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29
Jun

SAP Web Channel Experience Management 2.0 (WCEM) - Opinion

Posted by on in SAP E-Commerce
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Does SAP need another web solution? What do you do if you are already using Internet Sales or Internet Customer Self Service?

With Web Channel Experience Management (“WCEM”), SAP has promised, “a state-of-the-art web solution that was re-architechted from scratch using Web 2.0 and Java standards” and that, “delivers end-to-end processes for E-Commerce, E-Marketing, E-Service, and Web Channel Analytics on a robust and easily extensible Web Channel platform, including 3rd party solutions.” (Woesner, 2012)

Sound interesting? In this piece, we assess the promise of WCEM and what it means to you if you have either invested in a previous SAP web solution such as Internet Sales (“ISA”) or Internet Customer Self Service (“ICSS”) or are looking to make a brand new investment in a web channel platform.

Investigating WCEM

At De Villiers Walton, we’ve been working with SAP’s web solutions since Internet Sales on CRM 2.0b. For those of you who prefer to measure time in calendar years rather than SAP software releases, CRM 2.0b is over ten years old.

Internet Sales was a decent product that unfortunately could not keep up with the rapid explosion of the web and the demands of e-commerce in particular. Internet Customer Self Service, while functional, always lagged behind Internet Sales in terms of its sophistication and maturity. Linking the two solutions together to deliver a customer portal required SAP’s Enterprise Portal and web analytics required the implementation of third party products that, in our experience, had a negative impact on the performance of the web solutions.

As SAP consultants we liked the clean and seamless integration of the web solutions into SAP CRM and on into SAP ECC. From a transactional perspective, it was good with solid supporting functionality.

In our opinion, the web application was the weakest point of both ISA and ICSS, particularly in the B2C scenarios. Customers needed to invest heavily in adapting the look and feel of the web application to make it acceptable from both a business and user perspective.

Those customers that made the necessary investment had impressive results while others, mainly B2B customers, did not and had results that were adequate at best. Google, “b2c/b2c/init.do” or “b2b/b2b/init.do” and you will find some prehistoric examples still out there.

Now, some ten years after our first experience of Internet Sales we looked forward to working with SAP’s Web Channel Experience Management. The web has changed massively over the last decade. Customer and user expectations have undergone a similar change.

So, how will Web Channel Experience Management measure up? In this article, we lift the bonnet (or “hood” to our friends in North America) and take a look at its inner workings.

So, what is the difference between WCEM and Internet Sales?

1. Changes in architecture

SAP WCEM Architecture

Although not as radical as the change in architecture between CRM Internet Sales 2.x and 3.0 (in which SAP moved from the ITS to Java), WCEM represents a fundamental solution redesign when compared with CRM Internet Sales 7.0. Let’s take a look at the main design changes:

  • Catalogue management now sits within MDM (Master Data Management) rather than in CRM or ECC. With WCEM 1.0, MDM is part of the architectural landscape. With SAP Internet Sales, catalogue management is carried out in ECC or CRM according to the Internet Sales scenario implemented. MDM offers a centralised catalogue management environment that will allow cross channel catalogue management through a single tool. Although at this stage, MDM can only support the Web Channel, integration with Interaction Centre and Mobile are to follow in future. Compared to CRM/ECC catalogue management, MDM offers greater flexibility in enriching product content with additional attributes, multimedia content, taxonomy and assignment of product catalogue hierarchies.
  • A true, MVC-based 3-tier architecture. With the introduction of Java Server Faces, WCEM has extended the JSP based MVC-2 (Model View Controller) architecture with which the views and controllers are contained in the UI and interaction layer (first tier), but the model is contained in the business object layer (second tier) and data is contained either in CRM or ECC (third tier).
  • More flexibility in configuration. With WCEM, the core configuration environment has been taken out of CRM and moved into a separate configuration environment called Web Channel Builder. Web Channel Builder allows functional experts significant control over the creation of different web-shops including the application of themes (i.e. look and feel) and the configuration of standard modules e.g. service request and product registrations.
  • More flexibility in module management. SAP has based the development of all functionalities within WCEM on the concept of modularisation. This means that SAP modules can be extended to include the additional functionality required by your business. Alternatively, you can develop your own modules to be included in the Web Channel Builder environment and assign them to web-shop configuration. Our experience has shown that the new modularisation, configuration approach is an excellent step forward, and it is easy to set up a particular web-shop configuration completely from scratch.

