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SAP ERP HCM Software Analysis

 

SAP HCM Technology Review

SAP ERP HCM software is powered by the SAP NetWeaver technology platform, a complex framework and development platform that enables organizations to build or extend enterprise applications. This technology is not only the underlying foundation for all of SAP's Business Suite software (along with other portfolio products such as Business ByDesign), but is also the basis for SAP's service-oriented architecture (SOA). Specifically, because SAP Netweaver is the SOA integration framework, it can deliver customized development capabilities; provide a runtime environment; facilitate system integration; and support new, cross-functional business processes—all pieces of SAP's goal for a singular technology platform which is fully integrated, open, and purpose-built. A research report from Forrester indicates that "SAP makes ongoing advances in its integration capability… where the current release of [SAP] NetWeaver PI is meeting many of the integration needs of many of its customers."

That being said, SAP's approach through Netweaver is dated (with Netweaver being released in 2004) and will likely require upgrades, replacements or at best supplementation to be able to satisfy the latest organizational requirements of mobile, social, and SaaS technology—a verity that could potentially mean lengthy and expensive upgrade paths.

System Integration Capabilities

SAP ERP HCM software offers an open API for standard integrations and has the ability to write custom Business Application Programmer interfaces; meaning the solution leverages object-oriented programming methods to enable relatively straight-forward 3rd-party software integration.

The bulk of SAP Business Suite and ERP HCM groupware is managed via SAP Duet, a custom-built application which blends SAP with Microsoft SharePoint and Office enabling interoperability between the applications (including email, contact syncs, calendar appointments and tasks). Duet Enterprise delivers ready-to-use capabilities with quick time to value for users to collaborate around SAP data, participate in human resource or other workflows, access reports, explore HR information and search SAP and SharePoint. However, it should be noted that IMB's Lotus Notes is also supported (though not as widely used) within the SAP framework through another joint venture called SAP Alloy (software which fully leverages existing investments in SAP and IBM Lotus Notes applications and allows in-house developers and system integrators to customize and extend its functionality).

The company also provides an avenue for partners and independent software vendors (ISVs) to integrate their software with SAP software through regional SAP Integration and Certification Centers (SAP ICCs)—an offering that provides services such as an interface certification program, consulting, and access to test systems.

Software Customization Capabilities

The SAP ERP HCM software solution is written largely in ABAP and Java programming languages, comes with development licenses, and works with the following databases: Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, and MaxDB. While the abovementioned points on Netweaver cover the bulk of customization capabilities, additional information is necessary to fully understand the process and technology for SAP's workflow capabilities.

Business Process Automation

Many SAP applications deliver workflows as content with the SAP software. HCM, CRM, SRM are examples of SAP applications that provide ready-to-use workflows. While organizations can change these workflow templates to reflect company processes (by using the graphical Workflow Builder), functionality is also provided to be able to build specific workflows from scratch. Business Process Automation (BPA) is accomplished through the SAP Business Workflow—an underlying workflow engine that can be used to define and modify business processes and is particularly well-suited to those business scenarios in which approval flow has to be routed in a specific sequence for multiple users.

Capable of handling processes that are as simple as "release or approval" procedures, up to more complex variables-based business progressions; SAP provides numerous out-of-the-box workflows that map predefined business processes as well as tools for custom user workflow modification. These tools include:

  • The Workflow Builder - For displaying and making changes to workflows, users can leverage this tool to make small extensions directly to the original workflow templates supplied by SAP.
  • Workflow Wizards – Several of these wizards are available for support in the definition of workflows, as well as support in the creation of specific parts of a workflow.
  • Business Object Builder – This is the tool used to define/analyze the business objects that will be used to make system functions available to a specific workflow; which is made available to the workflow in reusable tasks.

In addition, several tools are also available to the workflow system administrator, for viewing, controlling, and analyzing current workflows. Workflow items have several options for delivery (where users receive information about specific processes that he/she is authorized to carry out), including: users' SAP workplace, email inbox, internet inbox, non-SAP workflow engine, and SAP workplace with notification to email or internet inbox.

It should be noted that these customizations are not simple and more often than not require an SAP expert or consultant to carry them out. In fact, one of the most discussed benefits of SAP's newest SaaS venture (Business ByDesign) was Studio SDK; a somewhat simpler and Visual Studio like environment in which customers and partners can modify the system (through extensions and add-ons) without source code or other core system modification. That ability is not present in the SAP Business Suite.

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