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I recently attended the Mastering SAP Technologies conference in Sydney Australia presented by the Eventful Group – this was an excellent event and a great chance for local SAP customers and partners to gain a valuable insight into the direction of the SAP technology stack, to socialize and network and to meet many of the great Aussie SAP mentors!

I’d like to give you an overview of what I took from the event – these are just my own experiences and perspectives based on what I saw, so as such they may not be 100% accurate so if you see something that looks incorrect let me know.

The event is a 2 day conference that was preceded by an Inside Track event on the Sunday afternoon. The main conference has 4 tracks (so until I work out that whole cloning problem) I was only able to attend a fraction (let’s go with about 1/4 😛 ) of the content so this is by no means a comprehensive summary but hopefully you will find some of the things I took away with me as interesting as I did and you will be intrigued to find out more, I will try to include links to help you find out more whenever I can.

One nice aspect of this event was the relative lack of “sales talk” and a firm focus on “how and why things work the way they do”. I love this, I recently have come to the conclusion that more than anything else I love to understand how and why something works the way it does. If you are interested in reading a good general overview of how the conference was presented I can recommend reading this blog post from  Dennis Howlett.

So Lets begin…

Keynotes

The were some good keynotes from SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann, SAP President of Global Solutions Sanjay Poonen, SVP communities & social media at SAP Mark Yolton and Independent enterprise mobility analyst and consultant André Guillemin you can actually watch some of these sessions here. Here’s what I took from these sessions:

  • HANA, HANA, HANA! (Pronounced HAA-NA as in  HAA-SSO 😉 ), but seriously this is no passing fad, this will be the database that all of SAP will run on in the not too distant future. Go an learn a bit about it – it won’t be a waste of your time. Also don’t expect everything to run faster on HANA, certain types of queries will, but be careful to tune properly and choose wisely (column or row storage?) otherwise performance could be worse.
  • Mobility – The message is starting to become more coherent but it is still a struggle to get an easy to digest message. I wonder now how the recently announced Syclo acquisition will muddy the waters even further? In any case SAP seems to be “drinking their own dog food” on this and are leading by example with an aggressive internal roll-out of mobile devices and applications.
  • HANA & Mobility – A match made in heaven? – perhaps, it makes sense that if you use HANA to reduce the time it takes to crunch data that you want to get this data to people wherever they are so they can make decisions faster… no point in waiting for them to get back to their desk right!?
  • Windows 8 Laptop Killer? – what do you think… could the hybrid mobile/desktop approach could render the traditional laptop obsolete. I think this has some merit for the majority of people who currently use laptops at work.

Track Sessions

Here is a summary of the individual sessions I attended.

Using the SAP NetWeaver Business Client (NWBC) to create a Unified Business Workplace- Tara Rosenzweig, ETSA Utilities Pty Ltd

Tara gave a very interesting session on the NWBC. I had looked into this a bit in the past but I had sort of drifted away from using it as I didn’t really see the value that it provided… I sort of felt that by using the SAPGUI and the SAP Portal you didn’t really need NWBC. A few things were clarified for me and I have adjusted my view:

  • NWBC will ultimately replace the standalone SAPGUI installation – so you will be going there whether you like it or not! 😀 The SAPGUI will still be there but you will be installing the NWBC that will include the SAPGUI.
  • NWBC (the desktop version) lets you do some very cool augmentation of “old” dynpro based SAP transactions – this was very impressive (this was actually part of Thomas Jungs session I think see below for more). The new Side Panel lets you put widgets alongside these screens and the NWBC acts like the glue between the two.I think customers will like this very non-disruptive approach.
  • NWBC helps speed up Web Dynpro ABAP applications.

New Ways to Re-Face and Leverage Your SAP NetWeaver Portal – John Moy, Australia Post (SAP Mentor)

John presented how Australia Post had used various UI technologies to present SAP data. I think what I took away from this session was a clear message that there are lots of options but making the right choice doesn’t require you to go wall to wall with one technology – choose the right tool for the job, think about the user – what are their expectations? Are they customers or partners that might need a “training free” experience or are they power users who like to use the keyboard for fast data entry and navigation?

Floorplan Manager: New and Exciting Features – Thomas Jung, Director SAP HANA Product Management SAP Labs, LLC (USA) (SAP Mentor)

I always like attending any Thomas Jung session – you are sure to learn something new! I wasn’t disappointed. While I don’t do that much hands on ABAP development any longer I do like to keep abreast of what’s happening in this space.While Thomas’s session was about FPM he also showed off NWBC 4.0:

TJ - NWBC.jpg

Here are some notes I made:

