A journey in SAP Mobility

May 11th, 2012 admin Posted in Mobile | Comments Off on A journey in SAP Mobility

Jan 2012 – As someone from SAP Technology background, I started investigating how I could find a toe hold in Enterprise Mobility. The story below gives the knowledge points and the thought process behind that.

Alright – you are from SAP Technical (say ABAP) and/or Portal background, may know some Java and/or OOP and want to check out mobile development.

You know starting off in iOS development means owning a Mac at the minimum (if not also an iPhone/iPad/iPod) – since the development environments needs iOS. The easy one is going to be Android.

A mobile app is basically an interface to some logic or process. Games, Note taking, browsing is fine for native apps, but when it comes to using Mobile phones for doing work (like work!), it’s going to mean interfacing with the backend systems of a company. So it would mean that the backend enterprise applications would get opened up to be accessed by these devices. The devices have to managed, secured, etc. is one piece; the relevant piece here is what would be the application architecture that would enable this talking of mobile devices to backend applications.

There are hundreds of kinds of enterprise applications, and each would get exposed in some manner. Of course there are standards propping up to help out at the communications layer. Starting our journey to narrowing down our focus on SAP, well, as of Jan 2012 we surely know that SAP would expose its data through Sybase’s SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) product, and in turn through the SAP NetWeaver Gateway. Suffice it to know for now that data would come in the form is OData and would be read and interacted upon in a mobile device (OData protocol would let you programmatically act on application datasets using specific http commands like PUT, GET, POST, DELETE). SAP’s almost going away from SUP as a middleware is a separate topic in itself – though note that it would still need some configuration on the SUP side.

Exposing the business data and process logic in the right format would happen in the backend SAP using ABAP BAPIs, BOR, RFCs, Class Handlers, etc. (we have known that for a while using Portal, Web Services using SOAP, etc.); however the idea of using this data and creating a mobile app would ideally come down to learning some mobile frontend development and its integration to backend datasources as well (Its perhaps going to be a golden opportunity for developers and architects working at the cutting edge to understand how the different frontend mobile technologies work, and how to call out data from the backend and make sense out of it for the professional Mobile GUI developer).

So, knowing the basic architecture, I arrived at the following straw man approach to learning more, given that you cannot even have evaluation SUP software from Sybase (by the way Google various terms if you want to know more on them):

Understand OData source
Understand (only) how a certain BAPI or Function can be exposed to SAP Gateway to make it into an ODATA source. SAP Gateway, by the way, would be installed on top of your ECC system by Basis.

Find an experimental OData source
There are plenty of free ones available (check Azure); even from SAP, I could find one for using the famous Flight Data example.

Set up your Eclipse IDE with RESTlet API
Understand that SAP Gateway would expose SAP data as OData – it will be consumed using REST (Representational State Transfer). There is an OData SDK that is shipped with SUP. But not having SUP should not be a constraint. A RESTlet api can generate classes from OData that can be further used in mobile app development. Good enough as an example to learn.

Generate Proxy Classes
Generate the proxy java classes from RESTlet for the OData source. Use them in a test Java Main class to ensure this part of the story is in order.

Consume ODdata in an Android App
Next, it could be worth a POC to see how to consume OData in an Android App.

Consume any web data on an Android
In order to know this, understand how to consume RSS, XML or other web data in an Android app. App can be a mobile Web app, or a native App that uses this data. Knowing this can’t hurt.

That brings us to the question as to how to build an Android app.

Use eclipse and the Android SDK to build a test native app – setting up the environment and building a Hello World (it took about an hour or two). And you can run it on the Emulator (not even an Android phone is required). That part was fine. Followed on with building the Note taking app – a tutorial for which was also easily available, but the app itself was complex.

That got me to a point where I felt there would be easier ways to develop Android apps. As I looked online, I found a flood of information on different choices available and it took a while to make any sense out of it. Especially becomes troubling when you see each vendor claiming you can make an App in minutes, while you know that making those two apps in Eclipse was not really that easy and needs quite a bit of development and understanding.

