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What is “Smart Documentation”?

My favorite ABAP transaction have one thing in common: They are self-explaining and I never needed offline documentation to work with them. The reason is that the documentation is kept within the program in help centers. Usually those help centers contain

  • useful documentation,
  • diagnosis tools that that show if a certain information is relevant – so the diagnosis tool leads the relevant documentation,
  • links from the documentation to relevant ABAP transactions

In the following I will introduce some very sophisticated help centers from the On Premise world.

Troubleshooting Center of SAP LT

SAP LT consists of a set of very mature tools for client transfer & system merge. You can use it in data  harmonization to reorganize customizing, renumber number ranges and much more. The LT frontend is a really cool WDA app which has a help function that uses animated videos stored as shockwave clips in MIME-repository.

But the hidden gem of SAP LT is the trouble-shooting center of the “heart” of SAP LT – the Conversion Workbench. In fact CWB is an impressive optimized for high performance database applications using sophisticated parallelization strategies, bulk updates, job nets and much more.  Conversion of database tables is a rigorous change and during the performance trouble can occur: problems with table spaces and so on.

If a conversion run stops you have to restore table content, restart part of the job nets perhaps with different parameters and so on.  The LT troubleshooting center contains a detailed troubleshooting guide explains a set of operations, when to use them and that lead directly to the transactions you can use to execute the operation.

Automated Workflow Customizing

Another troubleshooting center is the automated workflow customizing that you can use to maintain the ABAP workflow runtime.  There is a tree view that leads you to all maintenance transactions together with explanations, diagnosis tools and so on.

You can start the center using transaction SWU3 on every AS ABAP.

When to use Smart Online Documentation & Help Centers?

Above mentioned documentation and help centers are really useful for power users who have to perform complex technical operations. So this approach is useful for

  • self test and automatic diagnosis tools
  • automated customizing
  • complex wizards – think of wizards in SOA context for example

Those self diagnosis tools containing guidelines and best practices are really important especially for power users. My question to you is: Can you imagine other use cases?

In my opinion the tight and smart integration between application and documentation is the most important feature of “smart documentation”:

  • adding or linking help texts to applications
  • bridging application to social software like OSS, forums & wikis
  • intelligent systems use context information (perhaps the status of the system) to link to appropriate help context: documentation & best practices and so on.

What do you need to create Smart Online Documentation and Help Centers?

In my opinion help centers like above mentioned troubleshooting centers are really useful and have the potential as real killer application. But they are difficult to develop so following should be useful:

  • a framework that helps to develop this wizards efficiently in a standardized way.
  • a flexible release strategy and programming model that allows to update the content. In fact it would be possible to keep the documentation with the system as well as outside.
  • This framework should be extensible in a multi-stage approach so that documentation can be enhanced expanded not only by SAP.
  • Trouble shooting centers should be able to be extended  by own diagnosis content.
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