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From "Lang, Martin" <martin.l...@sap.com>
Subject RE: ESME Process Integration
Date Wed, 06 Jan 2010 03:10:30 GMT
I had been following the Twitter discussion last Monday and feel inspired by the eloquent and
eMail Michael wrote below. 
Other than that I am fairly new to ESME as well as this dev list (few weeks give or take)
and have been listening, reading and watching for the most part so far. While I have read
quite a bit and watched some of the YouTube Videos on ESME, I am not really sure whether I
can already contribute something new but I felt I'll try.

Michael was asking below for specific examples of ESME scenarios with enterprise systems.
Again I don't know whether some of this was discussed before and possibly dismissed for whatever
reason, but I could imagine some scenarios that I would consider very useful and practical.

Here are three ideas:

(1) Time Management
Consultant sends messages like: "Tuesday 9hours on project xzy" to an ERP based central account,
that interprets the message (e.g. with akibot or BusinessObjects Textanalysis components)
and posts respective entries in the respective ERP time recording system. Obviously the syntax
of the potential message would allow for certain variations, mentioning specific dates or
date ranges, specific tasks or task categories to make things flexible enough. The ERP system
or the "bot" in between would send back confirmation messages or clarifying questions, if
the message is not complete.

(2) Proactive 360° Customer information sharing
In my world discussions about tools that provide comprehensive overviews for Sales People
or Consulting managers have come up many times. Certain tools were built but nothing so far
really provided all information that's valuable for a Sales Person, a Consulting Manager,
Account Exec etc. Examples are:
- Open Opportunities
- Quotes and their status, approval status etc.
- Contracts and many aspects around contracts, e.g. status, imminent expiration, burn or fill
rates, margin leakage etc.
- Invoices issued
- Overdue invoices
- Invoice Disputes
- Support Tickets in general or escalated support tickets in particular
- Skills required (and possible not yet found) for a Consulting Contract
- List could go on and on

Objects and the information behind these objects would typically reside in ERP, CRM or similar
systems and while the processes to create many of these objects is typically A-B-C and fairly
straight forward and mostly repeatable, what's more unstructured is who's interested in this
information or for whom it would be very valuable to know about these things. Yes ERP/CRM
systems like SAPs provide functionality to e.g. maintain certain partner roles or business
partner functions and if maintained correctly the people maintained in such roles can be informed
somewhat automatically through e.g. an eMail but in reality it seems that in a larger Sales
and/or Consulting organization it's close to impossible to keep accurate track of who is interested
in what.
Wouldn't it be easier if Sales People, Consulting folks or whoever customer facing or in the
backoffice supporting field organizations could just "follow" these objects and all or some
of their attributes? The ERP, CRM etc. systems involved would "chat" about all significant
events that happen and whoever is interested can follow these things, or once he receives
them forward them to other folks or take certain actions on them (even like forwarding an
invoice dispute (as an example) to 12sprints an open a discussion on impact and potential
resolutions)
From my perspective this might actually overall be less effort and more promising than continuing
the path to try to built 360° view UIs, that read and display certain information in a single
screen, as these tools seem to be never complete and the business is changing to fast, so
that the UI and logic underneath can never keep up with what's needed.
A "chatter" (just using the term don't mean SFDC's) like interface might be less effort, as
it's all messages based and any new objects would just need to be connected to the API to
start chattering as well.
On the client side, no adjustments would be required even if additional components start to
chat, and obviously multiple clients would be available for the potential users in the field
or wherever, mobile, web, AIR, WDA. etc.

(3) Talking ERP/CRM
Not 100% sure about this one (and essentially it's like (1), but driving it further). I find
the ideas of bots still very appealing because of the simplicity of a natural conversation.
Also with the newest voice recognition possibilities it's conceivable that we might not even
have to type things anymore at some point. E.g. I recently added " de2en@bot.talk.google.com"
to my Google Talk account and when I type in a sentence in German, it answers me right away
and gives me the translation in English. How about I could do similar things with me ERP system
and with that bring the learning curve down to practically 0.
I would follow, e.g. an ERP based bot and send him a message (or DM) saying "my recent trips"
and it would give me a trip overview with reimbursement status etc. of my last few trips.
Or I could say: "Send PO 45000000012 to xy@z.com" and if I am authorized to issue such an
action (the ERP system could easily validate that) it would be executed. "Run report abc today
8PM and send result to user123" would be another example etc.

Does this make sense? Or not really? Again am fairly new to this discussion...
All the best
Martin


-----Original Message-----
From: Bechauf, Michael [mailto:michael.bechauf@sap.com] 
Sent: Monday, January 04, 2010 20:17
To: esme-dev@incubator.apache.org
Subject: ESME Process Integration

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 "integraton" 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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