The SAP Help Portal transformation
The SAP Help Portal is SAP’s platform to provide access to product documentation as well as related information, such as SAP Notes, product availability information and also links to community content. In the last year and a half I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that transformed a site that consisted merely of a simple web server and more than a hundred million HTML pages into a next generation cloud based web application platform, that can handle more than 50 million hits per month by over 2 million visitors. In this blog I would like to provide an overview of this “new” platform, the newly released features and a preview of what you can expect in near future.
The SAP Help Portal overview pages
The site consists of over 600 overview / landing pages for each SAP product that bundles links to all related information like release notes, installation and upgrade guides, release information and of course the actual SAP product documentation. At the end of last year we have introduced already the “new” SAP Help Portal supporting an established editing process while presenting the pages in the new SAP brand style, known from SAP.com or from SCN. In addition to that we’ve integrated the Help Portal content (overview pages and documentation pages) with the SAP global search application available at http://search.sap.com. At SAP TechEd 2011 many community members had a chance to provide feedback to the new Help Portal and the interaction with the global search, and the feedback was overwhelming. The more consistent look of the pages and the ability to find information faster, over all SAP platforms, with the possibility to use filter to restrict the search on specific areas has brought the highest values to the SAP community.
The SAP Help Portal documentation pages
The biggest part of the SAP Help Portal is actually still the SAP product documentation. This, of course, is created by a big team of editors, and over the last 20 years has been published in many different formats. In addition to the fact that it is visible that the pages have been created with different tools and technologies, when navigating through the documentation, one was jumping from one navigation tree to another, always opening new pages with new navigations, and by that loosing the whole navigation history.
Therefore the big project goal for this year was to setup a web application infrastructure that can host more than a million HTML pages and is able to transform them in the same new SAP style, as the overview pages, as well as providing a better navigation experience. In addition to that, new features should be introduced that allow SAP consultants, architects, developer, administrators and everyone else who is working with SAP documentation to better use and even improve the quality of the documentation. This is of course a long-term process, but we are happy to have accomplished another important step in this direction.
The first documentation area that has been migrated to the new web application infrastructure, with over 500 thousand HTML pages, is the SAP ERP 6 EHP5 Application Help. From the overview page http://help.sap.com/erp605 you can access both the English and the German Application help.
When navigating through this documentation, you will now notice that the Help Portal page with the top level navigation always remains the same and whenever a new navigation tree is opened (left hand navigation changes) you will see a new highlighted item bellow the breadcrumb area. Those are the so called “history pills” that provide you with an overview of the different navigation nodes previously accessed. You may navigate back to them by clicking on the entry and you may also close the “pill”.
Two new features have been also rolled out. The first is the “Print” function that opens the browser print dialog with a printer friendly view of the page, for users who want to have a specific documentation page printed on paper. The even more outstanding feature, I believe, is the “Download” function. This one allows the user to download the whole navigation tree to a single PDF.
You may even try this feature from your iPad, and you will not only experience that the new SAP Help Portal is now much better usable on a mobile device, but also that you can save the PDFs to your iBooks and use them offline wherever you want.
Again, those are only a few steps in the right direction, we believe. As we will be working on migrating more documentation areas on the new web application platform you can also expect more additional features and a tighter integration of the SAP Help Portal with the SAP Community Network. For example you can expect very soon a new feature that enables you to provide feedback to the author of the documentation page, share comments or discuss the content of the documentation page with the community, or view community related topics relevant to a specific documentation area. Of course, we are always happy to also hear from you, on how the experience of the SAP Help Portal can be further improved.