As you've probably noticed, this month is compliance month on SearchSAP.com — we talk about everything from Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA to RFID and security best practices. Since this is such a broad (and in some segments, deep) topic, we decided to organize the information in a new format for easier browsing.
The result is SAP compliance: the complete guide, a type of one-stop-shop for every conceivable area of compliance with subcategories for tips, white papers, expert advice and anything else that pertains to that particular topic. Since it's a new format we're eager to hear what you think of it. Does the guide help you find what you're looking for? Does the layout make sense? What could we do better? Please share your opinion — one random reader who responds gets a free copy of this month's featured book: SAP Security and Authorizations
*** UPDATE: congratulations to Dempsey Villanueva who won the book.
SAP reported lower than expected sales in its second quarter. Company executives said the software vendor also lost market share to Oracle and Microsoft, adding fuel to the battle raging for ERP market superiority.
SAP CEO Henning Kagermann said the market share loss was only a blip in what has been 12 consecutive quarters of gains against the competition. He told reporters this morning that SAP had problems processing sales orders at the end of the quarter. Safe Passage wins are also slow to process, he said. The software vendor counted 70 wins in the second quarter.
”Demand hasn’t changed and the environment hasn’t changed,” Kagermann said.
Analysts have told me that SAP’s consecutive quarters of significant gains was bound to be interrupted. SAP has been taking advantage of Oracle’s weaknesses as it reorganizes its sales force around its billions of dollars in company acquisitions. The uncertainty around how Oracle is integrating the acquisitions coupled with the reshuffling of its sales force may have resulted in SAP’s strong growth period, according to an analyst from Forrester Research. Financial analysts also agree that double digit license revenue growth in a mature market is difficult to sustain.
There has been a lot of buzz around SAP's composite applications, xApps, lately. SAP claims big marketing success with 800+ customers, 100+ showcases and 80+ references to sing xApps' praises since its introduction in late 2002. As we enter the "second generation" of xApps, with Duet functionality, Project Argo and hundreds of new xApps on the horizon, we decided to check in with veteran SAP guru Josh Greenbaum to take stock of where we are and what we can expect from xApps in the years ahead.
SearchSAP.com: Is it still too early for xApps?
Josh Greenbaum: No, in fact there a number of them being deployed by a large number of customers. XRPM and XMII are two good examples that I know of. The use cases are customer-specific — meaning that there isn't an xApp for every customer. But there are definitely reasons to be deploying xApps today.
S: What will it take before composite applications become truly mainstream?
JG: They already are, insofar as there are lots of composites out there. Composites based on NetWeaver — particularly those developed in-house — will become mainstream once NetWeaver is deployed at a critical mass of customers and those customers understand the developmenent requirements for composites. I think critical mass will come in the next three to five years, possibly sooner, if the upgrade rate increases.
S: Is SAP doing enough to foster xApp development?
JG: Yes, and it's important that SAP not force-feed xApps on its customers. The use case has been built on real ROI, not a cool-technology justification. There are lots of mini-xApps on the way, and lots of partners who will be deployed to push these new xApps into the market. This eco-system approach is the right way, and it will yield the necessary results in due time.
S: Do you think ISVs will take an interest in xApps for the NetWeaver platform?
JG: Absolutely, now that the partnership and eco-system models have been well-defined and there are good examples of successful deployments in a number of industries.
S: Has SAP done a good job educating the user base about xApps?
JG: Is there anything they could do better? I think they need to keep pushing the concept, there are still customers who don't understand these applications' role or their relationship to SAP's ESA strategy. But in general, this education process doesn't happen overnight, nor should it.
S: SAP said they're gunning for 100+ analytics, 50+ personal productivity and 30+ mobile xApps in the year ahead. Do you think this is the right direction for SAP? Should they consider other areas that may benefit from xApp technology?
JG: This is a good start, a very good start. More specifically, I think a key direction will be towards fulfilling vertical industry requirements, and a number of the analytical xApps will fit the bill. When it comes to industry-specific xApps, there can't be too many xApps out there.
