Interpersonal communication and business processes go hand in hand. When products integrate intelligently and purposefully with communication platforms, business users benefit from increased productivity and a greater variety of ways to achieve their business objectives.
Isolated software is quickly becoming outdated as enterprises increasingly see the benefits of using an integrated suite of software products and services that complement rather than antagonize each other. Luckily, SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) already provides a robust set of services and APIs that enable integrating custom apps with SAP systems, namely SAP Integration Suite, SAP Graph, and SAP Destination service.
Microsoft Teams, a communication platform used by many SAP customers, is a prime target for integration with SAP systems because of its wide user base and extensive support for custom apps. However, creating a custom app that integrates SAP systems with Microsoft Teams still requires a significant amount of development effort and expertise.
Developers are forced to spend time designing a UI, figuring out which APIs and services are best to use, and learning about all the intricacies of deploying an app to Teams. Unfortunately, all these ancillary tasks prevent the developers from focusing their full attention on solving the core problems and inefficiencies that created a need for a custom app in the first place.
As developers, my colleagues and I from the Strategic Customer Engagements team of SAP’s Platform Adoption & Advisory group (PAA SCE) have worked on many custom integration projects for SAP customers. Many of these projects would have been too time consuming or difficult had we been unable to take advantage of SAP BTP frameworks, such as SAP Cloud Application Programming Model (CAP), to speed up our development. Through our development experiences, we recognized that a framework in the area of integrating with communication platforms is sorely needed.
Thus, our project, the Bridge Framework, aims to provide developers with a framework on SAP BTP that drastically simplifies and accelerates the process of deploying a custom SAP app to Microsoft Teams.
An Introduction to the Bridge Framework
The Bridge Framework is an integration framework deployed on SAP BTP that allows developers to quickly customize and deploy apps that bring the powerful business logic of SAP products to the convenience of Microsoft Teams.
The Bridge Framework supports integrating with SAP systems through BTP services that developers may already be familiar with: SAP Integration Suite, SAP Graph, and SAP Destination service. Simple object mapping configurations within the framework provide developers with the ability to access business objects through any of the supported services. The framework does not enforce limits on which services to use, so developers are free to decide which API works best for them based on their business needs. In the case of workflow-based integrations, Bridge Framework uses SAP Event Mesh to standardize and handle events.
Bridge Framework is built from the ground up to complement and augment SAP BTP’s ecosystem of integration services. So, for enterprises that are interested in leveraging and consuming the many services SAP BTP has to offer, Bridge Framework is a great place to start!
Furthermore, the Bridge Framework provides an out-of-the-box UI that is intuitive and easy to configure, all while adhering to the design and styling of Microsoft Teams.
What an App Built Using Bridge Framework Might Look Like
After the initial setup, a developer using the Bridge Framework will be able to create a new app in 4 steps:
Choose business objects relevant to your business needs
Create mappings for those objects from the desired interface(s) (SAP Integration Suite, SAP Graph, SAP Destination service) to the Bridge Framework
Create configuration files that specify which content you want displayed, how you want the content displayed, and how you want end users to interact with the content
Deploy your configurations and install the app package in Microsoft Teams
A Basic Diagram of the Bridge Framework on SAP BTP
Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate the usage and benefits of the Bridge Framework is by providing examples of possible use-cases. As you may already know, SAP BTP is a foundational platform for the Intelligent Enterprise. A recent white paper titled “Intelligent Enterprises Are Integrated Enterprises” features dozens of examples of cross-product integrations made possible by SAP BTP. Many of these integrations could also benefit from integration with Microsoft Teams using the Bridge Framework on SAP BTP. I have chosen a couple of scenarios from the white paper to describe possible Bridge Framework use-cases.
Source to Pay: “Reimagine the Buying Experience”
Streamline the buying process in SAP Ariba and S/4HANA through an approval flow integration with Teams. Using the Bridge Framework, quickly build and deploy a Teams app to SAP BTP that enables users to send Purchase Orders / Requisitions as Adaptive Cards for review. Users benefit from timely notifications and a convenient approval process in Teams.
An Example of a Purchase Order Adaptive Card Sent using the Bridge Framework
Lead to Cash: “Speed Up Quote Generation”
Introduce the collaborative features of Teams to enhance the quote generation process in SAP Sales Cloud via SAP CPQ. Using the Bridge Framework, quickly build and deploy a Teams app to SAP BTP that propagates an automatic sales quote generation update from SAP Sales Cloud to Teams as a notification and Adaptive Card. Use the app to decrease the amount of time sales reps spend switching between tools and create spaces for discussion and collaboration to occur during the quote generation process.
Recruit to Retire: “Transform Travel and Expense Management”
Streamline the review and approval process for employee-initiated expenses in SAP Concur, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP S/4HANA. Using the Bridge Framework, quickly build and deploy a Teams app to SAP BTP that allows managers to quickly review and approve employee-initiated expenses as they occur. Leverage the collaborative features of a messaging extension app in Teams to enable focused communication around travel expense management.
A High-Level Comparison
Developing a Teams app that integrates with SAP systems without the Bridge Framework would look like this:
Developing a Custom Teams App without the Bridge Framework
The process above results in a custom app that not only took a long time to develop, but also resulted in a product that is difficult to reuse for future Microsoft Teams and SAP system integrations.
In contrast, developing a Teams app that integrates SAP systems using the Bridge Framework could look like this:
Developing a Custom Teams App with the Bridge Framework
Teams apps developed using the Bridge Framework only require limited configuration and can be deployed to SAP BTP quickly. Using the framework saves developers the hassle of having to go through an entire development process; a process which, no doubt, includes the frustration and productivity loss of bugs and testing.
The development of Bridge Framework has benefitted greatly from work done by our colleagues around the world on the topic of leveraging SAP BTP to create Microsoft Teams integrations with SAP products. Here are two recent blogs on the topic that I highly recommend you check out:
Ultimately, the Bridge Framework saves enterprises time and money. It greatly simplifies and accelerates the development process for apps integrating SAP products with Microsoft Teams via SAP BTP by providing developers with the following key features:
Configurable integrations with SAP Destination service, SAP Integration Suite, SAP Graph, and Event Mesh
Pre-built UI components and page structures
Simple configuration and deployment process
The Bridge Framework is still in its early stages, so initial development and support has focused on integrating with SAP S/4HANA. However, integration with other SAP products, such as with SAP SuccessFactors, is under development. Some important features and SAP systems may not be available yet.
An early version of the framework will soon be available on GitHub for you to try out. As mentioned previously, make sure to also check out the blog, written by my colleagues, entitled "S/4HANA Integration with MS Teams via BTP: A Siemens Experience Story," detailing how the Bridge Framework powered a purchase order productivity solution for our customer, Siemens.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the Bridge Framework please reach out to me, leave a comment, or send an email to email@example.com.
I would like to thank Kyungwoo Hyun, Feng Liang, Adarsh Hegde, Weikun Liu, Kyle Xue, and Alex Bishka for their work on developing the framework. Sandesh Shinde and Jie Xiong for their design work. Dante Alipio and Michael Troy for reviewing our blogs. And, finally, Sivakumar N. for managing and guiding this project.