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SAP provides customers with a powerful system capable of modelling the most common business processes. A SAP system like R/3 could be seen as a semi-standard software: It is oriented on global players resp. representative proxies and their favors. As I heard, SAP often designs its software by taking the needs of their most important customers into account as best as it can be done, generally speaking. That is the theory.

Practically, a customer with some thousand employees cannot run a software system coming out-of-the-box. That’s not the fault of SAP. It should be crystal clear that a huge company needs to modify a proper solution serving basic needs.
There are several mechanisms within a SAP system allowing a customer to sort of customize the system to individual requirements.
I don’t want to enumerate all, but here is a collection: BAdI’s, customer exits, customizing capabilities in general, screen modifications and pre-definable customer variants.
In one of my projects there is the strong need for adjusting the “legacy” SAP system to specific requirements. For the customer – as for any serious software developer – it is seen as given that a big and sophisticated system is open to modifications without hassling around too much. This expectation was disappointed seriously. Function modules available originally from SAP are partly working with global variables. As it might be known, those global variables are not available globally in the whole system. They are only accessible from within the corresponding function group. That means: if you want to use an already implemented functionality, sometimes the only way to do so is copy the whole *%;/ and then use it in your own scope. Who invented this? Such mechanisms are out of anyone’s understanding, I believe strongly. And I tell you what: Those function modules in question were implemented by SAP in Juli, 2004! Do you believe me?

Another favor is the concept of BAdI’s (Business Add-In). It is similar to a customer exit: SAP foresaw the need for a customer to adapt a standard logic. Therefor a “method” will be called, which can be implemented by the customer. If there is no implementation by the customer it means that the system will not do anything special. But if the customer implemented it, it will be executed. One problem here is the input parameters supplied for the called functionality. Again, the customer is dependent on the ingeniality of the system designers. If they have not foreseen all the possible cases – which sounds impossible – then the customer most probably must implement a work-around. A bad thing if it is based on a modification as you latest will notice when applying a hot fix being correlated with a modified piece of code.

In recent weblog entries (The Future is OO – Travel Back to the Past? and Perspectives on ABAP/Objects), I wrote about ABAP/Objects. Now, if we compare the alignment of object-orientation with reality in several SAP industry solutions, then we can realize a discrepancy. It is fact, that some industry solutions are not extendable in a reasonable fashion. ABAP/Objects claims something different. But a huge system being many years old and containing myriads of lines of code cannot be transformed into a new paradigma. Even SAP noticed that and did some work-arounds. Example: Some includes exist in two stampings: one for the use in a procedural environment and one to be included into an ABAP/Objects class.

It should be considered to tell the customers explicitly the possibilities and dangers of extending a SAP solution. In one of my projects there was not one single line of documentation available on the subject of extending the system’s logic significantly, which I did not only prove by myself but let prove a SAP SI consultant who again called SAP developers that were involved in implementing dedicated pieces of the solution beforehand! And they would not be quiet without reason concerning documentations!

So, either try to replace all legacy SAP systems with NetWeaver or help the customer by supplying valuable documentation as a matter of course. Both ways do not ensure a clean cut but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

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  1. Craig Cmehil
    It sounds as though you had a bad week and decided to get “even” by slamming all of the developers at SAP.

    I won’t fault your comment about how the only way a customer is going to be able to extended the functionalities provided by SAP’s out of the box solutions is by having good documentation. But as any “serious” developer knows. Who has time for documentation.

    Seriously, have you taken a look at the latest SP 43 ABA and BASIS and all the changes that were implemented? Now compare that to how many of those items have updated documentation.  Big difference yes, but as one of those “serious” developers you refer to I’m grateful to have the fix, I can also send and OSS request or email or come over here to SDN to find more detailed information.

    A lesson I learned long ago, a hard one.  Give credit where credit is due and be careful of the blame you lay for eventually that blame can come back on you.