IDE – use Eclipse Indigo, or use Basic4Android IDE or use Sencha

  • Appcelerator Titanium – lets you use Javascript and Html5 to code, but writes an Objective C or Java code that’s loaded up. Bought Aptana also.
  • Phonegap – is Open Source, owned by Adobe – lets you code in Javascript, but runs in a framework in the phone. Integrates with Dreamweaver 5.5.
  • Appmobi – lets you write code online, lets you code in javascript, but runs in a framework in the phone
  • Corona – supports apps for Nook, Kindle Fire amongst other Android and iOS
  • Others like Appgeyser, Mobilenationhq and App Inventor (Google – MIT) let you work online – drag and drop tools – probably of little use in enterprise world

The more I read, the more I got into how to make the apps platform agnostic with respect to Operating Systems (iOS, Android, Windows 7, BlackBerry, Bada, etc.) and also Device agnostic (Phones, Tablets, eReaders, TVs of different specifications and capabilities). The easy answer seemed like use of a Javascript library to leverage advances to HTM5 and CSS3 standards (making it even Browser agnostic). This could make most sense for cost conscious enterprise IT departments (more details on that is a separate topic in itself).
Or it would be for SAP to start closely supporting a couple of approaches, and create tools and processes to support it.

At a tactical level, I veered to the point of view that one really should be learning how to use jQuery for Mobile to create the app on the phone (its more than a web app as it still leverages the camera, the accelerometer, the GPS, etc.). jQuery Mobile seems like most obvious choice as is preferred by MS, Nokia, and even Google (though it also supports GWT). By the way, another competing framework is Ext JS used by Sencha. Yet another is Dojo.

My conclusion for short term is that one could continue coding basic Native app using Eclipse using Java to tie into backend systems. Or it will serve well to understand and know (short of an expert) jQuery Mobile for building end user interfaces that work across devices and platforms. There is an SDK available for JavaScript as well – called OData Javascript Library that could help leverage the SAP ERP data for these web apps.
As far as jQuery for Mobile is concerned, in any case, it will serve well to first understand some nuances of jQuery before one gets into more of the mobile version (I used Aptana Studio to work on it, with some free video tutorials from thenewboston.org). There may be further issues around Single Sign On, security, app provisioning, etc., using jQuery, but I don’t see them as insurmountable.

Not to miss the point, using SAP or Sybase’s SUP 2.1, one only gets code snippets for different platforms that then need to be inserted into a front end development environment of choice to build the final Mobile Apps. Sybase provides only limited front end development tools.

Of course this is one way the journey could have been taken. In mobile world, as you would know as well, there are numerous ways of getting to the same result. Or may be a little different result, but who knows what’s better. And this could just be the one way to learn, and many more could follow.

So that’s how far a week’s journey has taken me thus far.

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SAP Personal Shopping Assistant in Mobile Consumer Retail

October 9th, 2011 admin Posted in Apollo, Mobile | Comments Off on SAP Personal Shopping Assistant in Mobile Consumer Retail

икона за подаръкSAP Personal Shopping Assistant is a new breed of mobile retail application designed for the consumer market. Somewhat like iPhone and Android apps like ShopSavvy or RedLaser, but actually a lot more. While these apps sport features for tracking and crowd sourcing deals, finding out price-matching policies at various stores and finding out what store near you has a product in stock., SAP Personal Shopping Assistant provides deep value to interaction between a particular retailer and the consumer.

SAP had earlier this year introduced “Precision Retailing” powered by Apollo – which is at the crossroads of retail and technology.
Apollo completely changes the shopping experience for consumers, and also how retailers and consumer product (CP) companies can use it to influence customers.
The SAP Consumer Mobile Solution is a new offer tailored to the needs of retail and consumer products companies to create interactivity with consumers at the point of decision.

  • To the consumer, Apollo is a personal shopping assistant that delivers rich product information and special offers in real time through mobile phones.
  • To the retailer and CP, Apollo is a marketing tool that enables real time interaction with the consumer at the point of decision to inform and influence consumer behavior, drive traffic and increase average spend. Retailers and CPs are able to interact with consumers in the field, one-to-one, with a very high level of personalization.

The solution has two components: a consumer mobile application connected to a retail/CP marketing content management platform (on-demand application with role-based dashboards). It delivers customer context-specific information and special offers to the consumer both inside and outside the store, and enables the creation of a real-time information-based service covering the entire retail/CP value chain. The areas of focus include social communities, personal shopping assistant and closed loop couponing/special offers.

Unlike other companies that merely broadcast generic information to users, the SAP consumer centric solution ties consumer location and interests, to loyalty programs/buyer history and inventory information to create a personalized shopping experience, thereby maximizing value for consumers and merchants – it delivers true real-time, one-to-one content to the consumer to empower consumers at the point of decision.

