SAP Business Suites aren’t new, as release 7 clearly shows, but if you think SAP means long to mature, relative expensive investment mainly for the benefit of the CFO in operating the business then release 7 may be a surprise. I don’t normally Blog on commercial releases and products, but given the huge installed base of SAP then its probably going to be of interest to comment on how SAP seems to be changing its model to focus much more on how their customers can use their installed ERP systems to drive lighter weight highly focussed projects. Their challenge seems to be that a lot of what they have done and are doing doesn’t seem to be well understood by people outside the normal SAP community. Even more particularly SAP are actually shipping solutions for business that really use SOA and show what it can do, hence why I wanted to draw attention to the topic.
It’s not that the marketing materials aren’t there, it’s more the right people aren’t being addressed in my humble opinion. In a sense SAP is the victim of their own success as they have created their own communities around ERP, its role, operation and functionality and a lot of what they have been bringing to the market doesn’t fit with these people, their interests, expectations of SAP or even their roles in their enterprise. Starting with NetWeaver SAP essentially moved into a new generation of technology, but the people most likely to evaluate and deploy NetWeaver were most likely to be trying to over come what they saw as the inflexibility inherent in ERP, and those responsible for the ERP systems didn’t understand NetWeaver, or even why you might want it! Stalemate!

NetWeaver is a comprehensive set of parts to build an SOA layer over your existing ERP and allows pretty open integration with other common vendors products as it supports all the right standards, or de facto approaches, so it really should have been a no brainer for any enterprise with an investment in SAP ERP base to take a long hard look. May be they did and I didn’t notice, but it doesn’t seem to have made the headway I would have expected. It was a perfectly respectable contender in the Middleware stakes, not that this was the SAP goal. The SAP goal was to use SOA to be able to build real Business Solutions, something that many people are still struggling to make headway doing in their enterprise. There was a part that I think confused us all, and that was the naming; X-Apps what was that all about? Well actually it was in some ways a reasonable name as it was quite descriptive, but it was unique to SAP at the very time when perhaps they needed to be aligned to the rest of the industry naming conventions to tell people that they were now in a new market.
Anyway with NetWeaver came Business Suite, a bundle of specific business applications extending core ERP up into specific areas, built using NetWeaver, but also described by SAP as ERP! So back to the future! Add some other products and at first glance it was difficult to sort out the picture SAP was trying to paint, but as became clear there was and is a strong logic; however it took some interesting Blogging to sort it out! However by the beginning of 2008 it was all becoming much clearer and AMR analyst Jim Shepherd produced his summary of how the pieces were coming together in his report on ‘Five strategies of SAP you need to understand’ stating; “SAP will spend much of 2008 aligning the release schedule of the major products within the SAP Business Suite: ERP, CRM, PLM, SCM, and SRM. Beginning in 2009, it will begin shipping enhancement packages for the Business Suite.”
So here we are almost a year later and as promised/ predicted here is Business Suite 7; and yes it does make sense with all the other SAP products; and yes it is well integrated; and yes it is SOA based; and yes you can integrate other products with it yourself; and yes other vendors are integrating with it such as the recent announcement with IBM for Lotus Notes.
In the launch material comes the opening statement; ‘a new approach is needed’ which is defined as ‘moving from linear / point to point to Dynamic / Collaborative’ and this sets the tone for the whole approach. The key bullets given to explain the new approach are;

  • No more stove pipes; flexible end to end processes
  • Deploy as you go; stepwise projects and installation
  • No more upgrades; enhancement packages = innovation packages
  • Dynamic; re-usable enterprise services
  • Industry-focussed; delivers integrated industry solutions
  • Extensible; easy expansion beyond ERP

Now that’s the kind of capabilities that we have all been looking for from SOA; finally, the message from this offering appears to address the enterprise’s needs from a business perspective! Though all the details of exactly how to work with Business Suite 7 are not out yet, its got to be worth taking a closer look at. Even if it is SAP and you are not an SAP person! I am just waiting for the first blogs that start to explain the details! Best place to look for them is at:
* ASAP does not in any way refer to the ASAP Methodology introduced by SAP a few years ago! It is a suggestion to move quickly to take advantage of this Business Suite!