What Does a Software Provider Need to Know Before Beginning the Product Certification Process with SAP?

In conversation with members of the DataXstream as they wrapped up integrating and certifying a recent third party software product with SAP I began to ask the question: What does a third party software provider need to know before beginning the certification process with SAP?

It came down to three things:

  1. Know the business case. Because integration with SAP requires commitment, time and extensive knowledge of SAP it is important to have identified the business case and the software provider’s expected ROI
  2. Integrating a product with SAP is an involved process. SAP software is specific and so integration has to be done correctly.
  3. Integrating a product with SAP requires dedication, time, and know-how because it is an involved process.

The team seemed to agree that every third party software company is surprised by the scope of the project. To integrate a product with SAP requires a broad understanding of SAP product offerings and modules. SAP is designed to work very specifically and as a result the development process is intricate. Craig Stasila compared SAP to a Swiss Army knife “it is hyper configurable.”  Additionally it is important to approach the project from the perspective of the business user. For the new software to effectively bring value to the SAP eco-system, the developer needs to keep in mind the business user’s needs and the end user’s experience with the interface. An understanding of the technical aspects of SAP NetWeaver integration and development is required to design and implement a solution that is solid and scalable.

Understanding the business case to pursue integration and certification is imperative. Stasila described a conversation he had with a software development company that was approached by SAP. An SAP representative said, “you should get that software integrated with SAP.” The client had no idea what this might involve. They had no experience with SAP and were not aware of the level of complexity. However as part of their assessment phase Stasila had provided a list of priorities the client should focus on to improve their impact in the SAP space. The client then identified items on the list of priorities that they could do in house. The client is currently pursuing those priorities to improve their position.

So if a software company finds that the business case is there for certification with SAP what then? A typical 3rd party certification project looks something like this:

The software company reaches out to DataXstream. DataXstream will execute an assessment of the project to determine the high level scope of the project, develop a blue print and create a Rough Order Management Budget (ROM). If the assessment indicates that the software client should move forward with integrating and certifying their product with SAP DataXstream can work with the client to develop a full-scale project plan in detail. DataXstream can provide resources to execute the plan as well as experience with the SAP ecosystem to help with market analysis and promotion of the certified product. DataXstream is committed to our partners and provides sales support to help answer questions throughout the sales cycle of the certified product.

DataXstream is proud to have had the opportunity to partner with many software companies over the years whose products bring value to the SAP ecosystem. SAP is a leading provider in the enterprise software market; by certifying their product with SAP our clients increase the customer base for their product and gain market value.  Please contact us for more information regarding leveraging DataXstream’s SAP expertise to integrate and certify your product with SAP.

 

OMS+ Client Story

Fruit Grower’s Supply Company (FGS) is the largest agricultural supply co-op on the US West Coast. The cooperative was organized in 1907 as a result of the 1906 earthquake and fires in San Francisco. Today, the nonprofit cooperative association is open to the public and provides the agricultural items required to grow, harvest, package and ship various commodities of produce. Fruit Growers Supply provides over-the-counter sales, specialized ordering, and custom-design irrigation systems with six retail locations across California and Arizona.

Fruit Grower’s Supply determined a need to upgrade their SAP® environment and integrate a new Order Management / Point of Sale solution for each of their retail locations. Their legacy system was out of date and the company that performed the initial implementation had been bought out and no longer existed. Additionally, the legacy hardware FGS was using would no longer have support as of June 2014 and the company was tasked to maintain PCI compliance.

