How e-SOA affects the SAP consultant’s work
Meeting with other SAP professionals and bringing the topic of eSOA to the table I find a pretty diverse mix of reactions. I find people stating that it is ‘old wine in new bottles, and nothing is changing really’, I find people pointing out that it going to disrupt the SAP ecosystem completely and I find most of the blends in between.
Let’s have a quick look at the changes introduced by eSOA and how they are likely to affect the work of SAP consultants.
eSOA at a Glance
First, in my view and understanding of eSOA, eSOA is SAP its ‘brand’ of service-oriented architecture. And service-oriented architecture is to IT what ‘assemble-to-order’ is for manufacturing. In service-oriented IT we work with chunks of IT functionality that can be combined into meaningful applications using integration software.
These chunks of functionality are much larger than they used to be in IT. Exaggerating for illustration: the chunks used to be e.g. the functionality for a button on a screen while with service-orientation these chunks provide functionality for e.g. customer invoicing or order intake. So the chunks have become much larger.
The other element of service-oriented IT, the integration software, is in fact a range of products that make sure the chunks can communicate among each other, can be invoked in a certain sequence, can be presented on a single user-interface and have consistent data. The complete set of integration software is often called the integration platform.
A New Type of Fit-Gap
Creating applications using SAP products we used to perform so-called fit-gap analyses. Matching business requirements to SAP modules, and if parts were not fitting, either adapt the requirements, or the SAP functionality. Having eSOA we do a fit-gap analysis, but this fit-gap now is of a different nature than it used to be.
Because the SAP product portfolio is becoming increasingly service-oriented it is or will be possible to do the fit-gap analyses at a much more granular level. No longer need customers either to accept the complete set of (albeit configurable) functionality of the SAP modules or make high costs for developing and maintaining bespoke additional or changed functionality. Because SAP is more and more based on services customers acquire much more freedom to exchange one or more SAP services for services of another (niche) vendor or for functionality already developed in-house. So the fit-gap for packaged-solutions is no longer a fit-gap between business requirements and the solution of a single vendor, but it is more and more a fit-gap between business requirements and the solutions of a whole range of vendors that offer solutions in a certain business segment.
New Types of SAP Professionals
This development will have its consequences for the profiles of professionals that work in fit-gap type of activities. Business automation professionals will need to be fluent in matching business processes to automation options available in SAP, SAP’s ecosystem and in the market as a whole. We need this for business segments like order management, customer relationship management, mobile sales, distribution and many, many more. Creating this type of professional and acquiring a certain influence with these professionals must be a major reason for SAP to actively create and sponsor its BPX community.
Another major change for SAP consultants is that the eSOA concept needs an integration platform. This is not a matter of just using Netweaver products to integrate services into a useful application. eSOA requires Netweaver, but Netweaver does not guarantee you eSOA! If used on a project-by-project basis Netweaver integration will not create an eSOA integration platform but a plethora of integrations that only adds to the complexity and rigidity in the landscape instead of fighting it. Creating an integration platform requires an architecture of the platform and a strategy to build it up, project by project. A new type of professional therefore enters the SAP world: the platform architect.
A third large change that will take place for SAP consultants is the fact that there will be more and more a distinction between the professionals that create a foundation existing of the platform and the services, and the professionals that ‘assemble’ the applications using the platform and the services. Creating the platform and the services requires focus on maximum re-use (and therefore on multiple projects) and robustness. Application ‘assembly’ requires speed, interaction with business users and more single project thinking. For best results these different types of professionals need to be managed and rewarded differently.
The changes taking place in the SAP ecosystem due to the proliferation of eSOA into the SAP products portfolio are considerable. It is bigger than the changes that took place when SAP changed from SAP R/2 to R/3. The change from R/2 to R/3 was mostly a technology change while eSOA changes the way functionality is selected and the way the technology is planned. Thirdly it requires different work styles and performance indicators for the platform – and service builders on one hand and for the application builders on the other hand. May you live in interesting times!