TORONTO — Canada’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier is trying to get its house back in order through a global implementation of SAP’s latest enterprise resource planning suite.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion for SAP’s Canadian customers on Wednesday, an executive from Nortel Networks said the company has already rolled out a dashboard that presents analytical data for its chief executive, Bill Owens, and is in the process of moving from SAP R/3 to the mySAP Business Suite for its finance and HR departments. The blueprint phase of this project is now complete and is expected to be running by the middle of next year.

“It’s about reducing costs, but it’s also about making it less complex,” said Gabriele Baumann, SAP project manager at Nortel. “It’s so that an order-entry person doesn’t have to go to three different systems, they can just go to one.”

Running on HP hardware with an Oracle database on Microsoft Windows NT, the Nortel mySAP rollout will include its business intelligence module, its Enterprise Portal product and its NetWeaver integration middleware. The result, Baumann said, will be one global instance of SAP that simplifies logistics and supplier audits. Nortel has formed a SAP governance council with executives from its finance, operations, and IT departments, among others, which is meeting every two weeks to discuss the implementation. 

“The key is that they are a real decision-making body,” she said, adding that the project has been personally endorsed by Owens. “We’re been in that situation (where we didn’t have executive sponsorship) before, and the projects just kind of limped along.”

CSA International, which provides product certification services for a wide range of manufacturing clients, is also in the midst of a mySAP project, but one that is bringing the ERP platform to its customers as well. So far CSA has rolled out mySAP to its 20 largest clients, and has integrated with non-SAP systems, such as Documentum for records management. John Harrickey, CSA’s director of IT applications, said a major area of focus so far is ensuring the data is properly secured so that information being hosted on behalf of CSA’s clients – which include IBM, Sony and Panasonic – isn’t jeopardized. 

“You don’t want someone in charge of the Sony Playstation seeing information about the Xbox,” he said. “Keeping passwords in place for all those folks is quite a challenge.”

Thomas Baur, an SAP vice-president head of its global ERP initiative, said the software giant hopes to see more of its customers moving to what it is describing as an enterprise service architecture, where a mix of packaged and composite applications can exchange information more easily. That transition won’t happen, however, unless companies are willing to renew their investments in enterprise software and the necessary integration tools, he said.

“When I ask CIOs who they report into and they say it’s the CFO, that’s not a good answer,” he said.

Jorge Lopez, an analyst with research firm Gartner Inc., said the software industry is still in a stage comparable to the mechanical engineering industry in the 1940s.

“You had to actually build the real car and drive it around the track until someone realized there was a vibration coming out of the left-hand side,” he said. “We’re still in the stick-a-piece-of-lead-in-there situation.”

Vendors will eventually offer pre-integrated frameworks to build composite applications, Lopez said, which will include Web services “wrapping” tools, orchestration with other systems, process automation and assembly engines.

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