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BPM, PI and Process Orchestration @ SapphireNow Orlando – My Pre-Conference Report

For my first event at SapphireNow Orlando I attended the Process Orchestration Customer Council meeting.  Here we talked about SAP’s “business-aware” middleware vision, where BPM and PI fit into this vision, and what customers are doing today.

We had a mixture of experienced and new customers present in this event.  For BPM, the new customers were interested in hearing from the customers who have more experience in BPM so they can create a business case for proposing this approach to their SAP management.

For integration customers, the questions were a little more advanced.  For example, whats a good strategy for migrating off 3rd party integration vendors.  The customers doing this were looking to PI as a means of reducing the complexity of their integration by consolidating on PI since this component is already in place to integrate their existing SAP systems.  All of the customers I spoke with on this topic purport doing small to larger phased roll-outs of heterogeneous integration using PI.

One customer attending, a large brewer that tends to be acquisitive, posed a question about how PI could be used in a large to small integration scenario – how to integrate small acquired companies not running SAP into their core company’s systems.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to answer this question.  I’ve made it a task to get one and post a blog about it at a later date.

Consolidating application integration using PI

Another customer attending the session, a large defense contractor, described their different integration scenarios.  In one case they had to create a classified instance of SAP Business Suite  for US Defense department, and decided to use SAP NetWeaver PI for integration, mainly because the set up was much simpler than their 3rd party integration platforms they typically used.   They were surprised to find how much better the PI integration performance was compared to their other systems – in one case seeing a 10x improvement.  This customer is working on migrating their entire integration to PI, including non-SAP systems such as PeopleSoft.  The “lessons-learned” wisdom they offered included: 

  • Make sure you establish clear governance. 
  • Take the time to do training of both developers and basis folks. 
  • Add mentoring to your project plan.  They looked for quick successes in first projects and hired consultants to acts as mentors so that their in house team can learn from experts.
  • They found SDN to be a great source of information for problem solving.

Also interesting is their plan of using PI to facilitate integration, not only of their systems, but of their related SAP system support organizations.  Parphrasing:

As we migrate our integration to PI, the organizations that support our various SAP instances can be merged.  Rather than doing this as a big-bang approach, we can do this in low risk, small bits at a time iterations.  And then we integrate the related support resources into the new global support organization as the integrated service comes online. 


Creating Innovative Value-Added Services with PI

Next up was eBay / PayPal describing how they integrated their supplier payment process, treasury functions within SAP ERP and their PayPal payment service to create a whole new way to pay their suppliers.  Its great to see this story in real life since I am presenting this story in my session “Real Life Integration and Process Management” on Weds, 3PM at Theatre 3 in the Line of Business Campus.  What’s interesting is that eBay is treated as a customer of PayPal (even though they own the service).  Essentially, eBay is working as if they are like any other development partner of PayPal. (Greg’s pondering:  I wonder if this means that other SAP customers could customize a PayPal payment option for their suppliers.)

Their story is a great example of creating innovative value-added services by taking their unique competitive service – PayPal – and integrating it with SAP treasury best practices.  They essentially create a check-like service that provides the documentation trail of checks, but delivers payment to the supplier instantaneously instead of in several days – if it gets there (“the check is in the mail…”).  For eBay the benefits are that their payment service is at near zero cost since they own it and the integration provides opportunities straight through processing of payment of supplier invoices.

The PayPal service was able to be rapidly integrated partly due to the fact that they had polished their integration APIs as part of their PayPal developers program that they launched in 2009.  This is an example of why good SOA governance can be very important for increasing ROI when developing even your custom in-house applications.  You never know when your in house custom process automation can be leveraged in new ways as part of an innovative integrated service with PI, or a new business process implementation managed by BPM.

Optimizing end-to-end processes with BPM

Then Braskem came up and to present.  This is another supplier payment story, this time using BPM.  In this case its actually a business process that involves facilitating payment to suppliers, and then notifying tax authorities of the Brazilian government.  Braskem took an end-to-end business process view of their supplier payment process.  It was highly manual, and distributed across different departments.  It was hard to see where any payment was in the process – and as a result hard to actually know what the spend was per supplier. 

One thing impressive about Braskem’s presentation was how they described it along the lines of their BPM methodology.  They mentioned their business case, complete with business improvement goals, then described the as-is situation, the to-be process they designed, and their implementation.

Taking a process oriented approach, they were able to take their highly distributive supplier payment process and centralize it into global service center.  They leverage functionality from SAP ERP to run the service center, and SAP NetWeaver BPM for the extended processes to the various business users, and for integrating to the Brazilian government authority.  As a result, they have significantly more visibility into their supplier payments than before, and are able to track their KPI of “payment assertiveness” – how oftenare payments made within the committed timeframe to the supplier.

If you want to hear more about the Braskem story, you can hear Marcos Milani speak in detail by coming to see my joint ASUG presentation with him on Tuesday, 8AM at 104B West:  “Real World BPM in SAP Environments”

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