Saturday, June 30, 2012

Duet Enterprise is real, effort is in it’s correct application

In the 1st week of May, The Next View participated in the second edition of the Duet Enterprise Velocity event. We already joined the first edition, and thus are familiar with the Velocity concept. As consequence, we could start immediate at the begin of the Velocity week on the realization of our customer’s scenario: Co√∂perative Learning.

Duet Enterprise is a given; real effort is in it's application AND understanding the business process + SAP business package

Noteworthy finding is that Duet Enterprise knowledge + experience is a necessity to successfully and productively apply this SAP-SharePoint interoperability middleware. However, this alone is not sufficient. Also required is that your customer has, or can reach, a clear vision of the application context they aim to achieve. In a normal project (with aim to deliver business value) this is of course the essential starting point. In our development approach we facilitate this by usage of mock-ups: discuss and derive in workshop(s) together with customer representatives the application functionality and behavior. The visualization format can be as simple and basic as sketches on paper, onto fully operational prototypes the customer can click through. SharePoint GUI + SharePoint Designer are very helpful for achieving the latter.
With the customer vision visualized in mock-up, the next step is to map this User Interface Design (UID) onto the combined SAP and Microsoft landscape. Here it is essential that you understand, and be aware of the behavior of the SAP business package building blocks.

An example to illustrate this

Part of Co√∂perative Learning scenario is to deliver Training Collaboration Workspace. Each workspace displays information about the training itself, about the participants, qualifications. SAP Enterprise Learning contains standard BAPI Function Modules to retrieve this information. It appears as simple as to identify the proper Function Module, and expose this via Duet Enterprise to SharePoint. But in reality the required insight in the SAP business package goes further. You must also be aware of the proper way of Function Module invocation, depending on the application context. For our Training Workspace, we apply the standard BAPI LSO_TRAINING_GET_DETAIL_C to retrieve training title, description and date. On day X this worked correct. Next morning, I received functional error ‘Course already passed’ from SAP LSO. It appeared as if the standard BAPI FM was not usable to retrieve data on elapsed training data, making it unusable for historical workspace context. Strange enough, a co-worker could still retrieve the training data. Our differences? He was enlisted as participant in this training, in contrary to me. And the standard Function Module responds on this current user context by only allow course participants to view the training data. That is, if you invoke the Function Module in it’s default modus ‘User_Role = Learner’.
When you overrule this for anonymous modus, you can successfully retrieve the training data also for elapsed dates, irrespective of the participation status of current user. A (proper) Duet Enterprise manner to do this is in the Gateway Model mapping.

Blueprint Duet Enterprise scenario's

The Next View recognizes the derivation and mapping from business vision via UID to the combination of SharePoint capabilities and SAP business package functionality + building blocks as essential step to deliver the correct application. We therefore incorporate this structural in our applied Duet Enterprise development process. As soon as we receive the initial business approvement on the UID translation of the business vision, next step in The Next View process is to deliver a Blueprint for the Duet Enterprise scenario’s that can be identified from the UID. Involved roles in delivering the Duet Enterprise Blueprint are a) Duet Enterprise Solution Architect as owner and facilator, b) SAP Business Analist with functional and high-level technical knowledge of the SAP Business Package, and c) SharePoint (Lead) Developer with knowledge of the SharePoint front-end capabilities. The purpose of the Duet Enterprise Blueprint is to derive and describe the high-level Solution Design; identifying the SAP and the SharePoint side. In the Solution Design, also fundamental design decisions on the SAP-SharePoint boundary are made and argumented. And when applicable, for alternative approaches explained why decided not to apply that.
In the process of derivng the Blueprint, it may also become clear that the requested UID cannot, or only with substantial development effort (= costs), by achieved by the SAP + SharePoint combination. Whenever such a consequence is identified, this is discussed with the UID expert and business. Is it feasible to alter the UID to accompany the standard SAP + SharePoint functionality? And if not from either functional or UID perspective, is the business willing to pay the extra development and also maintenance costs? Thus, the Blueprint derivation has an iterative effect and relation towards the UID and the application functionality.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Microsoft Trends 2012

At The Next View we regularly have 'TheNextKnowledge' (pizza)sessions to update each other on subjects that are or will become of interest for us. The subjects can be of pure technical nature (SAP Gateway, SharePoint 2010, Duet Enterprise), architectural (e.g. Gateway vs PI), functional (BI Dashboards).
Our latest session addressed innovation and trends as we (!) recognize them at our major technology suppliers. As 'true trend watchers', our statements are completely on personal notice, and on intention also sometimes 'bold'.
Update: On 18 June, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Surface Tablet. This is a new product, and different from the 'old' Microsoft Surface (Multi)Touch Table product referred in this trends overview.