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Last weekend at SAP Inside Track NL in EindhovenSAP Mentor Gregor Wolf and I discussed aspects of normative and non-normative documentation. We both agreed that a SAP System is a treasure chest containing many frameworks that are most important for developing business applications on top of SAP Business Suite. The reason is very simple: am NetWeaver AS ABAP isn’t just n very stable and robust application server, it is a platform for business programming.

I already blogged several times about the value of these frameworks because they are tremendously important for customers, partners and for the “SAP” brand, too. If you don’t know what I’m talking I recommend the following blogs: Reuse Tools  – the Treasure Chest of ABAP Systems and Reuse Tools as Part of SAP Branding and Value Chain in SAP Ecosystem. And some of those frameworks are so useful or interesting so that I start to blog about them: Operations Research & ABAP and Forward Error Handling – A short look at SAP Business Suite Ehp 4.

What’s the problem?

It seems to me that SAP puts the focus on some frameworks with huge strategic value like Business Workflow,  SOA Frameworks like Error and Conflict Handler and Idempotency Framework, BRFplus, Adobe Interactive Forms and so on. They are tremendously important and you’ll find much documentation.

In fact there are much more frameworks which have no official documentation or documentation only for end users but not for developers who want to use the framework in their own applications. I give you some examples:

  • Parallelization Framework – this is most important if you have to deal with mass data
  • Generic Error Handling –  nearly every business application needs a framework for manual and automatic error processes
  • Correspondence Tool for output management processes

I guess that the reason is simple that there is no legal documentation for developers: Creation takes time and money. On the other hand SAP has to prioritize in which order the documentation gets created and published.

Working for an ISV I know that there is a lot of internal documentation in wikis, Office documents and so on. Usually we can’t publish it for many reasons:

  • The quality is poor compared to documentation made by professional documentation developers.
  • It uses terms that are internally known but not to the community. Sometimes it contains code examples and screenshots that are not up to date.
  • It was written by people who created and maintained a tool and so it covers most advanced but not basic topics.
  • Sometime it contains names of developers we don’t want to publish because there are defined support processes & support organizations.

The Solution is simple: Let the Community help SAP

But it getting a somewhat “clean” version of an internal document is easily done. The hardest work is to get the documentation in a state that it is understandable for people who have no or only a basic understanding is a time consuming task.

But here the community can help: SAP gives the internal documentation to a group of experts from the community and they are doing the work. When it has a good quality these documents are published on SDN as non-normative documentation.

I think this is the road to success:

  • Because the documentation comes from internal documentation the quality will be very high.
  • The whole ecosystem (customers, partner and even people from SAP) can learn from those documents.
  • We can keep the documentation easily up to date.

And this is what I suggest:

  • Product Owners from SAP should do their best to have a concise & complete documentation.
  • If the documentation can’t be published in time they should give a suitable set of internal documents to the community for community driven improvement of the documentation.

Even if there’s a good legal documentation it can make sense to give documents for expert users to the community because this documentation will never be published on SAP Library because it goes too much into detail.

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  1. Susan Keohan
    Hi Tobias,
    Although you made me laugh at ‘It seems to me that SAP puts the focus on some frameworks with huge strategic value like Business Workflow’ – I guess that’s because I’ve spent too much time *in* SAP Workflow, and not reading the docu.
    Real-life participants can’t help but to improve the usability of standard documentation.
    Sue
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    1. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Hi Sue,

      perhaps “mature” is a better characterization than “strategic”. And in fact much of Business Workflow (think of the automated workflow customizing) is so cool that you don’t need any docu. But In fact we have SAP Library, blogs, trainings and books about Business Workflow.

      I would be very interested how real-life participants could help to the improve SAP legal documentation. What do you suggest?

      Cheers,
      Tobias

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      1. Tobias Trapp
        Post author
        Hi Sue,

        perhaps “mature” is a better characterization than “strategic”. And in fact much of Business Workflow (think of the automated workflow customizing) is so cool that you don’t need any docu. But In fact we have SAP Library, blogs, trainings and books about Business Workflow.

        I would be very interested how real-life participants could help to the improve SAP legal documentation. What do you suggest?

        Cheers,
        Tobias

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    2. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Hi Sue,

      perhaps “mature” is a better characterization than “strategic”. And in fact much of Business Workflow (think of the automated workflow customizing) is so cool that you don’t need any docu. But In fact we have SAP Library, blogs, trainings and books about Business Workflow.

      I would be very interested how real-life participants could help to the improve SAP legal documentation. What do you suggest?

