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A Unified Search Across All Your Enterprise Information and Business Processes

by Karsten Hohage | SAPinsider

January 1, 2007

by Karsten Hohage, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2007 (Volume 8), January (Issue 1)
 

With such immense volumes of data streaming through large enterprises every day, it's no wonder that employees struggle to sort through it all and find exactly what they need. Consider a customer service manager who receives a complaint from a customer and needs to find out all of the pertinent information to create an overall picture of the account. Normally he would have to look for documents in his knowledge management system, then for customer records in his CRM system, then for master data in his master data management system, and so on.

Information providers also grapple with organizing this data to make it transparent to various users in their different roles. On the one hand, it is impossible to maintain all relevant data for our customer service manager in the same system and in the same data structures. On the other, he still needs a single point of access and a single method of retrieval to get to his CRM data, documents, master data, and even Web information.

Separate search approaches to your Intranet, your customer data, and your order process are no longer enough. Today, organizations need to replace multiple ad hoc search engines with an enterprise approach — a broad, cross-system strategy — to their search technologies.

Separate search approaches to your Intranet, your customer data, and your order process are no longer enough. Today, organizations need to replace multiple ad hoc search engines with an enterprise approach to their search technologies.

New Enterprise Search Capabilities Eliminate Traditional, Separate Search Approaches

To facilitate simple, intuitive, enterprise-wide searching, SAP is introducing new enterprise search capabilities, which customers can leverage by implementing the IT scenario Enterprise Search. These capabilities incorporate the proven technologies SAP customers have been working with for years with new functionality delivered with SAP NetWeaver. With enterprise search, users can quickly find the most relevant information from their business applications and document repositories — across the whole system landscape.

Enterprise search enables you to search for data across different sources simultaneously — within both structured data (ERP applications and business intelligence data, for example) and unstructured data (such as PDFs, Microsoft Office formats, and HTML) — all from a single entry point in your work environment, whether that is SAP NetWeaver's portal, a desktop application, an email client, or a mobile device.

Think back to our customer service manager. He can use SAP's enterprise search capabilities to find a customer's account history and any related business objects or documents about the customer's order across all related systems with one query in his portal, rather than by searching through applications and data types individually.

The Enterprise Search IT scenario in SAP NetWeaver is a best practice for setting up enterprise search activities, and encompasses some major additions to SAP's search technologies and capabilities.

Cater Your Search to Your Information Needs

Traditionally, if our customer service manager searched with a term like "cola," his search might have returned objects related to several different vendors, partners, customers, and sales cycles, even though he was only looking for a particular customer.

Enterprise search can now customize the manager's results; new query language and grammar interpretation capabilities allow him to specify the search entry in his own words, such as "customer cola." If this doesn't narrow the search enough, he can either decide on a specific object type at the start of the search or drill down into his initial results by object type or other attributes (see Figure 1 for an example).

Figure 1
Narrow your search by specifying an object type from the pull-down menu

While you can use enterprise search to retrieve any kind of enterprise-wide information, the search capabilities are also role-sensitive and can be preconfigured. Thus, the customer service manager can either find all data related to a certain customer account or be automatically directed only to open customer orders and shipments. Likewise, an administrator who provides search access for very specialized users can preconfigure searches to access only the relevant object types on a sales manager's mobile device or in an engineer's portal work center, for example.

In our example, the customer service manager can create a list of reports limited to his area of expertise, or search for business partners and sales orders relevant to a particular ERP application. An enterprise search can be as wide or as narrow as you need it to be.

Take Action on Your Search Results

Enterprise search allows you to do more than just find the information you need. Supported by object-based navigation technology, you can "go transactional" and launch a transaction directly from your search results page.

Consider our customer service manager, who has now found the sales orders he was looking for. He can initiate shipment or invoice processes, for example, directly from the search results (see Figure 2). He can even relate the orders and invoices back to the ordered materials and open their specifications directly from that drilled-down search. He no longer has to waste time switching over to the relevant application; this dramatically increases efficiency and productivity.

Figure 2
Users can launch a transaction or drill back to related objects — from sales orders to the materials description, for example — directly from their search results

Note!
Users can only launch transactions they're allowed to access, based on the roles and preferences set in your various systems.

Search Beyond Your SAP Systems

Web services and public standards for exchanging search and result information expand the world of enterprise search. You can take any applications — including non-SAP applications — that can be addressed by a Web service and that offer some kind of search functionality and connect them to SAP NetWeaver's enterprise search capabilities as an additional source of information. SAP NetWeaver will collect the additional results and merge them with those from SAP solutions. On the flipside, these open standards also allow you to easily integrate search functionality from SAP NetWeaver into your own user interfaces and applications — including through mobile devices.

Avoid Complicated Setup

To get started with enterprise search, SAP customers can look to the Enterprise Search IT scenario to walk them through how to implement and perform enterprise-wide searches.1 The scenario, which resides within SAP Solution Manager, guides information providers through the configuration process step by step — from how to connect backend systems to how to include enterprise search in a user's portal. For more information on the IT scenario Enterprise Search, please visit www.sdn.sap.com ? IT Practices and IT Scenarios ? Enterprise Search.

The IT scenario approach to enterprise search in SAP NetWeaver is a best practice for setting up enterprise search activities; it also encompasses some major additions to SAP's search technologies.

Summary

An enterprise search approach gives users a quick, comprehensive way to find and access the information they need — no matter where across an enterprise system landscape the data resides. With SAP NetWeaver's enterprise search capabilities, you no longer have to waste time searching each relevant application in your enterprise systems separately. Enterprise search enables you to find what you need and act on it with the click of a mouse, no matter where that information may be hiding.


1 For more information on IT scenarios and scenario variants, please see Claudia Weller's article, "IT Scenarios Provide a Guided, Business-Oriented Approach to Maximizing SAP NetWeaver Use," in the July-September 2005 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com).


Additional Resources

www.sdn.sap.com ? IT Practices and IT Scenarios ? Enterprise Search

"IT Scenarios Provide a Guided, Business-Oriented Approach to Maximizing SAP NetWeaver Use," in the July-September 2005 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com)

Karsten Hohage is a Senior Product Specialist in SAP NetWeaver Product Management. He has been working in the area of search technologies for the past six of his eight years at SAP. You can reach him at karsten.hohage@sap.com.

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