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.
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.