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How to Simplify Complex Architectures with SAP PowerDesigner

by Laurie Barker | SAPinsider, Volume 16, Issue 2

April 2, 2015

As technology landscapes increase in complexity, it is more important than ever to be able to access accurate information about their information architectures. Read about how SAP PowerDesigner enables organizations to visually represent their current information and system architectures, as well as design changes to them.


Technology continues to evolve at an accelerating rate, and landscapes are becoming increasingly complex as organizations seek to integrate trends such as big data, social media, and cloud computing with their existing legacy systems. Before implementing transformative technologies, IT organizations must have a thorough understanding of the architecture of their existing environments. Building a visual representation of what your enterprise currently looks like enables you to create a blueprint for successfully implementing innovations that can benefit your business.

SAP PowerDesigner (formerly SAP Sybase PowerDesigner) is a collaborative, customizable modeling and architecture solution that provides SAP customers with the ability to capture the architecture of their current system and process landscapes — both SAP and non-SAP — as well as design architectural changes and communicate the potential effects of changes to increase efficiency and drive better business decisions. This article looks at the key features of SAP PowerDesigner, its latest enhancements, and the main usage scenarios it supports.

What Is SAP PowerDesigner?

Originally developed over 25 years ago primarily as a data modeling tool, and later extended to support model-driven architecture design, SAP PowerDesigner came to SAP as part of the Sybase acquisition in 2010. Starting in 2011 with version 15.1, SAP has since expanded the solution’s functionality to enable enterprise-wide planning and management of systems and processes from a single tool, including support for standard methodologies and notations, enabling both business and IT users to more effectively manage the flow of data between the business and IT and build a better information architecture.

For business users, including those who are a part of large-scale change initiatives, governance initiatives, and merger and acquisition activities, SAP PowerDesigner provides tools such as organization charts, process maps, planning diagrams, and communication diagrams. For IT, it provides conceptual, logical, and physical modeling for information sources across the enterprise, as well as application architecture diagrams, service-oriented diagrams, technology infrastructure diagrams, a fully documented open application programming interface (API), and automated code generation through customizable templates. All of this information is tied together with “link and sync” technology, and stored in a secure, enterprise-wide metadata repository that supports collaboration among multiple users and enables comprehensive management reporting and analysis.

SAP PowerDesigner supports integration with virtually any system through its open API, and its support for the business process modeling and notation (BPMN) standard as well as BPMN XML serialization facilitates the exchange of business processes with orchestration tools, such as SAP Solution Manager and SAP Business Process Management. By integrating with SAP Solution Manager, which enables SAP customers to manage all of the applications in their SAP landscape, all business processes that are defined in SAP PowerDesigner are integrated into other components of the enterprise.

The most recent SAP PowerDesigner release — version 16.5, support package 04, delivered in February 2014 — provides additional enhancements, including a web client that gives anyone, anywhere, easy access to diagram previews, dashboards for charting and graphing, and a model editor for creating BPMN 2.0 process diagrams (see Figure 1). To enhance its analytics functionality, version 16.5 also includes support for big data and data warehousing, including support for the Apache Hive for Hadoop and Pivotal Greenplum data warehouses. In addition, version 16.5 offers a conversion program for SAP customers interested in converting from Software AG’s ARIS product to SAP PowerDesigner.1

Figure 1 — Creating a business process diagram using BPMN 2.0 in the web-based model editor

When Do I Use SAP PowerDesigner?

SAP PowerDesigner is a comprehensive solution that enables organizations to holistically model, understand, and plan their business. It is designed in particular for:

  • Enterprise architecture mapping: SAP PowerDesigner captures the intersections between all the layers of your enterprise architecture to provide users with a clear view of its current state and the effects of potential changes.
  • New technology implementations: Using the solution, customers gain an understanding of their current architecture before moving to new technologies, such as SAP HANA and the Internet of Things.
  • Collaborative business process modeling: Multi-user support and intuitive modeling tools that both business and IT users can work with ensure that business strategies become part of the architecture blueprint.
  • Intelligent business operations: SAP PowerDesigner integrates with big data and process management solutions to enable a centralized, accurate view of information in a single environment.
  • Information architecture and data architecture mapping: Extensive modeling and metadata management functionality, an enterprise repository, and support for open standards help create a single version of the truth, with support for data quality initiatives, information governance, regulatory compliance, merger and acquisition activities, and effective database design.

From its earliest incarnations, SAP PowerDesigner has provided support for information architecture and data architecture mapping. Rather than focus on these usage scenarios, this article focuses on the latest innovations that have built on that original functionality to extend support to the next generation of architecture implementations.2 Let’s take a closer look.

Enterprise Architecture Mapping

Enterprise architectures consist of a wide array of moving parts, and tracking all of the dependencies between them can be a significant challenge. SAP PowerDesigner makes the necessary links and connections between these moving parts — from systems, to applications, to business processes — and provides users across the organization with a visual representation of the mapped enterprise, and where proposed changes will affect these components, to facilitate a common understanding.

To enable enterprise-wide architecture modeling and impact analysis, SAP PowerDesigner uses unique “link and sync” technology. Link and sync allows all components of an enterprise to be connected and remain connected, which is critical as changes are introduced through technical innovation, business process changes, or application changes, for instance. With link and sync, any changes are immediately synchronized to the respective models, diagrams, and charts to ensure the most up-to-date view of the enterprise and to provide a reliable foundation for strategic decisions.

