Before SAP users decide to adopt service oriented architecture (SOA), they need a holistic view of how all the pieces of their IT puzzle fit together. They will need a company-wide enterprise architecture.
Because, with rare exceptions, few SAP users have an experienced in-house team of IT architects with a proven methodology, they will be forced to partner with an SAP consulting firm to gain a methodology and blueprint.
SAP applications bring their own predefined architectural patterns. But who can the SAP user turn to for a proven, generic enterprise architecture methodology?
First, try IT consultancies that specialise in enterprise architecture, but they are unlikely to have enough SAP knowledge. Then try established SAP consulting partners - although they may not have much real enterprise architecture experience.
AMR Research surveyed eight leading SAP consultancies. SAP's partners have hundreds of Netweaver consultants, all involved in SAP's Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) adoption roadmap. But from a purely enterprise architecture methodology perspective, this is how they are positioned:
The Accenture global methodology for delivering all its services incorporates the standard enterprise architecture planning methods, including SOA patterns and SAP ESA content. Also available is the Accenture delivery method for SAP, which addresses SAP lifecycle support processes.
The Atos enterprise architecture methodology has evolved in the past decade and focuses on high-level "city planning" rather than the detailed blueprints many of its competitors advocate. This approach also has a strong emphasis on enterprise architecture governance processes and is supported by a range of standard planning tools.
Bearingpoint has a global methodology for delivering all its consulting services, called Provencourse. This incorporates the standard Provencourse for SOA methodology, which is built on SOA patterns, and has been developed in the past 18 months. Provencourse for SOA includes a five-phase ESA blueprint for SAP environments. It is aligned with SAP's own ASAP implementation methodology and provides a number of SOA assessment tools.
Capgemini stands out from other suppliers in being a lot more experienced at enterprise architecture planning for SAP. Its Integrated Architecture Framework has developed over 11 years and is now a mature product. It uses the Togaf open source methodology for higher levels, where it is more complete.
CSC has a global methodology, Catalyst, for delivering all its services. This incorporates the standard Catalyst enterprise architecture methodology, which has been updated to incorporate SOA patterns. Catalyst enterprise architecture defines a detailed architecture framework that includes custom-made software developments as well as packaged applications. It has a strong emphasis on lifecycle support processes.
Deloitte has long been a leader in the business issues regarding SAP implementations, especially in the identification and tracking of business value and return on investment. This is evident in its Enterprise Value Map for SAP and Enterprise Value Delivery for SAP methodology. Deloitte also offers the SOA strategic transformation roadmap but, unlike its competitors, it does not offer a full enterprise architecture methodology.
Hewlett-Packard has HP Global Method for IT Strategy and Architecture (ITSA) for delivering all its IT strategy consulting services. This incorporates a standard Togaf-based enterprise architecture methodology. HP also has a strong enterprise architecture practice. SOA patterns have been built into ITSA over the past year.
IBM has several methodologies for enterprise architecture planning. These include its Enterprise Architecture Consulting Method, Component Business Model (CBM), and Service Oriented Modelling and Architecture (Soma), as well as custom-made software development methodologies. CBM addresses the business domain, while Soma tackles the IT domain.
Most larger SAP users are at a very early stage of SOA and ESA adoption, with tactical evaluation projects at best. However, AMR Research estimates that at least half of them plan more strategic SOA investments in business process extension in the next three years, but only if a proven implementation approach emerges.
The starting point for any such strategic approach is a proven enterprise architecture methodology that is business-driven and includes governance.
SAP users should check whether they have an experienced enterprise architecture team in their organisation. If so, it may have a generic, company-wide enterprise architecture methodology and blueprint in place. Such enterprises can focus on incorporating ESA, plus their own SAP specifics, into this blueprint.
Most SAP users will not be in this fortunate position and will need a proven enterprise architecture methodology to build their own blueprint. They are likely to need help from an external service provider, such as an SAP consulting partner, to supply a proven enterprise architecture methodology.
When selecting a partner, SAP users should start by reviewing their profiles and overall enterprise architecture maturity assessments. Ignore claims about Netweaver and ESA experience and focus instead on credibility with generic enterprise architecture methodology.
Selecting a partner is as much about individual credibility as overall capability. But when choosing a partner for enterprise architecture methodology assistance, check references more carefully than usual.