Darren Duke March 25 2010 06:22:25 PMOver the past 2 days I've been involved in the Alloy "Next" Design Partner meeting at IBM in Westford, MA. Now due to NDA agreements that are more water tight than a duck's rear I can't divulge anything from this meeting. I can, however, bring the Yellow Submarine up to date on Alloy 1.0.1 which IBM and SAP released last December. Based on the fact that the Alloy sessions at LS10 were pretty well attended I think it is time to start evangelizing this amazing technology to a wider audience. Yes, that is you, dear reader. Oh and if you were expecting to be reading about 17" low profile car wheels, you got the wrong Alloy.
So what is Alloy? Well basically Alloy is a (somewhat) extensible framework for surfacing SAP workflows (approvals, rejections, etc) and/or SAP reports via the Lotus Notes 8.0.2 and higher standard client. "Workflows? But Darren, Notes does that already!". Well yes, it does. But if an organization also uses SAP chances are there are far more business critical workflow processes controlled by SAP than there are in Domino. To show you the value of Alloy I'm going to talk money. Money your company can save. Money they can re-proposition to other projects, like XPages. Money they may give you a raise with! How does that sound? Thought so.....
Most organizations (called customers from this point on) in the world purchase widgets and/or services from vendors. These widgets have to, at some point, be paid for. This payment goes to the vendor. Simple. Business 101 right? Now, most vendors will give the customer a discount on the price of the widget if they receive payment in 10 days or less. This discount is usually between 1 and 3 % of the invoice amount. This is also known as an "Early Payment Discount" and is fairly common. Most vendors would be willing to reduce there invoice by 1-3% from prompt payment. It allows them to better manage cash flow, and it gives them warm fuzzy feelings when the check arrives early.
"Great, but how does Alloy help with this?", I hear you ask. Well, if your organization uses SAP for invoice approval chances are Alloy can help. Some of your vendors will be offering early payment discounts and hopefully you are taking advantage of it. Chances are that some, if not the majority, of the potential discounts are dropping though the cracks and the discounts are going bye-bye because you didn't approve the invoice in a timely manner, so payment was delayed after the discount day. "Sure, but 1%, really?" Really. Over the course of a year you may have $50,000,000 in payable invoices. If you could get a 1% discount on even a quarter of those invoices, you have just saved $125,000. Right, and that's just a quarter of them!
So why don't more customers do this? Well, it requires work at an individual level. A typical flow goes like this....
1. Manager gets email indicating Invoice approval is needed.
2. Said approver is in Lotus Notes, sees the email and thinks "Man, I have to log in to another system to approve this, lets flag for follow up and I'll approve later"
3. Later comes along, approver eventually logs into SAP and discount date has expired. 1% potential savings gone.
This actually happens more than you think. People do it all the time. Especially in our interruption driven culture we are all part of.
Now, lets relive the above scenario but with Alloy added to the mix....
1. Manager gets email indicating invoice approval is needed
2. Inside the email, on the action bar, are all the appropriate SAP actions available to approve invoices (approve, reject, with comments, etc)
3. Manager immediately acts on invoice and it is approved, inside of the approvers mail client
4. With immediacy brought with Alloy, invoice is approved, payment is process and discount is given.
5. 1% of the invoice amount is now available to use elsewhere
"But with proper training, won't the manager just approve in a timely manner?". Shocker here folks, not usually. The "link" email is not immediate, it is not contextual. In short, it is not simple. With Alloy the context is in the message, along with the approval or rejection options.This makes it simple, transparent and easy. And we all like easy. The idea is the same with Notes doclinks. How often do you click into the doclink to the Note? How often do you just close the email and never think about it again?
If you don't believe me take a gander at the screenshot below. This is an Alloy 1.0.1 workflow for just the above SAP workflow. It provides invoice approvals and is available right now, today. This workflow template is available from OpenNTF. Obviously this requires Alloy and the SAP requirements to be met too.....
As you can see, this is a Lotus Notes Alloy enabled email with the SAP actions embedded right into the action bar......cha-ching, you can almost hear the savings on invoices getting paid early. For the approver, it is easy, simple and transparent. Note, I doubt anyone would give a 15 day 10% discount but you get the idea ;)
This movie on the SAP site shows a good demo of the original 1.0 Alloy application. Admittedly that was somewhat limited in terms of workflows, but the with the addition of Alloy 1.0.1 and the OpenNTF workflows, your organization can perform an evolutionary approach to business process integrations. Right from Lotus Notes. Right now.
I think that covers part one, workflows. Next up will be reports and report distribution right to your mail. Stay tuned.
IBM Lotus Notes and SAP. Two great tastes that taste great together.
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