SAP experts are knowledge workers. In development and implementation projects we need to get quick information:
- „What are the capabilities of a certain product?“
- „Is a certain behaviour bug or feature?“
- „Is there anything know about the product roadmap?“
- „We need best practices & guidelines for using a certain SAP framework!“
- „How can I set up the product?”
- „I don’t know how to use this framework – can you build me a prototype? My boss wants to the results in 30 minutes…“
Since I’m working as Software & Enterprise Architect and developing is not my daily work anymore the last kind of request are the ones I love most. So answering those kind of questions is my daily work because product owners, developers and customers are asking me frequently. Therefore I have to use various sources of information:
- online documentation,
- SAP’s legal documentation,
- OSS notes,
- books (SAP Press!) and
- non-normative information in whitepapers, blogs, forums and much more.
Often the starting point for my search is „SAP legal documentation“. This means that SAP committed to describe exactly the behavior of the software. You’ll find those documentation within SAP Help portal (http://help.sap.com) and of course Docupedia, but the latter is something I’ll explain later.
In the following I describe the legal documentation which is necessary for functional and technical consultants who want to implement an SAP product and want understand its features in detail. End users are not the target group of this documentation.
Overall Documentation for Shipment
At first for any product like “SAP NetWeaver Process Integration 7.1 Including Enhancement Package 1” there is an “Overall Documentation for Shipment” that contains links to all deliverables:
Please remark that those overview pages exist for every product not for every part of a product. It includes links to mandatory key deliverables according to product standards. These are
- Master Guide,
- Installation Guides,
- Security Guide,
- Technical Operations Manual,
- Configuration Guide and
- Application Help (in particular see Function-Oriented View for detailed application help)
The Master Guide for SAP NetWeaver Process Integration 7.1 Including Enhancement Package 1in our example contains:
- information about usage type,
- installable software components and
- installable software components per usage type,
- description of the use case (SOA based integration) and
- description of the system landscape.
Example 2: SAP Transportation Management 8.0
So the master guide is relevant for technology consultants and everyone in the implementation project.
The Installation Information describes how to install the product in a certain technical environment (operating system and database) and is the most important tool for an administrator.
An example can be found here: Installation Guides.
The Security Guide describes all security features during installation, configuration and run time. Let me cite the document: “The security guide
- describes recommended deployment scenarios,
- explains the data protection options offered by each component and
- contains a description of how to configure each component for secure communication.”
Example 1: Security Guide
Example 2: Security Guide for SAP Transportation Mangement 8.0
Applications Operations Guide / Technical Operations Manual
These manuals are the most important document for administrators and covers all administration activities such as
- starting and stopping the systems,
- license administration
- backup and recovery,
- data archiving,
- systems copy,
- troubleshooting and much more.
Helps the administrator to perform technical operations and is going into the depths of configuration.
describes the functions of the software product in detail. For technical and functions consultants as well as for power users this is the most important part of the documentation because it explains the product and its behavior in detail.
After the first shipment SAP offers case-dependent key deliverables, these are
- Upgrade Master Guide which explains upgrade paths,
- Upgrade guides for combinations of operating systems and databases which includes links to detailed administration and troubleshooting information for every supporting operating system and database,
- Delta Information, which explain every change in that release.
In my role as functional and technical consultant this is first document I have a look at it and I recommend everyone to do so.
We can learn that SAP provides lots of different sources of information which cover installation, upgrade, technical operations with special emphasize of migration, security and troubleshooting.
The most difficult aspect is finding the right information. So in the last part of this weblog I try to discuss potential for optimization.
This is cool: meaningful & stable URLs
One of the best features of SAP Library is that I can switch the language very easily. If I don’t understand a certain feature I look at the same page in another language by switch “en” to “de” in the following URL: http://help.sap.com/saphelp_nwpi711/helpdata/en/61/8c3842bb58f83ae10000000a1550b0/frameset.htm This works even for different version of the documentation. Here is the SAP Library Article for WDA in NW 7.02: http://help.sap.com/saphelp_nw70ehp2/helpdata/en/7c/3545415ea6f523e10000000a155106/frameset.htm If you change nw70ehp2 to nw70 in above URL you get to the features in a prior product version and look at the differences.
Potential for improvement: Linking to Documentation of Applications
An SAP product contains many different applications, think of Advanced Adapter Engine and ESR in case of PI or Workflow Runtime and Web Dynpro ABAP in case of AS ABAP. The detailed description of application components is most important for technical and functional consultants. Many of those applications have names for application components like BC-XI-IBC, BC-XI-IBD, BC-XI-IBF and so on. Although the response time for SAP Library is very fast it would help to have links to the applications because is takes very much time to navigate through SAP Library.
Potential for improvement: Linking to non-normative Information
The help portal especially the Overall Documentation for shipment contains links to non-normative documentation which are forums and blogs (see above picture). Unfortunately these are only very generic links to SCN resources like http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/weblogs or http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/weblogs. It would make sense to link to specialized forums, too like the Process Integration (PI) & SOA Middleware in case of documentation of SAP NetWeaver PI.
Potential for improvement: Linking to approved Information
In my opinion most of SAP’s product owners are glad the community blogs and answers questions regarding their products. Some of those are blogs and whitepapers which are most useful to consultants. The reason is simple: If you want to use a certain product version (or an application as part of a product version) for the first time the most important thing is to get it running and to get response. This is the reason why every book about programming languages starts with a “Hello World” example. It is a creation of a very simple example but shows you got it running and get a response. Most SAP Whitepapers (but not the SAP Documentation) provide such examples which sometimes get even more in depth and cover advanced aspects. A pragmatic approach would be that product managers can approve non normative information and link to these additional resources from the SAP overall documentation for shipment or for a special page with SAP Library – but this is a topic for Docupedia which I’ll discuss in future. SAP Press books are other very important sources to which can be linked, too.
The main SAP documentation types are also explained in SAP Library, for example here.
I covered most document types and left out Implementation Guideline & glossary for later.Please remark that OSS notes are not part of legal documentation although they are very useful for technical & functional consultants, too. In next installments of this weblog series I will cover topics like online documentation, application help and non-normative documentation in depth.