18 February, 2009

EP/MOSS portal technology strategies

An increasing number of enterprises running SAP on the back-end are ending up with two portal technologies in play, SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal (EP) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). This raises the important question of how much of each do they need? Can they get away with just one portal technology? Or do they have to develop capabilities in both? If your organisation is in this position, this article might provide some food for thought and input to your portal strategy conversations.

The following will define nine high-level portal strategies utilising EP and/or MOSS based on the footprint of each product. For the purpose of this discussion, there are three options available for each of the products: no deployment at all, standard deployment only with no custom development or full-scale deployment including developing custom functionality.


No portal strategy

Your choice is to not provide any portal technologies. This will require most users to be trained up in multiple LOB applications and you are unlikely to meet their expectations in terms of ease of access to information and there will be little integration across the business.

At this point in time, not many organisations do not even have a basic portal in their environment.

One portal strategies

A one portal strategy has the great advantage of only requiring one technology stack. An organisation with a one portal strategy can save substantial costs on the IT budget by only having to support one technology. The downside is limited capabilities in terms of serving a user base with a broad range of functional requirements.

Standard EP only

Typically seen in small to medium-sized organisations with a limited number of desk workers. Only a very basic intranet is required and maybe a few standard business packages such as ESS.

EP only

You want the ability to provide a wide range of portal capabilities but you have no intention of adding MOSS to this. This is typically in organisations where the Microsoft Office suite is not part of the end user environment. Your email is in Notes, GroupWise or something else.

You might consider to leverage the extensive document management (DMS) capabilities of the NetWeaver stack, particularly for controlled documents with a clearly defined lifecycle. For the content of more collaborative nature you can apply NetWeaver’s knowledge management (KM) functionality to information from various repositories.

Standard MOSS only

Not running EP at all and only deploying limited MOSS functionality is only seen in small to medium-sized organisations. Typically there would only be a limited number of desk workers who require basic collaboration functionality.

MOSS only

The key strength of MOSS over EP, is the way it serves knowledge workers. MOSS is designed around people and is great for collaborative content. If you are running MOSS only, your organisation will be dominated by a large number of knowledge workers, all using the full suite of the Microsoft Office productivity tools.

Although this could be a valid strategy, it is unusual for organisations running SAP not to have any EP footprint at all exposing some of the SAP transactions. But you do have the option to develop user interfaces for that functionality in .NET and deploy it through MOSS.

Dual portal strategies

If you choose to deploy both products, you will potentially need to build some capabilities in both. However, it is still feasible to pursue a dual portal strategy without having to build strong capabilities in both technology stacks if you use one technology as the main portal environment and leave the other as vanilla as possible.

My experiences from talking to lots of SAP-centric organisations indicate that a dual portal strategy is the prevailing approach. And even research from SharePoint’s early days confirms this.

EP and standard MOSS

EP is the corporate portal. MOSS (or even just WSS) are used to provide standard document libraries and collaboration workspaces. Your organisation is committed to EP but is starting to feel a demand from the business for SharePoint collaboration tools, i.e. team sites. You want to limit SharePoint to standard team sites only.

Although you’re confined to be using standard SharePoint team sites, governance is still important, particularly around the site provisioning process.

Future enhancement packs for EP will support this architecture by providing functionality that will allow access to content in distributed SharePoint libraries.

MOSS and standard EP

MOSS is the single entry point for all users. It is the intranet portal. You will have a large user base of information workers. These workers perform most of their tasks using Microsoft productivity tools, such as Outlook, Excel and Word.

EP is used as is for transactional functionality such as ESS and other standard business packages. You can consider bringing IViews forward to MOSS by using IView Web Parts.

EP and MOSS

Going down this path provides the highest degree of flexibility in terms of addressing almost any possible business requirement. It also entails the highest degree of technical complexity and requires strong capabilities in both technologies. Only large organisations should consider this a feasible strategy.

Building capabilities in both technology stacks effectively means utilising competent people from both areas. Competent people have typically spent a significant part of their career focusing on their technology of choice and will naturally be passionate about the associated products and be strong advocates of using those. That gives rise to a managerial challenge of making sure both camps subscribe to the idea of leveraging the best of both worlds.