FGS created a committee of stakeholders to determine what to upgrade, evaluate potential partners and decide when to complete these changes to ensure minimal business disruption. The committee included the FGS Operation’s Center Director, IT Director, County Controller and Chief Financial Officer. The committee concluded that not only would it benefit the company to upgrade the legacy POS at that time, but that upgrading SAP and Windows would add additional efficiency. The POS needs were determined to be:

  • Increase customer service levels by supporting additional payment methods
  • Increase sales opportunities
  • Increase accountability by supporting end of day procedures and cash draw functionality

Specific needs critical to Fruit Grower’s Supply included:

  • The need to eliminate SAP interfaces
  • A centralized system
  • The ability to support specific client relationships found in their industry

The ability to support signature capture

Once the committee determined the company’s needs, they were responsible for selecting a solution to fulfill these requirements. The committee chose to partner with DataXstream because DataXstream was one of the only providers able to support all of FGS critical requirements. DataXstream’s skill set and knowledge of SAP upgrades met FGS needs. DataXstream also offered specialty retail knowledge, experience and had previous success with POS implementation at a specialty retailer. Finally, DataXstream demonstrated a clear understanding of the investment required for a successfully implementation and client history showing increased efficiencies and improved order management processes.

Fruit Grower’s Supply and DataXstream engaged in a two-week assessment period to better understand FGS’s needs. They agreed on a four-day cutover throughout Labor Day weekend to minimize the impact to FGS clients. Prior to cutover, the team submitted the implementation to three testing cycles. These testing cycles were also used as training opportunities for the FGS team.

Alex Perlovich, Director of IT for Fruit Growers noted that the assessment period was critical to the success of the project because FGS had the opportunity to require some proof from DataXstream that critical needs could be met. Tim Yates, CEO of DataXstream, noted that FGS did an excellent job providing detailed testing scenarios to test the product before delivery. The teams worked to upgrade SAP from ECC 6.0 to EHP7, implement a new hardware terminal with flexible controls, and migrate from the legacy POS to the new POS with minimal impact while maintaining some legacy processes.

At the end of any implementation the first question is: “What business value has been gained?”

Fruit Grower’s Supply lists the following benefits from upgrading their operating systems and implementing a new POS:

  • The solution was designed, developed and deployed to all of the company stores in 6 months
  • Seamless migration from legacy POS
  • Minimal impact to FGS clients
  • Retained ability to maintain legacy order processes
  • Sales order creation steps were reduced by 50 percent
  • Simplified return and refund processes were established; the time to complete a return and refund process was reduced from 15 minutes to less than 2 minutes
  • Significantly reduced the number of order fulfillment related support tickets from stores
  • Ability to add and refine features and functionality without adding hardware

DataXstream’s Order Management Solution (OMS+) is easily adapted to custom requirements for a variety of clients. It is a good fit for SAP clients looking for capability with permits, licenses, hazardous materials, partial orders, partial delivery, partial return or layaway. The solution is also a good fit for businesses considering SAP functionality, and any business, wholesale or retail, with complex order processing. DataXstream has recently been approached by municipalities exploring the possible use of the solution for sale of permits and licenses as well as restructuring the system to allow for one point accounts receivable.

 

 

DataXstream to Participate at Sapphire Now and ASUG Annual Conference – Booth 418

DataXstream_1313x488_SA15exh

When:  May 5-7th, 2015
Where:  Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL

The DataXstream team is preparing once again for SAP®’s premier event, SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference.We’ll be joining 20,000+ SAP customers, partners and personnel who gather each year for 3 days of strategy, networking, and education on applications, platform, and services.

In addition to learning more about DataXstream’s leading SAP Consulting and Integration Services, we’re inviting folks to delve into our OMS+ Solution. Purpose built for SAP® ERP, ECC and Retail applications, OMS+ brings advanced Order Management and POS capabilities to in-store sales, tablet, or on-line store.

Attendees can:

  • Schedule a 1-on-1 OMS+ Demo
  • Join us on Thursday, May 7th, for an evening networking event and a chance to meet the team and our OMS+ customers

If you’re going to Orlando and want to secure some time to see OMS+ live or meet with the DataXstream team, complete the form below.  Hope to see you there!

