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In many of my previous posts to the SDN blogspace, I have been explicitly or implicitly critical of the SAP consulting community. Many of you may think that this is just “sour grapes” – that if I were billing $250/hr, I wouldn’t be making these critical obsesrvations. Nothing could be further than the truth. My criticisms of the SAP consulting community are solely based on three objectively unassailable truths: a) Most SAP software is truly superb software; b) Even truly superb software can “bite the dust” (die from lack of use and sales), due to the fact that IT procurment is now driven by marketing/pricing and not by excellence or results. c) It is a privilege to work with superb software, not an “inalienable right”. Of these three assertions, most folks would probably DIS-agree most with (c). So let me take a moment to explain why (c) is true. Most database professionals know that Adabas and its US cousin Model 204 were ten times better databases than Oracle, DB2, Sybase, and Informix. For anyone who worked with either of these databases, working with any of the so-called relational databases is like going back to grade-school and trying to sit in chairs and write on desks that are just too small. But here we are – Adabas is dead and Model 204 is solely in maintenance mode, for all intents and purposes. So as you can see, it’s not an “inalienable” right of software consultants to work with good databases – it’s a privilege that can be taken away at any time by a combination of marketing and procurement forces. And the same is true for SAP software. All it takes is the US government and a couple of large companies to decide that they can’t effectively “price-point” SAP software in relation to rival software … and bye-bye SAP. So – since it is a “privilege” to work with superb software, it’s in the interest of the SAP consulting community to: d) try to police itself; e) try to become an effective change agent with influence on SAP customer decisions. With respect to (d) – if the SAP consulting community doesn’t do a better job of policing itself, there will continue to be members of this community who “take the money and run”, regardless of the damage they do to the reputation of SAP software. With respect to (e) – if the SAP consulting community cannot become an effective change agent with influence on customer decisions, then customers have that much more room to make the “wrong” decisions -just as they did when they decided that their databases had to be “relational”. And “wrong” decisions can be the “kisses of death” to any software company, regardless of how good the company’s software is. I have some ideas on (d) and (e), but for the moment, I am merely curious as to how many SDN-ers share any of the feelings and opinions I’ve expressed in this post. And again – don’t worry! I’m not talking about a “union” or yet another one of those dreary “professional certification” societies. Anyway, I’d like to say in closing that the greatest enemy of the future is silence in the present. And for this reason, I am disappointed that this post here: Let’s Crystallize the “Transparent Data Model” Discussion: Enterprise SOA,  OTC, F-28, and open_fi_perform_00000900_e didn’t receive a single comment from any SDN-er – consultant, customer, or SAP staff-member.

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  1. Dirk Herzog
    But I wouldn’t point it to consulting only. All the people working with SAP need to be aware of the fact that it isn’t enough to do a good job but to help other doing a good job with SAP too. If Fusion is totally buggy and lacks a lot of features SAP has a relatively easy job but I doubt that Oracle will make it THAT easy to us. SAPs goal is to spread the market to 70 b$ in 2010 and if everybody working in this market helps a bit it ensures his OWN job.

    Dirk

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  2. Michael Nicholls
    Hi David

    As an SAP employee I believe I am in an enviable position in the SAP consulting community. For a start, I get the magic “@sap.com” in my email address, which I use all the time and gives me a degree of credibility.

    I think I can also say that the people I work alongside from SAP and the premium partners are generally held in high regard by both the customer community and the partner community. Part of this is the fact that we can pick from the best, and the third rate don’t last long – no customer will pay top rate for third rate for long (although see below for a caveat).

    Of course, to keep our reputation means we need to keep up to date etc, and teh best are prepared to pay for this.

    Let’s compare this with one of the much lesser organisations. Often they translate “SAP” to mean “$$$ in pocket” and don’t spend the time and $$$ to keep their people up to date etc. They spoil the environment as they don’t realise the privilege involved in partnering with the company.