Project Apollo leverages existing SAP products such as SAP Real Time Offer Management or SAP Business Object enabling SAP’s customers to interact with their consumers, in ‘real real-time’, with the right information depending on the shopping context.

The Global Business Incubator at SAP is a global organization dedicated to developing innovative businesses targeted at meeting the needs of new market opportunities. Each initiative is structured like a start-up company, consisting of a small team of individuals, responsible for all aspects of the firm – from strategic planning to tactical implementation – for all functional areas. An initiative CTO works with the product management and development teams.подаръци

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SAP Portal Interface Needs Polish and a lot more

September 28th, 2011 admin Posted in Portal | Comments Off on SAP Portal Interface Needs Polish and a lot more

It is interesting when SAP keeps touting new features for the Portal, for instance in Netweaever 7.3, when it is now that broad end user community is coming to terms with basic Portal functionality like surfacing roles for ESS, MSS or SRM. Surely, the smooth Single Sign On to various SAP apps helps end user experience as well though.
SAP continues to tout features like Workspaces, Wikis and Forums, Mashups, Web Page Composer from various versions through 7.3 – when what is really getting used is role based navigation, KB based document management, and the fact that you get a consolidated view into the backend systems using SAP Portal.
Most of the enterprises either use default SAP Portal Interface with two rows of navigation on the top and detailed navigation on the left calling in SAP transactions in the middle. Or they take a higher route, engaging some kind of user interface experts to totally revamp the look and feel, basing it on some creative use of pages created out of HTML, and stored in KM.
However SAP keeps convincing developers to use Web Page Composer, for instance to nicely design the pages. Yes, WYSIWYG is a good way to author content on Joomla (an open source Content Management System), but I doubt if anyone is looking to do that for an SAP Portal Home Page, when you have Enterprise IT resources and System Integrators available with either none, or sometimes creative strategies. None of them even looking at something as trivial as Web Page Composer.

SAP Portal Mashups

SAP Portal Mashups

Mashups: It will be interesting to note how many companies are using a page with Supplier, Materials and the page going into Material Details and then showing the Supplier location page that also displays a Google Maps – as an example of external service integration – all instances of what SAP calls Mashups. Its time these examples need to come out of SAP’s demo instances and Teched Workshops, into the real world, i.e. if there are any takers.
SAP Portal Interface Needs Improvement

SAP Portal Interface Needs Improvement

Sure SAP keeps coming out with improvements for administrators and developers like File Extension and Size filter in KM or Transports of KM, or various APIs for third party integration – all is fine, but any substantial improvement in the end user interface seems still off radar. Yes, AJAX based interface makes things slick, but real improvement is required at how, for example, is the experience of a supplier in the supplier Portal. Is an Office Admin at a Supplier partner able to easily maintain the user profile, and look at Product Categories? This is an age of Facebook and Google where user interfaces don’t let there be any click more than necessary. Unless SAP can bring forth easier and simplified navigation to what an end user has to do, any amount of progress in SAP Portal features will essentially go nowhere.

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Understanding upcoming opportunities in SAP’s mobile play

February 23rd, 2011 admin Posted in Mobile | 2 Comments »

почистване“Without Mobile, There Ain’t No Real-Time Enterprise”. Enterprise pundits are only beginning to imagine how mobile will change the game not only in business logistics, but how the entire Human Resources user experience can be revolutionized by mobile. With SAP having the business processes, and Sybase an ace in mobile and network messaging, the most immediate synergy and a profound impact at enterprise level is in making. Mobile 1.0 era thus far has only boosted efficiency. 2.0 will now herald the real-time enterprise.

Know that Sybase primarily does not bring apps to the table, nor the backend. Sybase’s well-honed mobile device management software is the actual differentiator. Sybase’s products ensure that enterprises look at all devices as IP addresses only. The software takes away the burden of handling the different mobile device platforms. What the mobile devices will themselves do is a function of integration with backend, and the ingenuity of the developers who will create the user interfaces.

SAP used Sybase’s mobile platform before it bought the company. This May, the combined company plans to release a system development kit (SDK) for third-party developers and customers to build applications on top of the SAP-Sybase platform. It will “work on all kinds of phones”, and you should not need to write different applications because it’s a different phone. It is designed to connect to other applications, not only SAP applications, but also with Oracle and other competitors’ applications.

However, with this major realignment underway in underlying architecture, there are some clouds over what SAP talks in its documentation and training available today.

