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Standardizing E-Business Processes for Collaborative Business with RosettaNet and mySAP.com

by Cay Rademann | SAPinsider

July 1, 2001

by Cay Rademann, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2001 (Volume 2), July (Issue 3)
 

Collaboration with business partners is a crucial element of supply chain man-agement. It requires joint control of business processes, and a steady exchange of information between the participating companies. Therefore, the partners must agree on common rules and procedures for integration. By using integration standards, organizations can reduce negotiation costs and accelerate the setup of business partner collaborations.

     With the rise of B2B commerce on the Internet, multiple initiatives have sprung up to define common standards for collaboration. Many of these standards focus on the technical aspect of collaboration - they define the communication frameworks for exchange of information and the format of transferred documents as XML schemas. However, there are other crucial details that business partners must agree upon for the successful implementation of cross-company business processes: defining the process flow, assigning responsibilities to the partners, and determining which data dictionaries to use - and that's just the beginning. Only a few groups have tried to define a complete collaboration solution. RosettaNet is one such group.

     This article describes the standardization efforts of the RosettaNet consortium, and how these standards for e-business processes can be implemented with mySAP.com components. It will also help you to understand some general integration issues and how best to deal with them.

An Introduction to RosettaNet

In 1998, 40 leading IT organizations founded the RosettaNet consortium as a self-funded, nonprofit organization. The goal of the consortium is to create and implement industry-wide, open e-business process standards. These standards align processes between trading partners in the supply chain on a global basis.

     At the moment there are more than 400 members of the electronic components (EC), semiconductor manufacturing (SM), and IT industries, and members of the group include manufacturers, shippers, wholesale distributors, resellers, end users, financiers, software publishers, and e-technologists. SAP is a member of the IT managing board and is actively involved in RosettaNet workgroups.

     RosettaNet has defined an implementation framework, and a set of standard processes, message schemas, and data dictionaries. By combining these different elements, any organization can create a complete architecture for cross-company collaboration.

Partner Interface Processes (PIPs): The Building Blocks for Business Collaboration

RosettaNet Partner Interface Processes™ (PIPs™) define business processes among supply chain partners, providing the models and documents for process implementation. The list of PIPs now exceeds 100, and is structured as clusters and segments that span different areas of supply chain collaboration (see Figure 1).

Cluster Segment
O: RosettaNet Support A: Administrative
1: Partner Product and Service Review

A: Partner Review

B: Product and Service Review

2: Product Information A: Preparation for Distribution
B: Product Change Notification
C: Product Information
3: Order Management A: Quote and Order Entry
B: Transportation and Distribution
C: Returns and Finance
D: Product Configuration
4: Inventory Management A: Collaborative Forecasting
B: Inventory Allocation
C: Inventory Reporting
D: Inventory Replenishment
E: Sales Reporting
F: Price Protection
5: Marketing information Management A: Lead Opportunity Management
B: Marketing Campaign Management
C: Design Win Management (Electronic Components)
D: Ship From Stock and Debit (Electronic Components)
6: Service and Support A: Provide and Administer Warranties, Service Packages, and Contract Services
B: Provide and Administer Asset Management
C: Technical Support and Service Management
7: Manufacturing A: Design Transfer
B: Manage Manufacturing Work Orders and WIP
C: Distribute Manufacturing Information

Figure 1

RosettaNet PIP Clusters and Segments

     For example, the "Quote and Order Entry" segment in the "Order Management" cluster contains these PIPs:

  • Request Quote
  • Query Price and Availability
  • Transfer Shopping Cart
  • Manage Purchase Order
  • Query Order Status
  • Distribute Order Status
  • Notify of Purchase Order Acceptance
  • Change Purchase Order
  • Request Purchase Order Cancellation
  • Notify of Quote Acknowledgment

     Each PIP is identified by its number and letter designations (for example, "Manage Purchase Order" is PIP3A4).

      RosettaNet has already published many PIPs, and specifications are available at www.rosettanet.org. For each PIP specification, there is a blueprint that contains information about the business process standard, and defines the business process and the purpose of the PIP. This helps to identify which PIP meets the business requirements for the collaboration with the supply chain partner. A business process flow diagram and a description of all activities included in this flow define the process flow, the responsibilities of the partners, and the business documents that must be exchanged between the application systems of the participants.

     For example, with the process out-lined in the Manage Purchase Order PIP, a buyer can create, change, or cancel a purchase order. The business documents used for transferring the information are Purchase Order Request, Purchase Order Change, and Purchase Order Cancellation. The seller must then process the received document and return a confirmation to the buyer (see Figure 2). Additionally, the PIPs define controls for business activities and the required message exchange.

