It’s no secret that the Internet offers great opportunities for improved
communication and integration of very different enterprises — an opportunity
for collaboration of business partners that promises higher value for
both the partners themselves and their customers. But how do you begin
to implement such collaboration? SAP gives you a place to start with templates
for these partnerships: Collaborative Business Scenarios.
These C-Business Scenarios are processes
that transcend the borders of individual enterprises by using Internet
technology and services to involve multiple parties and people. In C-Business
Scenarios, each participant is assigned a specific role and performs a
set of defined activities.
Implementing C-Business Scenarios not only
requires frontend integration between business partners, it also involves
the integration of partners’ backend systems. For example, if a customer
orders a product at your Web site, fulfillment and delivery requires integration
with your logistics execution system. It could also mean integration with
your finance system for control of the payment process, or with your business
intelligence system for viewing information needed for your reporting
This article outlines crucial issues that
you and your partners must consider when planning this level of integration
— from the basic decisions you need to make with your partners before
implementation, to the components and applications that SAP and partners
offer to facilitate successful business collaboration.
A Sample C-Business Scenario Until recently,
most application implementation projects focused on customizing local
business applications to support a business process within a single
company. However, the focus of the implementation of SAP C-Business Scenarios
has now shifted toward integration between business partners, where
cross-company process flows and interfaces then become more important,
and drive the local implementation projects of the participating partners.
For these reasons, C-Business Scenarios require new ways of running implementation
SAP has developed more than 80 scenarios
for various industries, and makes them available at www.sap.com/c-bs.
Examples of C-Business Scenarios include scenarios for buying/selling
and collaborative planning, and the collaborative engineering scenario
shown in Figure 1.
||A C-Business Scenario for Collaborative Engineering
and Project Management
In this scenario, the manufacturer owns
the project, and is collaborating with a client of the company and an
application development partner. The scenario shown in Figure 1 facilitates
the exchange of information and knowledge between the manufacturer and
its external development partners. Via the Internet, the manufacturer
sends documents, projects, and product structures to chosen development
partners for further processing. These partners can then comment on, modify,
and evaluate these objects, and, if desired, transfer them back to the
manufacturer. In this scenario, the manufacturer also updates the client
on the project status in order to verify acceptance and check for specification
After you select the business partner you
want to collaborate with, integrating your business processes involves
- First, you and your business partner have to agree on how you want
to collaborate, i.e., the process flow.
- Second, you must address how you want to integrate your processes.
- Finally, each partner has to implement parts of the scenario on its
Step 1: Negotiating the Process Flow
Once you have selected a business partner for collaboration, the project
will start with negotiations to define the exact process flow of the business
scenario. At this stage, you and your partner determine which activities
are involved in the scenario, which partner has to perform each activity,
and in which sequence the activities will be executed.
This includes both the “business-as-usual”
scenario flow and the inevitable exceptions. For example, if your business
partner is a supplier, it is possible that, due to stock shortages, your
partner can deliver only a partial order. Will you accept this, or will
the entire order be canceled? Both you and your partner also need to define
service levels for each activity (e.g., How much time does the partner
have to confirm or neglect an order?) and specify what will happen if
a service level is not met (e.g., Will the partner have to pay a penalty,
or will the whole order be canceled?).
Step 2: Integration
Browser- or Message-Based Integration?
Whenever the process flow of the scenario switches from one partner to
another, some integration is required. Since there are multiple types
of integration, you have to decide which type to use. You first need to
decide whether integration will be browser- or message-based.
With browser-based integration,
one partner uses a Web browser for online access to the other partner’s
system. This enables the first partner to read information from this system
or to perform transactions directly on the system.
In Figure 1, the client uses a Web browser
to access the manufacturer’s system. From there, the client can obtain
information about the project status and the final review. With browser-based
integration, the information is only available in the system of one partner
and is not automatically transferred to the second partner’s system. In
this case, the client’s staff will have to manually retype the manufacturer’s
information into their own system if they require that data.
With message-based integration,
the systems communicate directly with each other. This message exchange
automates information/data processing, which can help reduce the number
of errors caused when you have to manually input the information. (See
the section on “Messaging.”)
However, the complexity of message-based
integration is higher than browser-based integration. With message-based
integration, you must define all processing logic in the systems. In contrast,
with browser-based integration, at least part of the process logic is
performed by user intervention and does not need to be implemented on
Synchronous or Asynchronous Communication?
When planning the integration of processes with your business partners,
you must determine whether the communication between organizations will
be synchronous or asynchronous.
With synchronous communication, the sender
and receiver can have a continuous dialog with each other and can respond
immediately to the messages of their partners. With asynchronous communication,
the receiver cannot respond to a message directly, but instead has to
create a new message and return it separately.
The big advantage of asynchronous communication
is that the sender is independent of the availability of the receiving
system. The sender can finish an activity — even if the partner system
is momentarily unable to receive the message that triggers further processing
of the scenario down the line. This is not possible for synchronous integration,
where you are more dependent on the technical infrastructure of your business
Point-to-Point or Marketplace Connection? Another consideration
that will determine the type of integration is whether the connections
between the partners are direct point-to-point, or via a marketplace.
