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SAP Discusses 5 Year Plan – Social Networking, EDI, Cloud Computing and More

This article explores some very interesting new announcements from SAP and others that layout the future of EDI and B2B integrations and how social networking and cloud computing fit into it. 

SAP executives at their annual Influencer Summit in Boston on Tuesday laid out a broad outline of the company’s five-year product and technology vision. They emphasized integrated business analytics, software packages, and on-demand, cloud-based extensions to applications, to enable customers to avoid difficult upgrades while tapping new capabilities.

For those involved in EDI and B2B integrations and data exchanges this is interesting information. It pulls back the veil on their investment into Crossgate, the cloud computing based EDI exchange, last year. SAP does not want EDI and B2B data communications to be a hindrance to solution roll-outs. They want an on-demand model that can simply be switched on.

EAIs (enterprise application integration) solutions grew out of the need to have a more “orderly” and standardized methodology for connecting multiple applications together and for sharing data across the enterprise’s IT ecosystem. This exact same requirement is needed externally among large trading partner communities. They need a method for quickly sharing real-time business data across multi-member and extended supply chains. This is best achieved by using a centralized EDI/B2B exchange that manages the data formats of all participating members and creates a repository of partners and formats that can be switched on – in an on-demand model.

An on-demand, cloud computing model for EDI/B2B, removes the limitations of IT budgets, IT staffing, EDI expertise and EDI systems from the equation. It is a pay-as-you-need-it model. It abstracts the system from the business and makes it a simple choice to connect, not an IT project.

SAP users want to be able to use social networking sites such as Facebook to collaborate, said SAP executive board member Jim Hagemann Snabe. “Companies want to take advantage of these technologies without disrupting business,” he said. Much of SAP’s innovation focus will revolve around flexible extensions to core applications and processes, which can be developed and deployed quickly, via an on-demand or on-premise model, said Hegemann Snabe.

This is a very intriguing concept. The buzz word Enterprise 2.0 is often being used to describe social networking for businesses. I believe this is what Mr. Hegemann Snabe is describing. It is also the model that EDI and B2B Exchanges are rapidly adopting.

Rob Guerriere writes that the EDI industry is investing a lot of time and money addressing SOCIAL supply chain issues right now. He also states that he believes this is the battleground that will determine the winners and losers over the next 5 years.

Social supply chain issues has to do with being able to find, connect and collaborate with your business partners, vendors and customers in an efficient means and often referred to as Web 2.0 (or Enterprise 2.0 in the business context). At a recent GXS conference (GXS is a leading EDI company that recently announced they are merging with Inovis) they announced the launch of two new tools that addresses social supply chain networks. The functionality includes user groups, threaded discussions with support personal and other customers, as well as the ability to chat and post support tickets.Social Business Networks (SBNs) is one of the hottest areas, and major corporations and government agency CIOs are looking into today. One of the first and best places for organizations to implement this strategy is in the EDI and B2B integration space. It is the purpose of EDI and B2B systems to connect an enterprise with their network, or community of trading partners. The ability to quickly find customers, suppliers, banks and other trading partners and easily connect with them is a perfect use case. I still believe SAP’s investment last year in Linkedin and Crossgate (the EDI exchange) reflects some behind the scenes Enterprise 2.0 strategies.

This week IT research and advisory firm Gartner announced their latest 2009 report “Magic Quadrant for Integration Service Providers”. The EDI exchange that SAP co-owns is now positioned in the Leaders Quadrant. This EDI exchange runs in a cloud computing environment using a SaaS or IaaS (integration as a service) model. Gartner’s positioning of this EDI exchange highlights the importance of its global repository of re-usable B2B mappings. Customers can connect once to this EDI exchange and access more than 40,000 pre-integrated business partner profiles, regardless of transaction type or volume. Instead of providing only generic data standards and toolsets, this exchange includes partner-specific mappings, communications, and processes aligned with ERP application installations and upgrades. This is an Enterprise 2.0 model or social networking for businesses.

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  • Hi Kevin,

    your blog isinteresting and the fact that much of SAP's innovation focus will revolve around flexible extensions to core applications and processes, which can be developed and deployed quickly, via an on-demand or on-premise model, do you think will they comeup with a new product such as SAP SaaS?

    what do you think the future of SAP products would be,if the so called "trade partners" of EDI agrees to exchange the data?

    dont you feel its a threat to the SAP products to some extent?

    appreciate if you throw some light on this


  • I believe SAP wants to support SaaS models and is working hard to do it.  They will always want to OWN the data, workflow,business processes, database, business rules, business analytics and trading partner connections if they can.

    Companies like Elemica, Ariba, E2Open and others are competitors for the above.  I believe that is why they became a co-owner of Crossgate, the global EDI Exchange.