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Say What? A Guide to the SAP Terms You Need to Know for ASUG 2008 and Beyond Print E-mail
Article Index
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Say What?
A Guide to the SAP Terms You Need to Know for ASUG 2008 and Beyond
Unabridged Edition, Never Before Released
I have a running joke with a friend of mine who insists on pronouncing ABAP "Ayy-Bop," as opposed to the more commonly heard pronunciation "Ahh Bop." He says it's just a case of "you say tom-A-toes, I say "to-mah-toes." I say that how we pronounce terms in the SAP world sends a clear message as to how much we know about the software.

And the more we know, the better the results. When in doubt, I pronounce SAP terms the way CEO Henning Kagermann and the rest of the guys on the board do it. That way, if I'm ever in front of them, I'll hopefully fit right in instead of branding myself as an ill-informed American who doesn't respect the best practices honed night and day in Walldorf. Well, maybe I wouldn't fit right in. But if the opportunity comes up, I don't want to be the one who refers to NetWeaver as "that Fusion-type product."

Think of it this way: if someone calls you on the phone and the first thing they do is call SAP "sap" as opposed to the usual "S-A-P," you would make the assumption that they are new to the world of SAP. And if you're in hurry, which most of us are these days, you'd be more likely to send them to Amazon.com for an "SAP for Newbies" title versus taking your time to bring them up to speed.

As we approach ASUG/Sapphire 2008, we run into the same kinds of dilemmas. Sometimes I have joked that knowing the right SAP terms helps you sound "cool" at SAPPHIRE socials, but mastering SAP terminology is more than just coming off as a first class trade show schmoozer. I submit that it's not a bad thing for job security to become known as "that guy/gal at our company who stays on top of these SAP trends."

Knowing your stuff is also a way to get questions answered. At last year's Sapphire, the fact that I knew the difference between PI and XI got me a lot more time and credibility with a couple of SAP product managers. As soon as I managed to somehow use both terms successfully in a sentence, their attitude shifted from "here's another person we have to get up to speed" to "here's someone who can be an SAP evangelist, let's take some extra time to give him an inside scoop."

Of course, the need for a terminology primer is exacerbated by how quickly SAP tries a term on for size and moves on to another - but not after spending sizable chunks of time and money branding product names that are quickly discarded, or, in extreme cases, appropriated by some other SAP product. I have actually seen SAP product representatives misuse SAP terms or use outdated product names. If these folks have trouble keeping up with SAP, what about the rest of us?

But attending a crash course on SAP terminology wouldn't be much fun, no matter how strong the coffee, so instead, Managing Editor Cheryl Cave proposed that I do an easy-to-skim version that you can read on the plane or while you are waiting for tickets at Disney World Orlando.

What follows is a freewheeling SAP terminology guide that you can put to use at ASUG/Sapphire and beyond. Hopefully knowing your way around the SAP vocabulary matrix will help you to get your SAP questions answered. In just a few short minutes, you can become the go-to-person at the water cooler when it comes to what's hip and what's not in SAP.

It does seem like SAP's product name changes can be somewhat arbitrary, but I find that in most cases they are not. So, with each term, I will provide my best answer as to why the term is being phased out or brought in. Note that this represents my take alone and does not represent SAP's views nor that of SAPtips.


SAP Terms You Can Use to Impress

ERP 6.0 - "ERP 6.0" is the name for SAP's latest core ERP release. This is the NetWeaver-driven, service-enabled version of the product that will receive standard maintenance support through 2012. The "ERP 6.0" version name replaces all kinds of other term combinations I will get to during this piece. Why the term change? SAP wanted to get rid of some previous terms that were confusing, and some that were dated by the year (for a little while, ERP 6.0 was called "mySAP ERP 2005"). For a little while, SAP referred to the core ERP component of ERP 6.0 as "ECC 6.0," but SAP now wants to emphasize business-friendly terms over terms that make SAP sound complicated and technical. "ECC" is one of those abbreviations that conjures up images of IT folks with pocket calculators who are needed to translate SAP into terms businesspeople can understand. So, the "ECC" term is still in use, because technically it still represents the enterprise core of ERP 6.0, but it's not a term of emphasis when SAP describes its new solutions.