With point-to-point connections, you implement
the technical integration individually for each of your business partners.
On one hand, this gives you the flexibility to install the connection
according to special requirements of a partner. On the other hand, it
will become laborious if you want to connect to multiple partners.
The other alternative is a marketplace
connection, which can work as a central hub. All business partners
only need to set up a connection to one central destination, even if they
are dealing with many partners. A marketplace provides not only the technical
integration but also additional services for supporting the business scenario.
The downside is that marketplace connections are not as flexible as point-to-point
connections. This is because you may be restricted by the marketplace
provider’s rules and standards, which may prevent you from adapting your
processes to the special requirements of an individual partner.
Browser- or Message-Based Interface?
Based on the type of integration you choose, you and your partners also
must agree on the interfaces that will be used for transferring information.
This information is required for the implementation process, and includes
both the syntax (the format) and the semantic (the meaning of the data)
of the interface.
For browser-based interfaces, you
will have to define which data and functions are available online. Message-based
interfaces, on the other hand, require a detailed description of the
messages to be exchanged. For this, you can use eXtensible Markup Language
(XML) as an open standard. But since a large number of possible XML messages
exist, you and your partners will still need to define the structure and
content of the messages. You both must come to an agreement about which
fields to use and what the content of each field will contain.
To integrate with business partners using
message-based interfaces, some standardization might also be required.
This can be done using standards provided by software providers or standards
organizations, such as SAP, RosettaNet, ANSI, or ISO. SAP, for example,
publishes its XML interfaces in the SAP Interface Repository at
http://ifr.sap.com (see Figure 2).
||The SAP Interface Repository
Step 3: Local Implementation
The results of your negotiations are of paramount importance because
they are the foundation of the local scenario implementation. Each partner
has to make sure that the results of the negotiations are implemented,
as agreed on (at its local systems), and that they are integrated with
other processes within the company. This involves the customizing of both
the technical infrastructure and the application processing.
How to Achieve Browser-Based SAP Integration
The foundation for browser-based access to SAP systems is the SAP Internet
Transaction Server (ITS). The Its converts SAP screens into HTML format,
making it possible to access SAP functionality via the Internet. The SAP
ITS is used by the SAP GUI for HTML, by Internet Application Components
(IACs), and by the mySAP Workplace.
SAP GUI for HTML
By using the SAP GUI for HTML, the majority of SAP transactions and
reports can be executed via a Web browser without any additional programming
or conversion work. If you install the SAP GUI for HTML and create a user
with the appropriate authorizations, your partner can access a transaction
online in your system via a Web browser using a specific URL.
Internet Application Components
Additionally, you can use special Web transactions like Internet Application
Components, which you can adapt to your own requirements by using templates
and flow logic. Templates and flow logic enable you to adjust the functionality
to your corporate design and to special requirements in the process flow.
If your partner has to perform different functions on your systems,
you can also use the mySAP Workplace to offer an outward-facing portal
to your partner. Via a single URL, users can access all required functionality
instead of handling multiple URLs for multiple functions (see Figure
3). For this, you would install the mySAP Workplace server, define
a specific role for the partner in the mySAP Workplace, and then assign
the required transactions and authorizations to this role.
The partner accessing the system does not
need to install any additional software other than the Web browser. Messaging
Message-based integration uses either XML or e-mail messages.
||The mySAP Workplace
XML messages can be used for a direct machine-to-machine connection
(to directly update information from one system to another). To achieve
this, the systems of both partners have to be able to process XML messages
— the XML message contains the information required by the partner system
for continuing the processing of the scenario. But XML messages can also
be used if only one system supports XML, because the messages can be displayed
in Web browsers, or can be created using Web forms. So XML can be used
for user-to-system connections (e.g., manual data entry) as well.
For XML messaging, SAP provides the SAP
Business Connector (BC). This tool supports the sending and receiving
of XML documents for all major SAP interfaces (BAPIs, IDocs, and RFCs).
The SAP Business Connector is available for all SAP customers from R/3
Release 3.1G onward and can be downloaded from the SAP Service Marketplace
free of charge at http://service.sap.com/connectors.
The SAP Business Connector sends and receives
SAP-XML messages. If another XML message is required, special mapping
is necessary. This can be done either directly in the SAP Business Connector
or by using third-party mapping tools certified by SAP.
Another approach to messaging is via e-mail. In this approach, e-mail
messages are sent to the business partner’s e-mail system. Since most
business partners have their own e-mail systems, they can easily use this
kind of integration. In most cases, e-mail is used for sending information
to users. Machine-to-machine connection via e-mail is also possible, since
some application systems also support sending and receiving e-mail. However,
for application systems, it is much easier to interpret the contents of
XML messages than of e-mail. So the main reason to use e-mail for messaging
in business scenarios will be system-to-user integration — in other words,
to send automatic updates to users.
