate existing customer content to Customer Portal including

Static Content

Replace existing Content Management engine

Custom Workflow

Key transactions as web dynpos:

– Sales Order, Delivery, Invoice(Create/Change/View)

– Demand Forecast and Supply Outlook

– Purchase Order (Create/Change/View)

– Selected BW reports as iViews

– Standard EP functionality

3) Supplier Portal

Create a Supplier portal that would support the existing systems and extended its supply-chain capabilities:

Integrate existing tools into the consolidated Customer Supplier zone in a phased out manner

Replace existing Content Management engine

Custom Workflow

Integrate disparate information (brochures, literature etc) into supplier portal

Key transactions as web dynpos:

– Sales Order, Delivery, Invoice(Create/Change/View)

– Demand Forecast and Supply Outlook

– Purchase Order (Create/Change/View)

– Selected BW reports as iViews

Leverage portal collaboration tools in supplier portal zone

A quick look at the proposed technical architecture for this program is as below:

Epilogue:

ORG.A is making a serious attempt to cut down on the number of technology platforms and application vendors making a move towards standardization to cut their entitlements costs and lowering TCO for applications that can be moved out of the ORG.A landscape. At the same time ORG.A wants applications, custom or standard that can be implemented, and used before the business strategy they were selected for is no longer relevant. Additional benefits being looked upon by ORG.A for Applistructure include the rapid reconfiguration and deployment, reusability of components, flexibility towards incorporation of business processes and cost savings through lower maintenance.

The concept of applistructure is the cornerstone of composite applications and represents a paradigm shift in the way applications have been built in the past. The future direction of ORG.A with its SAP NetWeaver initiatives is to effectively create a platform with SAP NetWeaver to create applications on top of applications agnostic of system landscape in a way to leverage existing applications functionality at a fraction of the cost of what it takes to build an application ground-up.

The ORG.A Applistructure Program’s success will be based on the following considerations:

– Reduced spend or TCO for applications that can be done away with (The legacy is more political than technical)

– Allow for quick configurations & reduced timelines for implementation

– Allow for quick enhancements

– Allow ORG.A to leverage existing Infrastructure to the maximum

– Lead the way for Integrated Applications

– Agree for optimum integration functionality

Org.A is looking at all the pre-built vertical and horizontal business processes within its current business system to plan its investment for the next five years. As seen above, ORG.A has been firm on laying down the groundwork to build such a platform that will change the way business processes will need to be enabled within. ORG.A is slowly moving away from the SAP “Product” paradigm to the SAP “Solution” paradigm. What ORG.A expects from SAP is not another bunch of cool products that will address its value-chain pain points, rather ORG.A is looking at SAP to provide pre-packaged business content that can be weaved at will for user groups to collaborate over the net. ORG.A’s objective with such an approach is to reduce TCO by lowering the cost of development and the increased usage of its existing infrastructure, in reduced timespans.

This increased usage of prebuilt business processes for Org.A business applications see the logical lines between SAP application software and the Infrastructure blurring. This ultimately drives Org.A to refer to this new breed of software as the “Applistructure” layer. Such an approach is seen by Org.A as increase the degree of integration between the application and the Infrastructure layer.

The immediate need for Org.A is to ensure that it ties up all its projects with a single common thread of an SAP NetWeaver program that would help the IT win the battle of mindsets towards ESA. Therefore, the Enterprise Portal initiative becomes the cornerstone of all strategies.

No doubt, the dependence of ORG.A is now being tilted towards SAP. And while deciding on the feasibility of using applistructure for business logic, Org.A needs to weigh the benefits against the associated increased dependency on a single vendor. The key question then becomes – are reduced implementation timelines & development costs truly low? If the answer is yes, then the level of increased dependence on SAP is not significantly greater than when using other type of packaged application software, using applistructure functionality will be a viable alternative in many situations. Now we hear Sun is buying out SeeBeyond. Maybe ORG.A’s leaning towards SAP, Microsoft & IBM alone will help.

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