SAP Netweaver 2004 brings business process management capabilities to the application server platform, to help organizations improve the efficiency and throughput of their business processes. SAP has formed a strategic OEM partnership with IDS Scheer to leverage its product, ARIS, to provide critical business process modeling, configuration and monitoring capabilities to organizations. Ventana Research sees this partnership and product capabilities as a positive step to fulfill SAP’s promise of delivering business process management. We believe caution should be applied when making any investments in this product until more customer proof points are brought forward in areas that combine process and performance improvement.
In a series of research notes, Ventana Research will examine the SAP Netweaver platform and specific solution areas for people, information, processes and the underlying technology to provide an independent view on the platform and it’s capabilities for your enterprise computing requirements. This is the second in the series, examining processes, and the next will examine the information dimension. (See first in series: “SAP Netweaver 2004: A Year of Slow But Steady Progress.”)
SAP’s effort to fully support business process management took important steps forward in 2004, with SAP Netweaver 2004. In this release, SAP has begun to integrate the transactional and measurement aspects of business processes into one platform for process management. SAP’s ability to provide this in one solution is still not commonly known across organizations using SAP, but will be critical for leveraging existing investments using SAP R/3 and mySAP solutions in the future.
SAP Netweaver includes process modeling, configuration, execution and monitoring in one solution. This advancement has come through a strategic relationship with IDS Scheer, whose product, ARIS, brings a business approach to process management. Compared to previous SAP approaches that were system-level and EAI-centric through the existing SAP XI-exchange infrastructure, this business-centric approach is exactly what organizations are looking for to drive more efficiency.
SAP’s accelerated focus and development effort comes at a good time, because organizations have been looking at alternative technology approaches and vendors to address their business process challenges. SAP’s main focus is on the integration and synchronization of transactions across systems controlled by the business process model. Through the integration of IDS Scheer ARIS, which is integrated and sold by SAP, SAP Netweaver brings process and integration under one application server environment. While the initial integration of the product is complete today, much more is still required. There are still very few customers that have been able to validate the combination of the products under the SAP Netweaver umbrella.
The larger issue in adopting business process management is whether you will automate and control existing business processes or measure and monitor them for assessment and then determine where automation should be applied. Though IDS Scheer brings critical process-centric BI and performance management capabilities to SAP, they are not fully marketing these capabilities, so you will have to investigate for yourself. We believe it is essential for organizations to assess the performance of existing business processes before deciding where to place future investments in upgrading your SAP R/3 or mySAP solutions. Without knowing how your business processes are performing and properly defining objectives, you may be investing in the wrong area of your business.
SAP is clearly the gorilla in the enterprise applications market, but it is still maturing as a provider of technology for application servers and business process management. Its goal to provide traditional business process management is a good first step, although more focus will be needed to help organizations measure and monitor their business processes for performance management. Through our research, we have found that most organizations have begun to already look beyond their application providers for this capability, so time is of essence for SAP.
The stand-alone business process management market is now beginning to rapidly grow as vendors like Fuego, Lombardi Software and Tibco are seeing new growth for their process-centric solutions. Ventana Research believes the combination of SAP Netweaver and IDS Scheer’s ARIS product will accelerate SAP’s sophistication in the enterprise applications market beyond existing approaches by Oracle and Siebel. However, lack of customer and revenue proof points from SAP as a complete application server competitor to BEA, IBM, and Oracle will hinder their potential in the market.
Organizations that are looking to fully address business process management and utilize SAP significantly in their enterprise should consider SAP Netweaver. SAP has begun to provide full process modeling, configuration, execution and control in SAP Netweaver 2004, which can fill the missing gap in your existing SAP investments. The heavy focus on transactional execution will miss the key point of measuring and monitoring business processes for performance improvement, but luckily you have these capabilities from IDS Scheer in the solution. Organizations that are yet to decide if they want to adopt the SAP Netweaver approach or are looking for an independent layer for performance management should consider examining alternative and complementary approaches by third party providers like Fuego, Tibco and others.
Mark Smith is CEO & Senior Vice President of Research at Ventana Research.
Ventana Research is the preeminent research and advisory services firm helping our clients maximize stakeholder value with Performance Management throughout their organizations. Putting research in a business and IT context we provide insight and education on the best practices, methodologies and technologies that enable our clients to leverage assets to understand, optimize, and align strategies and processes to meet their goals and objectives.