2. Greater focus on B2C

One key issue with SAP Internet Sales was that the B2C scenario never quite lived up to customer expectations. In fact, the majority of successful Internet Sales implementations were based on the B2B scenario (If your experience is different we’d love to hear from you!) WCEM aimed to address this with improvements in the following areas:

  • Standard B2C features as we would expect from a modern web channel solution are now out of box.
  • With the adoption of JSF, it is very easy to develop consumer friendly web sites for both the standard browsers and mobile devices.
  • Enhanced search engine, which searches cross full spectrum of product attributes and taxonomy. E.g., search by size, power, colour etc.
  • Traditionally, SAP has made clear distinction between B2B and B2C and released them as separate scenarios. Cross navigation between E-Service and E-Commerce was not supported out of the box. With WCEM, the full suite of E-Commerce, E-Service and E-Marketing functionality are fully configurable to both B2C and B2B customers.

3. More flexibility in UI with Java Server Faces

Java Server Faces have been around for a number of years and are well proven. SAP’s adoption of Java Server Faces within WCEM means that for the first time we have a true separation of UI and business logic in an SAP e-commerce solution. The impact of this cannot be overstated. In old Internet Sales – I think we can refer to it as “old” now – customizing the user interface was possible at significant effort and cost. Our experience of WCEM leads us to be confident that a designer rather than a Java developer can completely customise the UI in terms of branding (CSS), layout, adding new fields and configuring views/page/navigation rules etc. in a matter of days without changing a single line of Java code. This is massive for B2C.

What factors should you consider in your decision making process?

1. WCEM 1.0 is in GA and WCEM 2.0 is in ramp up

WCEM 1.0 is an interim release with a relatively short life cycle. WCEM 2.0 is now in ramp-up and contains a number of key enhancements and bug fixes including a real-time ATP check in the web catalogue, wish list functionality and the ability to change orders. Our recommendation is simple: If you are interested in WCEM consider joining the 2.0 ramp-up or wait until 2.0 is generally available.

2. There is no automatic upgrade path between Internet Sales and WCEM

Although Internet Sales and WCEM are fundamentally based on the same J2EE platform, WCEM is a completely new product rather than an enhancement to Internet Sales. Therefore, there is no automatic upgrade option available from Internet Sales to WCEM. Existing Internet Sales configuration and enhancements need to be reapplied in WCEM.

3. There are 2 implementation scenarios – CRM or ECC

WCEM can be implemented with either CRM or ECC as the backend system. The same logic applies for WCEM as Internet Sales here. WCEM on CRM has full sales, service and marketing capability. WCEM on ECC does not have service or marketing capability. If you are a current CRM user, we therefore recommend that you only consider the WCEM on CRM scenario.

4. WCEM is rough around the edges

As expected, we encountered some issues with WCEM 1.0 that should hopefully be fixed in WCEM 2.0:

  • There are areas of broken functionality. 
  • Inadequate error handling. In some instances, the application would crash completely with Java traces error messages. This clearly should have been avoided with proper exception handling. 
  • Lack of a repository of web services for integration with third party applications. However, it appears to be relatively easy to develop your own on top of the EJBs. 
  • No out of box integration with RTOM (Real-Time Offer Management).
  • MDM catalogue management is not yet cross channel e.g. mobile and contact centre. 
  • Lack of integration between MDM and CRM e.g. MDM has its own user management module and workflow engine, which is separate from CRM.

Conclusion

Having worked with both SAP ISA/ICSS and SAP WCEM, we are genuinely excited by the promise of WCEM. If you are an ultra-early adopter and feeling brave take a look at WCEM 1.0 but be warned, it is rough around the edges. Our recommendation would be to join the WCEM 2.0 ramp-up or wait until 2.0 is generally available.

If you are an existing SAP customer and are focusing on e-commerce, e-service or e-marketing in 2012/2013 we strongly recommend that you evaluate WCEM 2.0 and above.

ISA and ICSS, are dead! Long live, WCEM!

Since we originally posted our blog back in June 2012, SAP WCEM 2.0 became generally available. We’ve been working with WCEM 2.0 extensively since then and WCEM 3.0 is currently in ramp-up. Our opinion piece on SAP Web Channel Experience Management 3.0 is now live. To read it click on the following link: SAP Web Channel Experience Management - A short walk from WCEM 1.0 to WCEM 3.0.

UPDATE: Our implementation of SAP WCEM at Ideal Stelrad has gone live! Read the case study by clicking on the following link: Customer Case Study - The Implementation of SAP Web Channel Experience Management (WCEM) at Ideal Stelrad.

If you are currently considering SAP WCEM or have a project you would like to discuss, contact us now by completing the form below.

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