Guess many of you followed the wild adventures of Lee Provoost in semi-realtime mashed-up mode, twittering and videotaping his way through the SAP TechEd 2008 in Berlin (and many other related and unrelated subjects for that matter). Here is another go at this big event, written by our excellent guest blogger and colleague Mendel Koerts.
SAP TechEd Berlin – Some t’s left to cross
Berlin was buzzing with SAP Tech talk the past week. It was as if TechEd arrived a month too early though, since 7-11 appeared to be the magic number. Provided of course that you interpret this as being equivalent to November 7, and not July 11… This funny semantic thing with dates brings me straight to one of the things I still struggle with: you need to be on top of SAP news continuously in order not to get ‘Lost in Translation’. Terminology remains an issue. What to think of ‘developing a composite business process’ for the ’Business Process Enterprise‘, using a tool called the NetWeaver Composition Environment (NW CE)? You can build composite applications, sure, by all means; it saves you from having to break down existing silos. But IT always s_u_p_ p_o_r_t_s the execution of business activities, remember. Even a fully automated process does not replace the process itself.
And is it just me who looks for a comprehensive big picture first? Have something visual to point at and then zoom in to the details? Like this concept of separating business processes management from business processes execution. And from there, look at various ways to direct an activity flow. With ‘business rules’ for instance. No, no, wait, I wasn’t alluding to SAP NetWeaver Business Rules Management (NW BRM) just yet… the automation of process management using digitally captured business rules, indeed, that is the IT side of it. And BRM is one of those tools that should definitely be present in any Business Process Management Suite (BPMS).

And is it just me who looks for a comprehensive big picture first? Have something visual to point at and then zoom in to the details? Like this concept of separating business processes management from business processes execution. And from there, look at various ways to direct an activity flow. With ‘business rules’ for instance. No, no, wait, I wasn’t alluding to SAP NetWeaver Business Rules Management (NW BRM) just yet… the automation of process management using digitally captured business rules, indeed, that is the IT side of it. And BRM is one of those tools that should definitely be present in any Business Process Management Suite (BPMS).
Strikingly, SAP does not have such a BPMS on the price list. There is this tool called NW Business Process Management (BPM) however, which was, remarkably, positioned as part of the NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE). Remarkable, because by composing an application you basically automate the order in which process steps are to be executed. In other words: process management. It is certainly not mandatory to build steps into your composite application where user interaction is required. If you do so however and in such a way that this user is guided through e.g. an on-line sales process, you find yourself developing Guided Procedures. Which, I have learned, I should now transition to NW BPM; some logic after all.
What you associate ‘architecture’ with, typically tells a lot about yourself I guess. Speakers at the sessions I attended were obviously not talking about say opera buildings in Sydney. The one presenter made me instantly believe that architecture has always been about Java software components, where another was very persistent in using architecture as a term to circumscribe a set of installed SAP products. It was indirectly implied that if you are in his audience, you are near of kin to the speaker’s vocabulary.
Nevertheless I heard excellent things about patterns and anti-patterns, or good systems engineering practices versus better-to-avoid practices and, I even heard TechnoVision’s You Experience, service-orientation and Processes-on-the-Fly mentioned in one go – amplify on this thought; it might exactly be the big picture of ‘FutureSAP’.
Also notice worthy is some splendid thinking around SOA methods. Four SAP-provided methods passed in review and it was pointed out how these cope with the methodological requirements tied to the SOA era. A renewed version of the SOA methodology will be put on-line on SDN soon and SAP is also working on a BPM-oriented methodology. There is however only one end-to-end method that leads you from strategic intent all the way to the delivery of strategy while taking ‘thinking services’ as leading principle. And that is ArchitectedSAP, developed by Capgemini.
SAP has very well advanced I believe, compared to the somewhat disappointing TechEd 2006 in Amsterdam. SAP is delivering on its promise, judging the latest and neatest features of SAP NetWeaver 7.1.1 products. A major leap was made. Even though a unified message and a clear overall picture are missing, many pieces of the puzzle are now there. As promised.