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From "Bechauf, Michael" <michael.bech...@sap.com>
Subject ESME Process Integration
Date Tue, 05 Jan 2010 01:16:31 GMT
In an effort to hopefully once and for all settle the question of what type of integration
with 3rd party application systems ESME would be best suited for I want to capture the essence
of a Twitter conversation that happened today. Basically, it was started by @dahowlett in
reference to Thingamy. Dennis said that "#esme's true power is the NetWeaver integration so
@sig's work has significance". I have not seen the Thingamy/ESME work, but I felt compelled
to again bring up an old question: What can micro-blogging utilities like ESME really do to
make ERP systems "better" ? For me, this was not a technical integration question, but rather
a fundamental question that can easily be applied to SFDC Chatter as well.

The way I look at ERP systems is that a business process is broken up into multiple steps
that can each be executed with a specific transaction. Most of these transactions can also
be executed through some remote invocation interface (WS*, RFC or whatever) which would apparently
be used by ESME. People with specific roles using the ERP system would enter those transactions,
either triggered by an outside event (Goods Receipt, Create Sales Order, Shipment) or prompted
through some workflow in the system. In a way, the system is designed and implemented so that
it's clear when who has to do what. The level of success of an ERP implementation depends
on the degree of automation that can be accomplished. 

Typically, ERP systems work best with what Sig lovingly calls "Easily Repeatable Processes".
An event happens, an appropriate transaction is executed, the ERP systems determines specific
follow-up action that either need to be executed manually by a person or a follow-up business
process is triggered automatically. Even in the case of customer support, where Twitter is
said to have some enterprise-level success, the CRM system will make sure that a customer
support specialist will give a customer a callback, and if that hasn't happened within a certain
time period, a different customer service agent would be found. Essentially, it is all about
predictability. 

Obviously, predictability only works as long as the real world works in synchronisity with
the inner workings of the ERP system. In many cases it is not; that's when people pick up
phones or maybe use some internal micro-blogging utility. Somebody will say, "Hey, I've got
this customer who presents me with this issue, anybody out there who can help ?". 

However, what kind of "integration" is required to make this happen ? The demos that were
shown at Demo Jam essentially published an event with a text on ESME, but isn't in reality
just somebody typing in a question ? Would ESME really trigger a business process through
some remote invocation interface, like creating a PO, or would the ESME user, once a question
was satisfactorily answered by their network, rather turn to their ERP screen and enter whatever
they have learned ? 

So, essentially what I'm saying is that I don't think an ESME integration with ERP will be
of significant value. ESME as a standalone tool may very well be, but then what is its sweet
spot compared to Twitter or compared to commercial tools for enterprise-level deployment that
are already on the market ? 

The Thingamy thing caught my attention because the way I understand it, what Sig has developed
is precisely for those "Barely Repeatable Processes", meaning things that can't be executed
like A-B-C, but where the activities of people need to be coordinated in a unpredictable way
in order to resolve a specific situation. So, when exceptions become the norm, an ERP system
is not really well suited, and an BRP system - however this is going to look like - will take
over. Intuitively, for these kind of things ESME will be better suited, and from what I was
able to follow on the list, an ESME conversation is actually associated with the specific
context of that BRP. That makes sense to me. 

I read Sig's latest blog where he compared 12sprints and Chatter with "Sending email through
Word" which sounds a little grandiose to me. I don't know Chatter yet, but 12sprints seemed
like it could show the future of applications, where decisions need to be made in an unpredictable
way with a set of people, and how a system would support that. This could also be augmented
with business intelligence and of course also micro-blogging. But in this case, the system
is designed to work with Barely Repeatable Processes, and associating the conversation in
ESME with the BRP context or 12sprint task could lead to interesting applications. 

But that's all very different than trying to kind of artificially integrate ESME with a system
that assumes that the world works like A-B-C. What I believe is for ESME to *really* work
efficiently, is to design application systems that deal better with unpredictable situations,
and then make best use of ESME capabilties, instead of trying to superimpose ESME on the A-B-C
world of today's ERP. Yes, it's technically possible, but whether it makes sense is a different
story.

All that I'm trying to establish is what needs to be built for the ESME engine in order to
really be useful and different, and on the other side understand how application systems should
look like that better deal with the unpredictable processes where ESME shines. I briefly looked
at the Chatter announcement, and SFDC was also mentioning better integration with application
data or business intelligence, but I wasn't able to read more from it. 

Anyway, hope this is helpful, and we can start a discussion from it. I know you had some use
case discussions already, but I really could not find any specific examples. 

Best,
Michael
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