DuPont Information Technology Streamlines SAP Integration With iWay
Many companies rely on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems such as SAP R/3 to streamline information workflow. These self-contained software systems automate a wide variety of business processes so that customers, employees, and partners can more easily interact with company data.
However, it's not always easy to integrate these complex ERP systems with e-commerce applications, leading to labor-intensive coding projects and ongoing manual updates. When global innovator DuPont Information Technology (IT) sought to renew its corporate extranet and faced just such a challenge, IT experts chose Business Process Automation (BPA) technology from iWay Software to simplify their integration strategy.
DuPont was founded more than 200 years ago as a small gunpowder factory on the banks of Delaware's Brandywine River. Today, it's a multibillion-dollar corporation with 57,000 employees operating in more than 70 countries. One recent endeavor by DuPont as an industry leader involved an extensive renewal of its IT infrastructure. That effort is part of a larger strategy to make it even easier to do business with DuPont. iWay is helping DuPont IT achieve that goal.
"We want to provide users with the easiest way possible to do business with us, which is why we created DuPont Direct," said Dolores Kmiecik-Graham, IT programs manager at DuPont. "iWay is an integral part in that solution."
DuPont Direct is a global e-commerce application that enables business partners to place orders, check order status, make inquiries, check accounts, and more – all in a secure environment on a 24/7 basis. "Our senior leaders consider DuPont Direct a critical application," Kmiecik-Graham explained. "Thousands of customers use it worldwide. Because our extranet has become so critical, we wanted to ensure we provided those customers with a very robust environment."
Getting it Right the First Time
DuPont Direct is a window into the DuPont IT back-end systems, the majority of which are SAP based. With a system as complex as SAP's, many behind-the-scenes processes occur to support DuPont IT's diverse businesses and products. Additionally, the DuPont Direct functionality and infrastructure is used by Solae and DuPont Teijin Films JV, where the systems are commonly known as Solae Online and DTF Direct, respectively. To do all of this without the iWay BPA Suite and iWay SAP Adapters, IT professionals would need to write custom code to parse the transactions and put the data in the right fields. While that certainly can be done with proprietary languages, this type of custom development project is time-consuming and requires significant effort to administer, update, and maintain. Transactions might need to be entered manually on a daily basis, for example, to ensure that each module is always populated with the right data.
In 2006, DuPont IT infrastructure experts reviewed various types of integration software to connect its Sun Microsystems application server environment to its SAP R/3 applications. "Information Builders provided us with on-site support and worked with our consultants to configure the software," Kmiecik-Graham said. "This enabled us to experiment with iWay to see how the system would work under various scenarios." After the proof of concept, Kmiecik-Graham and her team agreed with the recommendation from the experts that the iWay SAP Adapters were the best fit for DuPont IT's needs.
Making Critical Connections
Companies like DuPont IT use SAP's ERP solution because it helps to manage many specific business functions and can automate discrete business tasks. The system's functionality is structured using its own proprietary language, called Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP).
The iWay BPA Suite includes the iWay Universal Adapter Framework and the iWay Service Manager, which significantly increase the speed, reach, and efficiency of SAP. For example, DuPont IT selected iWay SAP Adapters because they leverage native SAP functionality and facilitate collaboration with both SAP and non-SAP data sources.
iWay component/adapters include "smart" features such as automatic formatting, automatic error handling, and built in logic. Leveraging these technologies enabled DuPont IT to configure rather than code much of the BPA solution. For example, for a generic business event like creating a customer order, the iWay Adapters map to the correct fields in the correct SAP modules, utilizing embedded SAP business logic to structure the transaction. This not only enables developers to easily utilize existing SAP logic, it ensures a stable and secure connection. The connection can then be reused across the entire operational environment.
"The stability of the iWay SAP Adapters solution was a major factor in our decision," Kmiecik-Graham said. "With iWay, we have virtually eliminated the risk and errors that could result from a connection drop."
Kmiecik-Graham and her team also liked the fact that iWay SAP Adapters incorporate BPA technology that can connect to the many different SAP systems that support the business. "DuPont has thousands of users in many countries," she said. "Our connections need to be able to handle that. That's why this is such a critical application."
The project team completed exhaustive performance testing, challenging the system with multiple users in multiple regions as well as simulating for future growth. These performance tests only reinforced DuPont IT's selection of iWay. "The on-site support during the proof of concept testing was excellent," Kmiecik-Graham added. "That's the kind of thing that sets iWay apart from other vendors."
A Window into Back-End Data
DuPont Direct is a custom, JavaTM-based application that is accessible to authorized users through DuPont's secure extranet. From there, they can query the system or create orders. When a user creates an order, iWay passes the order input to the correct SAP systems. After the order is created in the back-end system, the order number is returned to the user with the results through iWay. Because data moves in real time to the back end, users get an instant acknowledgement when the order is successfully placed. That means no waiting for a confirmation.
"In simple terms, iWay keeps things moving," Kmiecik-Graham said. "iWay shields us from a lot of complexities at the application level. We had consultants from several companies working on various aspects of our renewal project. The iWay staff members helped immensely by encouraging collaboration and being active participants in our project."
Because the orders are processed immediately, DuPont Direct does not store redundant data in its environment – a huge benefit, according to Kmiecik-Graham. "This assures that our authorized users have the latest, up-to-date information, since transactions are real-time to the back-end systems.
"We have seen significant improvements in performance and response time since we added iWay to our environment," Kmiecik-Graham continued. "We have received lots of positive comments from users about better response time and functionality."
Listening to the Voices of Business Users
Kmiecik-Graham and her team continue to enhance DuPont Direct with self-service capabilities that extend beyond a traditional e-commerce portal. For example, shipping documents are now available to authorized users. Developers are currently upgrading the appearance, navigation, and efficiency of the system. "It's more efficient for everyone," Kmiecik-Graham said.
Thanks to the help provided by iWay, the DuPont Direct renewal strategy is a success.
Performance improvements and positive feedback from business users are furthering efforts to rollout the application across the global enterprise. "DuPont is a large company with everything managed centrally through sourcing," Kmiecik-Graham said. "We share knowledge and experiences so every department learns about the best tools and practices. One business within DuPont can leverage another business' success. With iWay as part of our infrastructure, we can complete our projects quicker."