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SAP Plans NetWeaver Tools That Eliminate Coding From Business Process Development

The technologies will let business users work with developers to quickly create changes to business processes, SAP said at Sapphire 2008.
SAP on Tuesday announced new offerings due out by early next year, called NetWeaver Business Process Management and NetWeaver Rules Management, that are designed to let companies quickly create or change business processes without developers having to write code from scratch.

SAP co-CEO Henning Kagermann, in a keynote address at the company's Sapphire 2008 user conference Tuesday morning, said the offerings will help businesses deal with the difficult economy by allowing them to more rapidly adapt to market changes. "Yes, we are in challenging times; we help you be strategically agile," Kagermann said. "We help you move beyond your comfort zone."

The new technologies are intended to let business users work in closer collaboration with their IT departments in the development of new processes. In describing Business Rules Management, SAP used as an example an employee that wants to create new business rules for selecting a transportation provider. If the employee wants to create a rule that states transportation companies must have a high on-time delivery record to deliver goods to a premium customer, for example, she will be able to do so by editing decision tables based on technology from Yasu Technologies, a company SAP acquired last year.

SAP also said "business process experts," not developers, will be able to model new business processes using graphical tools in Business Process Management based on the Eclipse development environment. SAP also will offer a "process server," based on Java EE, that directly executes the new process models without requiring "brittle" translation steps between the model and code.

Business Process Management will be part of the NetWeaver Composition Environment, which developers now use to create composite applications via linked Web services. The difference with the new offerings is that while Composition Environment currently is designed just for developers, "we address collaboration between business experts and developers," said Klaus Kreplin, head of SAP NetWeaver technology, in an InformationWeek interview.

Some issues regarding the new technologies are unclear, such as the level of technology sophistication required by business process experts in modeling new processes and IT's exact role in development and execution of those new processes.

It's still early in the technology development, however. SAP says some early customers will have access to the technologies by this fall, and the technologies will be generally available as part of the SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment enhancement package 1 due out in early 2009.