  1. (required)
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  3. (valid email required)
  4. Yes, I would like to:
 

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Simplifying SAP UX Design is Easier Than You Think

User experience – UX, for short – is how a person feels when interacting with a digital product. What users expect is an easy, interactive experience that provides value with regular use. When forced to spend too much time navigating through a clunky web application, the result is frustration, loss of productivity and a perception of poor value.

If you’re tired of hearing complaints from customers, clients, coworkers or employees about web apps with a cumbersome user experience, you’re not alone. The good news is there are professional tools available to help UX designers streamline business processes, enhance visuals and simplify navigation to boost user satisfaction and loyalty. This article aims to familiarize and provide examples of some of the professional design tools available for enhancing UX on web-based systems.

Tools of the Trade:
Here are a few popular and easily accessible tools for UX professionals, developers, designers and interaction designers.

Fiori
Fiori is a collection of apps designed by SAP for broadly and frequently used SAP software functions. These apps offer a user experience that is personalized, responsive and simple, while enabling a holistic and consistent experience across multiple devices.

JavaScript
JavaScript enables you to add dynamic and interactive elements to websites. It can be used to enhance the user experience within web browsers by adding animation and effects, and also allows for communication between external devices and other platforms.

UI5
Not to be confused with HTML5, SAP UI5 is a library / framework of pre-built and customizable elements created using JavaScript that simplifies and accelerates the development of enhanced user experiences.

SAP Gateway
SAP Gateway is a technology that provides a simple way to connect devices, environments and platforms to SAP software based on market standards. It offers connectivity to SAP applications using any programming language or model without the need for SAP knowledge by leveraging REST services and OData/ATOM protocols.

ABAP Web Dynpro
ABAP Web Dynpro is the SAP standard UI technology for developing Web applications in the ABAP environment. This is the base of building a SAP specific webpage, but recently has the added ability to execute JavaScript.

How it’s done:
So what are some things you can do with the aforementioned tools? The examples below show how DataXstream developers used a combination of these tools to enhance the UX of our Order Management / POS application for SAP.

(1) ABAP Web Dynpro has enabled SAP web applications to utilize JavaScript. In the example below, both ABAP Web Dynpro and JavaScript were used to enhance the home page user interface.

ABAB, curtain effect, javascript

JavaScript was used to create a curtain effect. When the mouse is rolled over a blue icon, the box rolls up to reveal its contents. This can be seen in the first section.

Java Script, SAP, customization, SAP message

JavaScript was used to customize the standard SAP messages. Here the message is displayed in a pop-up that disables the background and forces the user to acknowledge the message.

(2) In addition to enhancing the UX with flashy interfaces, ABAP WD and JavaScript were used to communicate with a credit card machine. Below are snapshots of the interaction between the application and the credit card device.

OMS+, POS, credit card device, app display, SAP, SAP Retail,

Line items entered on the POS web app display on the credit card device.

UX, ABAP WD, JavaScript, credit card device, signature capture, SAP, SAP Retail, POS, OMS+

Once the customer provides a signature on the credit card device, it’s captured within the POS application.

cc machine, pos, oms+, sap, javascript, UX, ABAP WD,

The signature capture is also displayed on the retailer’s POS screen.

(3) In this next example, ABAP Web Dynpro, JavaScript, and SAP Gateway were combined to interactively display forms with the appropriate signature:

POS, ABAP, Web Dynpro, JavaScript, SAP Gateway
POS, OMS+, ABAP, Web Dynpro, JavaScript, SAP Gateway, SAP

POS, OMS+, SAP, signature

A PDF document within the POS displays the full order and signature.

In Summary:
SAP UI can be cumbersome, however simplifying digital apps to provide a better user experience, making it easier and more efficient for users, is not as daunting as you may think.

This year at TechEd && d-code, SAP’s premier technology education conference, DataXstream consultants presented a User Experience/User Interface Development session highlighting how DataXstream developers customized a standard Web Dynpro ABAP app using HTML islands. Participants learned to enhance standard floor plan manager components for Lean Order Management with HTML islands and saw examples of how HTML5 was used to enhance the GUI and communication with multiple external retail devices.

