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.

SAP PI Dilemma: How to Get Production IDocs for Testing

Every SAP developer/consultant knows that to be able to test new programming logic and/or configuration efficiently and thoroughly, sufficient test data is required to ensure quality. I have worked on several SAP PI projects and have run into the issue of not having great test data (or, for that matter, any test data!) in my development/test environment. If you’re ever in a spot where you need to test IDocs from a different system, here is a step-by-step guide on how to get them without having to perform much setup.
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Virtual Machines and Snapshots

Service packs. Kernel patches. New module releases. What do all of these have in common? Restore points and backups. Before we, as BASIS administrators, do any of these we have to make sure we have a recovery point so if anything should go haywire, we have a point of recovery. Usually it involves communicating with the database administrators, operating system administrators, and backup teams to leverage  the current backup technology.

If you are already a virtualization house, or are thinking about converting to be one, then you know about some of the new solutions available to you. The most basic, and most easily leveraged is that of the “snapshot”.

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SAP Information Interchange OnDemand: Why Your System Integrator Matters

This post is third in a series on SAP Information Interchange OnDemand (SAP IIOD).  The first post covered why SAP IIOD’s model is a better solution than your existing EDI solution.  My previous post covered the steps involved in an SAP IIOD implementation.  In this post, I will explain why it is important to have a qualified system integrator working with you on your SAP IIOD implementation project.

I’m going to be candid with you, dear reader, and give you a peek behind the curtain that ordinarily hides my blog-writing process.  You see, originally this post was going to be entitled, Why First-Mile Integration Matters.  I was going to discuss how the SAP Business Network brought a lot of stability to the EDI on-boarding process because they were experts at what they do (i.e. B2B communications is all they do).  From a macro-economic standpoint, it was a perfect case of specialization. Finally, I was going to postulate that the same logic regarding specialization should apply to the team performing the first-mile integration.  This last part was going to be where I snuck in a sell of DataXstream’s SAP IIOD First Mile Integration Services.  Pretty great idea, right?

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What Does a Successful SAP IIOD Implementation Entail?

In my last post, I discussed how SAP’s planned incorporation of recent acquisitions (Crossgate and Ariba) into the SAP Business Network offers a logical advancement in B2B communications. The SAP Information Interchange OnDemand (IIOD) integration model improves on the familiar point-to-point topology by pushing customer-specific logic to inside the business network (aka the “cloud”). Doing this simplifies the integration that any one company using the SAP Business Network needs to maintain.

Chances are, however, that your organization already has a significant investment in your existing B2B communication strategy. Even if you are new to B2B communication, an SAP IIOD implementation is still an implementation project, including all the normal responsibilities, risks, and (hopefully) rewards. SAP Business Network’s value lies in its ability to simplify the on-boarding of new business partners while streamlining the maintenance of your existing B2B network, but that doesn’t mean it is easy (or free) to implement.

While most I’ve encountered understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch, I’ve found there to be much misunderstanding as to what is even on the menu. I will attempt to explain an SAP IIOD project, its deliverables, and provide roles and responsibilities for the parties involved.

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SAP on HANA is a Game Changer*

On January 10, 2013, SAP officially announced that SAP Business Suite (including ECC, CRM, SCM, etc.) will be available on SAP HANA.  SAP’s long anticipated move to include their in-memory database platform as a back-end database option to their popular business suite has lit up social media outlets.

According to a SAPxperts blog post by Scott Priest:

Sikka said that the availability of the Business Suite on HANA, while an accomplishment, was really just the beginning for SAP. The company’s future moves — including the development of mobile capabilities to go along with the Business Suite/HANA collaboration — will depend heavily on the Business Suite’s capabilities on HANA.

SAP Business Network on HANA has a real opportunity to change the ERP landscape as it promises significant performance and cost advantages over its competitors.  Additionally, SAP on HANA has the opportunity to bring business analytics closer to the transaction processing engine enabling truly real-time data analysis and forecasting, leaving behind the traditional OLTP/OLAP separation.

Not only is SAP Business Suite on HANA a game changer for companies that run SAP, but it also represents the single largest change in technical architecture since the inception of R/3.  If you are a SAP professional now is the time to start to educate yourself on SAP HANA (if you haven’t done so already).

SAP is currently not planning to require customers to use HANA, nor are they removing support for any existing RDBMS.  Pricing and availability were not immediately available.

More on SAP Business Suite on HANA here:

*No kittens were harmed by the existence of this post.

SAP Information Interchange OnDemand (IIOD) – A Primer

It can be said that in the SAP ecosystem, 2012 was the year of HANA.  You couldn’t turn around without being inundated with SAP’s in-memory computing full-court press. SAP has also been touting big data, mobility, and cloud solutions as well.  Clearly SAP is focusing on new, cutting-edge technology in each of these areas.  While much ink has been spilled writing about these technologies, it should be pointed out that you cannot ignore your current technological infrastructure.  For many organizations, this infrastructure includes business-to-business (B2B) communications.

In 2012, SAP acquired two companies steeped in B2B communications, Crossgate and Ariba.  These two recent acquisitions give SAP the opportunity to greatly change the face of B2B communications by combining their respective offerings under the SAP Business Network umbrella.  This blog entry is the first in a series that will explain the SAP Business Network, the SAP Information Interchange OnDemand (IIOD) managed service and how to take full advantage of its differences from legacy B2B communications.

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