What is IndustrySpeak? SAP IndustrySpeak is an initiative that enables a company to seamlessly communicate with its business partners, at the database-to-database level, by sharing data that facilitates daily cross-company business transactions. Some IndustrySpeak customers have stretched this definition further by adding Application-To-Application (A2A) to the existing Business-To-Business (B2B) communication paradigm that IndustrySpeak was originally designed for. “How is IndustrySpeak technically different from XI or interoperability?” you may ask. The short answer is that it is not different. In a nutshell, IndustrySpeak encompasses all electronic communication via XI that is based on specific pre-defined industry standards. The three key factors of IndustrySpeak are (1) XI, (2) Industry knowledge and Industry Standards defined by industry consortiums, and (3) functional facilitation of data exchange. We are inviting companies that may be SAP’s customers or Independent Solution Vendors (ISV) to step up and partner with SAP. We want to encourage you to build mappings on XI and thus facilitate the inter-company business transactions. We encourage you to share the mappings with your business partners, so that one day, every company in every industry can benefit from the revolutionary vision of seamlessly and cost-effectively communicating with each other. If you’re still wondering what all this is about, here’s an example. If SAP places an order for a hundred Porsche Carreras (you see, since “Porsche runs SAP”, SAP employees are entitled to Carreras as standard company cars… and I’m the king of wishful thinking 😉 Anyways, so when SAP used to place similar orders with Porsche back in the 1980’s, SAP would send a fax order to Porsche AG. In the 1990’s, SAP would send an EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) message to Porsche AG for similar orders. To complete the transaction, Porsche would send a confirmation message back to SAP, along with a small price tag. SAP would confirm the order, and Porsche would start building the cars. This simple business transaction would require a bunch of manual interaction with the fax machine, or use expensive dedicated EDI links between SAP and Porsche systems. Today, thanks to IndustrySpeak and XI, I can go to my SAP Screen and place an order for my new company car online, and the order process is streamlined via the internet. In the background, my order’s data from the database is converted into an IDOC and shipped from the R/3 system to XI. Within XI, our mappings convert the IDOC into a standard XML message format that can be understood by any automobile company (compliant to the STAR automobile industry communication standards). The XML message is then encrypted for security and shipped out to Porsche’s IT infrastructure. When Porsche’s system receives the message, the reverse process will automatically take place – decrypt the XML message, convert the XML back to IDoc, input the data from that IDoc into the database, and send an email to the relevant people within Porsche to notify them of another new order from SAP. Thus, the order placing process itself has been made simple and cost effective by using XI and complying with industry communication standards. History and background IndustrySpeak started off as a small development project in the SAP Labs Palo Alto office in 2003. The goal of this project was to provide ready to use the mappings and business process functionality in XI (Exchange Infrastructure), to map IDocs to Industry defined data structures. The project team started defining best practices to build these mappings and fine-tuned these best practices over a two year time period. Today, an SAP customer who buys XI licenses can also get out-of-the-box, ready to use mappings with it (for certain business processes, certain releases, and certain industries). In a matter of days, they can plug XI into their landscape and start communicating with their business partners. Between 2003 and 2005, as SAP customers learned more about XI, they started demanding more flexibility in building these mappings. They wanted more control over how they communicated (electronically) with their business partners, and at the same time wanted to conform to commonly accepted industry standards. If you consider the 26 industries that SAP serves and the 5000 XI installations, and calculate the various SAP release versions and industry standards that are out there, you will get an idea of how quickly our small IndustrySpeak development project had been dwarfed by the demand. SAP could not even begin to fulfill the quickly rising tide of customer demand in a timely manner. So SAP opened the doors and invited other software vendors to develop software on the SAP environment and sell it to customers. Within the third calendar quarter in 2005, my team signed up more than 125 companies to develop business packages on XI. The biggest benefit to these companies was that they owned the IP rights to the software and they stand to make money by selling the mappings and business packages to multiple customers. The benefit to SAP is that customer demand will be quickly satisfied and SAP will enable the customer community to have more control. When my team signed up the 125 independent software vendors (ISV), we decided to formalize and recognize their efforts by making them SAP certified partners. The business packages and mappings that they will build will also be certified by SAP. Thus, the customer can rest assured that the quality of the product they buy from our partners will conform to the same highest SAP quality standards. Since the industry standards organizations (such as RosettaNet, Cidx, Pidx, PapiNet, UN/CEFACT, SPEC2000, etc) play such a vital role in this effort, SAP decided to build a dedicated internal team to participate in these organizations and listen to the industry’s voice. Additionally, SAP has realigned its organizational structure this year to better serve the industries, SAP’s certified partners and above all, the customers. Next steps While we have signed up many ISVs to the partner program already, this is only the beginning of a very long journey. There will be multiple iterations and flavors within IndustrySpeak depending on the industry standards and releases, but the program itself is here to stay long term. SAP is investing heavily to build this partner community and get you involved. If you or your company is interested in finding out more about partnership opportunities, I encourage you to contact my team via the IndustrySpeak forum. In a series of blogs and white papers that will follow, my colleagues will discuss more about the best practices to build IndustrySpeak mappings and business packages. Our first customers were large chip manufacturers and chemical companies that used the mappings from SAP IDocs to the RosettaNet and Cidx “Orders-to-Cash” business scenario, and recorded a 33% improvement in the overall inter-company business process of placing orders with vendors. You will see case studies published on this site about the success. You will be able to find out more about the program and ask technical and business questions in the /community [original link is broken]. So stay connected. Thanks for your patience while we organize and build the IndustrySpeak web presence.