The present downturn has resulted in greater boon for end-users than ever before. Be it business or technology, the ultimate goal is to provide only “as much as” and “as exact as” the customer demands. Something like – “make what is ordered and pay only for that order …”
We have been hearing quite a bit about a trend followed nowadays by most of the organizations to either re-form the service model or re-shape the existing product to better satisfy the needs of their end-users. Though on one hand this brings focus on innovations, customers on the other hand don’t want to loose capabilities provided by their existing IT investments.
In the world of ERP, there are varieties of architectures, technologies and even professional services which claim to be satisfying these concerns. But the question always is – can there be a solution which is built fast; is reasonably cheap; yet allowing easy tweaking to come up with something different from traditional? … Can SOA be an answer to these?
Let’s look at one real-life example and then let’s check if SAP SOA and its associated services were the right way to fulfill this challenge. Let’s also not forget the key expectations – achieving a fast paced solution and applying SOA principles even for relatively small business processes.
One of the fortune 500 shoe companies called “IDES” (the company name has been replaced) intended to simplify the process of taking sales orders from their customers through their sales agents. The company used a third party solution to record orders offline. This application was no longer able to meet the company’s needs and required significant new key features:
- Simple online application to create order with reduced manual entry: Partner, material, size
- Simplified search to retrieve relevant customer data for sales order creation
- Integration of real time ATP check into sales order creation screen
- Link to supporting documents like images of the products.
In order to implement this scenario, the customer consulted SAP for providing the right solution via SAP’s make-to-order composition (MTO) service.
At SAP; a team of 3 of us was formed to provide a suitable approach to this problem and to validate if a MTO composite would be the best fit. I was made responsible for technical architectural mapping, and hence I first started mapping the given business requirements onto a document template that allowed me to model the process flow diagram. There was a handy checklist to assist evaluating feasibility and size of the application. The results helped us to conclude the size of the MTO composite to be a small one.
After few more discussion with the customer, we finalized UI mockups, activities, process flow steps and the roles involved. UI mockups helped us to communicate our understandings, get clarification and incorporate best practices suggested by both the customer and the solution designers. In this case; for example:
- The role was identified as sales representatives.
- UIs were more centric on the end customers of the shoe company and especially on products with features requiring selection of size and color of a shoe.
- Immediate confirmation of the delivery dates based on real-time ATP check was the most important step in the process.
- The two critical enterprise services for this scenario were related to ATP check and sales order creation and they were found to be readily available. You can find more information regarding these services in the Order to Cash for Fashion ES bundle.After including all these points in the spec doc, the customer reviewed and finally signed off the statement of work allowing us to begin with execution.
As part of the internal development landscape, we used SAP NetWeaver CE 7.1 SP05 for both design and run time; and the customer’s existing SAP Apparel and Footwear Solution 6.3 as backend system.
Standardization and productivity are two important aspects of our development process. As part of our reuse repository, we had standard UI patterns which can be readily used across applications. Since our UI mockups were also based on these patterns and they had already been validated by the customer in the specification, we were able to reduce the time to build the UI and in turn the composite.
It took almost no time to train the sales agents. The simple and user centric screens of the composite helped raising their productivity and thereby increasing the order intake.
The example above indicates that, when an appropriate process model with right technology based on SOA principles is followed, it is easy to reduce overall implementation time.
MTO composition service is a fixed price professional service offered by SAP to quickly build SOA based composites keeping customer involvement right from beginning.
You can make your own solutions (e.g. order business process) by leveraging SAP’s MTO Composition Service.