In general, an e-mail message contains
its information in the body of the message. But e-mail can also be used
to transfer URL links to specific Web pages or to send further information
as attachments. The SAP Business Communication Center (previously known
as SAPoffice) provides the required functionality for creating, sending,
and receiving e-mail messages between collaborating business partners.
Security is an important issue for all Internet scenarios. You need
to address issues such as secure communication channels, authentication,
authorization, and the provision of evidence of the business transactions.
Secure Communication Channels
For secure communication channels, you can use Internet standards like
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or firewalls, and Secure Network Configuration
(SNC), a security layer included in the SAP system architecture. These
technologies are supported by SAP application components, as well as by
the SAP Business Connector and the SAP Internet Transaction Server.
Authentication and Authorization
In addition to secure communication, you must ensure that only the right
people can access the systems and that they can use only the functions
you specify. Authentication — making sure the right person is accessing
your system — is accomplished through a combination of user ID and password.
Digital certificates can be used as well to allow single sign-on to multiple
systems via the mySAP Workplace. The authorization of the different users
— making sure a user accesses only the data and functions he or she is
allowed to — is implemented by assigning roles to the user and authorization
objects to the roles. The roles define which transactions the user may
use on the system, and the authorization objects define which information
the user may access.
For example, you may specify that a partner
can only retrieve information about the orders that it has created at
your system, and not get any information about the orders of one of its
competitors who is also one of your business partners. This can be achieved
by following SAP’s authorization procedures. With the correct authorizations,
you can make sure that users get permission to display only information
belonging to their own customer or vendor number on your system.
To avoid disputes over a business transaction,
you can use the digital signature services in the C-Business Scenario.
Digital signatures specifically identify the “signer” of a digital document
and also protect the integrity of the document. With digital signatures,
you can also state that a partner has created a document with specific
content (for example, an approval of a request), or you can confirm each
party’s obligation to the terms of the document (for example, the terms
of a contract).
The implementation of a scenario is more than just setting up interfaces
and securing the connections between the systems. It also involves customized
processing of your business applica- tions. It is important that the process
of the whole scenario runs smoothly and that it is integrated with your
other processes. For example, if you receive an order from a business
partner, you need to make sure that related processes like availability
checks, credit limit checks, and pricing processing work correctly. For
this, you must perform the required customizing of your system. These
settings are specific to the selected scenario and application.
Triggers for Message Processing
To keep your system up to date, determine the appropriate trigger for
message processing. The sending system always has to create and send a
message when a specific event has occurred in the scenario (e.g., if you
have created a purchase order, send the order to the supplier). Likewise,
the receiving system has to make sure that the right processing begins
when a message arrives (e.g., when an order comes in, it triggers an availability
check and an order confirmation). SAP offers tools that can be used to
trigger messages: WebFlow (an enhancement of SAP Business Workflow), Application
Link Enabling (ALE), and WebProjector.
Long-Term Planning: Troubleshooting Measures
Even if everything is set up correctly, some exceptions can occur when
running the scenario. These could be due to technical problems, like connection
failures, or for business reasons, such as a business partner that cannot
confirm an order in time. So, during pre-implementation, it is very important
to install an exception-handling process as well. SAP Business Workflow
can be used to check if any exception has occurred, and to start the required
processing for dealing with it.
In any case, since you cannot anticipate
all the possible reasons for exceptions, it will also be necessary to
set up organizational rules in addition to the technical implementation
of the exception handling.
After implementation, you will want to have monitoring processes in
place to check the activities in the scenario — from both the technical
and business side. SAP provides different tools for this. The technical
monitoring can be done with the Computing Center Management System (CCMS).
For monitoring system security, SAP provides the Security Audit Log and
an Audit Information System. And for monitoring of the business processes
and the service levels defined with your business partner, you can use
tools like the SAP Workflow log, the SAP Workflow information system,
or information systems and application logs for each application component.
In the monitoring process, it is important
that you not only implement monitoring tools, but also define the procedures
and responsibilities for monitoring within your organization.
For More Information
Since the details of implementing a specific scenario vary, this article
cannot describe all required implementation steps in detail. The detailed
documentation for the application you are using will have more information
on the local implementation of a business scenario. For further details
on SAP applications and resources to support C-Business Scenarios that
were discussed in this article, see the SAP Online Resources listed in
this issue of SAP Insider.
The mySAP Internet Adviser also provides
documentation that will be helpful when planning to implement C-Business
Scenarios. The Internet Adviser is a central pool of information about
Internet technology, mySAP architecture, and Internet scenarios. It is
available online at
http://service.sap.com/internetadviser, and can also be ordered
as a CD version (Material number: 50039393).
Cay Rademann joined SAP AG in 1994. Since then, he has had a great deal
of experience in distributed scenarios and system integration, both as a
developer and a consultant. Cay currently works as product manager in the
SAP Technology Group with a focus on the design and implementation of Internet