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Did User Innovation Benefit SAP?

I’m comparatively new to SAP; I lead our open source research efforts. I have always believed, looking at SAP from the outside, that she benefitted significantly from shipping ABAP source code to partners and customers, as early as 25 years ago. 

The main reason for shipping code, of course, was that customers and partners could adapt the system to their needs. We may have any number of parameter tables and configuration tools, but in the end, the truth is in the code. So we needed to ship it.

I have never programmed in ABAP nor do I know SE80 or the like too well. However, I wonder, how openly have customers shared code with SAP? I know what folks tell me internally, but I’m asking you, the reader, whether you had any experiences of sending code back to SAP or showing SAP how to do things better than we were originally doing it? And if you did so, did we pick up on it?

Academics call it user innovation. Smart users who work with what’s given to them and sometimes come up with better solutions than the original one.

I’d love to hear your stories. 

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  • I’m a Blogger since the last 2 years…I have wrote 67 blogs including (PHP, Ruby, WML, ABAP) so of course I have send some code to SAP -;)

    Have I done any tool to work better? Yep…

    The specified item was not found.

    I builded a better SE49 transaction…Not sure if SAP actually looked at my code…But you can’t find the transacction on NetWeaver…That makes me wonder…



  • Hi,

    I just want to clarify what open source means…!?

    Until SAP gives the source code of what it is distributing.. (includes ABAP interpretor code not just the ABAP code and everything like WAS etc) it can never be called open source. No one can take the pride of being open source until all source code are given – ‘not a part of it’.

    Giving ABAP code is not opensource because you still cannot modify how you want your ABAP code to behave to customers and you still don’t give the freedom for it.

    You will know what open source is when you had a chance of modifying the code of Linux.. I really enjoyed modifying and compiling/making and booting with ‘My New Kernel’ –  This is what open source is..

    I would be happy if SAP gives the source code of ABAP interpreter or the source code of NetWeaver.

    Felix Jeyareuben

    • Hi Felix: This is an easy one.

      According to the OSI definition, you can call some code open source, if you get the source code, if you are allowed to modify it, and if you are allowed to redistribute it.

      Clearly, ABAP code shipped by SAP does not fall under this category, because we don’t allow redistribution. SAP was too busy inventing ERP when it first came up with its licenses; open source came much later.

      However, SAP did shop code, and customers can modify it to their needs. Hence my question: Did this benefit first, the customers, and second, SAP in a resulting feedback loop?


        • Hi Dirk,

          Yes.. SAP did ship code (just the ABAP code and not all the code to place it anywhere near open source).

          Blog Ref for below comments:
          Open Source @ SDN?

          “I suggest as first OpenSource-project a own ABAP-interpreter. so all projects could be under a copyleft license from beginnung.” ~ Manhardt Torsten

          “Ok, lets start with it. I guess we should start with writing an ABAP interpreter. Thats how MONO started” ~ Puru Govind (an SAP Employee)

          Where are these open source initiatives after 2 years??? No action taken? Why not an open source ABAP Interpreter instead of just ABAP code?

          I do have my own small personal ABAP interpreter/translator that converts some of the ABAP reports (not programs) to Java code and runs it through bean shell. Many conversions like ABAP TYPES to java inner classes and TABLES and all db related are translated to JDBC.. and it works fine for some of the examples in abapdocu but not all. But I still get many errors and am not able to find certain stuff. If I had a change to see the source code for a few moments then I don’t need to waste months working extensively on it by trial and error.. Well some of the ABAP keywords are indeed done and I have a lot remaining to do on it 🙂 I am planning to post as a blog series with the completed ABAP keywords as and when it is done.

          Felix Jeyareuben

      • Hi Dirk,

        “According to the OSI definition, you can call some code open source, if you get the source code, if you are allowed to modify it, and if you are allowed to redistribute it. ”

        It is very interesting which I never heard of.

        But OSI defn link says:
        Under the source code you can find the following…

        “The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.”

        Where does it say.. “you can call some code open source” ..?

        Very interesting…!

