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SAP R/3 and SAP Visual Composer

What is SAP?
SAP was start in 1972.  It is in Mannheim Germany by a group of ex-IBM engineers.  The original name for SAP was German. It is “Systeme und Anwendungen Produkte”. It is in English is “System application and products”. “SAP’s application software foundation is built on the concept of specialization and integration. That is, each component or product within the SAP family of products and services meets a particular need, such as providing web-based accessed to other SAP system, facilitating day to day financial and resource management (SAP Enterprise Resource Planning), supporting internal company procurement (SAP supplier Relationship Management), interconnecting different systems to ease integration headaches (SAP Netweaver Process Integration) and so on.” (W.Anderson, Rhodes, & Davis, 2008) SAP is providing wide range of industry specific solution.

SAP History
The first SAP software was known as R/1 in 1972. R mean “Real-Time Data processing” and it is used for financial Accounting system. In 1972 it was improve to R/2. It was “main frame base business application software suit”. On 6th July 1992, SAP proposed R/3. It was client server version software. It was manageable on multiple platform and operating system, such as UNIX or Microsoft windows. In R/3, 3 mean “3 tired and it is client/server based application. It utilized three tired modules. They are 1. Presentation layer which interfaces with the user. 2. Application layer which include all the business logic. 3. Database layer which records and store all the information about the system. It also includes transactional and configuring data. (SAP History)”.

What is SAP R/3?
SAP R/3 is a package of intergraded application called modules that record and tracks the activities and cost of doing business. SAP R/3 is architecture of the database, functional module and client graphical user interface (GUI) and respective hardware components. Modules are connecting to one another. Also it connects with database and the client. (Mazzullo & Wheatley, 2005)

SAP R/3 architecture (Mazzullo & Wheatley, 2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Functional modules are separate software packages. They are purpose specific task, such as payroll management, inventory control and accounting and normally installed in application servers, “which are computers that are capable of rapidly processing large volume of data and then assembling the output of their work in a format that can be read by the user” (Mazzullo & Wheatley, 2005).

 

Some example of SAP functional modules (Mazzullo & Wheatley, 2005)

The database is a collection of business data. These data are stored inside database servers. They are computers with huge amounts of storage memory and the capacity. It is frequently exchange with the application server.  (Mazzullo & Wheatley, 2005)SAP R/3 system designed for open system, such as UNIX. It is now based on various hardware and software architecture. It runs on most version of UNIX, on Windows NT, and on OS/400. “SAP R/3 runs on uniprocessors; it scales very well on SMP system and also on MPP architecture. SAP R/3 runs on variety of databases, such as Oracle, Informix Online, ADABAS-D, DB2 for UNIX, DB2/400 and Microsoft SQL Server, and on experimental version on DB2 for MVS.” (S.Miller, 1998)

SAP GUI

SAP application can be divided into three tiers. They are application, database and presentation. The presentation tier is the user interface to the SAP systems. The user interface is connecting to the SAP application server.  The presentation logic is separating from other tiers. Therefore advantage is user can access the system from anywhere. That mean user have freedom to operate the system from any computer that has the SAP GUI. (SAP’s Graphical user interface) (W.Anderson, Rhodes, & Davis, 2008). Some uses accesses the SAP software through web browsers. (Ex: MS internet Explorer). Therefore SAP GUI appears inside the frame of the browser window.