Backend data can continued to be consumed by the way of exposed Web Services, or even by use of BAPI’s via JCA. Netweaver Mobile Data Orchestration Engine (DOE) can also be used. However, SAP’s old LMS (Light Mobile Server) technology is giving way to the new SAP Gateway as a backend access tool (Architecturally, LMS, Project Gateway, and even SAP Mobile Connector are similar).
If you want to think in which direction is the momentum – SAP’s NetWeaver Mobile team has moved into the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) team. DOE will be integrated into SUP.

Now, there are two categories of mobile app in the SAP vision:
1. Instant Value
2. Mission Critical

SAP had already designed some sample instant value apps using LMS. However they have recently been rewritten using Gateway and are in beta for some time now:
– Employee Lookup
– Travel Expense Capture
– ERP Sales Lookup
– Mobile StreamWork

Now Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) is a layer between data and its consumption. Some instant Value mobile applications may not need a lot of advanced services offered by Sybase Unwired Platform and they can be written without using Sybase Unwired Platform. However, there will be other Instant Value Mobile Apps that can be written on SUP and SUP will in turn consume SAP data in four different ways, including preferably using Project Gateway. The mission critical apps will likely use more of SUP.
Note that Sybase Unwired Platform can be used to connect to non-SAP data and applications as well. It will act as a synchronization middleware, amongst other things and with functionality like providing security and management (Afaria).

Ultimately, Project Gateway has a very important role to play in making it extremely simple to consume SAP data through any popular environment or device. It is already the key enabling technology for the latest behind SharePoint and Duet Enterprise for Office users to connect to SAP applications (and apparently also for similar access through IBM’s Lotus technology). And Project Gateway technology is forming the underpinning for enabling access to SAP applications through Mobile devices as well. SAP’s plan is to integrate Project Gateway and Sybase Unwired Platform as well as part of their Mobile SDK project (as announced here: http://www.sap.com/usa/about/newsroom/press.epx?pressid=14101).

Sybase mobile SDK includes SUP and the Project Gateway which connects mobile apps to SAP data and processes. It will include server and client APIs, API libraries and development tools build around Eclipse. The SDK will also enable GUI design via HTML5, and offer pre-built HTML5 mobile app templates.

If you are a developer or a system integration organization, get ready for multiple opportunities
(1) Building add-ons to the mobile SDK
(2) Selling analytics apps on SAP’s EcoHub
(3) Build EPM (enterprise performance management) apps linked to SAP
(4) customizing mobile apps – 100% of enterprise customers add customizations to their mobile apps today

Opportunities will be plentiful; what is required is to position ahead of time, both for individuals, and organizations.вик услугиКартиниИдея за подаръкикониikoniикониПравославни иконииконописikoni

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SAP StreamWork – Enterprise 2.0 of collaboration portal and BI

August 13th, 2010 admin Posted in BI, Collaboration | 1 Comment »

холови гарнитуридомейнSAP has released a new collaboration portal that the vendor says will help end users make faster and better business decisions, the latest in a wave of products bringing collaboration to business intelligence (BI).

SAP StreamWork, previously known as 12Sprints while in beta testing, allows users to access and share documents, including Excel spreadsheets, BI reports and data visualizations, all from one environment.

Users can create action plans around specific tasks, invite colleagues to participate, and track their progress against business goals.

As for StreamWork, which was released at the end of March, SAP is working on integrating it with its business software – specifically CRM – but wasn’t ready to specify when that would be ready. The focus now is on bringing in more tools and templates from partners, facilitated through StreamWork’s open APIs.

StreamWork is a collaboration portal that allows users to work together on one screen — creating action plans around specific tasks, inviting colleagues to participate in work, and tracking progress against business goals. There’s a free version and an enhanced version that costs $108 per year on average, according to SAP. The professional edition – which has higher limits for recording and storing information — costs $9 per user, according to Gartner.

But StreamWork as a collaborative decision-making platform isn’t quite there yet, according to analysts.

It has some good capabilities – including tracking activities and recording collaborations, as well as integration with email, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Adobe, WebEx, Evernote and Box.net. But it has limited capabilities for defining decision attributes such as success criteria, priority and due dates as metadata. It doesn’t show participants where they are in the decision process. It doesn’t suggest the right participants based on relevant skills or past successes with similar decisions. Also, according to a Gartner report, it doesn’t allow participants to mine previous decisions for best practices, techniques and templates.

