10 August, 2008

SharePoint versus NetWeaver Portal

With SharePoint on its way to becoming the de facto collaboration portal in the corporate context, many large enterprises are ending up with two portal technologies within their infrastructure, Microsoft SharePoint and SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal.

As I'm increasingly getting involved in discussions with customers around portal strategies and choosing between SharePoint and NetWeaver Portal, I've been identifying some high-level differences between the two technologies from various perspectives. The aim of this blog post is to compare and contrast the portal capabilities of SharePoint and NetWeaver. The following statements are not intended to be literal but rather aimed at emphasising the primary strengths of the two products.

SharePoint is horizontal. NetWeaver is vertical.
Out of the box, SharePoint does not deliver any business solutions. It is a platform for collaborative applications, a horizontal layer that sits behind your desktop applications. NetWeaver exposes business data and functionality residing in the ERP system, vertical access points into the back-end.

SharePoint for unstructured data. NetWeaver for structured data.
SharePoint provides a toolset for managing collaborative content. It's a focal point for all the everyday interactions between individuals and the content they collaborate on. NetWeaver is the place for business data and functionality of core business processes.

SharePoint is designed around people. NetWeaver is designed around business processes.
The NetWeaver Portal is designed around business processes. The whole purpose of the NetWeaver Portal is to expose the data and functionality of SAP. SharePoint on the other hand was not designed with any specific back-end system in mind. It's designed around how people collaborate and communicate. From a usability perspective, SharePoint is often the lowest common denominator.

SharePoint is a productivity tool. NetWeaver is an enabler.
Microsoft positions SharePoint as part of their suite of productivity tools. Hence, SharePoint is more about how you do things as opposed to what you do. The Office clients (Word, Excel, etc.) are about individual productivity, SharePoint is about team productivity. The NetWeaver Portal is first and foremost an enabler. It's another user interface to SAP data and functionality.

SharePoint has seamless integration with desktop tools. NetWeaver has seamless integration with the back-end.
SharePoint is the server cornerstone of the Office suite of applications and delivers additional capabilities to your everyday productivity tools. NetWeaver is closely tied to the SAP back-end, exposing enterprise data and functionality.

SharePoint is a collaboration oriented environment. NetWeaver is a transaction oriented environment.
The product features provided by SharePoint are aimed at improving collaboration between people. The NetWeaver Portal is designed around SAP transactions.


Anonymous said...

Can you give some examples about what can you make with SharePoint that can't be done with Portal?

Kristian Kalsing said...

Both platforms are highly extensible, so in theory you can do just about anything in both technologies. However, it's more a case of what are the relative strengths of the two products.

The transactional functionality provided by SAP Portal could also be implemented by building custom web parts in SharePoint. But SAP Portal was designed specifically for this, so it's probably also the best place for it.

The collaborative functionality of SharePoint are also to some extend provided by the collaboration rooms in SAP Portal. However, there seems to be a widespread consensus on SharePoint being stronger in this area.

One thing that you will get with SharePoint that you don't see in SAP Portal is the tight integration with the Office client products (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). A large part of SharePoint's collaborative functionality is accessible directly from the Office clients meaning that information workers can leverage the benefits of SharePoint without leaving the environment they're already comfortable with.

Anonymous said...

FYI, there's some plumbing that needs to be done, but one could use SAP Connector for .NET or SQL SSIS to connect to SAP.

From there, expose SAP's "structured data" via Sharepoint's "Business Data Catalog" feature.

Like what Kristian was saying, it's not that straight forward to access structured data in SharePoint, but as of version 2007, it's a huge improvement over version 2003.

I've been working with integration for half a decade now, and when there's more links in the chain, it spells complexity and heightens the probability for failure.

Having said that, when there's a will there will always be a way.

Stefan Bohlmann said...

This (pretty new) video shows the integration from SharePoint content into SAP Portal, one of the alternatives Kristian described:


For example, a good team calender is a missing feature in SAP portal that comes with sharepoint.

Tahir said...

I'm looking at this very question in our organisation right now.

I'm from a SAP background.

I think the way forward is Sharepoint as the wider portal that excels at the collaborative part with vertical depth added by Netweaver Portal integration.

And it doesn't have to be actual technican integration...possibly just some smart linking...