According to SAP Netweaver puts all of the stuff that it feels should be basic into one package – Java, applications, portals, business intelligence (BI), knowledge management (KM), process management, and integration technologies – and then invites companies to build layers on top of that.

On the one hand, NetWeaver aims to integrate information. The umbrella term for this is KM, which turns unstructured information - that is, all kinds of documents - into organisational knowledge, an essential function in this age of global e-business.

On the other, it aims to integrate people. This means bringing together the right functionality and the right information to the right people, SAP claims. And that is where NetWeaver is showing its mettle, particularly in high-value areas like KM, BI and portals, says Frank Naude, portals solution manager at SAP Africa.

“In spite of growing system diversity, today’s generation of end-users will settle for nothing less than a seamless user experience, boundless collaboration functionality, and pervasive access,” says Naude. “That is where NetWeaver’s portal technology is delivering unified, personalised, and role-based user access to heterogeneous ICT environments.”

Traditionally, portals were something that sat on the desktop of end-users, slightly to one side of the ICT environment. The new view of portals is more of an enterprise function, in which employees, customers, partners and suppliers are all linked to form a virtual eco-system along the business value chain, he claims.

“In 2004, portals unify applications, information and services into one system, and provide a personalised, interactive gateway for employees, partners, suppliers and customers to have a single point of access into the enterprise,” says Naude. "This access can be through multiple devices from anywhere, at any time. It aims to deliver relevance to the user, to eliminate traditional barriers to productivity and accelerate business throughput dramatically."

"On top of this extended value chain comes collaboration. On the face of it, collaboration simply means working together. In the context of the modern organisation, however, collaboration offers immense opportunities to be truly innovative," Naude continues.

"It can involve sharing news items, internal documents, data from deep within an organisation's transactional systems, or interacting on someone else's screen. The people involved may be in offices across the country or around the world - or they may not be in an office at all," he adds.

“Companies operating in heterogeneous ICT landscapes are commonplace, and the demand for streamlining communication within such an environment is great,” says Naude. “True enterprise application integration must be geared towards consolidating both diverse infrastructures and business-critical data.”

"This brings us to another three-letter acronym (TLA): MDM, or master data management, which is a key capability of SAP NetWeaver. It helps companies store and distribute data, and does so by using existing ICT investments, which makes for vastly reduced data maintenance costs. And, by ensuring cross-system data consistency, SAP MDM accelerates the execution of business processes, greatly improves decision-making and helps companies to maintain their competitive advantage," Naude concludes.

ICT World