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The Secret to Creating a Strong Foundation for Solution Innovation

by Jim Bisordi and Erik Braun | SAPinsider

January 1, 2013

In today’s market it is important to figure out how to take advantage of new innovations and make sure they work seamlessly with the solutions and systems already in place. The ability to do so hinges on your architectural foundation and the creation of end-to-end solutions. And a key part of this involves making certain that there is a common understanding among the architects who will be building the foundation. Without such an understanding, it can be very challenging to design and implement truly integrated solutions to support current — and future — business value and demands.
 

Just a few years ago, typical questions from the IT department centered around concerns like, “How can we integrate our existing legacy systems with our new operating environments?” Now, however, we’re hearing, “How can we integrate innovative solutions into our core technology to enable real-time business decisions and take advantage of mobility and the cloud?”

Markets and technology have changed greatly and are continuing to evolve. While these changes bring many opportunities, they also challenge the IT department to figure out how to take advantage of new innovations, and how to make those innovations work in concert with the solutions and systems already in place. Companies are wondering how they can fit it all together and how they can reduce complexity and translate all this change into business innovation, revenue, and company success. The ability to do all this hinges on your architectural foundation and the creation of end-to-end solutions.

Architecting an End-to-End Solution: The Key to Innovation

As constant technology changes and innovations drive new business models and present new opportunities, it becomes more and more important to establish truly integrated, end-to-end solutions that will be able to meet changing business and market demands. Architecting an end-to-end solution involves integrating or connecting all solutions that are part of a business process so that the end user has a seamless user experience.

Designing end-to-end solutions that will allow companies to more easily integrate innovations and take advantage of the business opportunities they bring requires the following:

  • A holistic understanding about what is needed from IT to meet the business requirements for this end-to-end solution
  • Knowledge of the available tools that can help meet the requirements, and of how best to combine the appropriate technology and industry expertise to meet the project goals

Basically, you want to make certain that your team is prepared and staffed with the appropriate experts who will be able to make an end-to-end solution design process a success. These are the kinds of requirements that most companies understand very well.

However, another key to success is one that is too often overlooked: the need to make sure that there is a common understanding among the architects who will be building the foundation for your end-to-end solution landscape. Without such an understanding, it can be very challenging to design and implement truly integrated solutions to support current — and future — business value and demands.

How a Common Understanding of Architecture Enables Innovation

Led by SAP’s global data and technology services practices, the Global Architect Program is an SAP initiative focused on generating a common understanding, approach, and definition of an architecture. The goal is to promote consistent service delivery and methodology across the globe. By setting up a common baseline of understanding, the process of integrating SAP’s core technology with current innovations, such as those around big data, mobility, cloud, and SAP HANA, becomes seamless and transparent.

An essential first step toward creating a better architecture and improving end-to-end solution design is coming to a shared understanding of how all the different architect focus areas (enterprise, business, technology, and solution architecture) integrate and interact with each other. For architects to be able to collaborate and work together, it is necessary to have a common taxonomy around the architecture topic, no matter what architecture type is being dealt with. This involves setting up a common way of: 

  • Thinking: We are coming up with set structures for how to handle complex business and information technology demands in the context of any organization running, or intending to run, SAP solutions and products.
  • Working: We are defining steps and activities around how to support those set structures.
  • Modeling: We are determining the activities and steps that should go into creating architecture models to reflect the current business situation, the desired outcome, and the transitory steps that a company will undergo on their way to implementing end-to-end solutions.

SAP is also creating a new architecture curriculum and services for our customers. The goal is to promote this need for a common understanding and definitions in the architecture area. The curriculum addresses integration points across architecture focus areas, highlighting the idea of thinking about aspects like processes, applications, and technology architectures as parts of one overarching enterprise architecture. The curriculum is also aimed at spreading the standardized definition of common architecture methods and deliverables.

Standardizing and consolidating architecture concepts enables architects to build a better roadmap toward designing a true end-to-end solution that will resolve current customer pain points and help grow revenue and promote overall company success. When architecting an end-to-end solution, companies should focus on the following three steps (see Figure 1):

  • Step 1: Provide transparency and a common understanding of your architecture by utilizing SAP’s architecture definitions and standards. This is all part of the architecture curriculum initiative we explored earlier in the article.
  • Step 2: Figure out what the goals are for your implementation. This involves considering all different aspects of the architecture to identify exactly what the business expects to gain from the solution and what the value drivers are.
  • Step 3: Design and implement the end-to-end solution, focusing on how it will support the business goals you defined. Customers who engage with SAP services can get full support throughout this process.
SAP’s three-step process toward designing and implementing a true, integrated end-to-end solution
Figure 1 SAP’s three-step process toward designing and implementing a true, integrated end-to-end solution

Conclusion

Your enterprise architecture is the foundation on which you can build end-to-end solutions that allow you to take advantage of the latest solution innovations. To enable this, SAP’s Global Architect Program, which is tightly integrated with other strategic, internal SAP initiatives around service innovation and delivery, has come up with standard definitions for architecture concepts and is in the process of extending its new architecture curriculum to our customers and partners.  

Jim Bisordi (jim.bisordi@sap.com) has more than 25 years of experience in the high-tech industry. Jim is currently the Global Head of Technology and Architecture Services, Virtualization, and Cloud for the Global Data and Technology Services organization.

Erik Braun (erik.braun@sap.com) is a Solution Architect and Program Lead for SAP’s internal Global Architect Program. In his role, he is responsible for building consistent, clear messaging about SAP’s architect solutions and best practices.

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