The Americas' SAP Users' Group and SAP are showcasing a joint benchmarking campaign designed to measure company successes and develop a roadmap to measure the ROI of SAP applications. I recently produced a podcast, that included an interview with Rod Masney, president of the Americas' SAP Users' Group. Masney discusses the benchmarking initiative, gives his views about the latest SAP issues and provides an overview about the user group's priorities over the next year.
Analysts say that not enough companies are measuring the ROI of their technology investments. It’s been very difficult to this point for SAP customers to find independent data to conduct benchmarking projects. AMR, Forrester, Gartner and other research firms provide data at a substantial cost. Although ASUG is working through SAP in this project, Masney said the data is fairly independent and is a good step in the right direction. The data is a result of surveys of participating ASUG member companies conducted by SAP.
The executives and staff at 5th Gear Solutions, a value added reseller (VAR) of Business One software, have gotten a little clever.
The consultancy, which caters to manufacturers, recently signed on to sell Business One Fourth Shift Edition, as an expansion of its software business. David Payne, who is president of 5th Gear, also runs Advanced Systems Integration, a reseller of Microsoft Dynamics AX software.
Payne and his staff recreated the look and feel of SAP’s Website for 5th Gear. The navigation page, links, etc. are all similar. Even the SAP logo is used at the bottom right hand corner of the page.
Jeff Onesto, a business development executive at 5th Gear, said the site went live about two weeks ago.
“The idea is to take advantage of the ecosystem,” Onesto said. “SAP has created a lot of amazing processes, so why recreate the wheel?”
I had the opportunity to chat with Craig Cmehil, an SAP employee who developed what’s becoming a popular scripting environment. Cmehil developed the product on his own time and focused on putting together a package of scripting tools that support developers in SAP environments. Called Scripting in a Box, the development environment supports Perl, PHP, and Python and Ruby and support for Ruby on Rails will be released as early as this week in version 1.0.
So what’s all the hype about? Well, Cmehil said that most SAP customers are using Java or .NET, but a growing number of developers are moving toward open source programming languages. PHP, Perl and others take up much less space doing with 20 lines of code what 100 lines of code will do in Java.
For a long time, developers have had a hard time convincing upper level managers to move forward with scripting projects. Often many pieces and correct versions of various tools are needed in order for the whole project to work. The process seemed too complicated. Scripting in a Box solves that and also includes test applications that can connect with SAP back-end systems.
The big spring tip contest is over, and we have a bunch of great entries from SAP professionals from all over the world. One of them will take home the grand prize: a new video iPod. But we haven't made the final decision on who should emerge as the champ yet. We're judging these based on a mix of traffic, peer ratings, originality and general usefulness, among other things. That's where you come into the picture. We have several tips running neck-and-neck and we need a tie-breaker. Please take a moment to cast your vote on the tips below, or better yet, submit a brief comment on what tip should win and why.
To sweeten the pot, we're giving away a free book, Designing Composite Applications, to one random reader who submits an email or comments to this blog post explaining why a particular tip is useful. Click here to read a sample chapter from the book, and click here to send an email.
Now, without further ado, here's the lineup of eligible tips:
Creating neat, collapsible sub-screens for cleaner design
Collapsible sub-screens are great in that they prevent clutter while not missing out on displaying important data. This code snippet makes it a snap!
Easy way to browse back end filing systems
Most file-selection function modules such as GUI_UPLOAD allows you to select files only on the front end. How can you browse the backend filing system, such as UNIX, just as easily? Here's how!
You can debug any LSMW object program in the usual way by putting a hard breakpoint or soft breakpoint. Learn how in this handy tip!
Confused about the various checkpoints before and after a Go-Live? This handy tip walks you through the typical process so you know what to expect.
How to integrate BW query iViews with a Webdynpro application
Learn how to integrate BW query iViews with a Webdynpro application in this user-submitted tip for SAP Enterprise Portal.
HR: See all EE Infotypes
To see all the active infotypes for an employee without going into each infotype individually, use this transaction.
Looking for a quick and easy way to reset the buffers? This tip tells you how!
Send SAP reports in PDF format
Sending SAP reports in PDF format can be a valuable tool to learn. This tip from SearchSAP.com reader will show you how.
