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Alexander Dreiling

Enterprise Mashup Widgets

Posted by Alexander Dreiling in alexander.dreiling on Jan 18, 2007 4:09:53 AM
We've seen a fair bit of discussion on Enterprise Widgets lately and there is certainly a consensual belief that widgets are helpful in the context of SAP. Excellent examples include Eric Wood's A case for Enterprise Widgets or Dennis Moore's Widgets for the Enterprise.

I addition to this, I think there is one point that must be emphasized, because it makes widgets extremely powerful: Their ability to mashup information on the client-side from several different sources without a complicated backend integration.

If we consider typical information retrieval processes that people in contemporary organizations go through, we'll see that they follow a similar schema: Someone discovers something, keeps it in mind, looks it up at a different source, discovers something else, looks that up again and so on.

Imagine such a simple information retrieval process as a mashup widget. We've developed a little widget that does exactly this for supporting sales that looks like this: image Our widget retrieves stock price changes from the web, in our case the Australian Stock Exchange (middle section). We get to know the winners, losers and highest volumes of trade on the previous trading day. Of course, we have no idea why these stocks developed unusually, but a good way of finding this out is looking up each single company at a news source. Presumably, a company must have produced news of some sort for the stock price to react. Our widget does this for us using google news and yahoo news.

So far, this gives us the information that something has happened out there and what that was. But we may have no idea who these companies are.

In order to to build up some more knowledge about the companies whose stock price developed unusually, we included a range of links (lower left corner of the widgets). Information from different financial providers can be considered for completing the picture.

In addition to the knowledge of what happened on the stock market and why it has happened, we now know who the companies are that our widget brings up. But we still have no idea what the impact for a sales person is. The only way to find this out, is to check internal systems. If single-sign on is required the Enterprise Widget Foundation alpha release could be very helpful. We have included a range of queries to an SAP Business Warehouse in order to lookup account data. In addition we query sales orders, opportunities or leads (upper right part of the widget) in the system so that we can understand if there was any previous business or potential business.

That gives us a comprehensive picture. We now know about unusual developments on the stock market and the reasons for this development. We have understood who the companies are and know the relationship to our company. Now, of course, we want to do something with this knowledge. Our widget provides a range of options in the lower right corner. These options include to give the customer a call, send e-mails, create tasks in Outlook or leads in an SAP CRM system. This nicely shows how action can be brought closer to analysis.

This scenario shows what I believe is the real strength of widgets in an enterprise system context:
- widgets are suitable for supporting real-world business scenarios,
- widgets are an excellent technology to mash up information from different sources,
- they are especially strong when company-internal and external sources are mashed up,
- given all this, widgets are still single-file mini applications in itself. They can be easily transfered to another person.

We have more scenarios of this kind and see the same thing over and over again: The strength of widgets arises from combining different sources in a meaningful way.

Has anyone made similar experiences? I'd be more than happy to discuss!

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