SAP, SOA and Upgrades.

SAP’s latest incarnation of ERP, ECC 6.0 sits on SAP’s Netweaver platform. SAP Netweaver came along back in 2005 as ECC 5.0 was released. The major difference from the previous version which was really a webserver version was the transition to SOA (Service Oriented Architecture). Moving to Netweaver allowed the coexistence of Java code with the SAP proprietary programming language ABAP. This then allowed you to create webservices that can be held in the webservices repository for repeated use in different scenarios if appropriate. But the great thing is that as well as your business creating webservices so are SAP, and these are what I’d describe as “approved” services.  There are a few thousand of them now and all of them comply with all the GRC principles that a business should follow, along with database consistency checks.

In my mind this is one of the big difference of SOA in an unrestricted world compared to SAP’s SOA. Governance in the deployment of SOA is essential to ensure that GRC principles are met at all times within the enterprise. The SOA environment means that it becomes easier to link to additional solutions outside of the SAP zone coupled with the ability to reuse the services created. SAPs change to SOA promotes B2B and B2C activities which are increasingly important in enterprise activities.

The use of SOA will ultimately reduce the TCO of the solutions especially in the SAP world, as SAP has complemented its SOA environment by providing tools that can feed off the services such as a service monitoring tool like Solution Manager and the beginnings of Business Process modelling within the products as well. The longer term aim, ably demonstrated at last years Sapphire, is to provide an environment supported by services that will allow the Business analyst to both monitor and configure the applications directly.

All this brings me around to  upgrades. If you are an SAP customer sat at anything prior to  6.0 then you will be considering upgrades and pondering over the cost and disruption than may ensue if you go the upgrade route. Well to me the upgrade is extremely meaningful, just for the technology change, never mind the functionality additions. This change from either a client/server or webserver solution (depending on your release level) opens the doors for better control, increased agility and lower costs. None of these should be ignored in these difficult times.

What I find frustrating is that, in my view, SAP haven’t been at all successful in getting this message across to its entire customer base. It’s easy for me to say that, finding the solution is another matter. My personal thoughts are that a combination of examination of the skills of account managers and maybe deployment of  value engineering resources may start to address the situation.

For customers considering upgrades, my advice would be to seek out your account manager and get an holistic value engineering assessment of the benefits of upgrading, you may get quite a surprise!!

Update:

Totally by chance (honestly!) this article appreared in computing.co.uk today!

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One Response

  1. Great article Alan!
    I think what’s holding SOA back for most SAP users is
    1) The implementation of ERP services is still incomplete
    2) It is usually harder to justify an investment in infrastructure than, say, a more efficient production process. I am not saying that it is not justified, but try explaining that to CFOs, especially in today’s climate
    3) I concur that SAP has a long way to go in getting the SOA message across. In a survey we conducted recently, end of maintenance is the number one reason most customers cite for ERP 6.0 upgrades. You can see more about the reasons for upgrades in here:
    http://www.panayainc.com/sap-upgrade-survey.html?src=701200000002M1X

    But I do think that adoption will gradually increase among ERP 6.0 users, just because “it’s there.”

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