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Need Quick Access to SAP Business Suite System Information? Count on SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search for Fast Answers

by Karsten Hohage | SAPinsider

October 1, 2008

Business users often have to wade through heaps of data and information just to answer routine questions (What’s the sales history of customer X?). With SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search, users can now retrieve data that’s deeply embedded in SAP Business Suite systems — and access it within one intuitive UI — to quickly answer their most pressing day-to-day questions.
 

 

Business users need rapid, secure access to all sorts of facts and figures in order to be productive. Just think about how many information searches you execute on a day-to-day basis. Through Web-based search, it's easy to find out the gross domestic product (GDP) of China, the current euro-to-dollar exchange rate, or even who won the Super Bowl in 1972 (the Miami Dolphins!). Simply use any Web search engine, click on a link to Yahoo or Wikipedia, and there you have it. Through your company's intranet, you can likely find out who authored your corporate strategy document. And to parse your desktop, email, or file shares, there are myriad solutions out there to help you with your search.

But where and how do you find answers to questions like these:

  • How many laptops of a certain make are registered as equipment within my organization? Where are they located?

  • What's the customer number of that client who just called? And which order was he referring to when he said he wanted to double "last week's order"?

  • How do I access the sales history of a given customer? The technical drawing of a product a customer complained about? The list of spare parts for that product?

SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search answers these types of questions for you. It's an application that retrieves data — customer master data, sales orders, purchase orders, services orders, accounts payable, and more — deeply bunkered in your SAP Business Suite systems. It helps users navigate to critical business information by enabling seamless, secure access to SAP and non-SAP — as well as structured and unstructured — information and processes through a simple, Web-like search paradigm. The solution can also offer links to information beyond the boundaries of your internal systems — for example, once you look up sales history information about a certain customer, SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search can offer one-click access to driving directions to that customer's address. (Of course, it is not rocket science to type the correct address for this type of search into a Web-based directions service. But it is very convenient for end users to have this connection to related services on the Web just one click away from their enterprise search.)

In the January-March 2007 issue of SAP Insider, I offered a preview of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search, featuring preliminary specs and screenshots.1 Now that the product has gone through ramp-up at customer sites, it's time to revisit the solution and understand the benefits and results it can deliver to your business.

 

Quick Access to Enterprise Information: Imagine the Possibilities

The capabilities of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search extend far beyond what the application's name implies. Sure, you can use it to search your file shares and internal Web servers, but the unmatched strength of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search is its ability to offer users easy, secure access to data deeply embedded within your SAP Business Suite systems. Consider the following capabilities:

  • Find specific customer information, product information, asset information, sales data, purchase and service orders, or product parts and their location (as shown in the left side of Figure 1), along with related analytic data and documents, through one search interface.

  • Navigate through the relationships among all of the above and more, without ever having configured or coded a process to do so. For example, you can: find a product, then list its parts; find a customer, then list his orders; or find a colleague, then list the documents she authored.

  • Perform all this in a simple, Web-like environment without the need to access various systems through various GUIs using various transactions.

  • Get to where you want to be easily and only then jump into the back end with a single click — all fully authorization controlled (shown in the right side of Figure 1).

 

Figure 1
With SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search, you can find the product named in a service order, list its spare parts, drill down within the parts list, identify exactly what you need, and then jump into the back end to order the part necessary to fix the issue in the service order

If this sounds like the way you have always wanted to leverage your enterprise information, I strongly encourage you to consider SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search.

 

SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search is available to customers as an addition to the SAP NetWeaver 7.0 portfolio.

Key Features and Capabilities of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search

SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search is equipped with all the technical capabilities to offer indexing and search services over the entire SAP Business Suite and beyond. From the start, the application has provided object-level access control, authentication mechanisms, high scalability, and ease of use.

Since the application's introduction, the availability of necessary out-of-the-box business content — the connectors that enable SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search to index and search individual object types — has grown immensely.2 Quick, productive use of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search is now guaranteed by a large package of out-of-the-box content, covering all major master and transactional data types (including standards like Sales Order ranging over BI objects like Web Template — all the way to specifics like Real Estate Contract or Recipe) as well as some specific scenarios, such as address book searches and product lifecycle management (PLM) scenarios.

If SAP Business Suite systems in your organization have highly specific customizations, customers can utilize the included modeling tool to search across your company's specific objects. On top of that, SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search delivers a set of configuration tools that enable you to customize how the application looks on screen, define your own search categories, assign these categories to particular user roles, and add related information links to internal and external sources. Thus, you can easily create an organization-specific, role-based search and navigation experience.

 

Think of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search as a universal enterprise navigator; it provides your business users with efficient, dynamic access to critical SAP Business Suite system information.

The Technology Behind the Search: It's All About Highly Interconnected Data

So how does this search technology work behind the scenes? And how can users quickly navigate through all of their enterprise information within one UI instead of jumping between completely different applications?

SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search builds its search indexes directly from the primary data in the back end — it does not require intermediary XML exports or the like. This keeps the landscape simple (see Figure 2) and lets users benefit from the most up-to-date versions of information.

 

Figure 2
The focus of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search is on information in SAP Business Suite systems; additional sources can be integrated via search connectors that exploit the existing search capabilities of any application through a meta search

Because the information in SAP Business Suite applications and related analytics are highly interconnected, relationships and drill-downs after an initial search are crucial for pinning down the exact information you are looking for. While a customer name may be the starting point of your search, it could be the specific product within one of that customer's purchase orders you need to act on.

Building and offering these relationships to users on the fly is a key strength of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search. And if it makes sense to use attributes, like a name or an address, as starting points to external services (such as looking up the customer's credit information at Dun & Bradstreet) users can connect to the Web with just one click.

Conclusion

Think of SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search as a universal enterprise navigator; it provides your business users with efficient, dynamic access to critical SAP Business Suite system information. Employing SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Search is a turnkey way to more fully utilize your company's system licenses — by making it easy for users to find and act on the information they need.

For more details, please see https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/nw-search.

 

Additional Resources

  • "A Unified Search Across All Your Enterprise Information and Business Processes," an SAP NetWeaver Unleashed column by Karsten Hohage (SAP Insider, January-March 2007, www.SAPinsideronline.com)

  • SAP NetWeaver: The Official Guide by Loren Heilig, Steffen Karch, Oliver Böttcher, Christopher Mutzig, Jan Weber, and Roland Pfennig (SAP PRESS, http://store.sapinsider.wispubs.com)

  • The SAP NetWeaver BI and Portals 2009 conference in Orlando, March 24-27, 2009, for BI and portal strategies, case studies, best practices, and expert instruction on how to use, implement, support, and integrate SAP NetWeaver technology (www.sapnetweaver2009.com)

 

Karsten Hohage (karsten.hohage@sap.com) is a Senior Product Specialist in SAP NetWeaver Product Management. He has been working in the area of search technologies for the past eight of his 10 years at SAP.



1 See "A Unified Search Across All Your Enterprise Information and Business Processes" in the January-March 2007 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com). [back]

2 For any search engine, you must relay its targets and specifically program which files and servers the solution must parse — for instance, programming the engine to know to include your customer relationship management (CRM) file server or to search for all Microsoft Word documents. [back]


 

 

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