You will also be faced with having to make a decision on which portal product will be your “portal of portals.” This can go either way. And if you asked SAP and Microsoft, I bet they would both put forward a strong case for their respective products.

Summary

If your organisation is running SAP, you will likely have to make a strategic choice for the footprint of the two portal technologies. This choice will dictate how you structure your IT department and what capabilities you will need to build.

In this article, I have outlined the available technical strategies. Making the choice is the real challenge and ultimately depends on what functionality you want to offer to your user base. EP and MOSS have different strengths and weaknesses and understanding those is highly beneficial when analysing the requirements from the business.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi!
I just read your article about the portal tech strategies, very interessting. We are now running a SAP strategy for Business Applications and we are using Office (with Outlook/Exchange) as a standard app on the PC. We have a small SAP portal running and we are now searching for a portal, that fits out needs. We just startet and ESS project for Vacation requests and i heard, that EP is needed for this. We are also planning a portal for personalizing our intranet with some web 2.0 stuff like Wikis, blogs and so on. For our company (about 7000 employes) i would like to have just one portal solution. Do you know, if an SAP ESS solution can be developed with shrepoint too? With single sign on etc.?

Kristian Kalsing said...

Deploying ESS into SharePoint is an option. You can build custom web parts exposing the ESS functionality of SAP. However, you are of course taking on a considerable risk developing a new UI compared to deploying standard ESS. It is only warranted if your ESS UI requirements are substantially different from standard ESS or you are only looking to deploy the 3-4 most common ESS use cases (personal details, leave management, etc.). Don't underestimate the effort of integrating with the SAP HCM web services!

If your organisation has many knowledge/information workers and you are looking to deploy a lot of web 2.0 type functionality then MOSS is very attractive. The MOSS roadmap for the future includes very strong capabilities in this area compared to EP. The other strong point for MOSS in this case is the tight integration with your Office applications.

You could consider using SharePoint as your collaboration/intranet portal and then from there link to business applications and ESS in a standard (non-customised) EP environment. Leveraging the best of both worlds.

Also, have a look at the collaboration functionality coming up in EP (http://kalsing.blogspot.com/2008/08/sap-netweaver-collaboration-portal.html).

Anonymous said...

Hi! Thanks for your reply. I think for us it´s not the point of having more information worker and the need of some blogs and other web 2.0 stuff. We experienced in the past, that when we developed SAP stuff, we need a lot of external consulants. With MS Software, the complexity of building something is a lot easier that with SAP stuff. I´m sure, that the whole Portal thing is not as easy as using an MS Access wizard to create a database, but i think with an MOSS portal, we get it running with less external konowledge in a short period of time. Another question comes to my mind: When we do a "two portal" stategy with MOSS as a leading intranet portal and a "default" ESS, can we have a single sign on easyly? Logging in to MOSS and then logging in seamlessly to EP for our buissness apps? Or am i completly wrong with all i said before ;)

Kristian Kalsing said...

Yes, you can definitely have Single Sign-On between the two portals. There are various ways of approaching this. One way is to utilise the SharePoint SSO service to manage the mapping between AD accounts and SAP accounts. This is pretty straight forward to set up.
More on SSO here: http://download.microsoft.com/download/c/6/c/c6c42b9f-66f4-47b3-99be-8e5afa1ddc9a/SSO%20with%20MS%20and%20SAP.pdf

Stefan Bohlmann said...

Kristian,

thanks a lot for this big picture view about the two portal vendors. btexx is a german company with specialising in the integration scenario "EP and standard MOSS" you described.

We have an internet demo plattform available that shows a SAP portal running with some MOSS content integrated, e.g. a MOSS team calender and a HCM leave request on the same SAP portal page.

(http://www.btexx.com/software/MOSSintegrator)

Please send me an email if you are interested in getting more information about this approach. I would be happy to discuss that in more detail with you and dicuss about a possible partnerhsip.

Regards from germany
Stefan