    To your d) and e) . The policing is basically in place, but as $$$ talk, someone charging SAP/5 is still going to be attractive, despite the fact it’ll take SAP*(5+) to do the same work!

    The change agent is more complicated as quite often that is seen as “vested interest”.

    Cheers

    (ps: didn’t Adabas become MaxDB, which is still around with a very vocal community?)

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    1. David Halitsky Post author
      Hi Michael –

      This is not to respond to your substantive points, but just your comment about MaxDB.

      I do not believe that MaxDB offers non-relational access to its files/tables (i.e. access thru anything but SQL of some flavor.)

      In that sense, Adabas is dead – the pre-relational Adabas which allowed access thry pre-SQL Natural just like Model 204 allowed access thru pre-SQL User Language.

      Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember the embarassing spectacle of Software AG and CCA rushing to wrap SQL shells around Adabas and Model 204 internals just to be able to try and sell to Uncle Sam.

      And for what? To support a database model that even Oracle has admitted was fundamentally misconceived (when it introduced nested tables in 9i)?

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  3. Christopher Solomon
    David, first off…it’s always fun to read your blogs (glad to see someone from my “neck of the woods” on here!)…but secondly, I wish I had the free time that you seem to have. (haha)

    As to your blog and points here, I won’t wholly disagree, but I will say that I think the issues you bring up are not limited soley to the SAP consulting community. In any form of consulting, there will always be the “good” and the “bad”….those that seek to “take the $$$ and run” and those that truly want to help their client as a “trusted advisor”. I don’t want to get off into discussions of how to make the system better or when it works great or when it doesn’t. I will leave that debate for another blog. However, to your points:

    (d) I think the SAP consulting community, more than most any others I have seen, does a good job of this. One thing I have noticed in 10+ years of SAP consulting now is that SAP is still a small world. Word gets around of both those that do well and those that don’t. The good tend to flourish, thrive and grow, while the others seem to fade away and only be heard of again in anecdotes.

    (e) I wouldn’t agree to a blanket statement like this. I think it is a case by case….customer by customer…basis. At times, yes, SAP consulting(ants) can influence customer decisions and make suggestions that have a direct impact. At other times, they simple offer a range of options from which a customer may select or ignore and chose their own path. And at other times still, decisions have been made long before SAP was even selected as the best “tool” for the job.

    Lastly, I would not take silence as a sign of apathy. I think several folks agree with you, but those same folks are “in the trenches” and do not have the time to vocalize that on here….if they even have the time to spend on SDN at all.

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    1. David Halitsky Post author
      but I do want to say something about “available time”.

      It is again a sad commentary on the SAP consulting community that I am considered to work 3-10 times faster (depending on the area) than most consultants whom customers are used to.

      When you’re working 3-10 times faster than the rate at which the customer thinks it reasonable to “feed” you work, you have plenty of time to be at SDN.  In fact, I’m pretty sure any customer would want a consultant to be at SDN (if not doing on-line SAP tutorials offered at SDN), rather than elsewhere.  (See PS below about tutorials …)

      This is because participation at SDN tends to help get quick answers when you’re really in trouble – consider the help I got from Rob and Sridhar yesterday in ABAP General.  They came up with a transaction that not even Rich had ever had cause to use!

      ** PS – I’m sure Armin would prefer me blogging rather than doing anymore WDJ tutorial proof-reading.  I’ve gotten up to WDJ #3 but I do actually have real work to do and I can’t concentrate on a tutorial in short chunks of time.

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        1. David Halitsky Post author
          First – if you happen to luck into a client who will pay your rate when they’re used to paying lower rates, you generally are going to work faster than the consultants they’re used to.

          Second, if you’re lucky enough to work for a consulting company which believes that the way to get more work is to do the best work you can as fast as you can (regardless of billable hours), then you have an opportunity to really turn on the steam.

          Third, if you’re working at the site of a client who has had “bad” past experiences, there’s nothing like quick turn around to improve attitudes toward SAP.

          So it’s really more a question of incentives to work faster. not ability to work faster.

          Best –
          Dave

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