SAP AG's newest subsidiary, SAP Portals, Inc., provides users both internal and external with a single point of access to the information, applications and content that they need for everyday use. The creation of SAP Portals as an independent company demonstrates SAP's commitment to open integration for any application and service with business intelligence and enterprise portals solutions. To achieve the seamless collaboration that helps people work smarter and faster, SAP Portals is licensing its technology to companies outside the SAP Group of companies, in addition to providing products to the parent company.
As a global company located in the Silicon Valley of California with development centers in Waldorf, Germany, and Raanana, Israel, SAP Portals develops and markets comprehensive, open-enterprise portal solutions, value-added content offerings, business intelligence applications and professional services. The people-centric solutions integrate with any application from any vendor of any technology to create a competitive advantage for organizations and their employees, partners and customers, empowering them to collaborate effectively anywhere, at any time.
From the start, the goal was to place usable information at people's fingertips. In the beginning of 1997, Klaus Kreplin joined SAP working on the business information warehouse solution. "In the second half of 2000, I was senior vice president of mySAP Business Intelligence and mySAP Workplace, and we were working to join SAP business warehouse activities with the enterprise portal activities to offer customers integration and a common user interface. Now as executive vice president of products at SAP Portals, we are expanding capabilities beyond simple application integration to offer customers targeted content and a range of business benefits," says Kreplin.
Peter Grendel, product marketing manager of SAP Portals, joined SAP AG in 1998 working on the SAP business warehouse product with Kreplin. Both Kreplin and Grendel agree that SAP's mission to remain the leading e-business vendor is rooted in SAP's rich and solid history beginning with the company's inception in 1972.
Kreplin explains, "There was a quick succession of activity which led to the formation of SAP Portals. Traditionally, SAP had one product R/3 that provided a single-user interface to a variety of applications. Over time, SAP extended its solution into new functional areas and deployed a component-based architecture enabling customers to quickly implement new functionality in the fast-moving areas of their companies. Extending the solution created the immediate need for a common user interface and spurred our first wave of enterprise portal offerings called mySAP Workplace. We then found that we had to expand this offering because we didn't want to just serve our traditional customer base, but also our customers' customers so they could collaborate successfully. These events drove us to provide a horizontal portal platform including business intelligence and expand capabilities beyond simple application integration."
SAP Portals integrates a variety of content with the data warehouse. Kreplin and Grendel, both born in northern Germany an area of the country known for its fact-oriented inhabitants emphasize that SAP Portals was created for users who handle a variety of applications. Kreplin states, "We're making a big move toward supporting heterogeneous environments within the major constructs of the new economy. For this reason, last year we founded SAP Markets a subsidiary of SAP AG which spearheads all SAP's business-to-business e-marketplace activities to improve process efficiency within and across company boundaries to increase profitability, precision and agility."
Kreplin adds, "At the end of last year, we saw the market consolidating portal vendors and we felt that we had to speed up our activities. Therefore, we moved to acquire TopTier Software in the beginning of this year. The acquisition was finalized June 1, 2001, and we gained access to Drag&Relate technology, an integral component of our portal strategy." The acquisition finalized the formation of SAP Portals with a mission to address through enterprise portals the information overload that has resulted from the billions of dollars that companies have spent on information infrastructures over the past decade.
According to Grendel, "We have a vision for SAP Portals. Our vision is to improve the user experience, empower people to collaborate and increase productivity. SAP Portals delivers solutions that give people everything they need to do their jobs in any role, at any time, from any place. We hope to lead the business in-telligence and enterprise portal market by providing people-centric solutions in this heterogeneous world."
To fulfill this vision requires integration. Kreplin explains, "We integrate content or knowledge management with the data warehouse. On top of this platform, we provide preconfigured content which we pioneered a couple of years ago with SAP BW." Unlike many other portals, SAP Portals not only provides the knowledge management, dynamic content, and search and categorization tools users expect in a portal, but also a robust, open and fully integrated business intelligence solution, including reporting and analysis functions, KPIs and analytical applications.
In addition to the enhancements provided by integration with business intelligence solutions, SAP Portals' enterprise portals offerings deliver rich content to end users through iViews. iViews are dynamic snapshots of business information that automatically generate answers to critical questions. iViews link with any enterprise application, database, Web site, groupware or e-mail server, enabling SAP Portals to provide dynamic data to users in real time.
Grendel explains, "The next release will provide what we call worksets and analytical applications preconfigured collections of iViews that surround end- user business tasks. For instance, each user in a company has a specific role and associated task sets, such as budget monitoring, vendor analysis, campaign optimization, people management or project management. From these tasks, we can then provide the elements needed for the specific roles, which are fed from the mySAP Business Intelligence platform, operational system and link-in transactions. In the end, it's providing the relevant information to the user in real time regarding activities in the business environment and then providing all of the tools to explore the environment such as analytics and search and retrieve. Intelligent navigation over content brings these things together."
