Topping the list of things that SAP customers should know about NetWeaver is this simple fact: NetWeaver is not...
an option. That's what Capgemini consultant Dale Young tells clients who are trying to grasp the scope and impact of SAP's integrated technology stack, the foundation of all its future releases.
"NetWeaver will be in your architecture," said Young, who recently addressed SAP decision makers at the 2004 SearchSAP.com conference. "The questions are: 'What stays? What goes? How will it be leveraged?' "
Young told the crowd they needed to acknowledge that NetWeaver would become a part of their lives sooner or later, and that the technology "fundamentally changes the way SAP solutions are deployed."
Describing current SAP offerings as "function based" and difficult to navigate, Young said NetWeaver will provide users with a Web-based, consistent look and feel throughout their SAP systems, and a single record of truth.
So how do you deploy NetWeaver? According to Young, the starting point isn't the most obvious -- a NetWeaver product review of new features and capabilities. Rather, Young said, SAP managers need a long-term business plan.
"You have to look at your plan on a component-by-component basis," Young said. "The real value of NetWeaver lies in deployment of multiple components."
Is NetWeaver ready for prime time? Yes, Young said, individual components may be more ready than others. Enterprise Portal and BW/SEM, for example, are both established in handling SAP and non-SAP data. But NetWeaver's Exchange Infrastructure is not yet reaching its potential in high-volume environments, though release 3.0 looks "promising," he said. Meanwhile, Master Data Management is a promising technology that is so early in its lifecycle that more time is needed to determine its full worth, he added.
Conference attendees, who brought specific questions about NetWeaver deployment, expressed concerns on a range of topics from how to leverage existing systems to the cost of NetWeaver training.
"My concern is whether or not I am going to have to upgrade all my training, documents and programs," said Charmaine Glass, a SAP technical manager at SBC Communications Inc. in San Antonio.
SBC will soon tap the NetWeaver technology for 170,000 human resources users. "It sounds like we're going to plan for new NetWeaver skill sets, for sure," Glass said.
NetWeaver projects require skills in enterprise application integration, Java and strong systems architecture experience, Young noted.
"If you don't put reviews in place for the methods for how your design is delivered," Young said, "you will end up with just another R/3 system in an Enterprise box."