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Overview

This blog post is the first part of the SDN series about the Side Panel for Business Suite.

For a detailed description how to adapt SAP’s Side Panel content and create new content please refer to the blog post Side panel for SAP Business Suite (2). For a description on how to build a master data and a chart-based CHIP please refer to the blog post Side panel for SAP Business Suite (3) – How to build a master data and a chart-based CHIP?

The side panel for SAP Business Suite can be used to display additional context-sensitive information for existing SAP GUI transactions in a separate screen area without modifying the corresponding transaction. A side panel can simultaneously show several CHIPs (Collaborative Human Interface Parts). A CHIP is a special type of Web Dynpro ABAP application.

A range of both generic and area-specific CHIPs is already provided with ERP 6.0 EhP 6 for your use. SAP delivers side panel content for about 1200 SAP GUI transactions including the following modules/components: Financials (FIN), Controlling (CO), Financial Services – Claims Management (FS-CM), Logistics (LO), Materials Management (MM), Sales and Distribution (SD), and Quality Management (QM).
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Currently there are more than 140 reusable CHIPs available. Customers and partners can also add own CHIPs and thereby enhance SAP’s CHIP catalog with own content.

The side panel can be configured and enhanced to suit your needs. At the side panel level, you can decide which CHIPs are getting displayed in the side panel. Moreover, you can add or remove supportive CHIPs via a catalog (e.g. the CHIP for displaying a 3D model of a material can easily be added to every transaction that deals with ‘material’). At the CHIP level, you can decide how you want to display your information (e.g. if you want to display analytic queries in a chart, you have up to 20 different chart types already available).

One great feature of the side panel is that SAP GUI transactions can be enhanced modification-free. This feature comes with the advantage that no regression testing is required at all.

The SAP NetWeaver Business Client (NWBC) as of version 3.5 or higher is used to connect the SAP GUI transaction or Web Dynpro application to the side panel Web Dynpro application. To put it in a nutshell, the NWBC extracts data from SAP GUI screens and passes them to the side panel, which allows developers to build context-sensitive side panels. A communication from the side panel to the SAP GUI transaction is not foreseen because SAP GUI transactions would have to be modified.

The architecture of the side panel accommodates a flexible system landscape. The following scenarios are possible:

  • Side panel and application transactions run in the same physical system.
    Total cost of ownership is the lowest if the version of your ERP system contains SAP_BS_FND 7.31.
  • Side panel and application transactions do not run in the same physical system (side-by-side scenario).
    If your ERP system is below EHP6 (containing SAP_BS_FND 7.31), you can use the side panel in a side-by-side scenario in which only the role system contains SAP_BS_FND 7.31.


CHIP examples

Collaboration

The collaboration CHIP with SAP StreamWork integration provides features to collaborate with co-workers who usually don’t have an ERP system user (e.g. a product developer working in the PP module with a marketing colleague). Even collaboration with people outside the company’s boundaries (e.g. suppliers) is supported.

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The collaboration CHIP requires customizing effort in order to work but since it is very generic it can be used with almost every transaction.
Starting with SP6 of EhP6 the collaboration CHIP will support SAP JAM as well.

Reports

There are numerous existing CHIPs that provide analytical content either as forms or as charts. As every CHIP is basically a Web Dynpro Component, any kind of Floorplan Manager (FPM) components (e.g. Chart UI Building Blocks) can be reused within the CHIP.

The following example shows the cumulative actual/planned costs of a specific cost center. Again, to demonstrate the generic notion, this CHIP could be used in every transaction which deals with a cost center.

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Shared Service Center

Master data maintenance (and other) transactions can be enhanced with this side panel to enable the creation of service requests directly from within the applications. In this case, the side panel increases the end user’s productivity as the user is no longer required to call or email the shared services center to create a ticket and provide information about the issue.

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SAP Visual Enterprise

Using the SAP Visual Enterprise CHIP, users can see both a 3D model representation and a thumbnail in material master or product transactions in the side panel. Users can also have a look at the material in more detail, study work instructions how to repair it or see the detailed bill of material for it.

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The CHIP helps to optimize processes and to browse massive 3D design data sets. Additionally, the simplicity and accuracy of visual information improves the communication with suppliers and partners which increases both the productivity and the product quality.

SAP Visual Business

The SAP Visual Business CHIPs can be used to visualize addresses and toplan routes in the side panel. Users can directly see the location of any kind of business data (e.g. the address of a customer, current location of a truck) via different symbols. The relation to reality makes Business Data intuitive and navigable.

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Side panel architectures

One-system architecture

The one-system architecture is referring to a scenario where both the application and all side panel content are in one system.  Next I describe how the data provision works:

First the NWBC connects to the system and reads the user’s roles as maintained in transaction PFCG. During the next step the NWBC downloads the tags from the so-called tag table (Maintenance view NWBC_VS_GUI_TAG). The tags define which screen information (e.g. field content of input field) is read from an application running in the content area (left side) and in the following passed to the side panel application (right side).

The role definition in transaction PFCG describes which side panel application is to be shown for a certain transaction. The NWBC extracts the data from the SAP GUI application and puts the values into the data context, which is available for all side panel applications.  The data extraction is performed using SAP GUI scripting which is part of SAP GUI.

If the side panel application needs an (internal) format which is different from the (external) format from the SAP GUI, NWBC calls a conversion service. The data conversion is optional and must be enabled in the tag table. The side panel application then receives the extracted data as an input.

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Side-by-side architecture

The side-by-side architecture refers to a scenario where the side panel application is running in a side panel (role) system, while the ERP applications are running on another system (application system) side by side.

This is achieved by user roles (defined via transaction PFCG) on the role system which contain the transactions that should be side panel enabled. The transactions have to be linked via a RFC destination to the application system since they do not physically exist on the role system.

A user who has this PFCG role assigned to his/her user master would log on the role system via NWBC. When the user selects a side panel enabled transaction from the NWBC menu the system calls up the transaction in the ERP system. When opening the side panel, the side panel application runs on the role system. This side panel application can execute e.g. an RFC call to the application system in order to retrieve additional data which is displayed in the side panel.

Apart from the remote call of the SAP GUI transactions and following RFC calls to retrieve further data; all other steps are identical to the one-system architecture.

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Glossary

Side panel A side panel is a container with additional context information relating to the main application that is displayed in a separate screen area.
CHIP

A CHIP (Collaborative Human Interface Part) is an encapsulated piece of software that, together with other CHIPs, provides functions on a page or side panel of the Web Dynpro ABAP Page Builder. All available CHIPs are registered in a library (referred to as the CHIP catalog). Technically, CHIPs are Web Dynpro ABAP components that implement a specific Web Dynpro component interface.

CHIP Catalog

In the runtime environment of the Web Dynpro ABAP Page Builder, you can select CHIPs from the CHIP catalog and integrate them into a page. The CHIP catalog consists of a file structure that is generated from data provided by CHIP providers.

CHIP Provider Page

A CHIP provider page is a page created with the Web Dynpro ABAP Page Builder that is classified as a CHIP provider. This classification allows the page to be added to a CHIP catalog and the CHIPs contained in it can be made available to the user. By configuring the CHIPs, you can provide the users with preconfigured CHIPs, which means they don’t have to copy them.

Resources

SDN page about NWBC:
http://scn.sap.com/community/netweaver-business-client

Business Suite Documentation:
http://help.sap.com/erp2005_ehp_06/helpdata/en/58/327666e82b47fd83db69eddce954bd/frameset.htm

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