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Imagine the following scenario:

You are a CIO who relied on SAP ERP system to run for the last decade(s) and decided last year to embrace the cloud with SuccessFactors for your performance management needs that have outgrown your on-premise system.  So you integrated the two on data level, and made it available for seamless access on your Corporate Portal.  Among the ESS/MSS section of on-premise apps, you introduce the new cloud-based goal setting functionality and decide to call it something sexy like “Success Map”.  As a CIO you reached your objective, and probably surpassed expectations when Employees report full satisfaction while Managers claim how they drastically reduce their time to setup and align goals.  Sounds familiar?

Great, but the other day –  the Head of HR decides to stop by your office and talk to you about an issue she still has in the company.  She complements first on the great effort to get a new momentum in the HR apps and tools like new Macs and iPhones you offer to employees.  However, she realizes that there is still lot of silo building in the company according to org structures and departments despite of “lean” and other processes in place.  In meetings and off-meetings, it’s always the same people talking to each other, maintaining existing key relationships.  There’s very little new relationships being forged, and very little information exchange going outside of the usual circles.  You claim as a company to have lot of diversity as your strength, but you don’t really take advantage of the potential.  Actually you fall short, especially when you need to bring a new product to the market.  The marketing guys tell one story, the sales guys develop another, the R&D guys are upset because none of that is close to the reality, the solution guys try somehow to cover it all up, the executives are staying on the high-level message.  Causing some serious customer confusion at the end.  Still with me?

As a CIO you cannot solve this alone, but that’s why you have talent in your company or outside in the partner ecosystem of SAP.  Luckily, this cool, rockstar developer we call Robert came up with an idea to develop an app to tackle such challenges.  And he decided to spend his Fridays to innovate beyond call of duty.  But before he started to write a single line of code, he thought deeply where and how to develop, test and deploy this new app.  He had the following options:

  1. On-premise SAP ERP 
    Robert knows his company uses ECC6 and he has some ABAP BC400 skills, but he’s also fluent in Java languages from his college days and lot of JavaScript lately.   So he heard about this UI Add-on with SAPUI5 JS libs and OData-based UI Services, which can be installed without upgrading the core ERP backend.  He just found out how SAP Fiori is using it to ship the new 25 mobile apps.  Cool stuff!  But wait, he needs to ask his CIO to get all that infrastructure installed and running, and maybe they need to move up an SP on the ECC side first – delaying the 1st line of code he can write for his new app.  Then he needs to ask for dev authorizations to write the custom app code in the same system where all the mission critical apps are running while putting additional load of concurrent users.  Speaking of users, this app should go out to all employees in the company and not just the classical ERP Professional workers - so do you have all the right SAP licenses for such usage?!?  Then Robert looked at the app requirements, realizing it requires integration with the cloud – read and write data back to Employee Central, read and process data from LinkedIn, etc.  Doing that out of the ERP system will probably get the Chief Security Officer nervous, and Robert doesn’t want to open a can of worms here.  He wants lot of people to simply try out his new self-service app, and not have to worry about every internal process that he might brake on the way.  Next option!
  2. SAP Cloud with SuccessFactors
    Robert learned last year that the company started using the SuccessFactors cloud apps.  Here he doesn’t have to worry about installation and upgrades as the vednor runs the latest release with up-to-date infrastructure.  He also heard about this new MDF extensibility framework that allows you to enrich or create new EC objects, rules, workflows with generated UIs on top.  So he asks his CIO for Admin rights to the EC system to start playing with MDF.  He’s excited and finds out how simple it is to use MDF without having to code.   And it gives him powerful access to the EC data Robert needs.  He actually gets to a working version of his app pretty fast.  But it’s not exactly the full functionality Robert imagined to drive desirability of his app.  For example, he needs: a content mgmt store where employees can upload pics and other unstructured data, a mail service for the app to send automatically calendar invitations and email reminders, a secured connectivity to on-premise LDAP and ERP for optional user data integration, a data processing layer for the necessary logic in matching employee interests, a cool SAPUI5 look-and-feel with responsive design no matter if I’m using the app on mobile /  tablet / PC, a flexible portal service for IT and employees to personalize the app and enrich with widgets they need in context.  Next option!
  3. SAP HANA Cloud Platform
    After Robert read a blog, he realized he could get started immediately with a trial account on the cloud platform without needing any approvals or infrastructure to be installed.  All provisioned for him automatically, including an EC trial system.  All tools available in one place, including the cool SAPUI5 technology he knows from the on-premise case.  All platform services like email server, content storage, cloud connector, the use of any language that runs on JVM gives Robert now the full feasibility in his app.  He can also integrate the app with Employee Central either via the SF API or even better - reuse the work he did with MDF and access EC more deeply and flexibly via OData-based MDF services.  On top, he uses OpenSocial as component model to turn his app into reusable widgets published in the Cloud Portal catalogue for any employee to arrange the site content and navigation.  Last but not the least, his app and cloud portal site get themed and visually integrated in the Employee Central native UI paradigm.  And as soon SAP Fiori gets installed on premise by the IT, he can imagine also plugging-in easily to the Fiori’s launch page / home page to serve as the 26th app, but this one running from the HANA Cloud Platform.  BINGO!

Summary and Conclusion

The fictitious scenario described above was intended to give customers and partners an overview of options when creating custom apps and the kind of factors to consider in the selection process. It was not meant to cover all options and all decision factors, but the mainstream ones Robert needed to consider in his use case.  And even though Robert found HANA CloudPlatform as the ideal choice, keep in mind how he’s also taking full advantage of the Employee Central frameworks and services, the On-premise ABAP frameworks and services, new capabilities like Cloud Portal, etc.  It’s not a black-and-white exclusion when to use what, rather Robert kept an inclusive perspective of what can make his app feasible, desirable and better accessible.

Now in the entire story, there are lot of true aspects.  First, robert.wetzold and I admire him as a rock-star developer.  But aslo as an entrepreneur inside a big company like SAP.  He did spend his Fridays to develop a Networking app and to prove the platform viability since.  The app has been broadly used at SAP in a  productive version side-by-side with the other known classical ESS transactions, like Leave Request.  Together with colleagues in the platform and SuccessFactors teams, they were also able to integrate it with Employee Central.  His experience with the app is captured in this blog post.  And recently with the Portal colleagues, they did an extended version to demonstrate the joint potential.  Enjoy the short demo below.  Tell us what you like, where we can improve overall, and definitely if you have more use cases for custom apps.