Sapphire 2001 keynote: Open architecture opens doors to successful e-business

ORLANDO - For some of SAP AG's customers, it's not unusual to have to integrate as many as120 heterogeneous back-end systems. Some of these systems may not even be by SAP, but the German software giant is committed to building an architecture to support all back-end processes for their customers, according to Henning Kagermann, co-CEO and co-chair of SAP, who spoke at Sapphire 2001 here.

"I have not seen any case where (homogenous infrastructure) has been the reality," he said.

Kagermann then trotted out two SAP customers, consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble and the U.S. Army.

Proctor & Gamble had to decide whether to implement SAP in just a few business units, gradually, or to install the software across the entire organization. The company wanted its business planning, supply chain management and human resources management, among other functions, to be an integrated process, said Michael Power, vice president of Global Business Services for Proctor & Gamble.

P&G leveraged XML and EDI to automate transactions with suppliers. It also used private marketplaces and linked the back-end processes to a portal, Power said. Ultimately, the company decided to implement SAP across the entire organization.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army needed to ensure that each soldier was properly equipped, according to Paul Capelli, the army's program director. Prior to installing SAP, the army had been using two 30-year-old legacy systems that contained 20 million lines of COBOL code -- "state of the art for the 1970s," Capelli said.

The SAP ERP system was deployed to over 30,000 users, with the technical requirements of security, usage surges and scalability -- in times of war, the system will be heavily used.

In both cases, both the IT departments and end users gave SAP high marks.

Attendees applaud integration

Users are enthused at the prospect of having their SAP systems work with other software.

The keynote message of open architecture was one that resonated with Melanie Sudoway, an HR consultant with ARINSO. Corporations need to be able to share business processes to make things better for themselves, she said.

"SAP has a unique strategy for moving forward with the Internet," Sudoway said, referring to the company's commitment to portals, marketplaces and open-architecture.

"One thing about integration is that there are huge cost savings in open architecture with mySAP," said Paul Victor, SAP development manager at Guidant Corp.

The case studies were especially useful for Victor, who liked how SAP's customers approached their processes. It is not how most companies attack their implementations, he said.

Sam Cox, director at Walt Disney World, wished the customer information went deeper, however. The army example, especially vendor selection, was the most useful portion of the keynote because Walt Disney World is going through much of the same right now, he said.

"I feel better informed, but my mind hasn't been changed," Cox added. In the next three months, his company will select a vendor for company-wide ERP. Right now, Walt Disney World is using GIAC financial software, which isn't consolidated.

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