Thanks to everyone who joined our online Q&A on integrating Microsoft and SAP ERP processes.
Sitrion's Markus Dopp and Markus von Aschoff took questions on simplifying user access to SAP processes with SharePoint, O365 and intranet environments, and Sitrion's own approach to the unified workplace.
Review the replay of all the discussion here, and review the edited transcript of this online chat.
Moderator: Thanks to everyone for joining our Q&A today on creating a unified workplace with your Microsoft, SAP, and mobile solutions.
I’m joined today by Markus Dopp, general manager and co-founder of Sitrion, as well as Markus von Aschoff, the vice president of portfolio management with Sitrion. They are here to share some research and their thoughts on providing a unified experience to your users for your SAP ERP processes in combination with Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365, or any modern intranet environment as well as your mobile technology, and to discuss Sitrion’s specific approach to this integration.
Thanks Markus and Markus for being here today.
Markus von Aschoff: Thank you! We look forward to the discussion. Hello everybody and welcome.
Markus Dopp: Thanks for being part of this Q&A.
Moderator: There are a number of questions from our readers already, so let’s get started!
Comment From CHACHA: What do you mean by unified workplace with Microsoft and SAP? What is the benefit, the principle, and how does it work?
Markus von Aschoff: In most organisations you find multiple places to get work done, the intranet, the collaborative SharePoint environment, HR Portals etc.
Why is that? Usually it has been a technology decision, but the user has been left behind. The unified workplace describes the one single point of access where employees get their work done, collaborate. and go to get routine tasks completed. Microsoft has proven to be the best tool for collaboration while SAP is the best tool for business. Adding SAP business processes and routines to Microsoft SharePoint in a unified way helps to boost productivity.
Comment From Rob: I have an upcoming project which needs to integrate Microsoft SQL Server 2012 database with custom logic in .NET 2.0/3.5 code to an SAP PI/NetWeaver. Integration will be to the SAP FI (Financial)/MM (Material Management) modules. I'm expecting there will be custom SAP routines provided. I'm struggling trying to choose the correct communication approach (IDOC, OData or ABAP).
Markus Dopp: We would propose to use SAP NetWeaver Gateway for all future integration scenarios because Gateway is the new standard from SAP for integrating with mobile scenarios and other systems. Sitrion provides an easy-to-use framework and tools to build integration components between Microsoft products such as .NET, SQL or SharePoint. Also you can leverage SAP ABAP/OO classes from within your .NET apps via OData with this approach.
Comment From Scott Garrett: I'm curious about using SAP roles to organize security in SharePoint.
Markus Dopp: As you can integrate SharePoint with SAP in real-time - all roles, security, and authorizations will be triggered within SAP. Also SharePoint apps can be linked to SAP’s organizational management (OM) for even more sophisticated BPM scenarios.
Also all SAP workflow rules stay intact and can be exposed to SharePoint.
Comment From Guest: What types of users (SCM, BI, HR, etc.) are most in need of the unified workplace?
Markus von Aschoff: If you look at your organization, you will realize that you have the most impact when you address the majority of the employees. So HR is definitely the one with the most impact. We hear customers saying that they save USD $12M per year "just" by putting leave requests in a unified workplace.
Comment From Guest: Do you have any stats or data on how much productivity can be improved by integrating SAP and Microsoft? Or a company example?
Markus von Aschoff: Yes, research shows that manager productivity rises by 13% year-over-year. We hear from our customers that getting SAP into SharePoint boosts usability from 30% to over 80% and satisfaction from 35% to almost 90%. But the latest news from Microsoft and SAP was around partnering in the Azure and HANA space.
Comment From Keqin Wu: We have SAP EP on the premise and are implementing MS SharePoint (on premise too). Can we transport all the components in SAP EP to MS SP and eventually get rid of our current SAP EP? Will that be a large chunk of work? What is your suggestion - keep SAP EP server and integrate it into SP or totally remove SAP EP?
Markus Dopp: That’s a good one :-) In most organizations SharePoint is the “glue” between users, documents, and processes. The Sitrion approach is to have all apps in SharePoint and bring together social collaboration, documents, and business processes in one unified environment. No need for any other portal.
Comment From Dan: Which SAP Cloud products integrate out of the box with MS?
Markus Dopp: From what I know there is no standard integration currently of any Microsoft products with SAP cloud offerings.
Comment From Farhana: Is there any way we can publish Web Dynpro application in SharePoint 2013 portal without having the SAP portal?
Markus von Aschoff: While this is an interesting approach, from a unified workplace point of view it is all about combining content, transactions, social, and mobile. Our customers report that they prefer to use Microsoft tools. Sitrion allows you to not need the SAP Portal any more.
Comment From Sanjay: There are so many options to integrate Microsoft and SAP, NW Gateway, NE Gateway for Microsoft, DUET, Sitrion and many others. Which is the better option to create IIS based solutions that get SAP data securely (single sign-on)?
