While it has no plans to go out and compete head-to-head with Google, SAP is building out its enterprise search capabilities with business intelligence functionality, according to Lothar Schubert, Business Intelligence solution strategy lead for SAP.
Schubert said the company has a search engine (with the internal name of TREX) that is being used currently by many SAP applications—human resources and customer relationship management being the predominate ones—to search unstructured data in knowledge management repositories.
What SAP is developing now, with the current release of NetWeaver and future iterations, is the ability to search structured data as well, with master data management and knowledge management coming closer together, according to Schubert.
“What were working on is extending for much deeper search within repositories from SAP and other vendors,” said Schubert. “Not only unstructured data, but also very much structured [data], to pull together and to deliver in a BI context.”
Schubert gives the example of a call center representative speaking on the phone with a customer. With enhanced search capabilities (delivered on SAPs NetWeaver integration platform) the representative can get a better view of the customer—financial results, contracts, latest transactions—and make a recommendation based on those results.
While Schubert has been down playing the Google comparison thats been circulating in the media, Joshua Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting, said the metaphor is a good one, and one that SAP is very interested in.
“Bridging the world of structured and unstructured data is enormously important, and one thats not done well today,” said Greenbaum.
“The idea is [SAP] wants to make search, from a usability standpoint, as easy as Google, but with a much greater depth of complexity behind it. Down the road, this is going to be a key functional area.”
Greenbaum said that SAP is working on much broader uses of the unstructured and meta data it owns.
“This is the tip of the iceberg, in terms of much broader uses of search [for SAP],” said Greenbaum. “The real thing that is important here is not so much a search engine, but that SAP is moving to unleash this enormously broad structured and unstructured data that its customers own.”
SAPs current search engine has an internal repository manager that can plug into both internal and external repositories. In the next releases of NetWeaver, that capability will also be available for enterprise services repositories (SAP is working on a services repository as part of its Enterprise Services Architecture strategy; arch rival Oracle is developing one as well).
The addition of BI capabilities will provide users with the ability to “dive deep into enterprise data, and have a certain understanding of semantics,” said Schubert.
“With Web services you have data, but you have to question the trustworthiness. Its something we are working on now.”
SAP is also working on bringing together business event management and BI in a composition platform—i.e. NetWeaver—rather than being hardwired capabilities within applications.
“From the technology side, events are exposed and filtered by different systems. There must be a modeling and rules engine, using business process management capabilities to make people and systems aware of certain events and to have certain escalation frameworks,” said Schubert.
“And then [you need] an event resolution framework to act on those events,” he added.