Figure 2

PIP Business Process Flow Diagram for PIP3A4: Manage Purchase Order

     These controls include the maximum time allowed for acknowledging the receipt of a message, the maximum time for performing an activity, and whether a secure transport of the message is required. These definitions ensure that each interaction's process flow, security, auditing, and exception-handling process are correct.

     PIPs can be implemented on a mySAP.com component by customizing the business process in the application according to the guidelines of the PIP blueprint. RosettaNet PIPs are sup-ported by SAP R/3, SAP CRM, SAP APO, and particularly by mySAP High Tech, SAP's industry solution for the high-tech industry. The methods for synchronizing the PIP with the other business processes and rules implemented on your system vary, depending on each PIP and each component. In addition to application customizing, WebFlow2 and system management services are generally used for controlling process flow and monitoring the business activity performance and message exchange controls.

Business Documents

The information exchange between collaborating partners is done via exchange of business documents. RosettaNet uses XML documents for transferring these documents. For each business document used in a PIP there exists a message guideline, which describes the elements in the XML documents and their contents. Elements define which data is contained in the business document. This information is available as Document Type Definitions (DTDs). The content of the elements defines which entries are allowed - e.g., which units of measure may be used in the element GlobalProductionUnitOfMeasureCode. The content information is defined in business data entities.

     For sending or receiving business documents, mySAP.com components provide standard interfaces as BAPIs, IDocs, or RFCs. The SAP Business Connector transfers these native SAP interfaces into XML. It is also possible to map SAP XML onto the XML format defined in the RosettaNet DTDs by using mapping services in the SAP Business Connector. However, you could also use other mapping engines for performing this transformation, like those certified in the XML Communi-cation Interface through SAP's Software Partner Program (see www.sap.com/solutions/compsoft).

Technical Dictionaries and Standards

     Another element of RosettaNet, the Business Dictionary, provides the business data entities, which define the possible values for elements of business documents (e.g., which units of measure may be used). However, for some elements of a business document - such as materials, customers, or classification schemas - there are too many possible values to list all of them directly in the Business Dictionary. For these elements, RosettaNet uses external standards for product and partner codes, along with special technical dictionaries.

      RosettaNet uses the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), a worldwide multi-industry standard, to identify materials in business documents exchanged in a PIP. By replacing vendor and customer product with unique GTINs, you sidestep the requirement of defining different mapping rules for collaborations with different partners. GTINs are supported by SAP R/3 since Release 3.1.

     The Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S) is a standard for keeping track of millions of businesses worldwide that provides unique identifiers of single business entities. RosettaNet uses D-U-N-S for identification of business partners such as customers or suppliers. SAP R/3 3.1 also supports D-U-N-S.

     For product classification, RosettaNet supports the United Nations/Standard Product and Service Code (UN/SPSC), an open global product and service classification standard.

      Additionally, RosettaNet provides special technical directories set up for the requirements of defining EC device properties (ECTD) and designating IT product properties (ITTD). On mySAP.com components, each of these classification schemas is implemented using the classification system of the component itself. mySAP Services (www.sap.com/services) offers technical services for mapping different product classifications within a particular mySAP.com component.

RosettaNet Implementation Framework

     In addition to the standardization of business processes, business documents, and dictionaries, it is important to specify how to exchange information between collaboration partners, as well. This is done in the RosettaNet Implementation Framework (RNIF), which provides common exchange protocols for the implementation of RosettaNet standards using HTML/XML. This includes the definition of the technical message structure, how the messages will be transferred, how digital signatures are used, and how authentication is handled. These definitions are also used for message validations. If a validation fails, special failure-handling procedures apply.

     Multiple middleware products are available for RNIF support, and can be used in combination with mySAP.com components to provide complete RosettaNet solutions. Some of these middleware products are also certified by the SAP Software Partner Program.

Proven Standards

The success of RosettaNet standards has already been proven in multiple production implementations in the high-tech industry, including projects that support RosettaNet with mySAP.com components. Through the open architecture of the SAP Internet-Business Framework, it is relatively easy to adapt the mySAP.com solutions to RosettaNet.

Although the processes defined by RosettaNet in PIPs are adjusted to fit the specific requirements of the IT, EC, and SM industries, portions of the standards can be applied in other industries as well. No matter what industry you are in, if you have to deal with B2B collaboration in your supply chain, it's worth taking a closer look at the RosettaNet solution.

For further information, visit www.rosettanet.org.


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 business scenario support and life-cycle management.


1 Source: RosettaNet Specification PIP3A4. Diagram ©2001 RosettaNet. All rights reserved

2 WebFlow is a full-fledged workflow system, delivering functionality and tools for industrial strength workflows and integration tools for bridging system boundaries. It is embedded in the heart of mySAP.com components.

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