AcceleratedSAP


SAP R/3 allows start improving efficiency using a method that is compatible to the way in which business uses information. ASAP is makes it by faster, simpler, and more productivity.  “ASAP acts as an efficient expert with respect to time, quality, and productive use of resources in implementations."  ASAP consist of components that implementation successful. Theses components include:

1.      SAP Roadmap

2.      SAP toolkit

3.      SAP Consultant trainin

One of the most important mechanisms of the AcceleratedSAP program is the addition of component called accelerators. Each of theses accelerators is used for all types of implementations. They can be either be used together or independently. Roadmap has various steps. They are: 1. “Project Preparation, 2.Business Blueprint, 3.Simulation, 4.Validation, 5.Final Preparation, 6.Go Live and Support”  (S.Miller, 1998) . The Roadmap can be substituted by their own techniques. The accelerator use to achieve an effective implementation goal for any organisation. Implementation goals can be, “much quicker implementation, speedier deliver of business results, certified quality, specific knowledge acquisition during implementation, most efficient use of  resources , communication and utility of result for future implementation phases, shortened implementation cost, speedier return on investment  (S.Miller, 1998)”. 

Accelerated SAP has time-proven practise and standard that employ the best implementation and practices from SAP customers. “ASAP allows partner consultant to have a uniform approaches that allows rapid implementation. The implementation tools of the SAP R/3 Business Engineer are the cornerstone of the configuration support present in SAP’S R/3. SAP is dedicating a great deal of resource designed to continually strengthen and broaden AcceleratesSAP. “It is including program that has a great deal of functionality that support both tools and templates. ASAP is effectively implemented in several customers R/3 implementation in both a domestic and global state.”  (S.Miller, 1998)

SAP Transaction

Transaction
Transactions have parties interact with each other. Also they exchange or trade and balance. According to SAP it can be describe as a single business activity that is conducted with SAP R/3. We can provide some end user transaction, such as creating a purchase requisition, generating a budget report for a company department, Scheduling the shipment of a material to a plant, recording the activities of a maintenance job, entering employees' weekly work hours, displaying the yearly sales for a product. (W.Anderson, Rhodes, & Davis, 2008) Each and every transaction progress through the four step work flows. It shows by following figure 2

                 Figure 2.2 The SAP workflow (W.Anderson, Rhodes, & Davis, 2008

During the step 3 and step 4, accomplished communication between SAP R/3 software and the end user. This is doing through via technical object codes. “A technical object is anything that is monitored and tracked by SAP R/3.” It can be tangible objects, such as physical plant, consumable material, employees and equipment. Also it has intagible ones, such as purchase requision, work orders and shipping orders. (W.Anderson, Rhodes, & Davis, 2008)

The Basic Transaction Types

 There are only four basic transaction types.  Every transaction can be classified as one of these four types. They are displaying an object,  displaying a list of related objects,  creating an object and changing an object. The four basic transaction can be groupued in to two classes. They are reporting and processing transaction. The reporting trancsaction display objects.  They display the SAP database object for a tangible object.  The tangible object can be department, cosumable material or piece of equipment. Also it display an activity and list of related objects. Activity can be work order or purchase requistion. They are only executed types of transactions for most end-user.  “The Processing Transaction create and change objects (that is their SAP database records).” They are usaully execte by the few emloyees in a company, and most user do not have authorized to access to use them.

Model Driven Development

“What is model-driven development? It is the process of creating business application software by using tools to define and configure metadata. Metadata is information that describes the business object, processes, persistency, user interface, dependencies, and logic.” (Bonnen & Herger, 2007). SAP Netweaver visual composer is a model driven development within SAP, but it is not first model driven development environment. It is most graphical and therefore the most appealing tool from the SAP. One of the most end to end tools was SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligent and one of the most end to end tools is the SAP Composite Application Framework.  (Bonnen & Herger, 2007)

SAP Netweaver Visual Composer
 

Business application past and present
Over the past several years, Business applications become highly development and more complex.  In addition to the requirements generate by theses applications. Users need lot of requirements.  User can be employees as well as customers. They need lot of features in their applications. They must be user-friendly, process oriented and efficient application.  Currently lot of application access web, or used a web-based UI.  (Bonnen & Herger, 2007)
There are three key factors to successful modern IT infrastructure.

Cost awareness - IT cost must be in reasonable level. That means how the cost of project or “total cost of ownership (TCO)” of a software or hardware things are positive effect for the company. TCO can be “direct cost” or indirect cost. Indirect cost can be trainee or maintenance.

