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A Primer on Business Process Management (BPM) in SAP NetWeaver

by Alan Rickayzen | SAPinsider

July 1, 2004

by Alan Rickayzen, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2004 (Volume 5), July (Issue 3)
 

Alan Rickayzen,
SAP AG

Every business scenario is a moving target — even as a set of business processes is defined, it's only a matter of time before evolving best practices, customer demands, market forces, or user needs will lead to a clamor for changes or additions.

 

What Is a Business Scenario?

A business process is a series of logically related steps — processed in sequence, parallel, or a combination of both — to achieve a business outcome.

A business scenario is a collection of related business processes.

To manage the cycles of business process development and change, you also need tools that support process planning, design, and monitoring. For this, companies are looking to Business Process Management (BPM). This article introduces the new ways that SAP is supporting BPM, and looks at what the future holds for an integrated, single-platform set of BPM offerings based on SAP NetWeaver.

BPM: Bridging the Gap Between Business and IT

To be effective, business processes must be supported by software — either by flexible configuration in the financials, SCM, CRM, and other mySAP Business Suite software, or in the form of a generic engine (such as a workflow engine or cross-component BPM) to automate the process. Business Process Management allows companies to continuously adapt and monitor their business scenarios and processes to match new business strategies and meet the demands of today's fast-changing business environment.

BPM requires a holistic approach — that is, BPM tools that can handle all the integration of business processes without a lot of cumbersome connection points, and that are capable of following business processes throughout the entire business process life cycle, from modeling to monitoring (see Figure 1) — for all the stakeholders involved. For example, business analysts need control of and visibility into a company's business processes, but they won't want to dive down into the underlying software itself. Instead, they will be involved primarily in modeling, design, and improvement — the process configuration stages of the BPM life cycle. Application consultants are involved in the configuration of the applications, and technical consultants are involved in the development phase. So how do you ensure that all of these roles are tightly connected to bridge business and IT?

Figure 1
The Business Process Management Life Cycle

How SAP NetWeaver Supports a Holistic Approach to BPM

In a pure outside-in approach, where BPM software sits outside your SAP platform, consultants and developers will find it very difficult to interact with SAP applications and adapt the processes running within them. And once these processes are implemented, they will be difficult to change and to adapt as you upgrade. A holistic approach not only provides a foundation for the applications built on top of it; it also provides the integration support for processes spanning several components.

SAP NetWeaver 2004 is SAP's first BPM offering, integrating different tools and using best-of-breed third-party tools to fill the remaining gaps. By providing a methodology, procedures, tools, and content for different roles to support changing business requirements, SAP NetWeaver gives your organization what it needs — with a single process architecture — for everyone involved in process design to work together, despite their different focuses and areas of expertise. It provides a unified environment for:

  • Modeling

  • Model-driven implementation

  • A repository of business scenarios

  • Execution via SAP applications, SAP Exchange Infrastructure, and a Workflow Management System

  • Monitoring

Your financials, ERP, CRM, and other solutions must be flexible enough to cater to the different process requirements in the different environments in which this software will be used. Business processes enabled with this standard software have to be easy both for business analysts to discover and for functional consultants to tweak and adapt to the local environment.

The SAP NetWeaver platform satisfies these two issues: It provides an integration platform to deploy with other SAP and non-SAP software components, and it is also a platform for SAP application developers to build standard software — the mySAP Business Suite — where predefined business scenarios reside.

A Single Process Architecture to Support Users Across the BPM Life Cycle

The different roles involved in process management require a holistic approach in order to succeed. A single process architecture that supports both the business process life cycle and the different roles of people in that life cycle helps a company adapt its business processes instantly to match the changing external environment:

Business Consultants
Designing business processes may begin long before any installation of SAP software; in fact, at this point, it may not even be clear if and how much SAP software will be deployed. So an SAP partnership with IDS Scheer now enables business analysts to design and chart the business processes with ARIS for SAP NetWeaver (see Figure 2). ARIS for SAP NetWeaver supports many different ways of describing and defining the processes — from free-form sketching through formal analytic descriptions — so there is no danger of cramping the business analyst's style. However, to speed up the initial phase of process design, SAP Solution Manager provides Business Suite or xApp reference models that can be imported into ARIS for SAP NetWeaver so that SAP content is immediately accessible directly to e-business consultants. (More on SAP Solution Manager follows.)

Figure 2
Components for Designing, Configuring, and Executing a Business Process with SAP NetWeaver

Application Consultants
Once SAP NetWeaver is installed, the SAP application consultants can hit the ground running — the process design performed earlier in ARIS can be exported directly back to SAP Solution Manager, which is the principal solu tion management platform within SAP NetWeaver.

SAP Solution Manager helps customers to implement, operate, monitor, and support their SAP solutions. SAP Solution Manager provides tools, content, and a gateway to SAP that reduce risk and total cost of ownership (TCO), and it facilitates technical support of distributed systems in all key aspects of solution implementation, operation, and continuous improvement. Application consultants use SAP Solution Manager to configure applications to fulfill the business processes designed in ARIS.

