The best ever additional tools for SAP Enterprise Application development have been created by Adobe. SAP Interactive Forms, Adobe Flash Islands for Web Dynpro, Web Dynpro Flex generated code of Visual Composer, SAP Business Objects xCelsius and SAP Acrobat Connect applications by Adobe are all based on products of the Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite Platform. These tools are optimized to build Online Rich Internet applications and offline desktop application uniformly. This will keep development cost at a minimum. This article will lead you through these existing new possibilities to build first class Enterprise applications on top of SAP.
Starting at the beginning; many enterprises use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to support and administrate their processes. By using specific departments to perform specialized tasks access to data is also restricted for other parties such as employees, customers and suppliers. To enable these people to interact with the process, a wide variety of forms was introduced to feed the right data to the process. Finally, after finishing (part of) the business process, often static reports are generated to distribute results to the right users.
This is a very inefficient and error-prone way of working. Another observation reveals that most enterprises, grown by incorporating other companies, end up in having more applications (partially) serving the same business process. Result is that process information is distributed over multiple systems and does not provide a uniform view of the process. Needless to say is that it is very hard to take the right decisions based on a non-conclusive view on reality and governance is required.
SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe
So we have to find possibilities to support and structure information-gathering processes and information distribution. First step is the replacement of paper-based forms by their electronic counterparts, like SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe. Advantages are plenty; the user can be guided in filling out the form, entered data can be format- and content checked, the layout can be made pixel-perfect and layout changes are easy. Furthermore electronic forms can be dynamic in layout and content, distribution is cheap and easy and storage costs are low.
Adobe Flash Islands for Web Dynpro and Web Dynpro Flex
But be advised; a form must remain a form. Technically it is possible to create forms with large amounts of (validation) data or very complex, dynamic, behavior. If the solution requires more application-like behavior Adobe Flash Islands for Web Dynpro or Web Dynpro Flex could provide a suitable solution. Both are based on Adobe Flex Technology and are actually Rich Internet Applications (RIA) running on the flash player in any browser. The biggest advantage of a RIA is that is uses the client-side computing power to handle layout, application logic and representation of the data. This makes the usability of RIA’s, although they also run in a browser, far better than a regular web-page. This makes a regular browser suitable to run user interface applications that connect to back office systems providing the actual application data. This allows multiple users to access the system in an intuitive and user-friendly way without any client side installation.
RIA’s do require the user to be online and have an open connection to the data-providing system and this is not always possible. Some users are partially or always offline and to support them Adobe created an environment to run these applications offline as desktop applications. This environment is the Adobe Integrated Runtime or AIR for short. AIR applications behave like normal desktop applications and even have (limited) access to the local operating system. Finally AIR makes it possible to connect to backend systems while online but when the connection is no longer available to keep working on the data that is actually stored in a local (build-in) database. When the connection is restored, data can be replicated to the backend system Despite the possibility to build very complex applications the real strength of Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR lays in quick and uniform development of on- and offline applications which connect to (multiple) backend systems. Both types of applications can be built using the Flex development environment, the Flex Builder. The builder supports development of reusable components, standardized client container applications and, using standard object libraries, maximizes both user experience and data exchange between the application and(backend) server.
SAP Business Objects xCelsius
Beside the actual gathering of data SAP Business Objects xCelsius, a tool based on Adobe Flex SDK, can provide excellent alternatives for various ways of old-school reporting. The tool will generate Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR runtime code and allows developers to create highly flexible and intuitive reports that can be easily adjusted to fit requirements. Changes such as changing or moving columns, sorting and filtering data is standard and quickly implemented. Furthermore the look and feel can adjust automatically depending on content. Other features involve drag-and-drop functionality interacting with Excel, mass-input possibilities and, using the charting module, the creation of highly interactive dashboards which automatically react to user input.
Adobe LiveCycle Data Services on top of SAP Netweaver
Adobe LiveCycle Data Services on top of SAP Netweaver takes the SAP solutions based on Adobe Technology even to a higher level. Online report can be dynamically transformed to an interactive form and vice versa thus providing on- and offline support to the user. Services can be used directly, the same way SAP has set up its Enterprise Service Repository. By setting up connections to (multiple) backend systems using the same Livecycle Data Services applications can combine data from these sources in a highly attractive dashboard and can even provide the possibility to change, validate and update backend data. By using the build-in caching mechanism and the possibility to actively push data to a connected application full blown enterprise application can be created.
Final conclusion is that the SAP tools based on Adobe technology offers innovative new possibilities to support employees, partners, customer, suppliers and all other parties in interacting with your business processes. Reporting has never been so simple to use and quick to develop providing maximum flexibility and user experience. The border between online and offline has faded and depending on user and process needs, applications can easily support both opening a whole new world of enterprise applications.