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ROI series: Building a business case for SAP: NetWeaver

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Q: "I'm the IT director for a mid-sized business. I have to give a presentation for the front office next month, and I'd like to convince them that SAP NetWeaver is the right choice for our organization. We are already running plain-vanilla R/3. Can you help me design a business case for NetWeaver?"

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A: A good generic business case for NetWeaver has three important elements, though there are many more specific components to a NetWeaver business case, depending on the company, its size, existing experience with SAP, and vertical industry, among others.

At the top of the list, regardless of the specifics, is the ability of NetWeaver to position a company for growth and innovation. NetWeaver and its Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) allow companies to match their business needs and IT capabilities in a much more comprehensive fashion than has been possible using older technologies. This allows IT assets to be highly supportive of business development, instead of acting as a barrier to progress. The processes that support new business opportunities can be automated much more effectively and completely, and that next level of automation, delivered as composite applications running in NetWeaver, can significantly improve a company's chances for success and growth.

Similarly, innovation across the organization can be better supported with a flexible services architecture that lets your employees be better and more effective users of technology. NetWeaver can enable innovation at two important levels: Innovation at the process level – businesses will be made to run much more efficiently by using NetWeaver as a platform for improving business processes. And innovation can greatly facilitated at the product or service level – NetWeaver can give users a rich palette of functionality on which to build new products or services in a much more efficient and effective way.

Finally, the ability of NetWeaver and ESA to support the above tasks while leveraging existing IT functionality is a very important part of the overall business case. Two things can happen when NetWeaver is used in this manner. The first is that the absolute value of existing IT functionality can improve significantly due to the ability of NetWeaver to improve the use of existing IT assets. The second is that user productivity can also improve significantly -- users are able in many cases to work within existing applications or use much more streamlined interfaces to accomplish their tasks, both of which can save on training costs and boost user acceptance and utilizations rates.

NetWeaver is not a panacea – it can't make a great company out of a mediocre one. But it can help position a company for greatness in ways that make it a compelling platform for business change.

This was first published in April 2006

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