Markus Dopp: If you want to create Office AddIns (e.g. Word), go for Gateway for Microsoft. If you want to focus on IIS or SharePoint scenarios, you should definitely consider Sitrion as we have not only the tools but also the server and administration components to save you a lot of time in implementing, deploying, and operating composite MS/SAP apps.
Comment From Dean Southern: We are looking at BI and have both BI tools in SharePoint and SAP BI tools as well. What strategies have you seen work using one or both of the platforms? And if we decided to leverage SharePoint as the primary dashboard/portal are there tools to link SAP BI tools seamlessly into SharePoint team site?
Markus von Aschoff: At the SharePoint Conference, SAP and Microsoft presented the SAP Gateway for Microsoft. I would look into that.
Comment From Guest: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using SAP .NET Connector, Duet Enterprise, Winshuttle as a tool to integrate SAP Enterprise with Microsoft SharePoint? Any other tools to recommend?
Markus Dopp: There are some good tools around, and each tool has its strengths in different areas.
For instance, Winshuttle is excellent for master data scenarios where you need to import a lot of data from tools like Excel. If you want to build your own custom Addin for Office then SAP Gateway for Microsoft is a nice product.
If you are looking for process integration with SharePoint and Exchange then Sitrion is a good choice because a lot of integration components and prepackaged solutions (e.g. Employee/Manager-Self-Services) come out of the box.
Comment From Matthew: We are interested in integrating our ECC and other ABAP based systems with Microsoft AD, but are having a hard time finding an "out of the box" SAP provided solution. We already have SAP Portal integrated with AD using SPNEGO, but it appears that SAP doesn't provide an LDAP/AD connector for ABAP based systems. We're interested in finding someone who can give us some options.
Markus Dopp: Sitrion can sync AD with SAP employee master data (e.g. Infotype105). This can be even be used in onboarding and offboarding scenarios as this sync can automatically be triggered by specific events.
Comment From L. Scott Rubin: Are planned Activities displayable in Outlook's Calendar? If so, can they be closed/finished in Outlook's Calendar? What is the integration called?
Markus Dopp: There is a component called Sitrion PowerSync that syncs time events bi-directionally between SAP and Microsoft Exchange. For instance, leave requests such as business trips, trainings, or vacations can be automatically synced with Outlook calendars “behind the scenes.“ Via this component any SAP time event can be pushed to Exchange.
Comment From Guest: Hi Markus! Regarding your earlier point: "save 12M per year "just" by putting leave requests in an unified workplace" -- Are you referring to process leave requests from: 1. Microsoft Outlook email, 2. Microsoft SharePoint (specifically how), or 3. Another Microsoft tool? Thanks!
Markus von Aschoff: With Sitrion you get Option 1 and 2. Sitrion provides a smart tool to connect Outlook Exchange with SAP to sync calendars as well as exchanging leave requests. We solve Option 2 with a task center in SharePoint where managers can approve tasks from SAP and SharePoint. With this unified approach we see at our customers that user satisfaction as well as ease-of-use grows from 30% to 85%. Additionally we have several mobile options. Option 3: With our Microsoft Visual Studio-based Developer Platform you can create your own solutions for mobile and for the web.
Comment From Marij Kouwenhoven: How can we unify our ADFS environment with SAP for a seamless logon?
Markus Dopp: The Sitrion platform can integrate SharePoint users via ADFS with SAP leveraging oAuth 2.0 and SAP NetWeaver Gateway. This will provide seamless Single-Sign-On (SSO) between the Microsoft and SAP stacks. Also Sitrion supports SSO via SAP RFC protocol based on SNC.
Comment From Keqin: Is programming required to run SAP transactions in SharePoint by using Sitrion?
Markus Dopp: A lot of prepackaged ESS/MSS apps for SharePoint 2010/2013 and Office 365 are already available by Sitrion. Custom apps can easily be modelled with minimal programming (basically HTML5 templates).
Comment From Guest: We use WebI for our reporting tool. Is Sitrion also the right tool to use to expose the reporting to SP?
Markus Dopp: No, Sitrion is not focusing on BI reporting scenarios. While you can use Sitrion to create nice dashboards and visualize KPIs, I would recommend taking a look at companies like TheobaldSoftware for BI-centric integration scenarios.
Comment From Guest: Network connectivity question - We have SAP hosted on premise, SharePoint 2013 on premise, Office 365 is cloud. What backend connectivity (if any) is needed for the Outlook 365 - SharePoint - SAP workflows and unification?
Markus Dopp: We see a lot of organizations evaluating the cloud opportunity. Most organizations have O365 included in their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. While the most common use case today is to get Exchange into the cloud, we see growing interest in bringing business value from SAP into O365. After showcasing this at the SharePoint Conference and at SAPPHIRE NOW, now we have dozens of POCs in place to evaluate use cases beyond Exchange. Regarding the network question: If you want to have SAP workflow approval in Outlook on Office 365 (hosted Exchange) you can use Sitrion’s Universal Approval Solution.