According to an Article in Forbes magazine (by Dan Woods – where he compared various collaborative software offerings by other companies) SAP StreamWork has taken steps in the direction of offering structure to one form of collaboration: making decisions. StreamWork proposes a model for making a decision, tracking the arguments for and against, capturing the supporting evidence and the key objections. The goal of the product is to not only accelerate collaboration during the decision-making process, but also to provide a historical record. As the results of decisions come in, it is possible to see what was right and what was wrong about how the decision was made.

Some reviews of StreamWork have focused on the lack of one feature or another without recognizing the potential that such a decision-making system could have on management. For example, it is not at all unusual in business for a team to be tasked with making a decision, prepare a methodical case and then have the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) carry the day without much regard for the analysis. If an archive of the decision is available at the time of the decision, and more importantly, known to be available later, it is much less likely that the analysis will be ignored.

In a sense, StreamWork applies the Lean Manufacturing concept of standardizing work to the process of decision making, which makes a variety of continuous improvement processes possible. First of all, you can see what evidence turned out to be most predictive. I was surprised when the StreamWork product managers told me that they did not consider direct connectivity to SAP ERP data such as purchase orders or materials masters or budgets to be of primary importance. They said business intelligence analyses were the key evidence most of the time to support decisions.

Another nice feature according to Dan: Because you can see who said what about the decision, it is possible to see who has the best intuition for predicting the behavior of consumers, markets, competitors, regulators or anything else. Also, in most companies decisions take far too long. By standardizing the process, people can stop reinventing the wheel again and again and start focusing on the data needed to justify a decision.

And according to an article on zdnet.com, with demise of Google Wave, could SAP’s Streamwork be next for the chop?

SAP Mentors use it and as part of that see plenty of problems with that technology, not least the persistent email notifications when something changes. It’s downright annoying. But for some the big issue is that they don’t get it.

During SAPPHIRE 2010 a senior evangelist for Streamwork was asked what it’s about. She replied that Streamwork is a social application that helps people make collaborative decisions. But still one wonders where is the process element that ties a user back to economic activities? Perhaps not easy to find.

As a user pointed out, people who live in the enterprise world have a hard enough time juggling different applications. Why would they step into something like Streamwork and then back out to the app they use on a day to day basis? It doesn’t make sense.

Hopefully SAP will keep Streamwork alive and find a way to integrate it to apps in a contextual manner. If its own mentors using it are at pains using it, how can SAP sell it as an innovation?

Enterprise 2.0 is the strategic integration of Web 2.0 technologies into an enterprise’s intranet, extranet and business processes. Enterprise 2.0 implementations generally use a combination of social software and collaborative technologies like blogs, RSS, social bookmarking, social networking and wikis. Most enterprise 2.0 technologies, whether homegrown, free or purchased, emphasize employee, partner and consumer collaboration. Such technologies may be in-house or Web-based. Companies using YouTube for vlogging or a private Facebook group as a modified intranet, for instance, are implementing a form of Enterprise 2.0.икони на светциСувенири

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Sybase Mobile Apps for SAP – whats next?

May 12th, 2010 admin Posted in Mobile | Comments Off on Sybase Mobile Apps for SAP – whats next?

SAP’s $5.8 Billion purchase of Sybase suddenly brings to focus Sybase as a visionary enterprise mobile apps company, more than just what it is usually known for – a database vendor.
Looking at Sybase from within the SAP world, it looked like a database company that of course no SAP customer uses, and with a couple of mobile apps for SAP. Considering that there are now tens and tens of thousands of mobile apps now being produced by perhaps thousands of small and big companies and even individuals, Sybase’s mobile apps appeared as handiwork of a small group of developers within Sybase. The demo of their app “Mobilizing SAP CRM and Workflow on iPhone” in Teched in Phoenix seemed just like that – just an entry in the Demo Jam (most of the entries are by individual developers). The Jam session highlighted a day in the life of a sales rep using the Sybase Mobile CRM and Workflow for SAP functionality on an iPhone.
Today Sybase only advertises a couple of Mobile scenarios for SAP – Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP® CRM and Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite.

And the platforms supported are iPhone, Windows Mobile, and to some extend Nokia Symbian and Blackberry. Support for Android, and even Palm and the new Windows 7 could become critical in coming months.