To learn more about DataXstream and view a pdf of this session, please click here.

michael_profile2Michael Champion
Michael Champion is a SAP Technical Consultant with DataXstream responsible for Product Integration and Development. His core skills include ABAP / Web Dynpro ABAP and Process Integration Development (PI/XI).

SAP TechEd && d-code Wrap Up

Every year since 2006 DataXstream has participated in SAP’s annual Technology users conference, SAP TechEd now called SAP TechEd && d-code. Each year we endeavor to bring knowledge and add value to the experience of the clients, users and partners that will be attending the show with us while increasing our own skill set. 2014 was no different.

DataXstream was represented by Tim Yates, Craig StasilaScott JulianSteve ParkMichael Champion, Sean ClohertyScott WalkerRon VottoValerie Parham, and Robert Sandy at the 2014 conference.

DataXstream, TechEd, SAP, d-code, consultants, solutions, technical, functional, integration

DataXstream at SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 Las Vegas

We fielded questions regarding SAP Integration and Consulting, System Upgrades, Enabling Independent Software Vendors in the SAP space, SAP Certification for Independent Software Vendors, the recently named DataXstream OMS+ Order Management Solution for SAP Retail. We shared customer stories, what worked and maybe what did not work so well. We gave away Starbucks cards and iPad minis.

This year we had the added opportunity to have a speaking session. Michael Champion, SAP Technical Consultant and Sean Cloherty, SAP Application Developer conducted a break out session: UXP216 “How to Integrate HTML5 into Standard Web Dynpro Business Processes” which was well attended and well received despite being scheduled early Thursday morning. If you would like to view the PDF of the session, click here. If you have any questions for Michael or Sean regarding the session please email them to info@dataxstream.com and please include ‘UXP216′ in the title of the email.

SAP, TechEd, d-code, Las Vegas, 2014, UXP216, HTML5, Dynpro, DataXstream, Consulting, Consultants, Integration,

Michael Champion and Sean Cloherty at SAP TechEd && d-code Las Vegas 2014, leading “How to Integrate HTML5 into Standard Web Dynpro Business Processes”

 

 

What Makes a Great ISV Enablement Partner?

DataXstream is a company that specializes in SAP and most readers of this blog are SAP professionals.  So, I have some shocking news for you–news SAP doesn’t want you to know.  Are you sitting down?  Good.

SAP isn’t the only software vendor out there!!

Shocking, I know.  But there are other software platforms than NetWeaver; software languages other than ABAP and Java; and there was a time in the not-too-distant past where the center of the SAP universe, HANA, didn’t even exist!

While you are coming to terms that SAP is not the be-all and end-all, I would like to point out that no modern software system exists in a vacuum.  Because of this fact, attention has to be paid to how software systems interact with each other.  There is a seemingly endless supply of enterprise software solutions that supplement existing functionality, introduce new functionality, improve the user-experience, and, in general, bring value to the enterprise.  SAP’s predominance in the enterprise software market means that it these new enterprise software solutions need to interact with SAP–either getting data from SAP or sending data to SAP (or both).

But, SAP is not an easy software system with which to integrate.  The depth of SAP product offerings and modules make learning how to properly merge SAP functionality with an external software system difficult.  SAP NetWeaver is not known as a particular open or easy-to-access platform.  And while I personally laud SAP for their decision to enforce proper multi-tier data access restrictions (i.e. no direct read/write database access), this decision makes the SAP learning curve especially steep.

Many software companies desiring to integrate their software solution with SAP choose an independent software vendor enablement partner.  So, what makes a great ISV enablement partner?