The openness of SAP Portals technology is enhanced by partnerships. SAP Portals also partners with Yahoo! The partnership enables these two companies to conduct joint development, sales and marketing of enterprise portal products. The agreement pairs SAP technology and strength in the applications market with Yahoo!'s expertise in content and service provision.
The openness of SAP Portals family of enterprise portal products is evidenced in portals with integration and unification capabilities. According to Kreplin, "Our portals provide Unifiers for applications such as Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft and Siebel, and we provide the capability to build Unifiers to legacy applications. This is a competitive advantage in technology that nobody else has today."
Enterprise portals are the glue that enables SAP applications as well as other applications to work together. Kreplin notes that the portals bring value to all SAP applications. "We have these big initiatives such as customer relationship management, supply chain management and product life cycle management, and we have the process integration," he states. "We use the same exchange technology across companies as well as within companies, and we have the people-centric user integration in these portals. It's very important that these components, as well as other enterprise resource planning applications and systems, can come from both SAP and non-SAP technology."
"The customer reality is that the world is heterogeneous," states Kreplin. "In order to better serve this heterogeneous world and work with the products of our traditional competitors, we have formed SAP Portals as a separate company which enables us to work with SAP and in the same fashion with the other vendors."
There are presently a large number of portal vendors in the market. Kreplin notes that SAP Portals is different. "With Business Intelligence, iViews, Drag&Relate, our openness and our partnership with Yahoo!, we have the richest platform and the richest content," he states. "This combination is important. Perhaps the most prominent feature on the portal server itself is a unification technology that allows you to navigate through heterogeneous applications while keeping the context from one application to another. Because you typically have different object models in SAP applications versus PeopleSoft applications, we have Drag&Relate technology to translate between these object models and present to the end user a seamless navigation capability."
"Our portals provide access to all the transactions and one single access to all relevant information and all relevant activities anything individuals need for their daily work including business intelligence," says Kreplin. Furthermore, while wireless is not yet a revenue generator, Kreplin says, "We can support nearly any kind of device for SAP Portals."
With the creation of the new company, Kreplin expounds, "We have a great technology and great people in the field including a complete sales force in the United States as well as professional services people. We already have 800 people working for SAP Portals and more than 2,000 customers with approximately 6 million users of the software."
The SAP Portals team is young, collaborative, creative and university-like. According to Grendel, the SAP team is extremely important. He explains, "In these systems, the solutions must run 24x7. We have to provide the availability, the scalability and all those things and SAP people have tons of experience doing this." Kreplin adds, "We have excellent people."
Now that SAP has entered the business intelligence and enterprise portal market, Grendel sees two challenges. "First, on one side, we have to bring the technology together because we have business intelligence and we have portals. We have really good opportunities and solutions to bring these two worlds together. On the other side, we have people. We have to bring all the people together. We must develop our own culture, as we are a new company. Fortunately, we have some really good management at this company. Klaus is doing a great job. Shai Agassi, former CEO of TopTier, now CEO of SAP Portals, is doing an excellent job from a vision and management perspective to get all people on board spreading the message. Everybody is really enthusiastic."
Kreplin continues, "The TopTier technology is not new to us. We worked on an OEM basis with TopTier and knew the people. Therefore, the technology people are already one team. There is a lot of opportunity in the future. Because the data warehouse lives on the meta data including the user preferences, rows and knowledge management meta data, I believe these areas will merge together. It's extremely important to bring these different ingredients together and not isolate portal activity and the more or less disparate knowledge management and business intelligence activities. We face a lot of challenges to really capitalize on this opportunity."
Kreplin and Grendel are committed to ensuring that SAP Portals continues SAP's long tradition of excellence. Grendel describes Kreplin's management style and professes that Kreplin manages by open doors anyone within the company can initiate open discussion on any idea or topic. Kreplin confirms this by adding, "It is my role to encourage and support people. I'm very much involved in the strategy and product definition as well as processes."
Grendel continues, "There are no titles on SAP doors just the name of the person and the door is open." Kreplin adds, "We don't have org charts. In that respect, we're very different from the United States on the whole." Grendel explains, "This encourages, spirit, ideas, vision and the belief in the ability to make things happen. Technology alone does not make things happen. People make things happen."
"We have a new company and this company has a really good opportunity in the market," says Grendel. "We have good solutions in our backpack that we can deliver to our customers. We can bring the spirit that we have internally to our customers, and we can join our enthusiasm with our customers' enthusiasm."
Kreplin adds, "I feel excited when visions become reality. I enjoy solidifying visions by talking to the customers. Compared to the number of end users we achieve, we have a relatively small group of developers providing for this large community. This is a reward and it's really exciting."
It is often said that history repeats itself. Building on their successful backgrounds with SAP BW, Kreplin and Grendel have made that their goal. Says Kreplin, "With SAP BW, we created a solution and a great team of people. We want to do the same with SAP Portals."
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