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It's all about the Process !!! - ActiProcess Blog

Simplifying business solutions

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Posted by on in Enterprise

Most of the times when people talk about optimization, it is thought to be high level and generally stay at strategic level. And when discussion or initiatives are started top-down, there is a good chance that the practical and critical aspects are either ignored or not considered just because of the mere lack of detailed understanding  of the activities by the people making decisions. Though this is a problem in general, we can try to remedy some of this by keeping some of the basic common sense aspects of “processes” and “optimization” in sight.

Some of the insights we have found in our experience are:

• Processes invariably accumulate content (unstructured data like emails, documents, notes etc)

• There is always some amount of learning after each process execution – successful are those companies that can capitalize on these rather than insisting on rigid processes

• Most business application suites (including SAP ERP) have no native support for process optimization other than some loose coupling through some reports and transactions

...

SAP Content server is a component that is available from SAP for potential use a storage system for unstructured documents in relation to SAP business data. It is important for customers to understand some of the main aspects before considering SAP Content Server as a content repository.  SAP CS is a reference implementation of SAP ArchiveLink API. It is a free component for any SAP ERP customers, in general. Most customers use one of the 3rd party products like ActiProcess SmartStore for production use. The following are the main points to note:

•There is no scanning software included to scan paper documents

•No mechanism to receive documents via Email and linking them to SAP business transactions

•There is no mass scanning or import mechanism

•There is no support for general purpose indexing of documents before storing them

...

Posted by on in Enterprise

One of the cross application infrastructure modules that SAP provides is called SAP DMS. Most people confuse this with main stream DMS applications that are available on the market. SAP DMS is an ABAP-stack based transactional infrastructure for users to be bale to store meta data and document in SAP, generally using SAPGUI as the user interface. This is most commonly used in engineering documents storage. The following some of the main points to be noted about SAP DMS:

  • This is an ABAP based system and hence users have to use specific transactions CV01N etc to create what are called as Document info recordsd
  • By default the documents get stored in SAP database. Third party Content Management systems that are ArchiveLink compliant are needed to store the documents external to SAP database.
  • To use web based access you would need SAP Netweaver Portal or some BSP based infrastructure
  • Every user who needs access to these have to be named SAP ECC users
  • There is no support for Mass Import of documents
  • There is no scanning application provided to scan and digitize paper documents

If you have a true DMS requirement, you should consider implementing true DMS applications that are SAP ArchiveLink compliant. Actiprocess Smart Store is an ideal choice for such requirements.

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Posted by on in Enterprise

                   In general, there is confusion about what options are there for Companies that run SAP as their core ERP system about how they can manage documents alongside the transactional data. To be begin exploring this, we need to understand how SAP systems are architected. Most ABAP stack based SAP Business Suite systems including ECC, SRM, CRM, SCM are built as transactional systems. These systems use a relational database for storing the structured data - most commonly used RDMSs are Oracle, MS SQL, Max DB. These systems are optimized for storing "structured" data into a set of normalized database tables so that the read/write access is super fast. Example if we consider Invoice related transactions, the data gets stored in the tables BKPF, BSEG, BSET, BSEG etc. And these systems are generally the "Systems of Record".

                    But we all know that when we run business, there are a whole bunch of documents (PDFs, Spreadsheets, Word Document, Presentations, Images) that are created and exchanged both to complete the process around the transactions as well for other ancillary processes. It is estimated that the 95% of corporate data is “unstructured” and 5% is “structured”. Companies use different mechanisms, some sophisticated and other more rudimentary, to store this “unstructured” data. These range from different shared central file systems to more sophisticated Document Management systems. DMS software provide capabilities like attributes, classification, permissions management and much more. But most of these DMS software are disconnected from the “structured” SAP transactional data.

                     At a core architectural level, SAP provides an infrastructure API called “ArchiveLink”. This is the foundation for supporting linking and storing unstructured data alongside “structured” transactional data. ArchiveLink foundation is supported by most SAP core ERP modules like FI, CO, SD, MM, PP etc. ArchiveLink link specifies the mechanism for both storing and retrieving the documents from SAP transactions. Any customer who is running SAP ERP system should consider investing in ArchiveLink compliant Content Management system to give their user base the tools to easily access all the documents that are tied to various transactions. ActiProcess Smart Store is both ArchiveLink compliant and as well as SAP certified solution that can help customers rapidly deploy and activate these features to their core SAP systems.

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Having the ability to setup quickly external facing portal to collaborate with business partners (customers, suppliers, distributors etc) is a key success factor for organization to be successful in this inter-connected economy. But still the technical infrastructure to do these are quite antiquated and need huge investments in to IT software, administration and development to accomplish these needs. Some of the key benefits of such external facing portals are:

•Reduction in support calls by providing self-service portal (eg: Supplier payment status checking portal that allow supplier to query the status of the payments without calling in accounts payable department)

•Better partner collaboration – Instead of relying on emails and other un-auditable channels, Portals provide mean for securely and effectively communication and work with business partners to allow reduction of cycle times for various business process flows. Example by allowing your suppliers to know your procurement requirements in real time, you are making them part of your supply chain.

There are use cases in almost all areas of business which can benefit from such external facing portals. ActiProcess Smart xPortal is a product such that allow you to realize setting up of these portals without:

•Significant hardware investment

•Significant integration development cost

•Significant administration costs

As large software companies develop products and solutions to address most business problems, they look into their technology stack to re-use product components that they already have to put together a solution to address the business needs. Though this is a very good strategy fort he software companies, it is generally not so good for the customer for a number of reasons:

  • integration of various components results in architectural complexity but translates to time consuming activities during installation and more importantly to higher implementation costs and times
  • support is going to be complex as debugging and tracing of issues becomes a nightmare because of large number of moving parts
  • resulting overall cost of ownership is  

On the other hand critics of point-solutions claim that installing specialized point solutions increases complexity of customers' system landscape both in terms of software components as well as techology stacks. A balanced approach is where customers choose vendors who:

  • are aligned with their technology stack commitments. Eg., SAP for ERP, Java for web development etc
  • are focused on specific solutions spaces like SAP, Oracle or Microsoft.
  • have products that built with specific business problems in mind rather than specific technology platform features in mind

We at ActiProcess are committed to serving SAP customer base. Our products bring very little new technology stacks/containers into our customers' landscape and our products are built with "Process Optimization" as the primary area of focus. Our core focus ha always been to allow our customers to use existing resources(individuals with various skillsets and system infrastructure) in an optimal manner without major investments either into personnel or infrastructure.

©©ActiProcess Inc.
Tagged in: SAP Supplier Portal
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As large software companies develop products and solutions to address most business problems, they look into their technology stack to re-use product components that they already have to put together a solution to address the business needs. Though this is a very good strategy fort he software companies, it is generally not so good for the customer for a number of reasons:

  • integration of various components results in architectural complexity but translates to time consuming activities during installation and more importantly to higher implementation costs and times
  • support is going to be complex as debugging and tracing of issues becomes a nightmare because of large number of moving parts
  • resulting overall cost of ownership is  

On the other hand critics of point-solutions claim that installing specialized point solutions increases complexity of customers' system landscape both in terms of software components as well as techology stacks. A balanced approach is where customers choose vendors who:

  • are aligned with their technology stack commitments. Eg., SAP for ERP, Java for web development etc
  • are focused on specific solutions spaces like SAP, Oracle or Microsoft.
  • have products that built with specific business problems in mind rather than specific technology platform features in mind
©©ActiProcess Inc.
Tagged in: SAP Supplier Portal
// EOF