eSOA  - At this point, if you haven't run into the term "Enterprise SOA," or "eSOA" for short, it's time to take a break from go-live and come up for air. In the years to come, we're going to see plenty of the term "eSOA" in the years to come, as SAP has literally staked the success of its product the next five years on the appeal of eSOA. If you want to read more on eSOA, check out my last three CIO Corner columns. For now, we can use the shorthand version and say that SAP's eSOA bet is probably a good one. Across the industry, software vendors of all kinds are racing to become "SOA friendly." The appeal? SOA may be able to offer the same benefits of Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), but without the hassles of custom interfaces. SOA is based on universal (or near-universal) standards, and SAP's eSOA product is no exception. So, this is a term you want to work into your PowerPoints sooner rather than later! Why the term change? Some of you may be wondering where the heck the term Enterprise Services Architecture, or ESA for short, ran off to. For a brief and spastic period, SAP marketed the heck out of "ESA" as their SOA solution. So why the swap to eSOA? I have never heard an official explanation from SAP, but my take is that SAP realized it could not win the branding war against the commonly-used SOA phrase. So, why not piggyback onto the broader marketing of the SOA phrase with the eSOA moniker? It seems to work.

NetWeaver - SAP has put huge resources into the branding of the NetWeaver name. If  anything, I would say that NetWeaver is misused by the implication that it's really just one product. I see NetWeaver as an umbrella for a series of inter-related products. The end result? A whole slew of SAP terms that were previously more like stand-alone products are now official prefaced by the NetWeaver term. So, the way to impress your friends with NetWeaver is to be well-versed in all the main products under the NetWeaver umbrella. Just look at all the terminology casualties caused by NetWeaver alone:

NetWeaver Portals (formally Enterprise Portals)

NetWeaver BI, or NetWeaver Business Intelligence (formerly Business Warehouse)

NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE) - new SAP Java-based development environment with a combination of new and old tools within it.

NetWeaver Master Data Management (MDM) - new MDM solution, ships with NetWeaver but as of this writing costs an additional fee to activate.

NetWeaver Application Server (formerly Web Application Server) - not a product SAP emphasizes in marketing as much as the others, this is the engine of the NetWeaver car.

NetWeaver PI, or NetWeaver Process Integration (formally NetWeaver XI or NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure; this one deserves its own entry).

PI (Process Integration) - PI is the integration hub of SAP's NetWeaver architecture and is also the recommended platform for SAP's eSOA initiatives. For a ridiculously brief period, before it was re-branded as PI, this product was known as the Exchange Infrastructure (XI). PI is a very important part of SAP's technical vision, so SAP was ruthless about naming it appropriately, even if the quick name change caused some customer confusion. Of course, the problem has been compounded by the fact that the "PI" term was already used in the SAP lexicon to refer to "Process Industries."

Often, we saw this come into play as the PP-PI module, or SAP's Production Planning configuration for Process Industries. Perhaps SAP felt comfortable making this change because PP-PI is much more of an SAP R/3 term than an ERP 6.0 term. To the best of my knowledge, PP-PI is still in use, as is the term "SAP for Process Industries," so for now, both usages of the PI moniker are still in use at the same time. At least year's SAPPHIRE, I even met a product manager who had responsibilities in both areas. I asked him about it and all he did was laugh. He stopped laughing before I did.

At this point, when we see the term PI, it usually means NetWeaver PI, unless it has PP in front of it. Why the term change? SAP is trying to position itself as a "Business Process Platform," and as such, SAP wants to be perceived as a business-driven application, rather than an IT-driven product. XI, once again, sounds like something overly technical, something that would require a mechanic to lift up the hood of your ERP system and do things for you. "PI," for "Process Integration," implies a more elegant view of ERP, one that hides the complexity from you and lets you model your own processes and build them right into the SAP system without being at the beck and call of the Information Technology department.


 

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