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I think the very nature of the Enterprise Portal (in particular a so called horizontal portal) means that it gets blamed more often than not for problems and errors that are outside of its control.

From an end user perspective it might appear that “the portal” is malfunctioning or is not available but the reality is more often than not that one of the applications that the portal is delivering or depends upon (e.g. HR, WebDynpro, LDAP) is actually the root cause of the problem.

Of course the end user need not know exactly which component is malfunctioning but it is very important for the support desk to recognize as quickly as possible where the problem lies so that they can route the call to the appropriate people to solve. Often this is a very difficult process and requires in-depth knowledge of the system and the various layers that are in play during any given scenario.

So perhaps I can propose the following in order shorten the time between a “portal” support call being logged with the support desk and it actually being looked at by the right people with the necessary skills to sort out the problem. The idea is to cut down the time that the problem bounces around between the various support groups:

 

  • Expert Triage – train the support desk people very well so that they can identify the root cause more quickly. Give them some basic training in the types of errors and error messages and where each should be routed to
  • Custom Error Messages – Implement more user friendly error messages that actually direct the user and support team to log the problem with the right group (maybe include some keywords in the standard error templates)

I would be interested to hear about other people’s experience in this area and what you found worked and didn’t work. Have you perhaps used any of the integration with Solution Manger Service Desk or similar to streamline the support process?

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6 Comments

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  1. Joshua Wise
    While Portal insiders know the truth of your statement we are still frustrated by the fact that the portal is actually at fault many times and further frustrated by SAP’s lack of will to address your underlying issue, that being portal’s lack of an ability to gracefully handle issues that are presented through the framework yet only the result set of a separate client side call.

    True, a well oiled portal and change averse platform is a stable beast, but this is the not the case for so many shops.  The Portal is supposed to be an agent of change.  Change in a dyanmic UI environemnt is a must, and SAP has not dealt with that change gracefully across is product line.  One need only point the CRM integration or the lack thereof as an example of SAP’s issues on this front.

    Another example, is SAP’s reliance to date on the SUN 1.4.2 JDK which has proven so unstable and so unpredictable with client and other change. 

    The Portal UI needs to be truely treated as a horizontal platform and its usage needs to be treated comprehensively.  Integration needs to be standardized and taken seriously in SAP development organizations.  Only then will the Portal support organizations be able to effectively deal with horizontal issues.

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    1. Simon Kemp Post author
      Thanks for your comments. I agree with what you are saying and think that the next year will be an interesting one in the portal space. I also noticed that SUN JDK 1.4.2 is now End of Life… so I suspect a move away from that is on the cards already the portal that comes with Netweaver CE is running on a later JDK and of course SAP now have their own Java VM.

      A more integrated portal that was smarter esp. with respect to the content that is being delivered would be a great thing.

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      1. Kai Unewisse
        Hi Simon,

        the funny thing is that also JAVA 1.5 has reached the “End of Live”.
        That is the one that will be used in the future releases.

        PS: We tell people during the initial training that the portal is just like a TV; when the TV channel is not working, don’t blame the TV ….

        Regards,
        Kai

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        1. Michael Nicholls
          Kai, would you believe that the Australian naitonal television broadcaster offers a service call iView? Yes, they use that spelling! It allows you to look at different TV programs.
          (see here for their site)

          Michael

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  2. Holger Stumm
    Hi,
    I definitiely agree with your blog. I would also add two pionts, where regularly Portal Implementation fail:
    It is a great chance to really communicate with people. Since most of the time, it is the starting point for business activities, it is a great chance of One-On-One communication with your emplyee. Ugly graphics. poor navigation and non-managed content is doing the rest.

    Second, I think, the Portal is as stable as any other module. You need time and effort, but this is valid also for ERP, Solman, PI etc…

    It is a different skillset of interoperability required to make it work.

    But don’t blame the Portal…

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  3. John Travolta
    Unfortunately, after more than 8 years of portal projects implementations, what customers most criticize, is Portal performance.

    The number of requests, Java Scripts, CSS and their sizes for a single page, is enormous, and I didn’t see any improvements in new releases, or on the Enhancement Packages. As an example, one page, containing 3 embedded KM iViews, will result, besides the different content between them, 3x requests of the same JS, CSS and Images.

    Besides the old JDK version supported in Netweaver, what to say about old version of eclipse, lack of support for new browser versions, or new browsers (Google Chrome).

    I would really like to see real improvements on this field, and while there is no news in new releases, one more time, I ask to people who implemented SDN Portal, to write Blogs, Articles, How-to, not Best Practices or general guidelines (there are already a lot), but real examples to improve performance, and advantages/disadvantages of implementing/deciding for specific solutions.

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