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EP – Portal is the enterprise way to web 2.0

SAP Enterprise portal has found its way into a lot of SAP-Installations. But most of the companies missed the potential to unlock the power of communication with their users and to use it as a prime source for their Intranet. Slowly, I can see a discussion starting around the principal possibilities to unlock the power of a web 2.0 for the enterprise.

Recently, after a year of work in a successful PI-Project, I had a chance to hold a seminar in SAP Enterprise Portal for a one of Europe’s largest university hospitals. It was a three day seminar for portal administrators and managers, providing an overview, hands-on and feature discussion and a great welcome to brush up on my Portal project history.

One of the chapters in the seminar that was sparkling a great discussion was about SAP Enterprise Portal as a central intranet portal with web 2.0 facilities and integration of social web components. (There is a video in preparation, to be published soon)

Enterprise Portal is more than a stack of Java application

For most of the companies, SAP Enterprise Portal (EP) is merely a place for accessing SAP functionality like ESS, SRM or Web Dynpro applications. And for applications with Knowledge Manager or Web Dynpro Composer, the focus is even dimmer. In a common view, Microsoft Sharepoint is a more prime source for file sharing and Enterprise Content Providing than SAP.

I have done a lot of SAP Portal work in the past and quite some bit of seminars around EP. Most of the companies are using it for SAP ESS access and only some of them have an integration of their Intranet with their Enterprise Portal and only one company (or a part of that company) has used it for integrated intranet interaction with a corporate communication strategy.

From a marketing point-of-view, an Internet page is always a perfect chance for one-on-one communication, as if a visitor steps up to an information point and starts to talk. It is considered “prime time” for interaction.

Opportunity missed to communicate with your employees

I think this is a big waste of a great opportunity. SAP Enterprise can do a lot more in terms of content, communication, Intranet integration and Social Media providing. Technologies like Flash Islands, Visual Composer and Knowledge Manager Repositories are the technologies to unlock the potential as a complete Intranet. Integration of large scale content authoring systems like Reddot or FirstSpirit can close the gap to content systems.

The perfect homepage

Let me take the example of a personalized homepage in a company’s intranet. It can have Microsoft Active Directory Integration via Cerberus and integrate SSO with the Windows Logon. It has a personalized news section with news of the company. You don’t have a newsroom group? There are a lot of content providers who are specialized in providing dedicated corporate news for a reasonable fee.  When you see a consultant from SAP, have a look at their welcome page.

It should have personalized information about his or her department, travel management and spend management. It should offer actual training, online or offline. It should have actual videos of corporate management with actual messages. When everybody has a web cam at his desk, video conferencing in the corporation would be a low hanging fruit.

And it should have (of course) an operational section with personalized access to the current work like pending work and transactions in SAP, BI-reports and dashboards, Self Services like ESS or SRM and any other Netweaver-System.

Intergration of social web 2.0

Integration of facebook, twitter and linkedin or xing would be another easy one. But I would rather recommend corresponding intranet-solution, managed and moderated by the IT  . You could a add an internal facebook clone to your SAP HCM skill management and HCM master record. Besides the personal skill management, with the linked relations you can identify cluster of knowledge inside your company to optimize skill providing to your enterprise or to yopur customers.

All of these elements are regular projects with no extraordinary price tag. They can all be done in a reasonable timeframe. You don’t even have to do it “Big Bang”, the web is always about slow evolution. And for the revenue, if you consider optimization of communication, skill, relation management and HCM management can all be tagged with a dollar amount.

Re-Evaluate!

SAP Portal is underrated. Now I can hear all arguments: To cumbersome, too Java, too big, too SAP-centric. But if you look at a typical Sharepoint-Implementation, a Reddot-Implementation or else: You will hear the same argues different flavors.  All technologies have pros and cons and you should pick your (one) strategic core technology.

SAP Portal as such a core technology that can deliver. You just need some ideas, visions and projects to get your perfect intranet.

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5 Comments

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  1. Jan Laros
    Holger,

    Very good blog and very good propaganda for our beloved product. I have experienced exactly the resistance you describe when trying to convince customers to use SAP Portal as a cheap solution for their intranet. Al the arguments I put on the table were wiped off by ‘too slow, too SAP-centric and too Java’.

    But I think you forget one important aspect of the consideration whether to use SAP Portal as an Intranet Solution. How are you going to migrate old content to the new solution?

    For instance: A customer has a separate SharePoint intranet site and a separate SAP Portal for ESS and SRM. We would like to integrate the intranet in the SAP Portal, so we can ditch the SharePoint license fee, operation costs, consultants, etc. Are we going to have to build all old content (news, documents, people directory, social collaboration, etc.) from scratch in the SAP Portal? You can not underestimate this kind of effort, as it will probably be the biggest time consuming activity in such a project. You need a solid migration strategy.

    I hope with SAP NetWeaver 7.3 and the promised better integration of 3rd party solutions, we will be able to tackle this. Because I am still convinced (just as you are) that SAP Portal is a great solution for combining intranet, (social) collaboration and news with core business processes.

    Regards,

    Jan Laros
    Ciber

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    1. Holger Stumm Post author
      Hi Jan,
      thanks for your reply. Looking forward to SAP Netweaver 7.3.
      You are right with the migration. In our last case, it was just a discussion about the file sharing part of Sharepoint – all project documentation was in the central SP repository. This made migration easier.
      I guess it needs to be a case-by-case discussion. But when btexx – according to Sergei – really has some tools, this is even better.
      Wish you all the best
      Holger
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  2. John Travolta
    SAP Portal is a great product, but has a lack of functionalities and few problems regarding performance and UI.

    I’m not an expert in Sharepoint, but the feedback I get from customers using it, and also knowing SAP Portal, they all say Sharepoint it is far better, not only because is faster, more flexible in terms of UI personalization, but mainly because there is tight integration with Office Tools.

    We see SAP working with Microsoft to provide Duet for Sharepoint. Why do they not work together, to provide easily flexibility in integrating Office Tools to SAP Portal?

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  3. Christian Kirkedal
    As Jann mentions, there are numerous ways to integrate SharePoint and SAP Portal solutions, including the new Duet Enterprise. I believe that there are no single way to solve the problem, but you need to have a deep insight in the individual customers way of handling workflows and data as well as their inhouse expertise as means of being able to support and further develop the optimal solution.

    It is also important to try to look at the end user. Does it make more sense to keep the SharePoint portal and use iFrames for SAP GUI-elements or does a more tight integration give more sense? Sometimes even a single link is enough and sometimes data should be editable in SharePoint and needs more development. Then Duet Enterprise might be the right choice.
    The solution of having SharePoint as the horizontal portal also gives the end user a more familiar UI, if they use Office products.

    There are also other third party tools to use, such as Sitrion ServiceStudio or using the deprecated .NET Connector, but depending on the individual case this might be the right thing?

    On other occasions, when there is no need for integration with other systems and platforms, SAP is a real contender, when it comes to integrating ESS/MSS, HR in general and BI data.

    But still, this is a nice post, as many companies doesn’t realize that SAP Portal is a real alternative (and/or add-on) to many other solutions for web and portals.

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