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The Architect’s World – Episode 14

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In the next few blogs, I will attempt to create an ESA roadmap for a customer (Org. A), with what starts out as an opportunity to create an Internet and Intranet Solution with SAP Enterprise Portal. As a Solution Architect, one is often asked a host of questions ranging with Infrastructure, current capabilities, POC candidates for ESA awareness, User management, rollout strategy etc. – let us make use of our storyboard to try to architect a solution that first addresses his immediate needs for business process and instance consolidation, expanding the scope for the same to ensure that all the necessary departments are touched and finally lay down an ESA roadmap for the same. In this blog, let me give a quick introduction to the Organization A’s business and IT model, the situation it is in today and a quick-win project which could be setting the road ahead with ESA. This blog lays down a strategy for the implementation of a Global portal solution for the Org. A North American SAP R/3 4.6c instance as a pilot. It also defines the future roadmap for an SAP NetWeaver strategy for Org. A with web applications. But before we do that, let us see what the storyboard is all about.

The general idea:

Headquartered in San Diego, CA. Org. A’s primary Business model is to aggregate demand from large retail stores across the US & Europe, try sourcing out for finished goods from the South Asian Market, else have demand fulfilled by ORGC. Org. A has three Warehouses – 2 based out of US (Arlington, VA & Dallas, TX). Org. A is in the process of initiating a Web Applications project to create a Global portal that will enable key transactions from Sales, Human Resources, Plant Maintenance and procurement along with a hybrid Solution of content from their existing intranet towards a partial migration of the same for the North American SAP R/3 4.6c instance without retiring any of the applications that may have a direct impact on business. It will later on be rolled out globally to be finally syndicated under one single portal for Org. A by facilitating the phasing out of third-party applications and migrating all businesses on SAP along with business process and instance consolidation.


Org.A is in the process of creating a comprehensive Collaborative roadmap in tune with its Global focus & its alignment with SAP NetWeaver as part of the organizational roadmap. And the starting point becomes this immediate project as below with Org. A and its subsidiaries:

The Solution Approach parameters:

Org.A is a fictitious organization in the CPG/Retail front established way back in 1996. Org.A is in the business of catering to large Retail chains around the US & EUR geography for manufacturing merchandize items. These items range from cameras, DVD players and TVs. Org.A uses Siebel for CRM Sales and Marketing, SAP R/3 4.6C for Order Management & Inventory (for direct goods) & Ariba Spend Management Suite (Buyer 8.x/ACSN/Sourcing 3.x) for app indirect goods procurement.

It also uses SAP BW 3.1 for all reporting purposes and has plans to open up limited information to its customers, contractors and sub-contractors. I2/APO is also being used for SNP & DP and Org.A is looking at CPFR solution to improve its supply-chain efficiency. Since Org.A’s Business model is to primarily aggregate demand from its customers and have them manufactured through their contractors – Org.C (which uses Oracle 11i as their ERP). Org.A also resorts to sourcing demand for cameras from suppliers in Taiwan & uses the services of a third party solution provider like WWRE. Org.C accepts demand forecast from Org.A on a fortnightly basis and manufactures the same.

Depending on the capacity planning requirements and cost/product efficiency, Org.C sub-contracts certain basis components such as casing & accessories to a subcontractor based in Mexico (for closer proximity to US & tax benefits) & ships them directly to Org.As warehouses based in the US & Europe, which takes care of the basis assembly and stocking. Org.A also uses Ariba spend management for all indirect material which it procures from its suppliers like Boise Cascade through punch-out, and leverages the Commerce Services Network to reach all its EDI and low-end suppliers by fax.

Org. A also uses SeeBeyond to build various complex interfaces within the organization and the future direction is to slowly make way for XI. Cost is the major business driver for Org.A to look for a unified platform for all web development activities and be less dependant on a host of local vendors providing skills around these areas. Org. A wishes to leverage its current IT workforce, which comprises largely ABAP. & JAVA skills to reduce manpower costs further by driving the repetitive and new development activities through a service oriented architecture.

Some legacy applications within Org.A will never be termed “sunset” applications owing to their usefulness & political sensitivity around the same. However, it is evident that some functions need to be exposed as globally useable functions. These business functions need to be more loosely coupled & reused extensively within a private network of operations. Org. A has a host of java applications running & wishes to port them onto a single platform & leverage a composite application made of all these applications. Org. A now sees the need to use a single unified, open platform which is scalable across the organization & help Org.A reduce TCO.

As a move towards standardization of applications, the aim is to enable key business functions such as Procurement, Sales, HR, PM using the SAP NetWeaver platform along with KM and Collaboration as a move towards Global standardization and application consolidation.

The end objective of the pilot for the Web Applications project is to create a Global pilot portal that will enable key transactions from Sales, Human Resources, Plant Maintenance along with a hybrid Solution of content of Org. and partial migration of for the North American SAP instance without retiring any of the applications that may have a potential to affect business. It will later on be rolled out to EUR, APAC and EMEA to be finally syndicated under one single portal for Org. A by facilitating the phasing out of third-party applications and migrating all businesses on SAP.

Along with Knowledge Management and Collaboration functionality, Org. A is looking at deploying key business functionality through SAP Enterprise Portal as a strategic initiative to consolidate and streamline business processes at a global level. With SAP R/3 as the backbone, this strategic initiative’s key objective is to set the ball rolling in unifying business processes and consolidation of all IT services using enterprise services.

