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Charting the Way: Business Technology Solution Map Offers All Companies a Lifecycle Blueprint for Managing E-Business Infrastructure

by Peter Barth | SAPinsider

July 1, 2001

by Peter Barth, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2001 (Volume 2), July (Issue 3)

Q. Peter, how can one solution map offer all customers, at all levels of IT management, an effective lifecycle blueprint for managing their e-business infrastructure? It just sounds too good to be true.

     Yes, I agree that the Business Technology Solution Map is certainly predicated on a very ambitious idea: to give our customers, at every rung of the IT lifecycle ladder, a blueprint for understanding and managing the daunting number of tasks and technical resources required to manage an infrastructure for a strategic e-business - from implementation and integration, through collaboration and reliable operation, and on up to ongoing, continuous improvement.

     Well, seeing is believing, and customers who have seen and used the Business Technology Solution Map will attest to its value.1 (Note that the Business Technology Solution Map is just one of the 23 Solution Maps available from SAP.)

     For those who have not yet seen the Business Technology Solution Map, let me offer a quick overview, and invite you to draw your own conclusions. The top-level map shows the five critical lifecycle stages of any e-business application: Implementation, Integration, Collaboration, Reliable Operation, and Continuous Improvement, along with the major tasks necessary to effect each of those lifecycle stages. At a glance, it renders a complete, overarching blueprint for an effective e-business project.

     Beneath each of these tasks are highly detailed drill-downs formulated to guide the efforts of an IT department. Drill down further, and you'll see the SAP- and partner-provided technology, methods, processes, and best practices you'll need to accomplish each task.

     Take the implementation phase, for example. As the structure of Implementation shows, to implement an e-business solution you must first size, install, and configure your system, then migrate legacy data to that system, and finally test it. Time and again, the tasks in Business Technology Solution Maps have been shown to be necessary, unavoidable steps for any e-business solution, and the drill-down spells out those steps in detail.

     Or consider that once the system is up and running, its reliable operation hinges on manageability, performance, availability, and security. In that case, the tasks and drill-down of Reliable Operation show what's involved in addressing those aspects as well.

Q. Who is the target audience for the map?

     Anyone, actually. People at different rungs of the IT ladder can turn to the solution map for different levels of abstraction. For instance, a CIO could examine the high-level rendering of a project and its associated tasks to ascertain the project's status. Departmental managers typically zero in on a particular track within the project, while first-line managers and hands-on development and implementation teams can leverage the most detailed drill-downs. The Business Technology Map is free for download for everyone - not only for SAP customers.

     Furthermore, there are also other SAP Solution Maps available that provide a process view on the issues at hand. Customers can choose among 23 cross-industry and industry-specific solution maps. And with the SAP Solution Map Composer, customers can freely combine them and create their own solution maps, reflective of the business processes that are specific to their unique requirements. For all these business-centric solution maps, though, the underlying IT lifecycle is the same, and is depicted in the Business Technology Map.

Q. Do you mean to say that no matter what line of business customers are in - when it comes, for example, to implementing e-business solutions - the tasks they execute to be productive and/or to run the software continuously are the same?

     For all practical purposes, yes. Over the last couple of years, we've had ample opportunity to observe and correlate the data from the thousands of customer sites we work with worldwide. The bottom line is this: regardless of industry or size, cus-tomers go through almost the same procedures to implement a successful e-business solution, because the same problems and challenges tend to crop up at the same points along the way.

     However, the Business Technology Map does not replace a proper project plan and the simple but very effective "To Do" lists with task/responsibility/deadline, etc. The Business Technology Map complements those lists, and ensures that you don't lose sight of the bigger picture.

     For example, whereas the project plan and task list is used everyday, the SAP Business Technology Map is something for early-stage planning, and for a weekly "check-in" on Friday afternoons throughout the project. Assume that a project changes, as it always does. On Friday, you go through the Business Technology Map, and use it to check:

  • Do the changes to the project affect sizing?
  • What needs to be configured?
  • Is there any additional legacy data/software that needs to be migrated?
  • Will it influence testing? What special testing requirements are needed for this change?
  • Is security still assured?
  • Is high availability affected?
  • Can I manage it?

     The results then influence your detailed project plan. In short, if you look through the map every Friday and can give a proper answer to the questions it raises, you are right on track. That makes it a valuable (or dangerous, depending on your perspective!) tool in the hands of managers.

Q. How is this year's edition different than the Business Technology Map that was released in 2000?

     E-business requirements move at Internet speed. The critical challenges that customers faced last year are not necessarily the same ones they face today. In particular, collaboration among suppliers, partners, and customers has taken on a new competitive urgency. As a result, this year's map features a "Collaboration" phase, which is new to this edition and contains recommendations about how best to achieve this imperative.

Q. Other e-business guidelines are available. What sets this structuring tool apart from them?

     In a word, "knowledge" - or "business knowledge" to be more precise. As experts in how to apply technology to support business, we offer an easy understanding of execution, as well as a profound sensitivity to ROI issues, and draw upon the vast resources, experience, and expertise of SAP.

     Working as closely as we have in supporting customers' business processes, we have a wealth of business acumen in-house, and all of that has been poured into the map. Customers can feel confident that the business knowledge that is the source for this material is solid, and that the map itself is realistic and achievable. Frankly, I think it is indispensable in creating an e-business presence, and in helping our customers plan for and apply personnel resources, budgets, timelines, and milestones.

     Make no mistake about it. This is not just a pretty set of slides or some clever disguise for a mySAP Technology sales tool. This map embodies the collective wisdom, experience, and practical know-how of SAP and SAP's customers to provide proven methodologies around which you can structure an e-business initiative. With the Business Technology Map, you can not only make the move into e-business, you can hit the ground running.

Dr. Peter Barth is the SAP AG director of global solution marketing for mySAP Technology. Prior to joining SAP, he spent two years as a consultant helping clients to develop and implement successful IT strategies and advising them on operations issues. A computer scientist by training, Dr. Barth is also an expert in operations research.

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