Easy application log analysis
Learn how to create a spool list in this simple tip from a SearchSAP.com user.
Ease data migration for tables with a Table Maintenance Dialog
Make the data migration process run smoothly by first creating a Table Maintenance Dialog. Learn more in this user-submitted tip.
Dynamic bar charts in Smart Forms
Here's a neat trick for using the table node to create dynamic bar charts and graphs in Smart Forms.
Display locked/unlocked transactions
This tip offers a quick and easy way to display locked/unlocked transactions.
Close a hung session
If you have multiple SAP sessions open from one system and one of them gets hung up on a transaction, you can use this transaction to end the one session.
Avoid mistakes by changing production client screen color
While switching across screens there is always a hazard of entering data into the production client by accident. This tip enables you to change the appearence of the production screen.
The final tally is in. Congratulations to Joanna Crane for her winning tip How to integrate BW query iViews with a Webdynpro application, and congrats to SearchSAP.com reader Lorna Selkirk who won a free copy of Designing Composite Applications.
SAP took more than 100 industry specific embedded analytics and branded them as part of its xApp portfolio. The analytics were first introduced at Sapphire ’05 in Boston. When SearchSAP first reported the analytics announcement, there was a question of whether they would be xApps.
So why call them xApps today? The answer is simple. SAP has branded composite applications that it has either acquired or developed in one of its labs as “xApps.” By adding over 100 embedded composite applications to its xApp line, SAP can point out that it is having initial success in this area. Some analysts suggest that the embedded analytics movement is growing. By pulling specific pieces of data from multiple applications, end-users have better insight into company processes at their fingertips.
In this interview with Roman Bukary, vice president of analytics and composite applications, Bukary explains SAP strategy around analytics and why some firms are getting more from their applications through embedded analytics. Bukary is from SAP product marketing, but the interview is still a good primer on SAP analytical xApps and the direction the software vendor is headed in with composite applications. The interview can be downloaded to your computer or to any digital music device.
Unless company financial issues are already in the public limelight, it is rare that companies will admit to investors that they have been relying on faulty data. That poses a challenge for SAP and other software vendors who are pushing master data management (MDM) tools to help firms deal with the mountains of mangled data located in corporate systems. So what’s the challenge? Finding a group of happy MDM users that will come out openly and admit that the data released in company financial figures is possibly inaccurate.
When companies embark on MDM projects the result is usually the discovery of a myriad of problems, according to Andrew White, a research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. Systems sometimes hold duplicate data. Data on a specific product may be different sizes in two systems. A customer in one system may be labeled as “customer 1234” and in another system, may be reentered in another system associated with “customer 5432.” Mismatched and duplicate data can end result in financial implications.
Putting the pieces together is what MDM is all about. And MDM is not a six month project or not even a year long project, according to White. It’s very much an enduring process, he said.
Ericsson, one of SAP’s largest customers, is one such MDM user that is speaking openly and frankly about its data woes. And the company recognized its master data issues about four years ago, when it formed a central master data group as part of a massive global system consolidation project. Rod Hall, who gave a presentation to attendees at SAP Sapphire ’06 user conference in Paris, told me recently that the goal of the project was to centralize data from its various subsidiaries.
During the process, the company found that its various subsidiaries were being serviced not by nearly 200,000 vendors as executives believed, but about 130,000 vendors. And an ongoing intensive MDM project using SAP MDM may find duplicate information and bring that number lower, Hall said.
“We’re finally getting a consistent picture of what we’re actually spending our money on with our vendors,” Hall said.
Now that’s the real value of MDM.
SearchSAP.com will soon have a more in depth story on Ericsson’s MDM initiatives. Stay tuned.
I recently spoke with Andrew White, a research director at Gartner Inc. on the topic of master data management. White shared the latest trends and how companies are facing a difficult road when starting MDM projects. In a separate interview, SAP's Sunil Gupta explained how SAP customers can address master data issues with SAP MDM.
The bottom line is that it's still an emerging area, and the large ERP vendors see companies investing in this area and want in. There are still some third party niche vendors that do MDM very well, White said. Get the full podcast here:
Podcast: Master data management trends and resources for SAP customers