  • FPM is designed to address an inconsistent user experience (Enjoy SAP)
  • FPM handles all the generic parts of the development process, lets developers focus on specifics
  • 3 standard floorplans cover majority of scenarios (OVP, GAF, OIF)
  • As of ABAP 7.03 there is a new WYSIWYG FPM configuration tool
  • You can generate a FPM application directly from a BOL definition
  • FPM applications comply with
  • SAP design guidelines and accessibility standards
  • FPM is now the defacto standard for all new UI or UI rewrites at SAP
  • GUIBBs extends the FPM concept to more atomic parts of the UI (Forms, tables, charts etc..)
  • NWBC users Internet Explorer as its underlying web rendering engine

Remaining Relevant in a Changing World? – Graham Robinson, SAP Mentor

Graham’s session was a great break from the technical details of some of the other sessions. Graham has been around the block a few times (I hope he won’t mind me saying that!) and seems more than happy to share his experiences and it’s good advice no matter what industry your in. Graham focused on things that are hard to fake…

  1. Attitude – having a can do, self motivated approach, and be an energy giver not an energy sucker!
  2. Curiosity – wanting to know why and how, having a passion to work things out.

And he gave some tips on how to stay relevant…

  • Connect to smart people and connect smart people
  • Never strive to be the smartest person in the room
  • Be yourself, don’t try to fake it
  • Build your network and connect and contribute
  • Keep your skills up to date… you are a professional, it’s your responsibility
  • Share your thoughts and opinions and be prepared to debate your opinion
  • Have fun and enjoy what you do!

And don’t forget that we are all influencers in one way or another.

REST: So What’s It All About? – Sascha Wenninger, Australia Post

I have to say this was possibly my favourite session of the entire event. Sasha gave a great introduction to REST I highly recommend that check out this session here: http://www.slideshare.net/sufw

This is not really an easy topic to present and Sascha did a great job, REST or RESTful architectures are an important part of SAPs strategy to free the data that is locked in SAP systems and it is particularly important for getting this data onto mobile devices. I highly recommend that you check out the presentation.

SAP Business Suite UI: Renovation Without Rewrite – Thomas Jung, Director SAP HANA Product Management SAP Labs, LLC (USA) (SAP Mentor)

Did you know you can take “old” SAPGUI screens and renovate them without changing any of the original code? Well you can if you use the new NWBC. I think this is brilliant, the ability to augment “old” screens in a very non-disruptive way. What Thomas explained was how the NWBC (windows desktop version 3.5 and up) allows you to consume data from SAPGUI dynpro screens and provide that data to the new Side Panel (mentioned briefly above). This data that is sucked out of the dynpro screens can then be transferred for use in a CHIP (Computer Human Interface Part) that lives in the side panel. This gives a very nice portal-like experience from a desktop client and you can provide a CHIP catalogue to end users. Here is an idea of what this could look like (courtesy of SAP):

/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2012_04_12_2122_92498.png

Also watch out for NWBC 4.0 due to be released very soon and it will use the new “Corbu” design… also known as “Black and Gold reflection”…you can sort of see it in the photo behind Thomas above.

Before You Speed Through the Gateway Come to REST with the ADL – Nigel James, SAP Mentor

As the saying goes “There are many ways to skin a cat…” (no cats were harmed in the writing of this blog post 😀 ) and SAP mentor Nigel James presented another way to get data out of SAP in a RESTful manner using the Alternative Dispatcher Layer a.k.a “Awesome Dispatcher Layer”. This is a project developed by DJ Adams and is made available on SAP Code Exchange (more on that in a second). It is a very lightweight layer that can return XML or JSON. You can get Nigel’s presentation here: http://www.slideshare.net/squarecloud/alternative-dispatcher-layer-overview-12170192 So if you don’t want to go down the Gateway path check out the ADL it just be the right tool for the job at hand.

Highlights of SAP Code Exchange – Chris Paine, Gregor Wolf & Graham Robinson

Three of the current SAP Mentors presented on the top of SAP Code Exchange… have you heard of it? Basically it is a place for people to share code and you can find it under the SCN banner. Make sure you read the EULA carefully and accept the agreement before you post your code or use any of the code already there but that aside it seems like a good idea and already has some very useful projects such as ADL discussed above.

To get started you should check out the SAPLink project, this will get you started with nuggets and slinkys (basically a way to move code from one ABAP system to another without using the normal SAP transport mechanisms). Once you understand that check out these other projects:

  • ZAKE – an API for SAPLink
  • abap2xlsx – create an read XLSX documents in ABAP
  • ZGEOCODE – uses open street map to geocode an address
  • ZJSON – create JSON from nearly any ABAP structure
  • ZoAuth – the ABAP oAuth library

Duet Enterprise – What’s New with Feature Package 1? – Paul Fewster, SAP Technology Solution Architect

There has been some advances in DUET enterprise with the release of FP1, Paul Fewster from SAP gave us an overview. I am interested in this as I have worked with some customers who are very interested in integrating SharePoint and SAP. One of the things that struck me as a little odd was the lack of a clearly articulated roadmap for this product beyond this FP1 – I hope that DUET Enterprise doesn’t go the same way as DUET 1.0 and 1.5 did (there was a slide dedicated to telling us that the two products were not the same thing!)… but the jury is still out on that I think. Paul did show some good examples and you can find out more about FP1 here: http://blogs.technet.com/b/tothesharepoint/archive/2011/12/07/feature-pack-1-for-duet-enterprise-is-available.aspx

http://blogs.technet.com/b/tothesharepoint/archive/2011/12/07/feature-pack-1-for-duet-enterprise-is-available.aspxMy advice is to carefully think about what you want to do before venturing down this path, it may be the right choice if you have lots of SharePoint development skills and the right use case but there may also be simpler more lightweight approaches to achieving what you want.

