New infographic: Faster Integration with SAP Business Technology Platform
Integration is such a huge topic. In this infographic and article I take you to five great starting points how SAP Business Technology Platform accelerates integration projects worldwide.
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Infographic: 5 x Faster Integration
What delays integration projects?
Badly defined interfaces, huge manual workloads, and the complex mix of technologies, cloud- and onPrem, generate delays in integration projects worldwide. When we look at such projects, we notice that many steps are being executed inefficiently. Accordingly, the most effective lever to accelerate such projects is not to be found in one single element, but by adding efficiency to multiple layers:
- Add guided technology choices
- Add faster connectivity
- Add unified data access
- Add support for message mapping
- Automate test & deployment
1. Add guided technology choices
Integration projects can fail at a very early stage, if the goals we defined are to be reached by misfitting technologies and methodologies. To find the most applicable technology right from the start, we need a methodical approach. The framework SAP Integration Solution Advisory Methodology (ISA-M) provides such a methodology. Step by step it leads us to the most applicable integration technology, integration patten, blueprint and best practices.
To embed this methodology into a daily project routine, SAP provides a tool, the SAP Integration Assessment. In this tool everyone can update, review, document, and dive into the current state of integration, implementation, and policies. You directly define the policies to use the right technologies for the integration domains you want to support (e.g., processes, users, data, analytics) and with access to integration patterns, e.g., for chatbot integration, B2B communication or data orchestration.
2. Add faster connectivity
Modern architectures need to combine many different components. And each of those components comes with various APIs, interfaces, protocols, and message formats. Accordingly, the first thing we need, is central access to this plethora of options.
For SAP solutions and services, there is such a central point, the SAP API Business Hub. This hub is both a documented catalogue and interactive playing field for SAP APIs, interfaces, events, workflows, integration flows, CDS views, and data models. It contains thousands of APIs and prebuilt integration flows. To explore exactly the assets we require for a certain integration ahead, we can simply select the application we want to integrate (e.g., SAP S/4HANA) or select a particular business process (e.g., recruit-to-retire) we want to implement.
As soon as we selected an integration flow, the intuitive Web UI allows us to visually interact with its components, endpoints, and configuration. When we are ready for productive usage of this flow in our own project, we can directly transfer it into our own Cloud Integration instance and adapt it as we like. Although most of the time build, change, and application of integrations is happening in this optimized low-code web-UI, developers are happy to hear that more advanced changes and programming are supported also by developing in Groovy, a language very easily applied by Java developers.
An important building block within those integration flows are the provided connectivity adapters. These are a comfortable way to exchange messages between systems with different formats and interfaces, for instance via HTTP, AS2, AS4, OData, OpenConnectors, RFC, sFTP, SOAP, XI or a solution specific interface. They allow us to connect nearly any SAP and non-SAP solution. And a big part of the predefined integration flows already support connectivity to solutions and cloud services of other providers.
3. Unify access to distributed data
Even the simplest application typically needs data from multiple data sources. Developers are therefore confronted right from the start with time-consuming access to inconsistent interfaces, formats, and access mechanisms. Accordingly, a powerful lever to speed up integration projects is to provide a unified access to such elements.
For SAP solutions the unified access to business data is provided by SAP Graph. Instead of using the individual APIs of each solution, SAP Graph allows developers to access the data of the full suite via one unified API. Access to data around e.g., orders, employees, invoices, products, or customer information is therefore accessed with much less effort.
At this point the SAP part is accessible and we want to simplify the calls to other applications and services as well. Most APIs of cloud-services and cloud applications, as for instance Google Analytics, Amazon Marketplace or Microsoft Office 365, are significantly different from each other. This generates work we need to reduce as well. Therefore, SAP integration Suite has SAP Open Connectors with a prebuilt API-catalog of more than 180 REST Interfaces and documentation for accessing the most frequently used cloud services. This accelerated the connectivity significantly.
And finally, to manage all those APIs and API calls in a secure and scalable environment, activate API Management in SAP Integration Suite.
4. Support message mapping
At this point we can connect and access nearly any system by using APIs, interfaces, and prebuilt integration flows. Nevertheless, the exchanged messages still need to be mapped to each other, so companies assign the correct content to the actual target. Customer IDs might be encoded differently from company to company, products names might be taken from different catalogues, and fields with the same name might nevertheless carry different content.
We need to map the right content efficiently between different messages, despite different formats, IDs, and types. To do so, SAP Integrations Suite`s component Cloud Integration allows us to build integration flows that can automatically process, transform, and distribute messages.
That an even more automatized mapping should be part of any integration strategy becomes clear when we look at elements such as electronic data interchange (EDI). Over decades multiple different industry standards for electronic data exchange between business systems have been defined to be able to electronically transmit transactions such as purchase orders or invoices. However, the mapping and implementation of communication between standards such as UN/EDIFACT, SAP IDoc oder ASC X12 is creating significant workload. Companies invest weeks and months until the data exchange is fully implemented.
To reduce the manual work for these mappings, SAP Integration Suite contains a Machine Learning driven component, the Integration Advisor, to simplify the choice, creation, and definition of mappings.
5. Automate testing and deployment
Our final and non the less important step is the creation of an automized pipeline for testing, processing, and deployment. Integration flows, APIs, interfaces, and adapters need continuous updates and enhancements. Accordingly, these changes should be processes immediately and rolled out to our productive systems. For this, SAP Business Technology Platform contains the service SAP Continuous Integration and Delivery. This service allows the development of powerful CI/CD Pipelines that automatically execute all necessary steps, from built, test to deployment.
Integration projects are among the most complex projects companies must master. The daily heroes and heroines in those projects need tools and methods optimized for the tasks at hand. Without, the frame of time and finances will be exceeded. The answers I shared above are an important starting point that can have a massive positive impact on speed and quality of our integration projects.
Obviously, there are many more services to explore. In this article I focused on a specific selection of services on SAP Business Technology Platform that have a direct impact for implementation of process related integrations.
SAP Business Technology Platform contains many more integration related services. To start with, the service SAP Integration Suite also allows us to monitor integrations, to manage APIs, and to manage B2B trading partners. Furthermore, there are services with strong focus on data integration, as for instance, SAP Data Intelligence Cloud and SAP HANA Cloud. And even for very particular data domains, there are services, such as SAP Master Data Integration and SAP Event Mesh. There is so much to explore.
Try out these tools and services for free now in the Free Tiers in Pay-As-You-Go for SAP BTP. Have fun, share, and comment.
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