Development Consultants
Development consultants will be involved with developing automation processes. Human workflow — the automation of tasks involving human interactions, such as decisions or data input — is handled in SAP Web Application Server (SAP Web AS), with the SAP Enterprise Portal providing an intuitive user interface.1 Often you can take the SAP-delivered workflow templates and deploy them directly without further development. But at other times the development consultant will need to enhance these templates to match the customer's environment or automate new processes. Don't be misled by the chameleon-like appearance of these templates, whether you see them at work in the mySAP Supplier Relationship Management (mySAP SRM) Web interface or in the free-routing capabilities in SAP Records Management. In all cases, the templates are using the same underlying engine, making it easy to integrate with cross-component processes with SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI), which also shares the same engine.

FAQ: BPM for SAP

Is ARIS for SAP NetWeaver part of the NetWeaver platform?

No — and as a result, it can be used long before any SAP software is deployed. In fact it can be installed on virtually any laptop (or on a central server) to make sure that the process analysis is captured from the very word "go." Later, when the process implementation is under way, changes in design or execution ripple their way back to ARIS so that the business analysts and stakeholders are in the picture at all times.

With all these tools at work — ARIS, SAP Solution Manager, XI, EP, and the Integration Repository, among others — wouldn't a single BPM tool be simpler?

Since integration issues are key, and your business processes do not begin and end within a single business application, the focus here is on a single platform for BPM. So with SAP NetWeaver '04, we have embedded BPM into the heart of SAP NetWeaver — a platform that unites and integrates various solutions and processes. That means that mySAP Business Suite solutions, which are built on this platform, are immediately BPM-enabled.

Because SAP NetWeaver contains the integration technology needed, both for SAP internal processes and for cross-component processes, there are no artificial limitations to the scope of your business processes. So the enterprise services of mySAP Business Suite solutions can be choreographed and combined with non-SAP business components to manage the complete process and remove the boundaries between components and between the process-development roles.

As the Enterprise Service Architecture (ESA) establishes itself in future software releases, you'll see even greater strides toward a unified BPM.

What if I am already using elements of this software?

When you move to SAP NetWeaver '04, you'll find that the configuration that you have already made in SAP Solution Manager or ARIS for SAP NetWeaver has moved closer to what colleagues are doing in other elements (such as SAP XI). Improved integration between the elements, shared terminology, and better mapping of roles makes cooperation between stakeholders and other participants involved in modeling the process that much simpler.

When will this BPM offering be available?

The first customers have already received their delivery of SAP NetWeaver '04. ARIS for SAP NetWeaver will be available by July 2004.

The Role of SAP XI: Automating Processes Across Components

SAP XI is the message-oriented middleware, so it is the natural choice for automating cross-component processes (application-to-application/A2A, B2B, and industry standards), whether mySAP Business Suite applications are involved or not. SAP XI makes good use of its Integration Repository, where the scenario and executable process definitions are stored centrally to keep integration costs to a minimum. It also takes care of the integration aspects, such as adapters for third-party software or industry standards such as RosettaNet.

Of course, integration content (interface and process descriptions) comes as part of the SAP application delivery, so your mySAP Business Suite solution is immediately enabled for cross-process integration via SAP XI.

Once the process has been modeled in SAP XI, it can then be exported to ARIS for SAP NetWeaver to make the process visible to the other business roles, such as the business analyst.

Looking Ahead to the Future of BPM in SAP NetWeaver

SAP NetWeaver's BPM offering is a big advance from previous releases of SAP software. But it is important to realize that this is just the initial step in a committed evolution. It is the first move toward creating a single process repository and a unified modeling environment enabling metamodel-based process modeling — something that is not yet possible in SAP NetWeaver '04. However, the integration of the different tools in this first release is a significant step toward simplifying business process management, and it shows clearly the foundation blocks that will increasingly fuse with one another in future releases.

The most significant steps will occur as a single process architecture emerges in future SAP releases, making process management more effective and significantly simpler to implement. A unified modeling environment with a metamodel for the underlying business processes gives much greater control and visibility directly to business analysts. A common process repository will make it even simpler to support the complete BPM life cycle.

For more information on BPM and SAP NetWeaver, please visit http://service.sap.com/bpms.


1 See my article "Implement a Central Inbox for One-Stop Access to Work Items from Any Business Process" in the October-December 2003 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).


 

Alan Rickayzen has been with SAP since 1992 and in data processing since 1988. Since 1995, he has been performing development work as well as process technology consulting for various major US customers and, as a result, has amassed a good teal of technical knowledge in collaborative process technology. Alan Rickayzen is co-author of the book Practical Workflow for SAP, available at SAPinsider Store, and may be contacted at alan.rickayzen@sap.com.

 

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