Create a Simplified User Experience for Purchasing using Duet Enterprise
Abstract: Duet Enterprise provides a rich, easy-to-use environment which extends SAP core capabilities to customer groups via the Netweaver Gateway directly to Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint. Learn how purchasing groups can take advantage of Duet Enterprise capabilities, including partner developed solutions certified by SAP.
Duet Enterprise is a jointly developed SAP and Microsoft interoperability platform layer between SAP and Microsoft applications to make it faster and easier to give SharePoint and Office users transparent access to SAP data and processes. Customers can leverage the underlying capabilities of Duet Enterprise and SAP NetWeaver Gateway to extend interoperability to Microsoft Office and other new Microsoft solutions as well as leverage an ecosystem of partners offering Duet Enterprise accelerators for different business scenarios, including enterprise purchasing.
Create a Simplified User Experience for Purchasing using Duet Enterprise
Effects of the Great Recession have left many company departments facing “do more with less” situations. Support areas of the enterprise, including such functions as human resources, marketing and purchasing have been hardest hit. The State of New Mexico recently announced a 14% staff reduction for 2013, while DuPont has announced a 2% staff reduction over the next two years.
The impacts of reduction in workforce are twofold when it comes to enterprise support functions. First, workers near retirement age – typically Baby Boomers who have made climbing the corporate ladder their life focus – leave and are replaced by younger, less experienced, and less expensive staff. Second these new workers learn and work in much different ways than their older colleagues. This creates a need to make the workplace more engaging, and technology can be a constructive answer to reduce complexity and increase worker productivity.
Today’s labor force is different. If supervisors don’t take responsibility for their own employee retention, they could be left without enough good employees to replace workers leaving organizations. Millennial workers (born 1979 through 1999) grew up learning how to play, and fun was part of their learning pedagogy in their educational upbringing and remains so today. So you need to make work fun and easy, and gamification is a big part of this. Older Baby Boomer workers may dismiss this as wasting time, but that’s how millennial workers “get things done.”
A 2011 white paper by Enterprise Strategy Group found that nearly two in three (64%) North American and Western European organizations are currently using Microsoft SharePoint, while an additional 12% plan to do so in the near future (Figure 1). As a common platform, Microsoft SharePoint can allow access to complex, business critical information through a user interface that most organizations already own.
Figure 1 User adoption rates of Microsoft SharePoint (survey of over 3,000 sampled businesses IT users conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group, 2009-2011).
Content being directed at a common, easy to use platform is on the rise. While most Microsoft SharePoint sites manage content in the 100s of Gigabytes, the same 2011 study found that content level will grow to 10s or 100s of Terabytes by 2015. With increased capabilities of SharePoint content management and data handling, the ability to scale SharePoint as a common platform in the advent of global, big data enterprises becomes real.
Engaging the Purchasing Community
The purchasing community can serve the organization as a perfect opportunity for bringing collaboration, information sharing, gamification and even fun to the workplace. Why is this? So many new requirements – Dodd Frank and conflict mineral compliance – and continuing requirements – such as quality management and cost-reduction goals – have placed purchasing in the center of enterprise risk management and profitability initiatives. A consequence of this shift requires purchasing professionals to perform numerous and broad ad hoc inquiries as well as scheduled reporting, demanding access to broad enterprise and supplier information. This is a heady responsibility for the purchasing organization. Without a dramatic change in work and attitude at work, traditional actions of the purchasing group will not meet management expectations given these new and demanding requirements. Flexibility and a sense of humor are required, and this is where an engaging, fun and “gamified” work environment can create productivity and accuracy gains in the organization, reducing risk and increasing profit.
For more information on the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on conflict minerals in the supply chain, read the recent Ethisphere magazine article, “Addressing New Conflict Minerals Requirements: Keys Success Factors for Processes and Reporting.”
Through a joint partnership with Microsoft, SAP introduced Duet Enterprise several years ago to leverage Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint as common, “friendly” and easy-to-use collaboration platforms that could access complex SAP enterprise data across the organization without the need to train SAP business users on how to use the SAP GUI or browser-based versions. Companies taking advantage of Microsoft tools for team and functional collaboration can leverage what they presently own while enjoying the benefits of a unique system of record provided by SAP. SAP has recently recognized purchasing solutions which have been developed using Duet Enterprise 2.0 which can address the opportunity for greater productivity in the workplace using Microsoft SharePoint as a common business platform in on-premises, cloud computing, or hybrid environments.
Duet Enterprise is general available (GA) software, and requires SAP NetWeaver Gateway server license as well as Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Enterprise licenses. This will be explained in more detail in the next section.
In the next section I show how to create the appropriate Duet Enterprise environment and what components of SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SAP SRM) can be used to create a common and effective purchasing environment.
Establish the Purchasing Environment across SAP SRM, Microsoft SharePoint
In order to create a cohesive purchasing environment leveraging the capabilities of Duet Enterprise, several architectural and human resource components are required. On the people side of the equation, purchasing should be very familiar with Microsoft SharePoint and its configuration for collaboration and project teams. Since SharePoint is a highly intuitive and easy to learn environment this is often more of a benefit versus a requirement. The purchasing department needs to be of a qualified size as well since presently Duet Enterprise licenses are sold in bundles of 100 to match-off to SharePoint users defined in the system. On the IT side the team must be familiar with the business processes of the purchasing department, including requisitions, cataloguing, spend analysis, and vendor selection. This helps the mapping of transaction requests inside Duet Enterprise to the core SAP vendor master and SAP SRM functions.
