It’s all about Business Productivity
Wherever you read about SOA you will sooner or later come to the conclusion that the value is about enterprise business processes and not only about architecture and technical interfaces. We are not dogmatic about naming. From whichever angle we look at it, say, composite applications, mashups or Web 2.0, the bottom line is clear. It is about business productivity, analytics insight, re-use, creativity and rapid innovation. It is also about empowerment of the whole company’s organization and not only about a few chosen ones in the IT department.
…and personal productivity
SAP xApps composite applications for personal productivity help automate communication and collaboration processes among and between departments, thereby freeing up employees for more specialized tasks or, what is even more important, for creative work, for idea generation, for envisioning. Imagine the potential of your company in an environment where motivated employees could spend a couple of hours a day in finding ways to bring your company to the next level of success, instead of fighting with paperwork, weary routine and business process inneficiency. That’s what SAP’s evolutionary value proposition is about. SAP xApps for personal productivity address typical daily processes, such as approval workflows, that previously were carried out using e-mail, telephone, or even paper. In talking to customers in different industries, we found that there was a high demand for such applications. Discussions so far have shown that business processes can be categorized according to particular patterns. For example, approval processes follow the “request, process, approve, update” pattern while analysis relevant processes are based on an “analyze from different sources, decide what you want to to, take action” pattern.
A Real-Life Scenario
A real-life example: At a conference, you pick up the business card of an interesting new supplier. Now you need to find out whether the supplier is already one of your company’s partners, whether your company already has agreements with other suppliers in this area, and whether to add the supplier to the partner database. This kind of apparently simple process may ring a bell for you: Do you think the average employee might know who is responsible for each of the steps in this process? I can tell you, I wouldn’t! An SAP xApp can handle this process as a collaborative service: you enter the supplier’s contact details and the name of the purchasing manager in a system, which automatically forwards your query to the appropriate colleagues for verification and approval. If the new supplier is approved, its master data is automatically entered – saving you from making numerous calls and sending e-mails to try to find out who is responsible. Instead, you can spend this time doing actual work. We are also taking the ‘analyze and take action’ solutions a considerable step further than previous analytical applications. Not only do they analyze, they also suggest the next steps to take. Imagine a machine that produces a particular component stopping because of a technical defect. As the person responsible, you get more than just an analysis of the situation – such as which orders are affected. The system also informs you whether another location would have the capacity to take over production of the component at short notice.
Pioneering Innovative SAP xApps
Various development teams at SAP and at ISV’s are producing relatively small but highly innovative SAP xApps. Working with the field, these teams analyze market requirements and relevant content for such applications and create the first prototypes. SAP NetWeaver supplies the development and modeling environment necessary to implement these composite applications and the mySAP Business Suite include the Enterprise SOA services required in the backend. Our overall vision is to offer a comprehensive modeling environment meant to serve not only IT development experts but also the Business Process Experts in your company. This modeling environment enables you to extend the originally shipped solutions and easily adapt them to your particular needs, so that you can add or delete your specific tasks, change user roles, add your logo, etc.
An Inventory Level Ordering Example
Let’s take an example of a newly built SAP xApps: SAP xApp for inventory level ordering. Many SAP customers in the consumer products and retail industries have defined target values for their inventory levels. They need a straightforward way of procuring stock to maintain these levels. SAP xApp for inventory level ordering is particularly suitable for companies that can only store a small amount of stock – for example, a hairdressing business that also sells hair-care products. In arrangement with the hairdresser, the manufacturer can periodically send an order form with a suggested order quantity based on the target values. The hairdresser can quickly and easily adjust the order quantity in accordance with current inventory levels. The hairdresser then e-mails the completed order form back to the manufacturer. After the sales manager has verified it, the system automatically generates the order to meet the target inventory levels. Providing applications for such business processes enables us to address the needs of new users who’ve not previously worked with SAP software. We released the first version of SAP Analytics xApps in 2005. Some new SAP xApps for Personal Productivity will be available to customers free-of-charge as reference solutions on the SAP Discovery Server V 2.0. A further set will be released for pilots in Q4 2006. And this is only the beginning of the new generation of SAP’s collaborative composite applications. The race has just started: Stay interactively tuned and tell us how we can further make your wishes come true!