An SAP NetWeaver deployment is a challenge on many fronts. First, the business has to understand the value of, and ROI case for, NetWeaver; then IT has to make recommendations about NetWeaver's place alongside other middleware, e.g., Microsoft .NET and IBM WebSphere. In short, NetWeaver implementation requires hurdling several technical and functional challenges, even for companies that have been running SAP for a long time.
The following tips will help you with NetWeaver integration, NetWeaver process integration and NetWeaver portal integration challenges in particular.
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The ROI Case for SAP NetWeaver
It's important for CIOs and IT specialists such as SOA architects to know the technical definition and components of NetWeaver, but what does NetWeaver mean for executives, line-of-business managers, and people on the functional rather than the technical side? Most importantly, what is the business case or ROI case for NetWeaver?
The first consideration in determining the business case for NetWeaver is ROI. These days, cost-cutting is on many SAP end users' minds, especially since SAP maintenance fees were increased. While it would be great to have free NetWeaver, remember that even versions of NetWeaver included free of charge in major SAP upgrades will cost something to use. That said, some industry analysts believe that NetWeaver cuts SAP TCO (total cost of ownership).
Some SAP users are considering getting into NetWeaver more heavily as part of an SAP upgrade. Industry expert Joshua Greenbaum believes that adopting NetWeaver at such a time can make the dreaded SAP upgrade process easier. If you're still on the fence about NetWeaver, you might want to look at the more formal NetWeaver business case and explore technical reasons why you might need NetWeaver.
SAP NetWeaver Deployment Scenarios
One of the best ways to understand how NetWeaver is relevant to the business is to think about the importance of business processes, such as the order-to-cash or procure-to-pay processes. In most organizations, business processes are supported by a set of technical systems. For example, in one of many possible NetWeaver deployment scenarios, the following steps could occur:
SAP NetWeaver Deployment Steps
- A customer places an order that gets processed by a portal, such as the NetWeaver portal.
- The portal routes the payment information associated with the order to an outside financial system, such as a third-party credit-card processing service.
- The sale information gets logged in the organization's own financial records.
- A distribution center is alerted to ship out the product to the customer.
- Logistical information about the shipment of the product is logged in the company's record so that the company can offer the customer full visibility into the whereabouts of the shipment.
- The sale information is logged into a data warehouse or some other electronic location that can serve as a place to store and analyze the data in future.
Note how traditional business processes are inextricably intertwined with electronic processes, systems and applications in these NetWeaver deployment scenarios. Now imagine that, in conducting a business process such as order-to-cash, your own electronic support came from a very monolithic system: For example, maybe the system would not allow you to trigger a shipment until the actual payment cleared. In this case, you'd have to align your business processes with the system, not the other way around.
On the other hand, you could also have an e-business system that adjusted more readily to the business processes in your particular industry or business model. What you'd have then is a business process management platform that would let the needs of business, rather than the limitations of software, drive processes forward.
In a Holy Grail version of a BPM platform, people such as managers, business analysts and line-of-business managers would have the ability to configure software according to business requirements; NetWeaver deployment scenarios would be driven entirely by the business. SAP has taken many steps in this direction. For example, SAP subsidiary Business Objects has numerous business intelligence (BI) products that allow non-techies to run reports, crunch data and perform other functions that would have required specialized programming skills only a few years ago. However, this doesn't mean that SAP jobs for IT specialists will go away in a NetWeaver/eSOA world.
SAP has tried to make it easier to implement NetWeaver components by packaging a set of common IT scenarios. So, instead of starting from scratch, one way to get off the ground with NetWeaver is to go through these scenarios and match them to your business and technical needs.
It would be great if you could simply implement packaged NetWeaver deployment scenarios for everything, but in the real world of SOA, many aspects of creating and managing services still require customization and technical expertise. Broadly speaking, there are three stages to this kind of user-driven SOA: modeling, defining and implementation. SAP's Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) supports each of these stages, with the Enterprise Services Repository (ESR) at the center of the architecture.
Now let's talk about NetWeaver Process Integration (PI), which is where much of the high-value SOA activity takes place. Let's say that you want to present your customers with a single interface that will let them see their real-time order location along with a rotating three-dimensional view of the product they just bought. In order to achieve this, you have to achieve what is called application-to-application (A2A) integration, so that the portal front end can talk to the logistics provider's database as well as with a back-end product catalog that hosts the product images.
Despite the heavy emphasis placed on A2A integration in SOA, and the fact that much of NetWeaver is designed to let computers talk to one another, SOA wouldn't work without a human component. The concept of user productivity enablement in SAP NetWeaver acknowledges this need. User productivity is a convenient way of referring to five different IT scenarios: running an enterprise portal; enterprise knowledge management; enabling user collaboration; business task management; and mobilizing business processes.
SAP NetWeaver Implementation Best Practices
Deploying NetWeaver is not a pain-free undertaking. To begin with, it requires existing SAP customers to understand that NetWeaver is not an option but an inevitable component of SAP architecture. In other words, long term, NetWeaver isn't an option. The first NetWeaver deployment best practice is therefore to recognize how foundational this technology will be to all SAP customers. Secondly, NetWeaver installation can be complex and demanding. From the perspective of IT, the first NetWeaver deployment best practice is to understand NetWeaver architecture and how it fits into your existing architecture.
Often, the same principles that apply to SAP upgrades in general are relevant to NetWeaver. NetWeaver is itself often part of an SAP upgrade. Meanwhile, tips for R/3 upgrades also apply to NetWeaver deployment.
NetWeaver deployment poses challenges that require various levels of support from both the end user's organization and from its partners. One NetWeaver deployment best practice is to maximize assistance received from SAP consulting and SAP support during your upgrade.
Solution Manager, Run SAP and NetWeaver
A tool called SAP Solution Manager allows you to install, configure and manage any SAP product with an eye to maximum availability and lowest TCO. Solution Manager is complemented by Run SAP, a project management methodology designed to accelerate SAP installations. Solution Manager, Run SAP and NetWeaver thus work in concert.
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