xApps Acronyms and Glossary

By Gerd Waloszek, SAP User Experience, SAP AG – October 20, 2003

This article collects acronyms and glossary definitions used in the field of composite applications and SAP's xApps, as well as in this edition on composite applications. In addition, we add some SAP-specific and design-specific acronyms that are used within this edition.



Links on terms lead to glossary entries, links on acronyms lead to definitions.


ASUG     Americas' SAP Users' Group
BPR   Business process redesign
BSP   Business server pages
BW   Business warehouse
CAF   Composite Application Framework
CASE   Computer-assisted software engineering
CCS   MIT Center for Coordination Science
CM   Content management
CRM   Customer relationship management
EP   Enterprise portal
EPM   Employee process management
ERM   Employee relationship management
ERP   Enterprise resource planning
ESA   Enterprise services architecture
FI   Financials
GBUX   General business unit "Cross Applications" at SAP
GUI   Graphical user interface
HR   Human Resources
HTTP   Hypertext transfer protocol
HTML   Hypertext markup language
HTMLB   HTML Business
IT   Information technology
ITS   Internet transaction server
KN   Knowledge Network
KPI   Key performance indicator
MIT   Massachusetts Institute of Technology
PCA   Packaged composite application
PH   Process handbook, developed by the MIT Center for Coordination Science (CCS)
PLM   Production line management
PM   Product management
SAP   Systems, Applications, Products (German: Systeme, Anwendungen, Produkte) (www.sap.com) – name of the company that offers this Website
SOA   Service-oriented architecture
SOAP   Simple object access protocol (www.w3.org/TR/SOAP/)
TCO   Total cost of ownership
UI   User interface
W3C   World Wide Web consortium (www.w3c.org)
WSDL   Web services description language (www.w3.org/TR/wsdl)
xApp   Stands for "cross application" – SAP's version of Packaged Composite Applications (PCAs)
XDG   SAP's xApp Design Group
xEPM   SAP xApp for supporting employee process management (EPM)
xERM   SAP xApp for supporting employee relationship management (ERM)
XML   Extended markup language



Many of the glossary definitions are directly taken or adapted from articles in this edition.


Attribute (German: Facette)

Attributes are used to model Knowledge Resources.

Best Practice (Preliminary definition)

Best practice is the level that can be reached when successfully applying best knowledge and established products to a given business problem. It represents the accepted state-of-the-art of how business should be run. Examples of how enterprises optimize their processes today are business analytics, enterprise portals, knowledge management, Employee self-services, supply chain management, or balance-score cards.

This can also include improvement on the user practice or work practice level like introducing pervasive devices to enter orders at the customer site, collaboration rooms to enable distributed teams to work together, and so on.

See also Common Practice, Next Practice

Characteristic (German: Merkmal)

Characteristics are used to model Knowledge Resources.

Collection (German: Kollektion)

See Knowledge Collection

Common Practice (Preliminary definition)

Common practice is describing how work is actually done in the 80% case. This work is usually not very much optimized, may even include repetitive break downs, and come with a set of workarounds due to a lacking system support.

Examples are using paper, preparing data outside the system either for input or for improving the layout, having no forecast, having no continuous tracking of KPIs, relying on personal relationships to locate experts, logging into many IT systems to do one coherent piece of work, or cutting and pasting data from one application into another.

Common practice can only be captured by observing actual work in the field because any indirect description will very likely tend to leave out the break downs and only describe how work is supposed to be done but not how it is actually done.

See also Best Practice, Next Practice

Composite Application

Application that integrates various existing applications.

See also Packaged Composite Application (PCA).

Contextual Design

Contextual Design, a design methodology developed by Karen Holtzblatt and Hugh Beyer at InContext Enterprises, introduces a customer-centered approach to business by gathering customer data from the field and using it to drive the definition of a product or process, while supporting the needs of teams and their organizations. (From Incontext Website, adapted)

For more information, see the InContext Website, or Contextual Design at SAP on the SAP Design Guild.

