Out with the Old and In with the New: From R/3 to ECC & SOA (Part 3: CHALLENGES)
While the changes from R/3 to ECC were addressed in Out with the Old and In with the New: From R/3 to ECC & SOA (Part 1: CHANGES) and the impact of those changes were then examined in Out with the Old and In with the New: From R/3 to ECC & SOA (Part 2: IMPACTS), this 3rd and final blog takes a new direction which is focused on the challenges around this change. Specifically, it reflects on why there has been a lack of understanding about the capabilities of ECC, and how this has had a direct impact on the true realization of SOA as well as on fully leveraging the benefits brought about by these new capabilities. This unawareness is particularly important considering SAP’s clear direction that SOA is actually an integral part of ECC and Business Suite 7 architecture.
So let’s look at how and why, in many cases, people have not adjusted as well as hoped to the utilization of new architectural capabilities of ECC (while sticking to the ways of R/3), which can have repercussions in implementations because the returns that these platforms are capable of providing are not being fully realized.
Why the utilization of enterprise services on ECC has been a slow and not-so-smooth process for some…
Take a look at this article: SOA Remains a Mystery, Say SAP Users by Leo King (CIO.com)…in it you will notice that according to a recent study, many SAP users (in this case UK-based businesses) are still pretty much in the dark when it comes to either understanding SOA or having an implementation strategy around SOA. The example provided by this article is intended merely to point out the lack of SOA adoption that is occurring among the SAP user community — and not just within UK, but within other regions as well.
Since ECC was officially released, there has been a general attitude among SAP users that would point to a not very widely supported or welcomed use of ECC’s SOA-enabling capabilities. Instead, there is somewhat of an apprehension when it comes to utilizing Enterprise Service-based functionalities within ECC, suggesting a difficulty to adapt to the many changes that have happened since the R/3 era.
Some common reactions to SOA (ECC’s enhanced capabilities) among SAP users who are not necessarily ‘onboard’ with these changes…
1. “I don’t have to know about SOA”
The main culprit for this unresponsive attitude in my opinion is a prevailing lack of awareness about what is “under the hood” of the newly upgraded platform (ECC),- whether we talk of functionality & capabilities, the range of components, or about enhancement packs, switch framework, and so on. It’s true that there is quite a bit to learn about all the advancements of ECC, however, it is not as overwhelming as it might seem, especially since SAP Community Network has provided so much learning material around ECC’s many capacities. If people really want to learn, they have vast amounts of information available to them within SCN alone.
2. “SOA is too involved & complicated”
Another reason for the slow adoption has to do with common misconceptions that exist in terms of new approaches that introduce SOA. For instance, the idea some people have that “SOA involves extensive development efforts and additional licensing” is actually unfounded. In fact, it’s just the opposite, since acquiring a license for ECC is all that it takes to access the components and tools which are capable of enabling SOA. And as far as development efforts are concerned, using a SOA-based solution approach can actually reduce implementation time dramatically (thanks to use out-of-box enterprise services and enhancement pack capabilities).
3. “SOA is not mature enough”
And here’s another general misconception: “Enterprise services are new and not tested”. While there are plenty of reasons that dispute this claim, a detailed explanation goes beyond this particular blog topic. There have definitely been enough success stories and evidence over the past couple of years which point to enterprise services being very capable of enabling appropriate, technically solid, and reliable solutions for customers over the years.
4. Uninformed statements from the SOA Nay-sayers
Another reason why ECC’s capabilities around SOA have not completely caught on is just plain skepticism and denial. Hearing things like, “Everything should be done by configurations” and “SOA is still a marketing hype” simply come across as uninformed statements, and would suggest that there is a big learning curve in store for the owners of these kinds of statements.
And finally, the lagging adoption of ECC is also due to folk’s prevailing mode of tactical thinking rather than long-term or strategic ways of thinking. The focus instead, tends to be on fast and cost-effective implementation (to the extent that the word “accelerated” sometimes frightens me when it comes to describing project methodologies/approaches). It’s like saying “Let’s just go with the quick-fix approach instead of tackling the bigger issues”.
In other words, people choose to launch into a 4 to 6-month rapid-implementation without pausing for a minute to think about how that implementation might (or might not!) be able to support new product launches down the line, or perhaps how it would impact the merger that the company might be going through in couple of years. I’m not trying to undermine the need at times for cost-effective and short lifecycle implementations, but rather am pointing out the need to keep the larger, more long-term direction of an organization in sight.
Some ‘work-arounds’ with these above-mentioned challenges
The key here (especially in terms of the preceding example) is to involve strategic-thinking and enterprise architect-based roles from the very get-go (even before the implementation’s start), in order to keep a broader perspective in sight when making solution-driven decisions.
In my real-world experience educating about new approaches that move away from the ‘R/3 way’ of doing things to both practitioners and customers, there have been many times when it was better to avoid using the acronym “SOA” altogether. It’s as if a negative connotation has been attached to SOA (mainly due to the reasons listed above). Instead, the best approach is sometimes to bring the focus primarily on ‘Enterprise Services’ or ‘Web Services’ which people seem to be more receptive to, rather than referring directly to the term ‘SOA’. This whole idea was very eloquently explained in another blog called “SOA is Dead”.
However the education process unfolds (with or without the word ‘SOA’), it’s better to learn about these new approaches sooner rather than later, and by whatever means possible. Keep in mind that SOA is as much a part of ECC as the Business Suite is, so let’s wave goodbye to R/3 and welcome all that ECC and its counterpart SOA bring to the table.
It’s also worth pointing out that SAP is really ahead of its competitors in terms of service-enabling its core ERP platform. We should really leverage these benefits in the solutions we develop and provide to customers as much as possible.