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EhP 5 ESS: The architect’s view

ERP EhP5 marks a turning point for the architecture of SAP Employee Self Services. With the shift of the architecture of the ESS scenarios from WebDynpro Java to WebDynpro SAP architects need to reevaluate the architecture of their organization in this area.

The challenge

Up to EhP5 the architecture of SAP ESS was quite clear. With most of the ESS services on WD Java a SAP Enterprise Portal was needed. This has changed now. With the new ESS you can implement them based on the Netweaver Business Client (NWBC) even without the SAP Portal.

In a nutshell you get three options for the future use of ESS:

1.      WD ABAP-based ESS with NWBC without SAP NetWeaver Portal

2.      WD ABAP-based ESS with SAP NetWeaver Portal

3.      WS Java-based ESS with SAP NetWeaver Portal

A lot of information is already provided by some notes and by the documentation which also lists up all the improved features of the WD ABAP-based ESS:

Note 1450179 ESS Based on Web Dynpro ABAP available as of EhP5

Note 1509139 ESS EHP5 solution Based on Web Dynpro JAVA available

EhP 5 ESS documentation

As a lot of SAP customers plan to implement EhP5 shortly or are just starting their ESS projects and are therefore defining their future SAP HR architecture.

The two decisive questions for your HR architecture:

Which version of ESS should be used in the future (WD ABAP vs. WD Java)?

Should we use SAP NetWeaver Portal for ESS or the NWBC?


I have tried to facilitate your work by listing up some of the decisive points:

1.      Evaluation of the as-is situation

  • Existing HR IT Architecture (if such architecture already exists it will contain a lot of the points listed below)
  • Existing SAP HR systems within your organization
  • Existing ESS implementations within your organization
  • Implementations based on releases prior to ERP 2004 (based on ITS technology)
  • Custom developed ESS scenarios
  • Overall portal strategy of your organization

2.     Determination of future requirements

  • List of standard ESS-scenarios which should be used in the future
  • List of requirements for additional ESS-scenarios:
  •       Scenarios which can be realized by using HCM processes and forms
  •       Scenarios which needs to be developed

3.      Designing your future ESS architecture(s)

  • Decision whether one unified ESS approach will be feasible throughout your landscape

The decision which ESS technology should be used within your organization will be made in this phase. The clear recommendation from an SAP’s HR architect point of view is to use the ESS WD ABAP whenever possible. The main reason which I could see against it is a very huge implementation of custom developed ESS scenarios based on WD Java. But even then it must be clear that future ESS functionalities will be based on WD ABAP.

Whether you use the SAP NetWeaver Portal or not depend on your strategic portal decisions and also needs to consider which other SAP scenarios you want to use in your portal implementation.

4.      Designing your future HR architecture

A lot of strategic HR initiatives mean a lot of interesting activities for SAP architects. In some cases these activities create a very strong need for a HR architecture. In the past a clear architecture document for a SAP HR system was not always high on the priority list and substituted by a list of interfaces and SLA for the connected systems. With more and more customers adopting SAP ESS, SAP eRecruiting and SAP Enterprise Learning a clear document with architecture guidelines could save your organization a lot of redundant efforts which would be created otherwise.

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  • 1.      WD ABAP-based ESS with NWBC without SAP NetWeaver Portal

    I'm selecting this option because of how CRM is better with this option. Better integration with SAP core and better development environment. I think if this option comes most people will select this.

  • Thanks for the information. It's been TOO long coming (ie. ESS being ported....and MSS as WDA). I am not as much hung up on WDA via the NBWBC or portal, but I am quite happy to see the move to WDA. I just wish they would have come up with something better/different than that crappy "biz card" UI. Uggg. =)
    • Hi Chris,

      I am quite happy too about the new ESS.

      But I am also happy to read something from you again as I was missing your blogs about HCM processes and forms.

      Hope to read a new one from you soon.

      Best regards,


  • Hi Bernhard,

    Tnx for blogging on this topic. I've been reading about the new ESS scenario's and i agree that these new developments ask for clear architecture guidelines. A lot of my customers prefer other portal frameworks to build their employee portal. Frankly in most cases SAP has lost the horizontal portal to Microsoft SharePoint. Self services are horizontal portal scenarios so seamless integration with SharePoint is a must requirement here.