      Cheers,
      Tobias

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  2. Fred Verheul
    …I only wish I’d thought of it myself. Damn! 😉
    But seriously, I think this is a great idea, and although I don’t see myself as an expert, I would be more than willing to help, as it’s the best way to learn the frameworks! And I think you’re absolutely right that there’s lots of good stuff inside NW ABAP, that’s not appreciated enough.
    Thank you for bringing this up, and you’ve got my vote.

    Cheers, Fred

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    1. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Thank you for offering your help. I agree with you: We need smart people like you who help to create good documents by doing reviews, asking the right questions…

      Cheers,
      Tobias

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  3. Former Member
    hands-ons it a other!

    Documentation is explicit information, but handling frameworks required also implicit knowledge.

    Why not make a SDN weekend on hand-on frameworks?

    All the best,

    Guido

    P. S.: I read you book on application development which pointed me to BUS Framework. I used it in various contexts. Now I able to use MVC pattern in classic dynpro programming which is enabler for replacing in with WD4A and vice versa.

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    1. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      We aleardy have such “SDN weekends” – the last one was last weekend in Eindhoven: SAP Insidetrack NL (#sitNL on Twitter). #sitNL had two tracks: SAP TechEd and SAP NetWeaver. I heard rumors about an SIT in Hamburg. Perhaps there could be a Framework track where people introduce “their” favourite frameworks to others in a HandsOn-way?

      Best Regards
      Tobias

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  4. Tom Cenens
    Hello Tobias

    I tend to think that it happens to some extent through SCN already.

    A number of blogs, wiki pages, e-learning videos, e-learning articles and so on were created because the official documentation that is available isn’t always great (understatement perhaps).

    So yes I do think it would be a good idea for SAP to collaborate with community members.

    I do believe SAP made a move towards doing that already by placing documentation of some newer products in wiki format, making each page adjustable by anyone basically.

    While the idea is good it will take time and effort to make anyone actually adjust those pages and collaborating with community members on it might just be a better idea to get things started.

    A big pointer of discussion will always be the quality of content and how one can assure the quality of additions are valuable and don’t make the result worse than it was.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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      1. Tobias Trapp
        Post author
        I already thought about it, too, and perhaps I will do. But at first I would like to try it out. Hope I can start the first community documenation project, soon.

        Best Regards,
        Tobias

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    1. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Hi Tom,

      you are absolutly right: Many people from SAP already add their content to SCN wikis – but we could do more: There are SAP internal wikis and some of it’s content could get published, too. I learned from it because SAP employees sometimes post links to those internal servers – even on SCN forums.

      And I agree with you that wikis are one possible collaboration tool and they are much better than blogs which allow discussion but no release cycle of the content. I have something like the old fashioned Whitepapers in mind. But we are not restricted to this medium: we could put nuggets with examples on Code Exchange as well as linking to videos.

      Best Regards,
      Tobias

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Tobias

        I agree with you. I know SAP has a lot of documentation that is only available for SAP employees and it would be great to see more content sharing and more openness.

        There is a lot around documentation and education that could be done better. Both are related to each other.

        I don’t know about the format of using Whitepapers though. The content should be linked to the existing documentation somehow.

        The wiki idea of SAP is a good idea but it has to get launched / embraced to really have an effect.

        How often have you had a customer message where you get an answer which implies other customers have also encountered the same issue? The question then becomes why isn’t the solution available online? That’s definitely a pointer where SAP can put in more effort.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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  5. Peter Langner
    Hi Tobias,
    good idea, but from my point of view a really challenging approach.

    When you told me about this frameworks I also thougth “Oh this is interesting to know” but also “when can I find time for this?”. I like the idea to make an SAP Inside Track with the topic “Frameworks” or a workshop on that topic, where you an others give an overview of the frameworks. If I use one in my project, I can give back the documentation to the community.

    Waht do you thing about that?

    Peter

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    1. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Great idea. One could organize a “Frameworks” track on a SAP Inside Track – perhaps even with HandsOn sessions.

      If there is such a kind of SAP Inside Track with specialized focus I will host a session.

      Cheers,
      Tobias

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    2. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      This is a good idea: One could organize a SAP Inside Track with a “Frameworks” as special focus – even with HandsOn sessions. I would host a session.

      Cheers,
      Tobias

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  6. Former Member
    Hello,

    I had a phone call with Tobias.
    We would to place this topic in SAPInsideTrack.

    First part “up to you”. Second “Hands-on Frameworks”.

    Which framework you would like to put your fingers on?

    My list:
    + BRFplus – the rule engine of this decade
    + BUS-Framework – making MVC on classic dynpro
    + ABAPUnit –
      new paradigma – test first – code then
    + Parallelisation Framework – boost your ABAP

    Just my four cents!

    Would are yours?

    Guido

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    1. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      You are right: I would appreciate if a SAP Inside Track chooses “frameworks” as one focus topic. Perhaps this could be one of two different tracks.

      IMHO BUS-Framework, Parallelization are documentated (in fact Thorsten and I wrote a book about it). So I would choose to offer one of the following topics: Service Implementation Workbench, Forward Error Handling, Archiving Engine – Frameworks tha found their way into SAP NetWeaver with 7.01, 7.02…

      Best Regards
      Tobias

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  7. Former Member
    Which one isn’t there a need for documentation on?  I guess that is my question.

    Community driven documentation is a great idea.  Who is going to look through the millions of white papers, blogs, forums, etc to get the information that is already out there.  (A possible HANA project.)  Then once you get it, update it to a better version.  (A lot less formal than white papers.  More formal than just putting a WIKI out there that no one will find.)

    I guess the first step is to bring in some of our internal documents into a WIKI somewhere.  I have a few I could share after I updated, and changed them.  (Removed any Perrigo specific information).  Maybe only bring in the older data if it is something I bookmarked because I thought it would be good to use.

    Now – who will “own” that area of SCN?  Who will make sure the data is current, repeatable, useable, searchable????  Really we need at least one person doing that.  Maybe we each help with that and ping one person if we see something we think should be changed or like Wikipedia we just change the information.

    I think it’s a great idea.  To start a searchable database on each of the different areas / products.

    I agree with Tom – as you can tell.  Some of the information is already here.  Some we have internal to our companies.

    I think you have volunteered to start this initiative by writing this excellent blog.  So count me in, have meetings, or informal sharing of data, ideas, and let’s see what we can do.  How we could set this up in the “new” SCN.  Or on a different server to make our documents searchable.  I have a really nice one on LSMWs.

    As I learn new things, I bookmark, make favorites, and usually keep some sort of record.  Because 1 year down the line when I’m asked to “fix” the program I wrote.  I no longer know what I was trying to do without some notes.  Plus we share information at a developers level on our website.

    I’m very excited about starting something like this that will help all of us!

    Michelle

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    1. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Hi Michelle,

      yes, in fact we are already doing a kind of Community Driven Documentation on SCN: We have Whitepapers and – most important: SCN wiki.

      But if we would like to get more content with excellent quality on SCN then companies can help us. Because it is likely that SAP has internal documentation of high quality my first thought was to ask SAP to give some of it to the community so that many people can work to improve it.

      But I don’t think we’ll need HANA or Google to store and to find them. At first creation of a document of high quality takes time. The second aspect is that we can use the wiki to keep an eye on it. I already created wiki pages that are collections of links to other documents of outstanding quality.

      In fact I know that this blog has already been read by many people and I have already an idea with which topic we should start this project. I hope I can give you a positive response, soon.

      And I hope I’ll find lots of people like you who are willing to help.

      Best Regards,
      Tobias

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  8. Former Member
    Hi Tobias,

    i like your Blog and the ideas. But imho it is not only about Documentation it is about Open Source interfaces and libraries as well. For example why is there no option of enhancing the Development Workbench(SE80). There are a lot of motivated and good developers out there (see code exchange) whom i bet would love to write plugins for other devolpers but sadly it is next to impossible. I think SAP should open up a bit, of course they develop Standard Software which i understand totaly, but having interfaces for developers in a devolping system would be great deal for the entire community

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    1. Peter Langner
      Hi Matthias,

      I totaly agree with you. I also wished I could add an own object to SE80. @Tobias: Do you have a documention of how this can be done?

      Peter

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      1. Tobias Trapp
        Post author
        Hi Peter,

        what do you mean with adding obects to SE80? Would you like to define a plugin? Or would you like to link documents to TADIR objects? Out would you like to define an own TADIR-type?

        My advice is the same as the one to Peter – write a blog, explain you need, show the business case and share your dream.

        Cheers,
        Tobias

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    2. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Hi Mathias,

      what kind of use cases do you see for an enhancable workbench? What kind of plugins would you write? Don’t you think ABAP in Eclipse would be better for this use case?

      IMHO you should try to find answers and share your dreams in a blog – and then give this proposal to SAP using idea place.

      Best Regards,
      Tobias

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    3. Tobias Trapp
      Post author
      Hi Mathias,

      what kind of use cases do you see for an enhancable workbench? What kind of plugins would you write? Don’t you think ABAP in Eclipse would be better for this use case?

      IMHO you should try to find answers and share your dreams in a blog – and then give this proposal to SAP using idea place.

      Best Regards,
      Tobias

      (0) 

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