How do you let the business show what should be mapped?

I have been working on several different functional specifications in the course of the project I have been involved with. I even made my own templates to try to optimize how people are doing functional specifications for SAP PI, which is different from ABAP.

One of the questions I am often asked in that regard is how mappings are defined. I have found that it is easier to explain the business to fill in a table in word. Much of what is going on are business definitions and rules, so it makes a lot of sense that it is the business that defines the rules.

Sometimes, when nobody was able to give any mapping, I was able to guess. Based on my knowledge on the subject and what looked like compared fields. This often resulted in some extra work with the testing by the business to make sure that everything is working as expected. It was the best we could do with the data that we had.

I have seen this both with Application-to-Application (A2A) integration as well as with Business-to-Business (B2B) integration. Mostly, it is because the consultants in one system do not know how that can translate to the other system.

For A2A integration there is something about catching both the consultant, who knows something about the different system, and bringing them into the same room and make them agree on the mapping. This is often the way that makes it easiest to solve the issues and make sure that all values work. Before this meeting, I found that it is a good idea to have some of the mapping done. This helps you to make sure you know what the challenge is. It also allows you to ask more intelligent and often irritating questions.

For B2B it is communication with one or more standards like EDIFACT. Here the SAP ERP functional consultant or better an EDI consultant is the person to ask. They do not always know the formats they want to integrate with. In some case they can give a good mapping specification, which will make it much easier to implement the mapping. It they have not been working with the document then it will take some time to get everything in order.

Tools

Everything is much easier if you have the right tool or template to support the process. I have, until now, not seen any good tools that made it easy for the business to perform the mapping. The tools that I have seen are the following.

There is a tool, like EDIFIX / GEFEG, which makes it a bit easier to see the mapping of EDIFACT and X12 documents. It is a tool that is targeted to the Edi consultant and shows how the mappings should be performed. If I remember correctly, this is a very expensive product to use.

There is, of course, my SAP PI mapping documentation. This converts a message mapping into an Excel document. This tool only works after mapping has been performed.

You can use Excel documents or Word tables (as I do in my functional templates). This is the normal old school way to make mappings. It is easy to use but it is not structured enough to help the business come to a good solution. The structure is a table with three columns, Source, mapping rules and Target.

Do you have any better solutions that will enable the business to easily make mappings and still capture as much information as necessary to perform the mapping afterwards in PI? I would love to hear your trick on how to get the business involved. Thanks in advance for your help and have a great day!

 

 

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How to Gather Requirements for a SAP PI Project or Task


I was asked what I normally would do in a process for gartering requirements for an integration assignment. I started to write about this question and it became a good blog post and I hope to get your feedback about what I have written or left out.

I have worked on many different projects for my clients. It is in an ideal situation that the business can hand over some information about what kind of integration it wants. Many times it is not always possible to get this level of information. 



Update: The template is now available http://www.piarchitecture.com/sap-pi-documentation-template/

Therefore, there is confusion between what is required and what is delivered. The business has its own idea about what is needed. As PI developers we have other ideas. I wanted to share some of my ideas on what is needed before it is possible to start and integrate, or at least complete it.

Listed below is a checklist that I consider useful. 

  • Supported Processes
    • What is the process supported by this integration?
    • It helps to be able to understand what kind of process the system is using. It makes it easier to explain to other developers why this is an important method to work with. 
    • I have found that using the process for the naming convention is a good idea, so it makes sense to use the supported process.
    • It will also help identify other areas of the process, which can be integrated in the same way. It may make sense to get all the areas implemented at the same time when you are using this process. 
  • Involved Systems
    • Which system is used in the integration? It is crucial to know this before any integration starts. 
    • Know the available protocols for the systems. For SAP systems, there can be multiple options, and it may be the SAP PI Developer’s job to find the correct solution for it. For other systems there may be multiple options, and it helps to ask if any protocols that are SAP PI that supports native. If you can stick with the native protocols, you will save time developing or purchasing your own protocol. 
    • Should the PI developers have access to the systems or get contact information on people how can help solve the problem?
    • Are there any test systems that can be used for the testing? 
  • Message Formats
    • It could be the WSDL/XSD descriptions of the involved messages. 
    • It can also be a SQL table specification or a CSV. 
    • Remember, there can be multiple messages. 
    • Is there a need to make an internal format to handle the request?
  • Mapping
    • How should the data be mapped between the data formats? 
    • This is often lagging and cannot always be provided by the business if they can make a mapping it does not cover. When this is missing, it is a job for the SAP PI developer to find a solution to start the mapping.
  • Process
    • Is there any process or orchestration required to make the process run smooth?
    • Can it be avoided? Sometimes it is a good idea to ask if the process involved can be changed to make it even better than the way it is working. 
  • Security Concerns
    • Are there any security concerns? If you are dealing with payment files, there may be a requirement to make some kind of encryption that may not be supported. 
  • Monitoring Option or Criticality for the Integration
    • How critical is the interface? There may be a solution that is more difficult to monitor and; therefore, it can make sense to find another solution that is easier. 
  • Improvment Opportunity
    • When you have gathered a great impression on how the process should be, can you (from the technical point) see a way to make the process even better than the way it is running?
  • Is Custom Development is required
    • Is there any reason to develop adapters, modules or any java code to handle the mapping? If this is the case, then there is also a requirement to get the specification on how this should be working.

This list is not complete. Please help me gather more information, which can be used to make a better list for us to follow. 


[features_box_yellow width=”75%” + border=”2px”]To make this easier to implement for you I have created a Word template to make it easier to ask all the correct questions. Check out the templates at http://www.piarchitecture.com/sap-pi-documentation-template/[/features_box_yellow]

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Skills needed for SAP PI developers in 2012

I’m really happy with the progress on SAP PI. There are always coming new features you need to master, to make sure that you get the full benefit of the latest releases. We often do not want to move outside of our comfort zone to learn anything new. So we often revert back to what we know, even if it is not the best solution.

I was hosting an SAP PI skill Experts Networking Lounge at SAP Teched Madrid. At this session I was talking about all you need to learn to be an excellent SAP PI developer. I was asked about which skills that I found interesting and most useful. I gave my first impression there. But after some thought here is my best ideas.

Please watch the video to learn more of the topic.


 

I also wanted to ask what skills you want to learn in 2012. Fill in my survey and I’ll be able to answer from a much broader perspective. You can access the PI skills survey here. Please answer before 2/1 – 12. I’ll draw some winners of some products that I’m going to release in 2012.

 

 

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Which sessions to attend at SAP Teched Madrid 2011

After attending SAP Teched in Las Vegas and heading for SAP Teched Madrid. I thought that I wanted to give some pointers to some of the sessions that I could see as interesting, for SAP PI professionals.

I have recorded a video where I try to give some insights why these should be on your agenda, if you are into SAP PI.

PMC202 SAP NetWeaver Process Integration Roadmap

The introduction to what is going on with SAP PI. Learn about the direction PI will be taken.

PMC164 SAP NetWeaver Process Integration: Integration Flows Deep Dive Hands on

This is the new Eclipse based way to model integrations in SAP PI 7.3.1. It only seems to be working with the Java only integration, which is fine because SAP PI is moving that way.

PMC106 Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) for System Integration

This is an introduction to using BPMN. BPMN is quite relevant for 7.3.1 because it is what will be used for all modeling. It may be good to know some of it.

PMC200 SAP Middleware Solutions and Best Practices

SAP has a lot of different middle where offerings, this session will hopefully give some feedback on what is good. From the abstract it also mentions Cross gate services, which is relevant for EDI

PMC215 Automate Business Processes Using SAP NetWeaver BPM, SAP NetWeaver PI, and Custom development

This is relavant because of it could give some insights to how better to use SAP PI and how it is implemented at Volkswagen

Bonus sessions

EXP559     Excel as a SAP PI developer

EXP561     Document your SAP PI scenarios

 

It may also be relevant to focus on some of Business Rules Management (BRM), because it is also going to be integrated with PI 7.3.1.

And the BPMN is also a key competence that you need to learn, because it is what will be used both for the integration follows and also for the process modeling.

I hope that we meet at SAP Teched next week.

 

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