Tuesday, February 01, 2005

InfoWorld Interview with SAP's Kagermann: The role and importance of a Business Process Platform

SAP plans to extend the Netweaver platform into a Business Process Platform.

Kagermann: Behind NetWeaver is a fundamental shift in architecture, which we call enterprise service architecture, or services-oriented architecture as it is also called in the industry. The idea behind this architecture is to give people on the outside access to functions inside our technology. In this sense, NetWeaver is a kind of composition platform for them to compose services.

We could stop with NetWeaver, but if customers really want to adapt more quickly to new business models and be more innovative with their use of business software in the future, then they also need to be able build new services faster and with greater flexibility. To achieve this, we will take what is generic enough in our technology, such as components, business objects and processes like billing, and put these into an application platform. So if a company wants to develop a new add-on application, it now has access to functionalities such as CRM (customer relationship management) and SCM (supply chain management) through open interfaces.

What all this means is that we want to create reusable processes at the application level and combine these with NetWeaver. This, in a nutshell, is the idea behind our new Business Process Platform. It's essentially an evolution of NetWeaver with the added capability to run ready-to-run processes.

IDGNS: Does this mean you ... give customers the choice between developing their own applications like CRM and SCM to run on your platform or buying these ready-built from you?

Kagermann: Exactly. Customers won't have to plug into our CRM application completely if they want to use our CRM technology. Instead, if they so choose, they can make use of reusable pieces -- available through the new Business Process Platform -- to compose their own application. A reusable part, for example, could be the order management function of our CRM application, which is the same in our ERP system. ... Now with the Business Process Platform, we're taking NetWeaver and melding it with a piece of the applications layer. This new platform, in turn, supports a higher services layer, which isn't hard-coded but model-driven. Here I can imagine consultants composing processes and building analytic tools. We will offer applications at this level but so will others in competition with us. ... Oracle still believes everything revolves around data. We say everything revolves around processes.