  • Functional Expertise: In order to make the most of an integrated software solution, you must understand the needs of the business user.  Once these needs are understood, you need to transfer these requirements into software functional units of work.  Finally, an end-to-end workstream is defined across all participant software systems that will deliver the required functionality to your customers.
  • Technical Expertise: The best end-to-end workstream definition is only as good as the framework upon which the integration executes.  A great ISV enablement partner understands all of the technical aspects of SAP NetWeaver integration and development.  They will use this expertise to design and implement a solid, robust, scalable technical integration solution.
  • Go-To-Market Experience: Once the solution has been designed and built, it will need to be made available to the market.  A great go-to-market strategy involves market analysis, promotion, and working with the SAP ecosystem including SAP partnerships and certification.
  • Technical Sales and Marketing Support: Even the best software solutions don’t sell themselves.  Your ISV enablement partner should be there throughout the customer sales process to answer any questions and remove any barriers to sale.
  • Flexible Partnering Agreements: A great ISV enablement partner will work with you to craft a partnership agreement that benefits all parties while giving your customer’s the world-class solutions and support that they need.

DataXstream has been a leader in SAP ISV partner enablement since 2005 and has assisted dozens of software companies successfully enter the SAP market. Contact us today, to find out how we can unlock the SAP world for you!

What Makes a Great SAP Custom Development Partner?

SAP Development Reality versus Reputation

Have you ever met someone whose reputation precedes them?  You’ve heard great things about his/her ability to get things done, the technical expertise and all kinds of accolades.  Then you meet.  And disappointment sets in.  The disconnection between reality and reputation smacks you in the face.

This (alleged) rock star cannot articulate what he does in a language you understand; he can’t give you a good sense of where he has done similar work before.  Where’s the magic?  I’m often amazed at how often technical gurus seem to have a skill deficiency when dealing with regular folks.  But why do I care, they’re a bunch of technical folks with specialized skills who do what the specification says – right?  Not so much.

SAP Development Core Competency

For me this situation touches on a core competence found in a great SAP development partner: the ability to communicate, question, understand and explain in non-technical language is critical.  As an SAP end user, business representative or business analyst (or, true confessions, sometimes as a project manager) you don’t care about how efficient the code is, which select statements are best, the funky table joins, the use of internal tables, memory parameters, and so on.  This is like explaining relativity to your dog – he’s hoping something good is going to happen when you stop talking.

Great developers have great coding skills; they understand technology and relish the tough assignments.  Don’t get me wrong: I love these folks and what they can do.  But the ones I want to work with know I don’t care that much about their esoteric universe and their alphabet soup.  Instead they know we need to use a common language to work together: the language of business and business goals.

My Checklist for a Great Custom Development Partner

The things I value most in a great SAP custom development partner are communication and collaboration, this means:

  • developers who understand business goals, business process and business data
  • comfort using business language
  • understanding of SAP business processes
  • SAP technical and integration expertise

DataXstream developers know quality output comes not just as a result of a well written functional or technical specification: it comes from common language and collaboration.

Now, let’s talk.

 

What Makes a Great SAP Integration Partner?

An SAP integration specialist’s responsibilities are to design and implement a robust, extensible solution that uses the appropriate standards and technologies to guarantee ACID programming guidelines (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) while leveraging the available programming interfaces to the best of their capabilities.  This may sound like a daunting task.  That’s because it is.  Integration is a very complex, specialized areas of expertise in the SAP ecosystem.

A great SAP Integration Partner will offer individuals that design and build integration solutions that adhere to the following concepts:

  • Robust – A good integration solution can recover from data and/or transmission errors. A truly robust solution should automatically attempt reprocessing where appropriate and, barring automatic processing, alerts the support personnel to the exception with context-specific data to assist in the exception resolution.
  • Extensible – Change is constant in the world of business.  A good integration solution is able to rapidly adapt to changes in process, requirements, and/or functionality.  More often than not, the individual that initially implemented the integration solution is not available to make the changes.  A combination of good design, process and procedure adherence, and documentation lowers the total cost of ownership for the integration solution.
  • Standards – Good integration partners understand standards, how they should be applied as well as their strengths and weaknesses.  Integration solutions that conform to standards are usually more robust and extensible, and therefore easier and cheaper to support, than their custom counterparts.
  • Atomicity – Robust integration solutions require atomic actions.  That means if one part of the transaction fails, the whole transaction fails.
  • Consistency – A consistent integration solution leverages the application programming interface to ensure that all business rules and processing logic are applied to the data prior to posting it to the database.  It is also important that data created via the integration solution passes the same validation and business rules as data created via the user interface.
  • Isolation – Great SAP integration partners understand how transaction isolation can greatly impact overall system performance.  Providing isolation means concurrent execution of data transactions results in a system state that would be obtained if transactions were executed serially–or in other words the interface can be executed in parallel, and therefore, take advantage of SAP NetWeaver parallel processing.
  • Durability – A durable integration solution is not affected by errors outside of the transaction–whether these errors be related to environment (power, network, database, etc.), data (business rules, missing data, incomplete data, etc.) or other factors.
  • Programming Interfaces (APIs) – A great SAP integration partner understands available programming interfaces and standards, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and how they interact with other components of the application.  Not all APIs are created equal and a great SAP integration partner will choose the API best suited for the integration solution.

DataXstream solution architects and integration specialists are trained in every one of these aspects and have the experience necessary to ensure every integration solution is a great one.

What Makes a Great Basis Administrator?

Basis Administrators are key to overall project success. Proper system administration provides stable systems and consistent support for your project. One of the key questions that companies face is what makes a great basis administrator? The following items are critical to basis administration success:

  • Technical expertise with NetWeaver platform
  • Understanding of technical operations for datacenter activities (OS, DB, SAN, network)
  • Ability to adapt to changing technology
  • Ability to problem solve and learn on the job

A great basis administrator must understand the different NetWeaver platforms, integration points, and how to support the multiple systems in a SAP landscape. The SAP landscape is becoming complex with multiple SAP systems, hybrid models for infrastructure components (e.g. Linux and Windows OS), and multiple Database technologies based on application dependency. The increased use and deployment of technologies like mobility, analytics, cloud computing, and in-memory-computing force a basis administrator to have a breadth of technical knowledge. The rapidly changing landscape also means basis administrators must be flexible and adapt to the changing infrastructure requirements. A great basis administrator has to support current technology while learning new technology. The ability to utilize core technical knowledge and apply that knowledge to emerging technologies is key to long-term success. Adapting to the shifting technical landscape and problem solving within this environment is critical to success.

DataXstream basis administrators understand the multiple aspects of system administration. We understand the technical details and ability to adapt to emerging technology. DataXstream basis administrators have real experience, with proven results.

What Makes a Great SAP Project Manager?

A project manager’s job is to deliver a defined scope on time and on budget.  This expectation comes from the overall project leadership, the business community and the IT organization.  To do this an SAP project manager needs to know:

  • The project goals and success criteria
  • The tasks to be performed
  • The dependencies between the tasks

  • The resources and skills needed

  • The key milestones and critical deliverables

Coordination, execution, review and sign-off throughout the project lifecycle requires marshaling different resource types at different times including business team members, functional consultants, ABAP developers, PI/XI developers, the Basis team, technical infrastructure, network operations, production support, training teams, etc.  A great project manager needs to be comfortable and confident interacting with different audiences, communicating in their language and using terms and jargon they understand.  A great project manager has a rolling horizon always looking a week, a month, a quarter or more into the future anticipating needs and planning ahead.  A great project manager lives with the belief that fire prevention is far more desirable than firefighting.

A great project manager monitors critical tasks and recognizes when to be flexible and when to dig in. There is constant negotiation, evaluation of information to separate the important from the inconsequential, and refinements to keep the project on track.  A great project manager knows to cultivate team member engagement, motivation and drive and maintain a common vision of the end goal.

DataXstream project managers understand all of this.  They live it every day.