SAP bolsters BPM agenda

Responding to demand for BPM (business process management) functionality, dominant ERP vendors are rolling out technologies to bridge the gap between traditional enterprise application silos and to forge collaborative environments.

Strengthening its resolve to remold itself as an aggregator of disparate applications, SAP AG has revealed details about a suite of composite xApp business applications designed to tackle business change management.

Under development is a suite of applications geared toward business processes and designed to wrap a standards-based methodology around corporate activities, including M&As (mergers and acquisitions), outsourcing, divestitures, joint ventures, and reorganizations.

The Walldorf, Germany-based company’s suite of xApps is being driven across its stack of CRM, ERP, human resources, and financial applications to unify a company’s business processes and reduce enterprise operating costs.

According to SAP executive board member Shai Agassi, broad adoption of Web services has provided the foundation for the new xApps.

“It’s about what new applications, what new business processes will come, and who can actually take these things and aggregate them for you,” Agassi said.

SAP’s M&A package is due in 2003, with its other applications expected the following year as part of the company’s vision to deliver more than 200 specific xApps. M&A is the third suite SAP has detailed; the first – a resource and program management app – will ship in December. An employee-productivity xApp is due in the summer of 2003.

SAP’s plans follow Denver-based J.D. Edwards & Co.’s announcement last week of an upgrade to its Extended Process Integration middleware software for connecting disparate systems and applications. The software now includes native support of Web services standards and a dozen new extended business processes, which are preset, fully executable, and designed to work together with the middleware to tie multiple applications and enterprises together.

For its part, Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft Inc. in August announced PeopleSoft AppConnect, a new product suite of pre-integrated portal, integration, and warehouse solutions designed to reduce the complexity of integrating multivendor applications. AppConnect leverages Web services and legacy integration methodologies.

SAP’s approach is to build the business process apps on top of SAP’s existing enterprise application stack, Agassi explained.

“[The] merger stack can be plugged in to other xApps and look as if it has been built by one organization,” he said.

According to analysts, the real value that SAP brings to the table is the xApps methodology, rather than the xApps themselves.

“One-size-fits-all is not going to work with these xApps,” said Tom Harwick, research director at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. “We are predicting that people aren’t going to be able to use them out of the can.”

SAP is moving in the right direction with the xApps by putting a solution face on process management technology, but the key to their success will be the flexibility of the xApps, said Tyler McDaniel, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass.