So everyone is back from SAPPHIRE and TechEd with their heads full of the art of the possible :-

  • Optimised Core
  • Mobility (M)
  • Cloud (C)
  • In Memory (iMC)

E = MC(iMC)sq ! – see Keynote

But you don’t need Einstein, now more than ever you need an IT development team with the right skills (or access to one). Without this you just aren’t going to know where to start with most of the cool technologies from SAP.

This doesn’t mean that the traditional skills required to configure the SAP business systems are not important it is more that to make your SAP system stand out from the crowd (and do stuff your competion can’t) you need developers to build (hopefully cool) stuff on top of it.

In this blog from 2010 Stephen O’Grady of RedMonk coined the phase “Developers are the new Kingmakers” when discussing the adoption of open source, I have adapted this for organisations with an SAP strategy to “Good SAP Savvy Developers are the new Kingmakers”.

So why the 3 extra words :

By “Good” I mean Developers who have either set out to be developers as a career and therefore have a strong technical background in topics like data design, object oriented programming and user interface design (or have some how acquired these). Many classic SAP developers do not fall into this class having started doing a bit of ABAP during their first implementation project and have been cutting and pasting ABAP ever since. So for good you could read Professional Developers.

By “SAP savvy”, I mean developers that understand all (or at least many) of the options that are available to them (from SAP and others). With this knowledge they can mix and match technologies to achieve the business outcomes required (or even innovate something themselves – many developers are quite a creative you know). Being fully aware of the SAP supported tools and techniques will ensure that organisations make informed choices about the options they take when implementing solutions. This doesn’t mean that these solution can’t involve others vendors software or open source, but when these are used short and long term support and interoperability should be considered. A good example here is the use of jQueryMobile to create user interfaces instead of WebDynpro, on the upside you get an HTML5 UI, on the downside when the libraries don’t work as planned, who do you turn to ? not SAP. However once SAP NetWeaver User Interface for HTML5 (or what ever it will be called) is shipped next year, we can enjoy the benefits of HTML5 and long term support from SAP.

If you give tools like HANA, Gateway, SUP, BPM, Duet, River etc to developers like those described above great things can be made to happen (look at what happened on the SAP Train Race), so if the wanabe Business Kings can point these GSS developers at the right problems (with the help of a good BPX) they can ride to the top on a wave of IT powered innovation.

So why is the world not full of Wanabe Business Kings fighting for the top jobs based on their innovative development teams ?

To answer this we need to look back to see how developers were viewed about 10 years ago. Many organisations took a look at their IT developers (geeks) and decided that IT development was a commodity that could be given to a 3rd party provider and so IT was outsourced across the globe. Most of these outsourced deals focused on driving down the cost of IT (it was viewed as a commodity after all).

What this often also drove out of the deal was any wiggle room for Developer Innovation. 10 years on this means that many organisations and IT outsource providers have all but forgotten how to innovate – SLAs and Margins are king. In effect organisations have thrown out the baby with the bath water.

So developers like plumbers are not all born equal – if you can find a good one keep their number, you will definitely need it soon.

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3 Comments

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  1. Mark Finnern
    Hi Owen,
    Had to think of Nicholas Carr who wrote in the 90s IT doesn’t matter.
    I checked and he has not retracted it yet http://www.roughtype.com/
    I think there will be a lot of hair pulling when companies realize what kind of competitive advantage can be had via some good savvy SAP developers, but the foundation to built it on has been outsourced and with that the knowledge of how to do it.
    On-shoring projects coming up, Mark.
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  2. David Brutman
    Hi Owen,

    Good blog that shows the type of mindset change we are going through. Another aspect I wanted to raise is the growing interest of developers in the entire application life cycle and go-to-market.

    The mobile application revolution provides the ability for developers to remove many of the value chain layers once that were once in between the people that write the software and the people who buy and use it.

    I have a co-worker that used to develop software for a big company. After he completed writing his piece of code there were people that were responsible to: test it, integrate it with other pieces of codes, build it to become a complete version, package it to be released to customers, market and define go-to-market, sell it, support it, update it, etc. etc.

    Now he writes mobile applications: he develops the software, tests it, packages it, deploys it to the app store, markets it, names it, prices it, supports it, and provides periodic updates based on user feedback.

    The layers are gone! it is the developer interacting directly with the end user. The developer becomes the CEO, usually without even leaving his/her office/garage/starbucks table. I expect this to significantly impact the enterprise applications world.

    What a great world to live in! as long as you are…(Good SAP Savvy) Developers

    David.

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  3. John Moy
    Hi Owen,
    Really excellent blog.  Love it.  Just some points to add.  Firstly, I do have a soft spot for jQueryMobile (stable version 1.0 just released), so if you do have issues with it you can turn to the jQuery NMobile community for support.  Many companies choose to use jQuery even though it is open source, and I expect they will take to jQueryMobile as well and accept the risks.  In fact, SAP Sybase themselves saw fit to incorporate an early alpha version of it in their SUP hybrid web container.
    Like you, I do see the immense possibilities for developer innovation, but do the decision makers for outsourcing see this, and do they really care?  In my mind the decision making at those levels is focussed on other matters.  Nonetheless I think it is incumbent upon developers to stand up, innovate, and showcase their innovation capabilities so perhaps the right people might notice.  Those who don’t might be destined for the commoditization pile. Those who do will have a bright future ahead of them, with or without their present employer.
    As you said … “developers like plumbers are not all born equal”.
    Rgds
    John
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