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Thriving or Surviving? How to Take Your SAP NetWeaver Pulse

by Adolf Allesch

August 11, 2009

Moving to enterprise SOA impacts all levels of an organization and various different stakeholders. Allesch defines the difference between “thriving” and “surviving” enterprises in terms of SAP NetWeaver and enterprise SOA. Find out whether your company is thriving or surviving.

It’s time to check your pulse and see how well you have adopted the SAP NetWeaver technology, the successes and challenges you’ve had. Are you “thriving” or “surviving” with SAP NetWeaver? If you’re making the most of the platform, you’re thriving. Let me explain.

When SAP R/3 emerged in the early 1990s, the battlefront was between best-of-breed applications and the package/suite approach, and technology shifted from mainframe to client/server.

Successful ERP standardized processes and data. Those who understood the new integrated-process options and could migrate the data, test the solution, and train the end user on-time and within budget were thriving. Documentation, tools, and methods were scarce, and technical insights into client/server technology were still emerging. But many companies failed to standardize processes, rationalize data, or properly train users.

Today, the technology shift is from client/server to service-oriented architecture (SOA) and the battlefront is SAP NetWeaver (single-vendor enterprise SOA) versus best of breed (multiple-vendor SOA). New technology (Web and enterprise services, server virtualization), skills (process renovation, services development, rich client interfaces), and technical challenges (security, governance) impact everyone with ERP and now enterprise SOA.

Where does your company rank on the continuum? Is it thriving or surviving? Two key areas enable you to take your SAP NetWeaver pulse: business and IT skills for enterprise SOA, and adoption plans and approaches.

Business and IT Skills for Enterprise SOA

Moving to enterprise SOA impacts all organizational levels and various stakeholders. The enterprise architecture must address their key needs; however, while the architecture impacts the stakeholders, they should also be able to impact the architecture. Herein lies the difference between “thriving” and “surviving” enterprises.

Enterprise SOAs provide useful abstractions that both representatives of the functional departments and IT experts understand. This contributes to the enterprise SOA’s success. It also enables IT and business managers to have an appropriate influence on architectural decisions. Thriving companies invest in three key stakeholders to drive adoption:

  • Infrastructure architect (IA): This former senior Basis administrator is well versed in the hardware, network and communications, tools, and business applications needed for SAP NetWeaver. In a thriving company, the IA also considers the developer community to be a customer and provides solutions that allow developers to build new composite applications (xApps) to fill modern business needs.

  • Solution architect (SA): This former process (or SAP module) team leader is proficient in two or three SAP modules and is respected by the business. The SA has a Web-enabled view of applications, including extending primary-module expertise (e.g., from Sales and Distribution to CRM), as well as appropriately using collaborative solutions (portals, workflow, mobile technology) to renovate legacy ERP processes. In designing SAP NetWeaver renovated business processes, the SA can also develop the specifications and coordinate the need for on- or offshore delivery.

  • Enterprise architect (EA): This role is becoming prevalent in larger enterprises because the EA keeps business and IT aligned. An EA strives for maximum IT ROI and helps prioritize business opportunities across the CIO.

The EA is the bridge between business and IT leadership and is about “achieving the big picture.” The SA strives to migrate to EA over time. In many companies system integrators perform the EA service.

Adoption Plans and Approaches

With any step change in technology, you need an adoption plan to identify the constraints, opportunities, risks, and deployment scope. Enterprise SOA is well suited to a step-by-step approach for two reasons:

  1. Enterprise SOA enables an efficient decomposition of large segments of functionality into largely decoupled components of manageable size; e.g., application front ends (Lotus Harmony, Adobe Forms) combined with Web services, which can repurpose standard SAP applications. A project’s organization can directly follow this decomposition. You can break down big projects that appear too risky or too difficult to roll out into subprojects that can succeed individually. Even if a subproject fails, there is no overall threat to the enterprise.

  2. Enterprise SOAs are not tied to any specific technology so an enterprise can be flexible while introducing new functionality. An enterprise SOA can also make changes or amendments to technology and business functionalities by treating them independently.

Thriving companies reflect these traits in their adoption plans. They treat SAP NetWeaver adoption as an ongoing effort that accompanies major business projects. Enterprise SOA also reflects this requirement. Thriving companies increase the scope of technical foundation and business functionality in small steps. Web and enterprise services are foundational and prioritized for reuse.

Surviving companies, however, see enterprise SOA as only a technology journey and fail to realize its purpose. Often, they are still hung over from ERP and expect SAP NetWeaver to be more of the same. This step change requires new approaches for adoption.

Thriving companies’ adoption plans identify and categorize Web services as utility or specialized services. New business-process architectures define what is needed for the business to compete. For many companies, it’s no surprise that the SAP Business Process Hierarchy has gaps or white space that you can fill with enterprise-level services.

As an SAP customer you have the tools (SAP Collaborative Application Framework 7.0) to create your own xApps or purchase packaged xApps. Thriving companies’ adoption plans have a so-called “heat map” that summarizes a company’s migration from “as-is” ERP to “to-be” SAP NetWeaver. Pilots are planned with benefit analyses stemming from the inherent value of service reuse (utility services) and flexible user-interface adoption. Underlining these adoption plans are standardized methods, tools, and organizational governance.

Supply and Demand

Savvy CIOs have retooled their IT departments into supply (infrastructure/tools) and demand (process modeling/specifications) chains to enable enterprise SOA. These designs enable SAP NetWeaver shops to take advantage of the new Enterprise Services (ES) bundles that SAP is providing. ES bundles contain groups of enterprise services that extend SAP ERP 2005’s functionality. The upgrade from SAP R/3 4.6 to ECC 6.0 is a stepping-stone.

The adoption of enterprise SOA is an evolution of ERP, not a revolution. Thriving companies using SAP NetWeaver have at least two of the same characteristics: enterprise SOA skills for IT and business, and clearly defined adoption plans. So, which are you? Thriving or surviving? How’s your company’s pulse rate?

Adolf Allesch is the global SAP NetWeaver lead partner at IBM Global Business Services. A pioneer with the Web, he is now the SAP NetWeaver evangelist for IBM. He specializes in technology-enabled business transformation using SAP and is a frequent presenter at SAP events worldwide. You can reach him at


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