For most industry watchers, ‘SAP’ and ‘BPM’ go together in the context of ProcessWorld, SAP partner IDS Scheer’s annual Business Process Management (BPM) shindig. But at Sapphire 2008, SAP showed signs of wanting to address more BPM capabilities via NetWeaver BPM.
NetWeaver BPM, codenamed ‘Galaxy’ when it began in 2006, is not a full-fledged BPM system relevant to heterogeneous environments, but a way of adding human intelligence to SAP applications: What Wolfgang Hilpert, senior vice president of NetWeaver BPM, calls “intelligence in assigning and finding the right roles and rules.”
At a small panel at Sapphire 2008, Hilpert talked at length about NetWeaver BPM. He faced the same challenge faced by everyone who discusses BPM, which can simultaneously function as a technology, a business practice and a way of coordinating the activities of enterprise applications in a human-centric way. In the SAP context, NetWeaver BPM is best understood in the final context. Hilpert offered some helpful examples:
1. In a hiring situation, there are several steps (job postings, pipeline management, candidate evaluation, etc.) that can be orchestrated into a repeatable (but still tweakable) process so that participants need not worry about filling out forms and collecting administrative data related to the process.
2. In a transactional situation, there could be what Hilpert calls “complex conditional expressions” that govern behavior in composite scenarios. Imagine, for example, that some of your customers or suppliers get preferential treatment in certain circumstances, triggering other actions on your part. This could impact how your accounting or shipping systems treat these stakeholders. Using NetWeaver BPM, you could write as many special rules as you wanted in order to deal with preferential situations, and the BPM tool would orchestrate the underlying SAP applications, notify the proper employees in case of exception, and take other steps accordingly. This is one of the true strengths of BPM, as it takes what would ordinarily be a fire drill and turns it into an orderly process.
BPM scales in value as it touches an increasing number of enterprise applications, systems, and employees. The examples Hilpert gave are compelling, but not outside the SAP context. In other words, don’t expect NetWeaver BPM to function as a BPM system that can touch non-SAP objects.
Hilbert concluding by saying that, “Long-term, BPM will be the only process designer in SAP.” That should be of interest to those looking to develop hot SAP skills.
Demir Barlas, Site Editor