        Best regards,
        Felix Jeyareuben

  • SAPLink is one of the better contributions to the open source world of SAP in that it encourages sharing of code and other objects.

    Has it been included in the latest versions of the ABAP stack? Is there a plan to?

    The answers to those questions would provide the answers to yours.


    • Rumor has it that you’ll find SAPLink on all training systems – I’ve not checked personally yet to see for myself but I’ve heard it from at least 12 people in the last 8 months.
    • Hi Nigel, I don’t know the answer to your questions. However, I talked with the Colgate Palmolive guys, and they suggested they’d actually be happy if some (open source) code they develop makes it into SAP’s products!
  • “Did the ABAP community of SAP partners and customers help SAP build a better product because we delivered source code?”
    I don’t think so. It’s a common practice to take some standard transaction, program or abap function, copy it and make some custom modification. I think the customers are the most benefited from sap sharing abap code, they can take a standard functionality and make the modification that they want. but… it is THEIR improvement, if they share that improvement with sap maybe a competitor from them could take it… I did not see in real life customers sharing with sap their improvements.
    • In my previous life, the company I worked for was a steady member of various advisory councils in Walldorf and we often shared code and improvements back with SAP.

      We were one of the first with the Adaptive Computing Controller and many of the changes to that came directly from interaction with my old company, same for several things with Solution Manager.

      Also some of my own blogs here (way back in the day) have made their way as pieces into some of the standard stuff.

      The sharing is happening, perhaps not globally but it is happening.

      • I do not have stats but my perception is that that kind of sharing is marginal. I saw tons of custom abap code in customer implementations, if I say that 1 % of that code came back to sap, it is an optimistic view.
        • Again I think that is geographically based as I saw quite different here in the EU.

          @Dirk might be interesting to look into that from a stats point of view.
    • I think there is a ton of code that doesn’t really contribute to your competitive business advantage, and sharing that with SAP could potentially reduce your maintenance burden, so I’d think customers would definitely want to do that!
  • What about the impact of having the ABAP code on SAP’s support organization?  How many customers and partners are out identifying and finding solutions to SAP’s own “bugs”?

    Chris H.

      • I personally have had a couple of instances where I have had to point out to OSS where the bugs in their code was and what the corrections should be, or correcting fixes that SAP has delivered during the OSS process.  I am probably not the only one with these experiences.

        In my opinion, customers and partners have probably provided many fixes to SAP over the years that have saved time for their support organization.  This all wouldn’t be possible without being able to get to the ABAP code.

        Best Regards,

        Chris H.

  • I have lobbied for this type of mentality as I have recently worked on a custom J2EE application (completely outside SAP), where we “borrowed” more code than actually wrote. Which is funny because we never would have wrote the code we borrowed and thus equal effort created a very rich program and user experience.

    From what I have learned about this topic over the past 4 years, is there are three distinct reasons why this sharing hasn’t happened yet.

    1. Strong ownership mindset on custom built / modified code… companies tend to clench their intellectual property quite hard due to what I believe is legal concerns, or lost revenue opportunities.
    2. Sharing ABAP code is not something that most developers necessarily think about after they’ve done something cool and interesting. My belief of this is partly because sharing procedural code is difficult and tailored to a specific need. OO tends to lend itself more to the sharing model, and this hasn’t been widely adopted quite yet.
    3. This is likely a behavior that SAP (or SDN) should be supporting / facilitating. You should be able to submit code for searching along with proper documentation and such, so that SAP can decide whether they want to incorporate this into their standard product, or have it available as an external library.

    Those are my 3 cents… maybe it will shed some light. Feel free to email for further discussion.


    • I think there are at least two forms of sharing code: Small bug-fixes and major enhancements.

      Small bug-fixes should be easy. I don’t actually know the process to well, but I believe today you only tell SAP about a bug; have you ever supplied source code with a bug report to show how it could be fixed?

      Real enhancements are more tricky. If they are of a quality that SAP would want to use them, then they were probably done by an SI who wouldn’t want to give them up; after all it is their (reusable) IP.

      I’m actually interested in old stories. When SAP’s core products were less mature and things were more up in the air. Any oldtimer around here reading this?