There is no doubt that as an SAP’s independent business unit, Sybase would now double and quadruple development efforts more SAP scenarios. Which SAP process could become early candidates, it would be interesting to see. Some of the Employee Self Service and Manager Self Service apps could be early candidates, in addition to more robust support for Inbox, Travel and Expense, etc.

It would also be interesting to see how Sybase’s embedded database and Mobile Data Management could be put to even better use, like synching up with some SAP data for the user, and helping even in offline scenarios: if people could do their expense reporting on the phone while sitting in an airplane, they would love it.

Sybase is such an engine with the telecom companies with SMS and MMS, etc. – the old SMS could find an easy application as a notification medium for some workflows.

Sybase has also developed strategic alliances with leading mobility solutions providers, including Apple, Samsung, Verizon and RIM and leading  service providers including Verizon, Orange, and MobiDM – all this could give SAP a decisive edge in getting enterprise data to millions of enterprise users on the move.
Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP® CRM provides anywhere, anytime access to SAP® Customer Relationship Management. It is supported on iPhone and Windows Mobile smartphones, with support planned for additional devices, such as RIM. Remote access to CRM data from mobile device and is fully certified and supported by both SAP and Sybase, and leverages the proven mobile infrastructure strengths of Sybase Unwired Platform and SAP NetWeaver®. The solution provides full access to SAP CRM accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, activities and analytics all from a mobile device.

Key functionality includes Account and Contact Management, Lead and Opportunity Management, Activity Management, Sales Documents and Analytics and Customization and Enhancement Capabilities.


Sybase mobile sales for SAP

Using the Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite solution, mobile workers can now receive and manage SAP Universal Worklist notifications and alerts on their mobile device of choice. Pre-defined processes, such as requests and approvals for travel or leave can quickly be completed on the go. Additionally, clock-in/clock-out activities can easily be recorded directly in to the SAP Business Suite system, all from a mobile device. The solution currently supports iPhone, Windows Mobile and Nokia Series 60 smartphones, with support planned for additional devices, such as RIM BlackBerry smartphones.
Universal Worklist Workflows, Alerts & Notifications
Leave and Travel Requests
Clock-in/Clock-out Capabilities

Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite

Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite

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SAP StreamWork for collaboration

April 14th, 2010 admin Posted in Collaboration | Comments Off on SAP StreamWork for collaboration

SAP StreamWork is a web-based collaboration product.
StreamWork aims to help groups of employees make better collaborative decisions. Previously known as 12sprints, SAP StreamWork has come out of beta release and is now generally available.
Pricing starts at $9 a month for each user. There is also a free edition with limited storage and features.

There is also an integration API available: https://streamwork.com/api/Table_of_Contents.html

Or follow the page on Facebook here.

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BI user experience with SAP’s own Business Objects

October 8th, 2007 admin Posted in BI | 2 Comments »

>матрациng the Teched in Las Vegas last week, BI201 – SAP NetWeaverBusiness Intelligence Roadmap touted new Java-based Front-end and BI Integrated Planning as having high adoption and perceived as quantum leap in user experience.
And on Sunday, SAP’s planned acquisition of Business Objects creates interesting situation for end user (front end) access to SAP Business Intelligence (BI, or BW) data (good SAP has started inserting a disclaimer on every Roadmap document).
While the ‘new’ technology roadmap is far from clear, there is going to be significant overlap of end user tools amongst SAP BI, Business Objects and even an earlier acquisition from this year: OutlookSoft. Specifically, the performance management tools of OutlookSoft buyout (in turn acquired from Cartesis) overlap with Business Object’s own performance management offerings to a good degree.
This is just a clear admission on SAP’s part that its own BI end-user tools were not real. There indeed have been recent major reverses for SAP when big companies went through an evaluation of BI frontend tools, and many came up recommending Business Objects for giving end users’ valuable access to enterprise data in SAP BI cubes. This will clearly be a win situation for many clients, and market intelligence of this nature could have be a factor in influencing SAP’s move in acquiring Business Objects.
For foreseeable future, Business Objects’ products are expected to remain “agnostic” – able to work just as well with databases and applications from competitors as with SAP systems. In its understanding of the world, SAP may be able to teach a lesson or two in process ‘centricity’, as compared to data-centric view most BI Vendors traditionally hold. What will be critical in coming months would be how much a focus does Business Object entity loose on innovaton and product improvement as it tries to integrate with the acquisition. And in longer term, as it tries to integrate its products with SAP’s product line.
SAP’s Web Services enabled Netweaver platform, standardized on top of J2EE should make integration easier. Business Objects end user queries run on Java, .Net and COM technologies. One quick next step could be to standardize BusinessObjects Enterprise, Application Foundation, BusinessObjects Enterprise XI and specifically BusinessObjects Analytics on SAP’s own Java application server. Then may follow other products like SAP Identity Management as the LDAP repository.

