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What is the Difference between IDS (Aris) and NetWeaver BPM (Galaxy)?

I write about the SAP Business Process Expert (BPX) skill set because to stay marketable, we have to look beyond the present. SAP professionals don’t want to miss out on skills that might someday make the difference between landing a job or not. One of the most important aspects of the BPX skills profile is gaining experience in “next generation” process modeling tools. No, we don’t see this kind of tool experience as a required skill on many SAP job orders today. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand how these tools might fit into what we need to know.

With many of these tools, there are opportunities to get exposure now, on our own time. But here’s where the confusion sets in. What are the various tools for, and which ones do we need to master? This is not a question I can resolve in one blog entry. In fact, I just posted a longer piece on SAP BPX skills that explains how process modeling tools fit into a broader BPX skill set.

  Without question, one of the biggest areas of confusion is the difference between IDS Scheer’s “Enterprise Modeler” (often still called by its original name, Aris) and NetWeaver BPM (former code name “Galaxy”). In this blog entry, I’m going to see if I can address this confusion by relaying the best description of the difference between these tools I have yet heard.

We shouldn’t get too hung up on the IDS part. Some companies have invested in the IDS tool kit, some haven’t. The enterprise modeling tools from IDS represent SAP’s official recommendation for enterprise-level modeling and simulation, but there are other tools that can be used for this purpose. The decision on which tools to use come down to an individual company’s needs and priorities.

We can’t say the same about NetWeaver BPM, however. At this point, NetWeaver BPM is unique in the SAP modeling world as the only tool that is both a modeling AND execution tool. In other words, processes modeled in NetWeaver BPM result in executable code that integrates easily with the NetWeaver platform. NetWeaver BPM should be available for general release in the not-too-distant future, for now, trial downloads of NetWeaver BPM are still available on SDN as part of the trial Composition Environment (CE).

I have heard many different explanations of the differences between “Aris and Galaxy” during SAP’s own presentations. To be honest, I have often left with more questions than answers. But that changed after listening to Ann Rosenberg’s presentation at TechEd 2008, where she did a memorable job of juxtaposing these two tools. I was able to watch this presentation as part of my Virtual TechEd subscription. There are two Ann Rosenberg presentations available in Virtual TechEd. One is available as a sample for those who are considering a Virtual TechEd subscription (that one is called "SAP BPM Governance, Methodology, Technology, and Education"). The material I am drawing on is covered in detail in Ann’s other presentation, BPM 103: "Blending Business Process Management and SOA." Both are well worth listening to.

At any rate, for anyone who is reading this that hasn’t heard Ann Rosenberg speak on the topic of SAP BPM, you definitely want to make that happen. Ann, who is SAP’s Global Practice Owner for Business Process Management, speaks with as much candor as anyone at SAP; I’ve heard her bust through the marketing hype by calling “bs” on more than one occasion. Ann talks truthfully about what is needed for BPM success and what the pitfalls are, sharing stories from SAP’s own imperfect journey towards BPM excellence.

For now, let’s focus on her description of the differences between Aris and Galaxy.

As Ann puts it, eighty percent of all processes within a company are manual. The remaining twenty percent of processes are automated. Of those processes that are automated, about eighty percent of those automated processes are “standard” industry processes that are perfectly suited for ERP solutions like SAP. Obviously, the emphasis with these ERP-based processes is on cost-containment and efficiency. However, the remaining twenty percent of those automated processes have strategic importance to a company. Often, they do not fit into configurable ERP functionality. Historically, companies might have undertaken arduous custom development to create that difference-making functionality, but that was never a good solution for a number of reasons, not the least of which was upgrade hassles.

I’ve heard Ann refer to this remaining twenty percent of processes as “killer processes” that a company should use to basically kick the butt of its competition. And this is where NetWeaver BPM comes in. NetWeaver BPM is intended to be used specifically to “compose” the differentiating processes that allow a company to excel.

So how do these two tools work together? With a tool such as Aris, a company would begin its process-driven journey by mapping all its processes, manual and automatic, SAP and non-SAP. Here’s how I described it in an article soon-to-be-posted on JonERP.com:

“SAP recommends a best practice of modeling end-to-end processes in a modeling and simulation environment along the lines of IDS Scheer’s Enterprise Modeler. Then, map those processes into standard SAP ERP as much as possible.

For those truly cutting edge processes that differentiate a company from its competitors, SAP envisions that those processes will be “composed” in NetWeaver BPM and then integrated on top of the NetWeaver platform – again, without altering SAP source code. With NetWeaver BPM still on the verge of general release, this vision is not yet reality, but this is the best practice that SAP is embracing, and it’s helpful to keep this vision in mind as you look to acquire modeling experience on your project.”

I’ve come to believe that a little bit of confusion about SAP’s solutions is healthy because it keeps us in the “continual learning” mode that all who are serious about careers in SAP must cultivate. But I hope that this blog entry has at least reduced the confusion around two of the modeling tools that come up most in the SAP BPX skills discussion.

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