    I’m also one of those developers who is also overloaded with work and with customer demands, sometimes I get the fix out long before I get the documenation out. We don’t live in a perfect world you know.

    Besides, ;-), most of the people wanting those detailed docs are developers and you and I are both contributing to that new place from SAP for developers.

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    1. Klaus Meffert Post author
      Hello Craig,

      always posting something nice and positive is bland, average and too easy a way to go. Try to accept reality.
      It should be not too much of expectation wanting to have some documentations on the main aspects of a system that is sold as adaptable. And this in special applies if the company trying to adapt the SAP system is not only a good customer of SAP but also a partner in developing the product for further marketing also by SAP.

      BTW: I am not blaming developers or some basis people. The decision makers defining the processes should take responsibility for bad documented aspects which seem most important for some strong customers/partners.

      In my understanding a professional and successful company should be able to make documentation available to a certain extend. If not there should be a problem with internal processes.

      And: Not only developers are needing those documentations named by myself but also people writing business concepts.

      Regarding service packs: It would be best not to have the need to supply that much service packs. For NetWeaver for Java the situation is that sometimes you apply a service pack and then notice that short time after that a new one is available.

      Regards

      Klaus
      PS: Craig, if a had a bad week this would sound different 🙂

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      1. Craig Cmehil
        Klaus,

        The problem with writing something is sometimes not positive, and I’ll agree with you always positive is sometimes bland, well when it’s not positive you take on a certain responsibility as with everything you write here. You are providing information for those seeking it and when someone reads your weblog here they tend to think “OH God, if we start doing something we’ll have nothing but problems”. We webloggers here take on the responsibility of providing information to SAP and to Developers seeking it. My point was simply that perhaps you were to negative, you should have found a balance between the good and the bad. Show how it was bad and some suggestions for getting around those bad parts, not just ranting about what is bad.

        Perhaps all of this is just my personal opinion, I just don’t think we just lightly write a weblog about a beef we have. For those things I have a personal weblog.

        Craig

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        1. Mark Finnern
          I like your attitude Craig.

          In general we welcome critique and improvement suggestions because we know that we are not perfect, we know that there are lots of things that can be improved.

          If you do please be as concrete as possible: “I had this problem and it would be really great if … the work around currently is …”

          Just remember that it is a big production and it may take a long time until things get improved.

          Thanks, Mark.

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        2. Klaus Meffert Post author
          Craig,
          OK, I get your point.

          There are also other weblog entries from me providing constructive information (e.g. two about SDN and SAP Community or guide for installating EP 6). So, probably sometimes it seems negative when writing about observations, they for sure are subjective to a certain extent.
          Could be that concerning a single weblog entry, the balance is not as you call for. As said, there are other entries as well.

          The ability of extending a SAP-system is a known problem, why not publish it? Of course, some writers would have written differently. But a significant problem should be allowed to be pronounced.

          As the past shows, I sometimes provide possible solutions to matters in question, although that is not a weblogger’s obligation in general.

          So, the conclusion would be – also taking Mark’s comment into account – to be a little more diplomatic and try to be more constructive. The latter would be the bigger problem as time and space are limited.

          Regards,

          Klaus

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          1. Craig Cmehil
            Klaus, this is where my opinion and it is just my opinion differs from you.

            As a weblogger I consider it my obligation to provide a problem solution combination for things realting to the topic at hand, SAP. We are here to help each other whether it be a small tip such as a “back door” or a solution to a problem.

            The point is we are here to help and by posting a purely negative outlook of problems associated at SAP you are not helping anyone, only making possible new comers more leary of moving forward.

            I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but I just think that as Mark pointed out Problem then solution is a better type of weblog for this environment.

            Craig

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  2. Vilmos Nagy
    All of us who have been in this business long enough, know that these things do happen, especially with new developments. Also SAP is trying to cover a much broader spectrum today than back in versions 2.x-4.x and I think they do pretty well. Besides these imperfections provide the fun factor that makes the difference compared to let’s say a Java or VB programmer.
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