Having started out with 24 SAP R/3 instances in the year 1996, owing to growth by acquisitions, Org. A has brought down the number of instances to 4 in Year 2005, all on R/3 4.6c. These instances are segregated logically based on geographic regions.Org. A is an organization that has been growing through acquisitions and there are three main Information Technology Centers.

The Governance Model:

The ExecutiveCommittee, which mandated the IT Center, doesn’t directly deal with IT. Instead, the Executive Committee has created an IT Center – a group which is responsible to decide on all IT Strategies at Org. A. The IT services are full IT service providers – providing application services and Infrastructure support.

Key points that need to be considered for Solution Architecture:

All regions may have four different Portals in the future with a syndicated portal on top globally. The Pilot will be restricted to the North American region for a pilot group of users. The Pilot Project will act as the reference factory for all other Portal Roll-Outs / Implementations. There are no plans currently for any upgrades from R/3 4.6c to mySAP ERP 2004. This is an important factor for the Solution Architecture in the current Org. A Landscape. All business processes will be consolidated/implemented at the R/3 level and the objective is to bring consolidation at the Global portal level. XI, CAF, WAS, EP, MDM & BI will form the Application landscape of the future. Replacement/Phasing out of BroadVision based applications is being looked at. xRPM functionality workarounds are being sought with EP on the PM/PS front as the license costs around the same was found to be way too high. As much as possible, Org. A is looking at standard business packages to be implemented. Whatever approach/development that will need to be undertaken will have to become a standard – a use and throw approach towards build will need to be avoided. KM & Collaboration features of EP to be used to replace existing collaboration application.

Phased approach as a Mitigation Strategy

In this scenario, Org. A needs to examine each piece of functionality put on the portal. The functional¬ity installed is limited and carefully controlled and all options need to be evaluated before arriving at a recommended approach to a solution. With a mix of modified applications, web-enabled key business transactions along with a strategy in place for the next few years is what, we believe, will be the best approach for Org. A. This way, the business can digest the implementa¬tion, and the portal can be rolled-out over an extended period across geos.

One of the most important functions of system administrators is userID setup and authorization management. In the portal context, we assign users to groups and roles. Often, the user administration por¬tion of their work consumes a great deal of their time. And a strong User management strategy capable of handling organic growth should be looked at by Org. A while building the portal. Let us make an attempt to address the same as well.

The long term vision with ESA:

The Long-term objective that we will achieve with the enterprise portal project is to lead Org. A on the path in tune with SAP AG’s direction towards ESA compliance and leverage the composite application framework to reduce development efforts across instances as replications and ensure compliance to standardized processes by building guided procedures as reusable applications. The road to ESA is not supposed to happen overnight. At this juncture, Org. A is running all SAP R/3 4.6c instances with no immediate plans for upgrade till year 2009. The challenge is to enable the right mix of components and business functionality that can render the Solution to be designed as a scalable one that can be used post upgrades as well.

For Org. A to realize the above vision, it is important to take the steps in the right direction today. Roughly put:

– Maintain the standards look and feel of the standard Enterprise Portal while going live with the Global EP Pilot – this is the skin of SAP of the future. And this will be beneficial to Org. A in the long run from a training perspective.

– Develop webdynpros for key transactions and expose via enterprise portal for different business functions so all the investment on development will be extendable to mobile applications as well in the future.

– Port Org. content on EP and provide links to application that currently exist on Evoke the interest of the Org. A employees via KM & Collaboration on the portal based on business functions for all unstructured content with process owners. Currently, it is seen that the usage of the same within Org. A is not much to boast of.

– Simplify screens on modules to increase usage and acceptance of established processes

– Explore options around user management to bring about overall change with the Enterprise Portal as a starting point

– Create reusable business packages for reuse on other IT Centers on R/3 4.6c from webdynpros

– Pave the way for Composite Applications that can be replicated across other ITCs with minimal work at the Business application layer of Org. A with or without custom applications in some areas with the architecture below:



With a vast array of vendors and technologies providing what can be made available from a single strategic vendor solution albeit with shortcomings, a key element of the Solution Architecture encompasses the current market dynamics in the Application vendor space. The Solution that is needs to be designed has to take into consideration the technological shifts that the market is undergoing today, the emergence of the long-term vendors in the market, coupled with the ability of the vendor’s ability to shape the space. Unless the solution considers these factors, it will fall short of providing a “Business Solution” for Org.A. The aim being to transform the same onto a single technology backbone with SAP, the objectives achieved of the same will be many. This initiative is being looked upon as a drive to centralize and drive IT initiatives towards Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) compliance and the deployment of standard business processes across.

With this as the starting point, in the next few blogs, we will consider each function individually and see how we can put forward the right elements for an ESA roadmap for Org. A using the SAP NetWeaver platform. Suffice it to say, it should not be a sellout concept to SAP, but rather, a useful business solution for the client. A point to be noted here is the transformation to such a state is not to be overnight, but will entail a gradual process to improving efficiencies using technology as an enabler with innovative solution options. The idea here was only to introduce the broad framework of our operational framework from a business justification point of view. This blog was only setting the rules of the game. In my next blog, we will explore the indirect procurement functionality.

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