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SAP SEM gives way to OutlookSoft based BPC

September 23rd, 2007 admin Posted in BI | 3 Comments »

There is shuffle in one more area of SAP. The SEM (Strategic Enterprise Management) module build on top of BW is loosing out of favor. For all practical purposes, the future direction in Performance Management and planning seems to be the new avatar of SAP’s acquisition Outlooksoft. Outlooksoft was a medium size player in this area. But SAP has known to have problems with SEM. The product and its platform have been rigid. The models created by planners have been very difficult to be integrated into the SEM module, and have very often required intervention of developers to enhance the code. On top of it, SEM had limited web based tools, and the platform basically posed challenges on the frontend side. Give and take, SAP’s own offering has been a laggard and it was a matter of time before the realization to plug the whole dawned.
Outlooksoft had lowered the cost of entry to integrated business performance management by creating applications based around Microsoft’s SQL Server database and Excel. The latest Outlooksoft 5 release has been redesigned with a service-oriented architecture that makes it easier to deploy the product via the web and with different databases – which closely mirror’s SAP’s product philosophy. This also simplifies integration with SAP’s own NetWeaver Business Intelligence (BI) infrastructure.

Industry analyst Gartner reported that SAP would continue to develop its Strategic Enterprise Management (SEM) and Business Warehouse products and seek to roll out OutlookSoft as a companion application to act as the “face” of the underlying SAP systems.

SAP said it planned to sell the integrated OutlookSoft-SAP products by the end of this year. SAP acquired Russian strategy management specialist Pilot Software, while it also sells the Profit Analyzer program developed by Acorn Systems.
An example scenario for end user interaction is – say a car manufacturer using Outlooksoft for budgeting would be guided through changes in product plans by a set of Excel-driven wizards, email alerts and narrative guides in Word and PowerPoint format. There is some level of integration with the Microsoft Office 2007 suite allowing Word, Excel and PowerPoint users to “consume” business performance information over the web

In SAP’s Business Planning and Consolidation’s ((formerly Outlooksoft)current 5.1 release, there is almost no change from Outlooksoft – its the old product with an SAP logo. Future releases will be based on the NW OLAP engine (ROLAP) engine, leveraging the capabilities included in NW around access performance. Future release will also be available on the Microsoft stack

The next release of BPC will not be integrating to BI-IP. That is, the next release of BPC will read/write to NW BI InfoCubes built specifically to support BPC. Front-end convergence (i.e. being able to use the OSFT front-end on say a BI-IP cube) is planned for the subsequent release.

The OutlookSoft solution does require a specific data model (i.e. certain mandatory dimensions which have certain mandatory properties, different way of handling non-cumulative figures, currency conversions, etc). So, unfortunately, it’s not “plug and play” as far as front-ends and functions, etc go.
You will still create your own Dimensions and assign them to cubes. There will also be additional meta data tables that the OutlookSoft application and client uses, which are also very important. You cannot just pick a cube and make the OutlookSoft solution run on top of it (at least not for the release next year).

More information on this topic: https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/weblogs?blog=/pub/wlg/7004

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Whitepaper – Netweaver Business Client and SAP Netweaver Portal

September 13th, 2007 admin Posted in Netweaver, Portal, webdynpro | 2 Comments »

NetWeaver Business Client (NWBC) is a rich client that can access all of SAP’s business applications. It runs not only new Web Dynpro or Visual Composer applications but also classical Dynpros (standard SAPGUI screens), BSP pages, analytic dashboards, iViews, portal pages, etc.

Too much detail on this is not forthcoming – other than an interview explaining the approach by Vishal Sikka, CTO of SAP and this whitepaper USING THE SAP NETWEAVER ENTERPRISE PORTAL AND NETWEAVER BUSINESS CLIENT. A few months back, the time line on this was another 18 months or so. SAP may be giving access to specific clients/partners for beta testing.
Some documentation has started referencing NWBC so probably its on the horizon.
NWBC will essentially enable users to switch between a Web-style UI and a desktop-style UI.

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