Flexibility – The ability of a company to react to business demands in a timely manner. 

Innovation - The companies have challenge to change their existing product or process. It can be do by modify them or replacing them.
Those three key factors directly effect on building applications. Not only have these three keyed factors. We need to consider some other factors as well.  The additional factor that must be successes of application is user-friendly UI.  If the business application is not user friendly, that mean it must not be accept by the user. SAP got many tools, which offer balances of above key factors, Such as SAP Netweaver Portal Content studio, SAP Netweaver Developer Studio, SAP Composite Application Framework and SAP Netweaver Visual Composer.  (Bonnen & Herger, 2007)

SAP Visual Composer and its Features

“The SAP Netweaver Visual Composer tool lets IT specialist and business Analysts create model based, flexible applications quickly, without writing a single line of code. The result? Streamlined business process, lower IT development cost, and satisfied employee and customer” (BWP SB Creating Applications Easily with Visual Composer Tool)
Visual Composer is model-driven tool.  Model-Driven tools should adhere to the following features.

Exploratory - Model-Driven able to change their experimental and also it may be greater important. So those changes should be doing with quickly and with minimum effort. Visual Composer implements this principle by using drag and drop technique to build to business application. Also it offered wizards.

Simplicity - A model-driven tool must be simple. That mean it must be minimize the coding or completely remove them. Also it must be includes easily understood concepts. Visual Composer provides drag-and-drop concept.  User can directly see their layout while building it. Also it is browser based application and no need to be installed in client machine.

Reusability - That means using the model again and again. “Visual Composer clearly implements the principle of reusability. Every application of modelled with visual composer is based on existing data services, and Visual Composer enables you to take these applications by combining them.”

Directness - In VC user can model an application and directly run this application in SAP Netweaver Portal. So user can check the execution repeatedly when they develop the modelling process. 

Expressiveness - “A model-driven tool should provide support for spreadsheet concepts-formulas and cells-to express complex and dynamic user interface logic.” Visual Composer use spread sheet concept.

Extensibility - A model-driven tool extends the model by adding new modelling elements. “Visual Composer is based on a modelling XGraph Language (XGL) that allows you to implement new modelling elements and extend them to different run time environments.”  (Bonnen & Herger, 2007)

The architecture for Visual Composer System

In visual composer story board user can model include their hierarchy of page that require iviews. The iviews can construct using:

The Data Service Layer - “Visual Composer provides tools for connect via the portal to back-end applications defined in the portal system landscape. (Visual Composer : User Guide)”. This connection giving facility to imports visual composer model the relevant Remote Function Calls (RFCs), Business Application Programming Interface (BAPIs) and other data source which based on iviews.

The User Interface (UI) Logic - Developers construct UI logic by dragging and dropping icons that represent the elements of their iviews. Such as form it display runtime., Visual Composer writes the underlying code.

UI Layout - “The layout defines all the visual aspects of the iView. The model you build with Visual Composer is automatically coded in the proprietary Generic Modelling Language (GML). When your Visual Composer model is complete, you use the Visual Composer compiler to convert the GML code into a format supported by the portal. You can also export your model to another Visual Composer, and import other models as well. (Visual Composer : User Guide)”
The following digarm shows the general Architecure of the visual composer system.
The architecture for Visual Composer System (Visual Composer : User Guide)

SAP Visual Composer Provides wide range of business benefits

Visual Composer is not required coding, so it’s save time as well as support cost structure, that IT development and maintain cost. (No coding to maintain). It encourages self service, because it is very interactive and user friendly. Also “it improves employee productivity and customer satisfaction by providing rich end user experience.” and it immediately providing business data to user, so it add business value and improves decision making. Therefore “It improves overall efficiency through its streamlines development process. (SAP Visual Composer, 2008).”