Tharaka's Blog

life with a4eco

Posted in Attune project by Tharaka de Alwis on November 15, 2009

When I have conversations with IT guys, one of the common questions that come across is what I do with attune for e-commerce or SAP ECO solution. This article was written explicitly to cover up the answer for this common question giving details on what this product is about and the overall product development up to date in my perspective.

attune for e-commerce (a4eco) product
attune for e-commerce (a4eco) is a customized version of SAPattune B2B e-commerce solution that falls under the SAP CRM 5.0 product suite. It is built using SAP Netweaver 2004s Java technology and designed and developed specifically for companies in the apparel and footwear industry. This product was developed by attune consulting a subsidiary of MAS Holdings and SAP partner company specialized solution provider for world class fashion companies that run on SAP.

a4eco product overview
The tight SAP integration of attune for e-commerce provides sales, ordering, and production transparency as well as real-time data needed by sales staff to maximize production and service quality. The self-service online 24/7, web-empowered functionality offers sales channel the following benefits:
• Web-based order, invoice, logistics and delivery management
• Online product catalogs, equipped with intelligent search capabilities
• Virtual shopping carts with built-in sales-grid determination, size conversions, SKU net-price calculators, online ATP and early allocation options
With direct and easy access to a4eco accurate customer information, sales representatives are able to spend more time anticipating needs. With this product companies gain greater visibility of immediate and aggregate demand. This enables companies to plan production lines to ensure high-capacity utilization and product availability. If you want to read more information on a4eco, please click here.

History recap on a4eco

I have been part of the a4eco product development team as a contractor from Sabre right from its inception. It all started back in January 2007 at attune office in Munich. The main visionary/architect of the product was Andreas Moser. At that time he was the CRM and E-Commerce product manager of attune. Since he himself was a former Java developer of SAP B2B products team, he helped attune to reshape the SAP B2B solution to a4eco and gain its current status. He drafted the a4eco solution with new features and cutting down performance limitations that the existing  standard SAP B2B e-commerce product had. The main Java development part was done by me. The Netweaver basis part was handled by one of finest Netweaver basis consultant named Lutz Groeschner. He
was at Adidas at that time. (Later joined attune as a Solutions Architect and currently over looks at a4eco from a basis perspective).  The ABAP customization was done by a senior AFS developer named Klause Meilhammer but it was further enhanced and managed by Asheek Uthuma of attune. The AFS functional side was handled by Alessandra Vuoto. Along with Andreas she took Scott specific requirements to build up features for the overall a4eco product. Many Java developers also joined along the way. Namely they would be Florian Baitinger of innovate Software GmbH, Iroshan Sanjeewa and Udith Dharmasiri of Sabre. The initial Product development went for 7-8 months

Current a4eco products team

Currently the product is managed by Bandula Kapukotuwa of attune who is doing a good job by keeping the a4eco up to date with the SAP B2B ECO upgrades. The current team includes Christopher Jansz for basis and Chandana Napagoda of Sabre for Java support. These days I only give consultation advise to this team. But incase if wheels fall apart only, I get down to the code/tools to get things in order 🙂

a4eco customer implementations
The current a4eco solution is implemented in the following customer sites:

Scott Sports, SA -First customer of a4eco. This is a Swiss company that sells sports bicycles and scottwinter clothing. They originally took the SAP B2B product and faced with many performance issues. With a4eco they went live in May, 2007 and they have been happy with the product ever since then. Please click here for Scott testimonial on SAP B2B product. They currently operate in US and Europe using the a4eco product.

I learned the basics of SAP Netweaver technology tools and SAP ISA framework during this project.Initially we faced with quite few infrastructure issues from the NWDI server located in Colombo. But overtime we mastered art of troubleshooting this and get things done. Andreas and Lutz taught me quite a few tips and tricks that helped me to venture in this domain up till now.

Hugo Boss, Germanyhugo bossA German company that focuses on Mens’ perfume, gents’ suites, and accessories. Before a4eco, they had SAP B2B commerce from the start. Only the attune specific a4ec performance improvement logic was implemented on top of the existing product. They went live attune customized solution in May, 2008. Andreas was the only person who got involved here.

Cole Haan, europecole haanA company that works on footwear industry. They went live with a4eco in February 2009. Andreas did the implementation work on his own for this project.

Levis, USA– A company with a brand name for Jeans and denims. They went live with a4eco November 2009. With Andreas’s absence, Davide Mameli took over the role of a4eco architect. Paulo Cendron played the role of Project Manager and Functional Consultant. Along with Chandana Napagoda (Java developer at Sabre), we managed to give offshore support for the project. I only went Treviso, Italy to meet the project team and plan project implementation tasks and responsibilities. This was a well planned and executed project. We met with a few hiccups by doing some integration work with a third party company associated to Levi, USA. But through careful analysis and planning managed to circumvent and end project in a high note.Levi

Tommy Hilfiger, Netherlands– Another company with a brand name for Jeans and denims. a4eco was implemented for the Tommy Hilfiger, European region. At start of the project things moved really well. I was also in Amsterdam with the project team for one and a half months. But when key resources (Andreas and Ronald (PM))  moving out of the project, Tomm B2B go live due dates were further moved back. With major set backs dawn upone Matthias Schaar of attune took over the role of Project Manager. The complete ABAP development was done by Pio Fernando arguably one of the finest ABAP developers attune has produced. I felt having him on the project made a big difference. At last, Tommy went live with a4eco last week without much of a formal notice.tommy

Pre-sales work for Levi Strause-Europe
For the Levi Straus European region a4eco was further enhanced to support b2b pre order process for Sales Agents traveling to remote areas with limited Internet connection to work offline/online. This approach was proposed back in January 2008. But project never kicked off because Levi decided not to migrate from BARN ERP to SAP AFS solution. But the short success achieved over Levis, Europe led to the implementation of Levi, USA.

Training and coaching on SAP ECO
I was given good opportunities by attune to lose my fear of public speaking and release the technical speaker within me to educate and train individuals for different countries/regions. I have met good friends/colleagues during this process and the level of satisfaction you receive is immense. I have done the following training workshops/coaching tasks with the given organization/individuals.
• Onsite training workshop for Addidas and Scott Sport IT – Munich, Germany – Andreas was main speaker during this 3 day workshop. I only presented some articles on Java and Struts framework.
• Onsite a4eco technical product training – Vera Bradley, Indiana, USA – To a in-house Java developer I trained the complete SAP ECO architecture to tools. Vera Bradley was a prospective customer but due recession in US they never got back to attune.
• SAP ECO training for attune and Sabre – All Sri Lankan Java developers who have worked on this product are trained by me.
• Web-ex training for Levis, USA team – this was one the very difficult trainings I’ve done. Over a telco I had to give the training to people in USA and India. With no face to face communication and with multiple individuals raising different questions, I had to concentrate immensely to do this training through out a week.

a4eco work has become more of a habit rather part of the job now. Since I started playing the role of Team Lead of Sabre Mobility Team, overlooking at Sabre projects as well as attune a4eco became very challenging. But the experience and the knowledge that I got from the past 3 years on how to build products and implement them was  invaluable. Currently Sabre Mobility team works on two products namely: Trackr (SaaS based Vehicle Tracking and Service Tracking) and Insito (Loyalty solution for Retail companies) are built using same philosophies of a4eco. As for the future I have a dream of building a light weight Spring and SOA based a4eco solution. I dearly want to focus on this and draft a solution. But will Sabre or attune really understand its true potential is a question that lingers wthin me.


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