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In the ecosystem & partner group, we constantly hear feedback from partners and prospective partners (and we’re glad we do!). One thing I’ve heard repeatedly is that SAP does an excellent job explaining how to use the capabilities provided in the SAP Business Suite, Technology Platform and our other solutions, but not such a good job advising partners what SAP technologies they should be paying attention to.

In fact, I’ve heard that it can be a challenge for a partner to figure out SAP’s technical directions. What should they build on? What’s really strategic and planned for expanded investment? And what is destined for reduced focus, so perhaps not the wisest technology to leverage?

Partners tell me they may get different guidance from different people at SAP. They may read announcements or blog posts and not be sure of the significance. And when they ask, they may be told that they can make any one of a wide variety of choices and none of them will be wrong. But still they wonder, what is the best choice? Which SAP technologies should we align with?

Part of the difficulty is that SAP is committed to supporting our products for longer than some other software companies have been in business. Our customers depend on our solutions to run their businesses, and they expect things to keep working the same way for a long time. So SAP maintains technical functionality in our product line longer than another software company might. The need to do this, while still adapting and adjusting to technological change, is part of what Vishal means by “timeless software”.

But at the same time, SAP is continually introducing innovations. As a result, the list of available and supported SAP technologies keeps growing. All of which creates the challenge – what SAP technologies should a partner leverage?

This was our motivation to launch a new initiative, called SAP guidelines for best-built applications that integrate with SAP Business Suite.

These guidelines are recommendations for partners, and particularly for ISVs, who build complementary solutions that extend the capabilities of SAP Business Suite. The guidelines answer the question of what to do, not how to do it – but then contain pointers to how-to documents for further information.

The guidelines for best-built applications are being launched at TechEd 2009. A copy of the document will be given to every attendee at Phoenix and Vienna on the same USB memory stick that contains all of the TechEd presentations. And on the outside of the stick we’re printing the URL of the Best-Built Apps web site where the living document will be updated regularly, where the community can join the conversation about the guidelines, and where people who don’t mind killing trees can order a bound copy, print-on-demand (or can download the PDF for free).

There are three important points to make about this new initiative.

First, it’s not a program or a brand. SAP is not authorizing anyone to say their application is a “best-built application”. These are voluntary recommendations that we hope partners will follow, but this is not a certification, a qualification, or a brand that partners may use.

Second, it’s not complete. The guidelines published in October 2009 are a beginning, not an end. The guidelines will be updated at least annually (the online version will always be current). This only makes sense – as new SAP technical capabilities move from roadmap to product availability, we want to recommend these new capabilities to our partners, so the guidelines will expand as SAP continues to deliver new functionality.

Third, it’s a conversation. We want to keep hearing feedback from our partners. Obviously, we want to help our partners adopt and align with SAP technology. What makes this easier? What makes this harder? How can the guidelines evolve to better help you answer the question, what SAP technologies should we leverage?

Come join the conversation, at SAP Guidelines for Best-Built Applications

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  1. Dennis Howlett
    SAP uses ‘best run’ as a marketing moniker so why not use ‘best built?’ and give leveraged love to partners that follow the guidelines? Otherwise, there really isn’t any demonstrable incentive is there?
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    1. Richard Probst Post author
      Dennis, you’re right, “best-built” was selected as a name for this initiative to echo the phrase “best-run companies”. Of course, SAP can’t ensure that our customers are “best-run”, we can only provide them software and services that they can use to reach for that goal. And similarly these guidelines can’t ensure that a partner’s product is “best-built”, we can only provide recommendations for what we think they should do to better integrate with SAP. That’s why we are telling our partners not to use this phrase to describe their products.

      In terms of giving “leveraged love”, the best way for a partner to get that today is to get their solution certified. Some of the guidelines relate to things that can be certified, but some of the guidelines are easier to recommend than to certify. So we need to look carefully about linking “demonstrable incentives” to the guidelines.

      Really, our goal was not to introduce a new program that partners could qualify for, but rather to open new lines of communication, giving clear advice to partners about ‘what’ not ‘how’, that (we have been hearing) they cannot get any other way.

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      1. Dennis Howlett
        @richard – excuse me for being picky but that sounds illogical. If a solution is certified then from a market view, SAP is putting its name and brand behind it. The brand thing matters because I’ve seen plenty of instances where people buy because of the brand even where there may be product issues. People trust SAP to do the right thing on its products and that counts in sales. Where would be the difficulty in linking certified and ‘best built?’

        I appreciate SAP can’t be 100% in this but it would be easy enough to develop some legalese around it so all parties are protected. Plus it would provide the devs with a very good reason for jumping aboard and so allow SAP to expand its program.

        My experience with partner devs is that they are eager to ensure their solutions run with SAP, often filling in essential white spaces. I saw a good case on All-In-One only last month.

        The added incentive of ‘best built’ as something they CAN use for market purposes is surely a massive win for everyone?

        Win-win-win?

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        1. Richard Probst Post author
          Dennis, you’re not being picky, you are asking a great question. I don’t know the right answer (yet).

          It’s clear that creating a certification test for everything in the current guidelines would be close to impossible (and there are some things coming in a future edition that would be even harder to certify). And it’s absolutely clear that SAP can only authorize partners to use a brand when there are objectively-measurable criteria in place. So any branding around “best-built apps” has to resolve that contradiction.

          Yes, I agree that there is a win-win-win if we can figure out how to do so.

          In the meantime, partners who want to use an SAP brand can use the existing certifications. And several of the guidelines do link directly to certifications.

          Thanks for your comments. Perhaps we can discuss more in Phoenix?

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  2. Thorsten Franz
    Hi Richard,
    Developing software at an ISV, this is an initiative I have been waiting for for years. My expectations are high and I hope, for example, that the long-awaited Web Dynpro style guide will be released to Customers and ISVs as part of this initiative.
    On the other hand, developing and delivering SAP-based software for ten years, my colleagues and I have a lot to contribute – so I look forward to a potentially mutually highly beneficial initiative. 🙂
    Cheers,
    Thorsten
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    1. Richard Probst Post author
      Thanks, Thorsten! We intend to live up to your high expectations. As stated, the 2009 edition is a start, not the end — we know we have a long way to go.

      We want to hear your contributions. This is a conversation more than it’s a publication.

      And if you are coming to TechEd Phoenix or Vienna, please stop by to chat at one of our meet-the-expert sessions or at the PartnerEdge pod in the Community Clubhouse.

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      1. Thorsten Franz
        Thanks for the invitation, I will. I’m also going to host my own Experts Networking Session (blog announcement is yet to come) about developing custom NetWeaver-based applications, and the Best-Built Applications initiative is going to be a major agenda topic.
        Best regards,
        Thorsten
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  3. Owen Pettiford
    With so many options it can be confusing for partners and customers to understand what they should do.

    This guide should help to stop the default position of “doing it in ABAP in the apps stack”…which although an design that works and has worked for many years so not the only option 🙂

    Personally I like The “Best Built” tag, as it links to “Best Run” but is clear that this is about building new “stuff” not installing apps which many people associate SAP with.

    Looking forward to more guides and an open sourced WD framework !

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    1. Anurag Chopra
      Hello Richard,

      I believe, it is a great initiative as it would increase the adoption of partner’s solution among the SAP Customers. I believe Partner would be able to make a point while giving a demo or detailed description of his solution instead of simply rely on some kind of branding.

      Regards
      Anurag Chopra

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