In its most recent release (version 16.5, support package 04), SAP PowerDesigner includes a series of dynamically generated heat maps and charts that allow real-time monitoring and analysis of models to help business managers understand the enterprise and plan for change. Figure 2 shows examples of management and IT planning charts and heat maps that are automatically generated by SAP PowerDesigner and displayed in the web client portal. These diagrams are useful for visually capturing the state of the business to help make intelligent decisions about future change. Note that these charts are available only in the web-based dashboard for SAP PowerDesigner.

Figure 2 — Dynamically generated charts enable real-time monitoring and analysis of models


Telenor Sverige AB — the Swedish mobile operations unit of telecommunications company Telenor Group — gained a clearer picture of its enterprise architecture using SAP PowerDesigner, helping it to streamline change. Telenor likens the implementation of a new technology or proposed change to an investigation. Without a single, dependable source of information about the overall landscape, figuring out how a change will affect it is like having a bunch of detectives roaming around independently trying to uncover clues. Using SAP PowerDesigner to visualize the existing architecture, Telenor can easily see where proposed changes will have an impact and the people, processes, and systems that will be affected.

New Technology Implementations

Without an accurate understanding of its current architecture, an organization cannot begin to understand the systems, processes, and resources that will be affected by a new implementation. And with transformative innovations like the Internet of Things and in-memory computing, a solid grasp of the implications of making such a change becomes even more important. SAP Power­Designer can help organizations gain insight into how a new technology will affect their landscapes prior to implementing that technology.

SAP PowerDesigner can help ensure a successful implementation of SAP HANA, for instance, through the following steps:

  1. Describe the current state: SAP PowerDesigner automatically reverse-engineers the current databases in the landscape and allows users to document the current environment. Users create a context of all existing components and build the relationships between them.
  2. Analyze the current state: SAP PowerDesigner helps users understand how the components are connected by providing a visual representation for analysis.
  3. Define the plan and map the connections: SAP PowerDesigner completes the mappings of the current architecture, helps to build the future state, and provides the models for use as a scorecard to ensure that all of the connections have been captured for a complete vision.
  4. Execute: SAP PowerDesigner helps users communicate the architecture, plan and deliver source-to-target mappings, and finally build SAP HANA database schemas.

One of SAP’s customers — a major home improvement retail group with nearly 970 stores across Europe and Asia — has a complex environment, with multiple warehouses, databases, and applications. By providing a visual representation of its current architecture, its intersections, and its interdependencies, SAP PowerDesigner helped improve the company’s understanding, knowledge transfer, communication, and implementation time.

With SAP PowerDesigner giving a home improvement retail group a visual representation of its architecture and interdependencies, the company improved its knowledge transfer, communication, and implementation time.

Collaborative Business Process Modeling

The architecture of the enterprise is no longer the sole domain of IT — business and IT must be able to work together to consolidate business strategy and IT goals into the architecture blueprint. SAP PowerDesigner helps support this collaboration with intuitive, user-friendly visualization and reporting tools that enable all users and decision makers to see the interconnections between different parts of the business, and to understand and buy into proposed changes.

A central enterprise repository allows users across the organization to collaborate on the definition and analysis of the components of the landscape, and a repository glossary helps ensure that business terms and definitions are established, consistently managed, and easily understood throughout the organization. Web-based access and features such as check-in/check-out facilitate collaboration while preventing potential conflicts and security and governance issues.

Intelligent Business Operations

Successful organizations constantly seek ways to gain a competitive edge, and operational efficiency and agility are important to achieve this. Many companies use automation to standardize their core business processes, but big data, with its high volume, velocity, and variety, can pose a significant challenge in the form of big processes combined with the need for collaboration and real-time visibility into operations.

SAP provides its customers with an answer to this challenge by packaging solutions for process design, execution, and analysis — including SAP PowerDesigner, SAP Process Orchestration, and SAP Operational Process Intelligence — into an intelligent business operations bundle that can run on SAP HANA. With this bundle, SAP PowerDesigner not only provides robust modeling capabilities, but also integrates all the viewpoints of the various solutions in the bundle within a single tool. Integration with SAP Business Process Management software and the SAP HANA platform enables SAP PowerDesigner to streamline the planning, design, and communication of business process definitions, and its central repository for storing captured business process models helps ensure a consistent understanding and a single, accurate view of company information.


To succeed in a rapidly changing environment, you need a flexible and agile enterprise in which business and IT are aligned toward common strategic objectives. With SAP PowerDesigner, organizations can be confident that their business and IT goals are being clearly communicated and implemented securely across the enterprise — SAP itself uses SAP PowerDesigner features and functionality for its own modeling and architecture. If you would like to learn more about SAP PowerDesigner, and even take it for a test drive with a free 15-day evaluation software download, visit


1 Please contact your local SAP account executive to learn more about this conversion program. [back]

2 Learn more about the information architecture and data architecture mapping functionality of SAP PowerDesigner, as well as any of its other capabilities, at [back]

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Laurie Barker
Laurie Barker

Laurie Barker ( is Senior Product Marketing Manager for SAP PowerDesigner. She has more than 25 years of marketing experience, with 15 years of experience with SAP PowerDesigner, and came to SAP via the Sybase acquisition.

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