Functionally Rich, Best Technology – Why Do They Hate It? – Gareth Ellem, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Gareth gave a great session on user centric design. He openly explained why one of his projects had failed to deliver a solution that the users could actually use and how it was redesigned using a much more user centric design approach and achieved far better user acceptance and adoption. Here are some of the key points I noted down:

  • Don’t under estimate the power of pencil and paper when it comes to design tools accessible to the whole group
  • The group needs to work as a team regularly
  • Respect the users, in the end it is their system they will use it the most
  • The process is more lengthy and therefore costly but you will get a far better result

Wrap Up – Panel session with the Aussie SAP Mentors

Phew… if you’ve made it this far well done and thank you for taking the time to read this. The conference ended with a panel session from the Australian SAP Mentors:

/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/wrapup_92499.jpg

Here are some of the points that were discussed:

  • The event was not too sales focused
  • The agenda was very relevant Based on round table discussions held last year
  • Australia and New Zealand SAP Market is a small market of early adopters
  • Australian SAP consultants tend to be more multi-taskers
  • Look for quick wins with NWBC,
  • Testing is the biggest barrier to moving to latest and greatest
  • Look at the business process change analyzer
  • Consider Streamwork for collaboration
  • REST underpins new architectures
  • SAP Mentors are  top community influencers
  • SCN is geared toward technical community, it needs more functional people engaged
  • Women are under represented in the Mentor group
  • Contributing can be a great reward and take an abundance mentality, it’s not a zero sum game
  • Expect to see more about Enterprise Content Management
  • Expect to see lots of roadmaps coming up… Otherwise it is just a lot of technologies e.g. UI and DB roadmaps
  • More and more innovation in abap development
  • Hoping to see people making more use of the platform that they already have
  • Value quickly via the cloud with core remaining on premise
  • Sap needs to innovate to complete and to grow
  • Acquisitions been driven by stock market pressure…and choice is Build or buy
  • Where are all the skills going to come from?

So that’s it… it was a very worthwhile event – my thanks go out to everyone who managed, contributed and participated. I hope you found this summary useful. Please take the time to rate the post below and please give me any feedback via the comments area.

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10 Comments

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  1. Susan Keohan

    Wow, Simon.  Excellent blog.  I feel as though you have captured so much of the event, that I was almost there (but not really, which is very sad for me 🙁 ).

    Thanks so much for sharing!

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  2. Graham Robinson

    Great blog Simon,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences at Mastering SAP Technologies with the wider SAP Community.

    I hope your blog will encourage others to share their thoughts about this years event as well so we can get a diverse range of experiences.

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  3. Sascha Wenninger

    Hi Simon,

    great summary of probably the best instance of Mastering that I’ve been to! It seems I must’ve been the only person to have missed Tara’s NWBC session; at least everyone seemed to be talking about it.

    Also a great shame that Graham’s session wasn’t recorded. He had a difficult topic about people rather than technology and pulled it off so well, with a really personal, inspiring and clearly heart-felt presentation.

    Looking forward to next year, and actually sitting down for a conversation some time!

    Sascha

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  4. Simon Kemp Post author

    Thank you all for the positive feedback, when I looked back on the notes I had taken during the two days I was amazed at the breath and depth of the content – I could have probably written a book more easily than a blog post!

    Next time around I think I will probably break it up into smaller more digestible chunks, it would be easier for people to consume and easier for me to write I think!

    Cheers,
    Simon

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  5. John Moy

    Great post Simon.  And kudos to you for actually taking such detailed notes during the event!

    BTW, if anyone wants to actually see Sascha Wenninger’s excellent presentation on REST, the video version is available here …

    http://vimeo.com/39673297

    Rgds

    John

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  6. Mark Yolton

    Thank you, Simon, for this recap. Well done. It was a pleasure for me to be at the event with our ANZ friends – always positive energy, enthusiasm, innovation, with a bit of “attitude” which I appreciate.

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    1. Simon Kemp Post author

      Thanks Mark, it is great that you took the time to come and visit us down here. We appreciate that very much as we are not exactly just next door!

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  7. Graham Robinson

    Thanks for taking the time to share this with those that did not get to Sydney Simon. It was great to catch up with so many old friends again. Melbourne next year.

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