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From the Editor: The Best Tool Is Not Always Obvious

by Michael Nadeau

August 11, 2009

by Michael Nadeau SAP NetWeaver Magazine - Volume 3, Issue 4

Managing, tracking, and routing thousands of complex documents is not an easy task. It gets even harder when the sources of those documents are all external partners. How do you create a system that allows you to consistently and accurately handle a large number of documents from many outside sources?

If you said, “Build an external-facing Web portal,” you likely have a lot of company. That wasn’t the right answer for Siemens Power Generation (Siemens PG). It chose the simpler Collaboration Folders (cFolders) application within SAP Product Lifecycle Management (SAP PLM). To understand why, you need to look at the company’s requirements and relationships with its suppliers, contractors, and partners.

Siemens PG builds power plants around the world. These projects are big, expensive, and complicated. Compared to other types of construction businesses, the company builds relatively few plants a year. This means that transactions with its suppliers are often infrequent. Power plants tend to be built in rural areas, so Siemens PG often depends on local contractors with limited access to computers.

Regulations apply to almost every facet of power plant construction. Every document coming from outside sources must meet not only these regulations, but also contract requirements that spell out deadlines, content, and format. Siemens PG needed a tool to track regulatory and contract requirements and to make sure each document was routed properly. Since most documents require revisions, the ability to collaborate was important.

cFolders was the choice because it was simple and allowed for collaboration with outside sources. Although cFolders required significant customization, Siemens PG was able to implement it relatively quickly with an easy-to-use interface. cFolders essentially replicates Siemens PG’s SAP PLM environment on its vendors’ and contractors’ systems, allowing collaboration with document creators.

As the Siemens PG case study shows, it pays to review all the options within the SAP landscape. Even if there seems to be an obvious choice, lesser-known applications or functionality might do the job faster, better, or at a lower cost.

Michael Nadeau
Group Editor

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