Markus Dopp: And you just need to create one mailbox (e.g. email@example.com) on the Office365 Exchange server.
Comment From Guest: My company uses the BI Broadcaster heavily to disperse reports to users in the field without VPN access or an SAP seat. We are also broadcasting into our company SharePoint site. What other gems like this are there?
Markus von Aschoff: Broadcasting reports to SharePoint is a great use case for the unified workplace.
There are other use cases like getting HR self-services to SharePoint, to mobile, and to O365. Sitrion helps with basically all SAP decisions. Tasks from the SAP workflow engine can be pushed to managers via Outlook/Exchange on Office 365, so you can approve/reject any SAP task via Outlook or your mobile device. No need to open up firewalls, etc.
Comment From Guest: How does SharePoint support mobile self-services, multiple form factors and devices?
Markus Dopp: In general we would not recommend to try to get SharePoint mobile, but to have a combination of SharePoint collaboration and SAP Transactions in mobile boosts productivity. Especially when you are able to start working on things on your mobile device, continue them on your desktop, and finish them on your mobile device, or the other way round. All Sitrion apps (e.g. Benefits, Compensation, Time Management, Payroll, Manager Self-Services etc.) are built with a mobile-first approach. So they render in any browser that SharePoint supports including smartphones and tablets. Complete HTML5 and responsive. Additionally with Sitrion ONE we provide a full Mobile Application Development Platform, founded on a free Microsoft Visual Studio SDK, to create native mobile apps for the three major ecosystem (iOS, Android, Microsoft).
The underlying Sitrion framework allows you to easily build any kind of composite SharePoint/SAP app that then automatically renders not only on the desktop but also on mobile devices.
Comment From Guest: What are the specific benefits of using O365 in this unified approach to accessing SAP services?
Markus von Aschoff: While most organisations have an O365 license in their Enterprise Agreement, most are evaluating how to leverage it. The most common approach is to get email and Exchange into the cloud and then think about collaboration in the cloud. While research shows that e.g. Managers get 13% more productive (year-over-year) leveraging mobile and cloud-based access to business work items like approvals, just a tiny fragment of the organizations offer these. Just like organizations get the value in their on premise installations by leveraging the combination of collaboration and transactions, the same needs to happen in cloud-based environments. However at the moment there is just one solution on the market and we showcased it at the SharePoint Conference as well as at SAPPHIRE NOW. So with Sitrion you bring SAP processes and business value to O365.
Comment From Guest: To use Sitrion, is programming in required, say ABAP, JAVA or .NET?
Markus Dopp: With Sitrion you can let your SAP developers focus on ABAP and the .NET developers focusing on C# and HTML5. There is no need for a "universal" developer that knows everything. Also your SAP developers are not required to have middleware skills (e.g. Java, Gateway, OData, RFC etc.).
Comment From Rob: Do you have any reference material and examples for the Sitrion framework to understand its features set and steps need to integrate with the SAP PI? Let’s say I use OData as the protocol, what needs to be enabled so Sitrion can work?
Markus Dopp: Sitrion integrates with RFC and NetWeaver Gateway out of the box. PI endpoints can be integrated on a custom basis via our SDK and Visual Studio.
Comment From Keqin Wu: To integrate SAP Enterprise Portal into Microsoft SharePoint 2013, what's the basic requirement? What configuration work needs to be done? Is there a document for that?
Markus von Aschoff: Our customers report that they want to reduce the number of silos and consolidate, instead of investing in two technical solutions basically doing the same thing. The Sitrion approach is to deeply integrate into SAP, leverage prebuilt apps within SAP, and expose this to SharePoint within a web part.
Comment From Rob: Took a look at the http://www.sitrion.com/products/capabilities#sap/ and it doesn't explain how the framework integrates inbound/outbound data with SAP.
Markus von Aschoff: Feel free to join our product demos to learn more. And please ping me after the Q&A (firstname.lastname@example.org) to have a more detailed technical discussion.
Moderator: Thanks again, everyone, for joining us for today’s Q&A. While we didn't have time to cover every question, we wanted to ensure we covered a range of topics. And a big thanks to Markus Dopp and Markus von Aschoff of Sitrion for joining us today.
Markus von Aschoff: Thank you for having us. This has been fun! If anyone has more questions, please reach out to one of us directly at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage you to check out one of our on-demand product demos to see how we can help you create your own unified environment across business processes, HR, collaboration, mobile, document management, and so on.
From a collaboration viewpoint, you may also be interested in checking out our June 25 webinar with MPS Partners on creating “one” engaged workplace.
Have a great rest of your day, and we look forward to speaking with all of you soon.