The Duet Enterprise 2.0 SharePoint Add-on is installed on servers that run SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise Edition. The Duet Enterprise 2.0 SAP Add-on runs on top of SAP NetWeaver ABAP 7.02 SP08 running the SAP NetWeaver Gateway 2.0 SP4 component. For more information about the SAP environment, see the SAP Master Guide on SAP Service Marketplace.
Figure 2 provides the overall topology of the Duet Enterprise environment. Essentially the department leverages its Microsoft SharePoint environment as the user experience and interface. Duet Enterprise is loaded as part of the SharePoint environment and brokers the communication to SAP NetWeaver Gateway via HTML mapping. Once a transaction request is received by SAP NetWeaver, the request is distributed natively to the proper location and master data required (for example, vendor inquiry to the vendor master record or part availability to the part master record). Once the information is received by SAP the result is transmitted via the topology back to the SharePoint user.
Figure 2 An example topology for Duet Enterprise supporting Purchasing function (figure SAP America as modified by Newport Consulting Group).
Why consider a Duet Enterprise based solution? I am fond of saying that inside the SAP ecosystem there is often “more than one way to skin a cat.” So deployment teams have options. If your organization is already heavily invested in the Microsoft Office platform for other desktop functions, you can utilize an interface they already know and already own. SAP web-based GUI applications, particularly the financial applications in the BusinessObjects stack, are highly intuitive as well and some applications such as Spend Performance Management go deep into SAP SRM to extract and manipulate large data relationships (essentially a “mini BI cube” comes with the application or you can use a full BI approach to analysis). Where such detailed analysis is not necessary – for the average user for example – using a Duet Enterprise solution can reduce license costs while still creating a solid transaction environment for broad department and large company use.
For more on SAP BusinessObjects Spend Performance Management, see my Toolbox article and summary on the SAP Experts site.
There are obviously some challenges as well when creating a multi-application environment. First, historically SAP NetWeaver Gateway has had capacity issues for large numbers of complex transactions executed simultaneously. While NetWeaver Gatway has benefited from many enhancements designed to improve performance, your best optimizing the transaction rate at 100s of transactions versus 1000s based on my discussions and experiences with customers. These rates are quite optimal for using NetWeaver Gateway and its OpenData (Odata) protocols to extract information from back office core SAP systems (ERP, SRM, SCM, etc.)
SAP customers have a number of options to create their own solutions or to leverage pre-configured solutions developed by other companies available on the SAP Marketplace. In the next section I will show you two different examples of the Duet Enterprise and the purchasing solutions available via the SAP Certified Partner program.
Examples of Purchasing Solutions using Duet Enterprise
There are a number of purchasing solutions available from the SAP Marketplace and broad ecosystem which leverage the Duet Enterprise platform. Recently SAP and Microsoft jointly awarded Cordis Solutions its 2012 UNITE Award for Partner Innovation for its work to develop the Harmony platform of applications. As you can see in Figure 3, the Cordis Harmony set includes a number of Human Resource, Purchasing and Finance applications available from the Harmony jump page. The jump page takes advantage of the Windows 8 tile format for either on-premises or tablet use of the application.
Figure 3 Jump page for the Cordis Harmony application set including myPurchase.
Once the user selects the myPurchase application, the user is brought to a workspace shown in Figure 4. From here the purchasing agent or employee can requisition materials available in a catalogue, all of which is summarized from SAP back-end systems. In this case the employee would like to request a pen, which is placed in a shopping cart very similar in use to many online retail stores.
Users accustomed to gamified environments will appreciate the simplicity of the application. You can manipulate your shopping cart at will and determine how to best allocate your budget. The easy user interface almost believes you are shopping on-line and not just at the company store.
Once the request is completed, the user can review its cart (Figure 5). In this example, items less than £100 are automatically approved. However the new desk has a higher limit so the user must wait for management approval before the item is purchased. The Cordis information uses myGuidedBuy to house available items in its company catalogue. As such, this framework can be extended to capital expenses (CAPEX), lease requests, or any other transaction supported by the back-end SAP system.
Figure 4 Requisitions using a simple shopping cart approach in myPurchase.
The CS Procurement Portal developed by SAP Certified partner Campana-Schott, allows for deep visibility into trends and purchasing requests based on information contained in SAP back-end systems. The availability of rendered visualizations of purchasing spend history by category can be extremely helpful in managing spend across the organization (Figure 6).
Figure 5 Items pre-approved are ordered, items above a threshold are sent to management for approval.
With workplace demographic trends requiring more and more solutions that are easy to use and require low capital investment particularly in support functions such as purchasing, Duet Enterprise offers a number of unique approaches to leverage information systems assets which the company may already own. Given that the most expensive component of any business is its people, leveraging the Microsoft environment to provide a pleasant and familiar work experience in the purchasing and other support functions of the organization can offer a high-value, competitive advantage while increasing workplace retention and productivity.
Figure 6 The CS Procurement Portal provides rendered visualizations of purchasing and spend history using Microsoft SharePoint and Duet Enterprise.
 “DuPont Announces 2% Staff Reduction as Global Sales Decline,” International Business Times, October 23, 2012. “Office Space Expands while Workforce Declines,” Santa Fe New Mexican, September 26, 2012.
Babineau, Brian and Lundell, Bill. “Managing SharePoint as a Business-critical Application,” Enterprise Strategies Group, August 2011. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=28133