Cross Application

Cross applications are built on top of the company's heterogeneous technology landscape, thus enabling cross-functional business processes.

See also Packaged Composite Application (PCA).

Distributed Cognition

The theory of Distributed Cognition is specifically tailored to understanding interactions among people and technology. The central hypothesis is that the cognitive and computational properties of systems can be accounted for in terms of the organization and propagation of constraints set by the richness of real environments (for example, work places equipped with high technology). In particular, this theory suggests a focus on the distribution of cognitive processes across members of social groups, coordination between internal and external structure, and how products of earlier events can transform the nature of later events. The theory thus takes into account both a people's environment and their cultural and historical background.

Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA)

Enterprise Services Architecture is the set of principles that allow enterprise applications and technology systems like Content Management to present their services for use in composing PCAs. An Enterprise Services Architecture platform is layer of software that coordinates all of the services from the underlying systems, allows them to be collected into components so new user interfaces to be built on top of them. SAP's version of an Enterprise Services Architecture platform is called SAP NetWeaver™.

Knowledge Collection

Knowledge Collections are personalized groupings of Knowledge Resources that are accessed using a central, company-wide folder.

Knowledge Resource(s)

Knowledge Resources can be profiles of internal or external experts, documents, or Knowledge Collections that are centrally generated and maintained. The information can be extracted from anywhere in the company and from a multitude of systems.


See SAP NetWeaver™.

Next Practice (Preliminary definition)

Next practice represents new ways of doing things. It is about new processes, or new kinds of solutions that are challenging new technology or new paradigms.

Next practice is usually implemented by early adopters who apply a new technology or method into their enterprise. But even late adopters must make sure that they are ready for future innovation because flexibility and agility of enterprises is an important and ongoing business objective. Solutions that help companies to be ready for next practice may already be next practices in itself.

See also Best Practice, Common Practice

Packaged Composite Application (PCA)

Packaged Composite Applications (PCAs) are a new paradigm for developing applications. Instead of starting from scratch, PCAs start with existing data and functionality and then coordinate that functionality in different ways to solve new problems. For example, developers can build applications by grabbing the customer objects and related functionality from the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the financial information and calculations from the Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) system, product related information from the Product Management system, and then add whatever new functionality that might be needed from systems like Content Management or Portal or Business Warehouse to get the job done. PCAs also add new functions for specialized purposes that sit on top of existing platform.

The "packaged" part simply means that these applications are products supported the exact same way that the enterprise applications like CRM are supported. Packaging is more significant for customers than UI designers.

SAP's version of PCAs are called xApps.


A persona, a concept introduced by Alan Cooper, is an archetypal user of the product, based on the design team's investigation work. The team creates a cast of personas for each project. Each persona gets a biography, job description, photograph, and, most important, a list of goals. These goals are what drives the persona to succeed; if the goals are not met, the persona will not be happy. Each persona with unique needs is designated as a primary persona, and typically gets her own interface, which will be designed to meet her unique goals.

For more information, see the Cooper Website, or Cooper Interaction Design enjoys SAP on the SAP Design Guild.

SAP NetWeaver™

SAP's version of an Enterprise Services Architecture platform.

Web Services

Web services (see www.w3c.org/2002/ws) is a standard for application to application communication on the Web defined the the World Wide Web consortium (W3C; www.w3c.org). With Web services any application can create a description in Web Services Description Language (WSDL) that tells other applications how to use its services.


The term xApp stands for "cross application." xApps are SAP's version of Packaged Composite Applications (PCAs).


SAP's xApps Design Group (XDG) is a central, cross continental, shared-services group with offices in Walldorf, Germany, and Palo Alto, California, U.S. XDG supports the xApps product teams in requirements analysis, interaction design, and visual design. The group also works on cross-xApps topics such as design methodologies and user interface patterns for development departments and xApp partners.


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