    Therefore i'll introduce a 4th option.
    4. WD ABAP-based with 3rd party portals (like MS SharePoint) without SAP NetWeaver portal.

    Although webdynpro uses different UI elements and floorplans in regards to standard SharePoint a close integration between WD ABAP and e.g. Sharepoint via CSS can create a feasible user experience without the downside of custom development.

    Unfortunately self services for other area's in the business suite (e.g. SAP Enterprise Learning or shopping) is still based on BSP and other interaction patterns.

    It's striking to me that SAP is still not able to create a single UI experience based on a single technology and floorplan to unify all self service based scenarios. Apparently solution development still focuses on optimizing processes within their own domain without looking at the perspective of the end user with the need for a unified UI experience regardless of HCM, SRM, Learning.
    So unfortunately we're not their yet but it is a step in the right direction.

    • I'm still mystified as to why the core component of the SAP Learning Solution, the Learning Portal, is still a BSP application.

      SAP's own Guide to Best Built Applications even recommends that customers don't use BSP's any more.

      • Most of the time when you see something like that, either (1) it was developed "long" ago and supported "as is" rather than ported to newer models/tech...such as ESS itself even now. It was an ITS solution a good while before becoming WDJ (which is why it leap frogged past BSP) (2) SAP buys other companies and their products and just incorporates them in the fastest manner possible at the time....which goes back to #1 as well.
    • Hi Pim,

      thanks for the feedback.

      You are right the integration with another portal seems to be a 4th option although it is included in option 1 as NWBC could integrate with other portals as well.

      Although things are taking some time I think that the new ESS is a big step in the right direction.

      BR Bernhard

      • Hi,

        Thanks for your great blog!

        Yet, using other Portals through NWBC would mean deploying NWBC on numerous workstations...
        Anyway, isn't it (still) complex - from an authentication point of view - to seamlessly go from SharePoint (or any 3rd party Portal) to an ABAP backend?? As far as I can remember, it is much more easier to have a SAP Web Application Server Java in between.

        Best regards,

        • Hi Guillaume,

          thanks for your kind feedback.

          You are right authentication requires efforts but now we can offer the customers the option to decide whether or not to use the SAP portal.

          Efforts are another question.

          Best regards,

  • Do both WDJ & WDA  applications have the exact same functionality in EhP5? for ex: Does the Record Working Time look any different in WDA? I guess this will be one of the deciding factors for the existing WDJ customers to switch to WDA in EhP5.
    • The new scenarios also have some new features and the homepage framework have been removed. But from my experience in ESS projects since more than 10 years end-users are more open to changes in the UIs than we often think.

      As I said WD ABAP will be the future direction of ESS and I think this should be the decisive point for the decision (especially in case you develop new scenarios).

      BR Bernhard

  • Very informative blog! Usually there is so much information available and too little to understand hheeh, Its good to have a short blog about these esoteric topics!

    Thanks, Siddharth Rajora

  • If we choose to deliver Self Services without an Enterprise Portal, I was curious how Adobe Forms are delivered --- specifically the Java component of Adobe Document Services.  If that is still a required piece, would that imply "finding" (or installing) a Java Netweaver stack?
  • Hi Bernhard,

    Very nice blog here. I've read it several times. We are planning to use ESS with NWBC, as we do not have an SAP Portal installed.

    A key question: Could ESS with NWBC be made available over the Internet with an SAP Webdispatcher, but no SAP Portal? Or should the ESS with NWBC option only be used within a company's network.

    This is a driving factor in determining our company's strategy with ESS/MSS.

  • Hi Bernhard,

    thanks for your interesting blog.
    Using ESS-Scenarios implicates a frontend application to handle the workflow dialog workitems. In the backend it's the business workplace, in the portal we've got the UWL, but what about the NWBC? Is there a subsitute to the UWL and what technology is it based on? WDA? How is it customized? Via SWFVISU? Is it also running without a "NBWC Container"?

    Thanks for your answer,

  • Very Well defined blog...

    In my previous client we started with Enterprise Portal and all services were in Java (based on EhP4) once we moved into EhP5, we decided to migrate to WDA services since they had more functionalities and better look and feel...

    At my current client we are going "portal-less" using EhP5 on NWBC... and going forward it looks like the services will be better in WDA...EhP6 looks promising...

    My 2 cents worth... Companies should stick to NWBC/WDA is it is possible... Companies can free up maintainance and resources if they stick with NWBC...