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From BPR to ESA: Holistic Governance

by Adolf Allesch

August 11, 2009

Renovating your business processes today for enterprise SOA tomorrow requires dealing with governance issues, and different parts of your system require different forms of governance. A holistic approach delineates an appropriate governing body for each component of SAP NetWeaver.

Governance is the most overused and misunderstood term in IT today. It means different things to different people — everything from spreadsheet tools to IT standards to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Perhaps as a result, governance rarely gets the attention it needs during implementation. Yet, it is needed now more than ever. Early adopters of SAP NetWeaver-based business-process renovation have learned that sustaining the new solutions demands an all-encompassing or holistic view of governance, because the products allow users to transcend application and network boundaries with ease.

I define business-process renovation as different from business-process reengineering (BPR), since SAP capabilities today, such as composite applications, are so much more complex than they were in the 1990s. Business-process renovation also includes a robust network that uses technology such as wireless fidelity (WiFi) and Extensible Markup Language (XML) that did not exist at that time. Then, business-process design was limited to the package (SAP R/3), client (desktop/SAP GUI), or network (inside the firewall). Today, application architecture is a key element in any implementation, and business-process renovation is defined as a deep understanding of SAP NetWeaver capabilities, plus application architecture, plus holistic governance.

Holistic Governance

Renovated business processes are complex by design. Users today access data, transact business, and control information further upstream (and downstream) than they did in yesterday’s enterprise computing model. To ensure continuity and keep your costs under control, you need strict adherence to rules, use of key resources, and guidance from governing bodies throughout the renovation. The challenges that project teams face today are: What rules? What resources? What governing bodies?

Governance comes in a variety of flavors: corporate governance, technology governance, information governance, and architecture governance. Starting an SAP NetWeaver enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA) renovation project, you need to align your team, integrator, and steering committee to the particular type of governance you need.

Earlier in my career, I researched a number of advisory sources for information on governance “nuggets” I could use for business-process renovation. None existed! They had nothing specific (tactical) to renovated business processes developed using enterprise services architecture (ESA). Governing the design, implementation, and post-support needs of enterprise SOA requires both a wide and deep view of the applications, processes, and architecture; you have to be holistic in your thinking.

The renovation designs that evolve need to thoroughly cover the components of SAP NetWeaver, such as SAP NetWeaver Portal, SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (SAP NetWeaver XI), and SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management (SAP NetWeaver MDM), and the specifics of the business process itself. For example, my team found 14 areas — we call them “moving parts” — to govern in SAP NetWeaver Portal (visit; search for “portal governance”). They are the building blocks for business-process renovation that are housed in the portal. Items such as content, searching, and collaboration all require a degree of governing rigor. For example, you could argue that roles exist in SAP R/3 and other applications and we govern them today, so what’s the issue? How does renovation differ?

The first element in the renovation equation is a deep understanding of the SAP NetWeaver components. By design, navigation and access are done in the front-end system — in the portal — while entitlement occurs in the back-end systems. Using the portal blurs this fact for most project teams. After deployment, when organizational changes, promotions, or acquisitions occur, the “separation of powers” becomes evident, frustrating the users. When the browser is your sole means of access, the right to use applications and content is essential. So, how did this become such a common problem?

User management and role management are basic foundation areas in today’s systems. When these areas are neither well defined during a portal implementation nor holistically governed after deployment, any user changes (promotions, transfers, language needs) result in accessibility issues and calls to the help desk. For holistic governance to be achieved, the project team needs to define user management (in terms of LDAP integration, role migrations) and role management (in terms of unique content, number of roles per user, composite and nested roles, role assignments, role language) as part of the portal deployment.

Roles, Responsibilities, and Reporting Relationships

For whatever governance model you use, you begin with a set of principles that fit your company’s business strategies and operating model, which determine how you plan to go to market (by channels, geographies) and how you plan to align your IT (shared service, outsourced, decentralized). Then, you translate your principles into specific roles, responsibilities, and reporting relationships. Your SAP NetWeaver program challenges your current operating models to validate how well the renovated processes will fit. Then, the policies and procedures needed to operate and maintain the renovated processes are defined.

Using portal roles, for example, let’s look at the current governing hierarchy. Evaluating and defining what the steering committee, functional councils, operating groups, and stewardship communities will do and how they will interact with the project is not a trivial task. Policies and procedures need to govern user management and role management through the lifecycle, as well as define and map them to the appropriate decision-making process — governing hierarchy.

Taking such a holistic approach, two issues may come up:

  • A single governing hierarchy isn’t appropriate for all SAP NetWeaver components. For instance, portal roles have governing needs that are different from content administration and collaboration.

  • Each SAP NetWeaver component needs an appropriate governing hierarchy.

Similarly, each SAP NetWeaver component requires a different business-process renovation structure. One size does not fit all. If your future governance approach is radically different from the current one, you may want to transition it over time in more than one step. An example would be migrating centralized role management to divisional or departmental control, using the portal’s delegated administration feature.

As you renovate your business processes, keep the renovation equation in mind and apply governance in an all-encompassing manner.

Adolf Allesch is the vice president of SAP NetWeaver Solutions at Capgemini. A pioneer with the Web and an early adopter of, he is now the SAP NetWeaver evangelist at Capgemini. He specializes in technology-enabled business transformation using SAP and is a frequent presenter at SAP events worldwide. You may contact him at


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