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A few weeks ago, to commemorate the first year anniversary of HANA’s General Availability, I taped a special Google Hangout with SAP Mentors John Appleby, Vijay Vijayasankar and Harald Reiter. If you follow HANA you know these illustrious miscreants by now, if that is an acceptable phrase, hmm they might not like that one. But if you want to check out some bios, the four of us currently serve as the non-SAP-employee members of the HANA Distinguished Engineer Council. Anyhow, the end result of the shoot was an hour of informal banter with debate on several potent HANA topics, as well as a fair amount of good natured ribbing not only of SAP but each other. I posted the video to my JonERP YouTube channel and an optimized audio version on my iTunes feed, but not the notes I had taken on HANA skills development. I decided to wrestle with the SCN blogging interface to see if I could share some of those items here and with any luck, actually embed the video as well.

The reasons for posting the skills notes are two fold: obviously a major focus of the HANA Distinguished Engineer initiative is to drive skills development. There is also a need for straight talk on the HANA skills actually needed on the ground today. There’s been way too much overhype of HANA skills demand without a nuanced discussion of what is actually needed on projects now, and how SAP (and non-SAP) professionals should be positioning themselves and what skills they should be pursuing. Avoiding ripoffs from scam offers from questionable third parties to get HANA training is essential; our time and money is too precious. We need good information so hopefully there’s some on the video, and we can continue the conversation here.

If for some reason the video doesn’t embed properly below you can check it out here: State of SAP HANA video link.

Before I get to the skills piece, there were several topics hit on during the talk I thought were worthy of coverage:

1. Whether HANA needs “killer apps” to be truly, err, “game changing.” (That’s a BINGO for you “buzzword bingo” enthusiasts). I say a “strong yes” but I think you’ll find the debate on this topic interesting and maybe a little surprising.

2. What the HANA Distinguished Engineer program is about and why it’s needed

3. An assessment of SAP’s first year of HANA GA and what we expect from TechEd season

And, probably to no one’s surprise, some critique of HANA certification.

Video timestamps and highlights

Here’s some video timestamps to scroll to the part you’re interested in. Note that these same timestamps apply to the iTunes audio version.

2:45 Where does HANA stand  a year after GA? Is it a more mature and stable product?  (ballpark: “100 to 150 implementations”, on track for $200 million in revenues in 2012)

6:05 What’s the verdict from a revenue perspective? John: If I were on the board of SAP right now, I’d be pleased with the numbers, but concerned about failed implementations if there aren’t enough skilled resources to support the (ambitious) revenue targets for 2013.

9:00 HANA skills demand and certification. John: there’s a good number of certified HANA consultants, but not so many people that really know it end-to-end and can troubleshoot complex problems.

12:50 Killer apps versus HANA-as-database (e.g. BW on HANA) debate. Vijay: For the foreseeable future (2012), I don’t see skills as being the big problem. Most BW people can make the “BW on HANA” leap if they are good at data modeling side of BW. The killer app is the bigger problem. John: I’m bullish on BW on HANA. Debate ensues.

16:30 Will BW on HANA drive skills demand beyond what SAP Education can handle? Harald: I would love to have the skills demand problem. I see the opposite problem – too many quality HANA people without projects.

20:15 Jon to the guys: Is SAP adequately empowering its HANA partners for BW on HANA sales? I’ve heard stories from the field of SAP sales not playing nice with partners on this. The guys: report that the BW on HANA partnerships are working well on the ground now, after some challenges in the rampup.

23:00 The “killer apps versus TCO benefits” HANA debate. Harald: HANA is like an Xbox – it needs games (apps). John: We need to make a distinction between “general purpose” apps and extreme apps. BW on HANA is a killer app in my opinion, with general relevance.

34:30 HANA Distinguished Engineer (HDE) program discussion – why is it needed? John: The nature of education is changing. To prevent HANA project failures, we need agile, community-driven educational content and mentoring. Jon: My problems with certification have to do with lack of field experience validation. Done right, the HDEs can change this, and create a culture of excellence around HANA. But, there are challenges ahead. Discussion of the challenges ensues. John uses the phrase “force multiplier,” resulting in a bingo for Jon.

SAP HANA Skills Discussion section

44:43 How should the ABAP programmer adapt to HANA? Guys: SQL skills are a must. Forget the ‘ABAP way’ and learn how to push logic in memory. Vijay: get some insight in both ABAP-on-HANA, which is evolving, and SQL. I started with ABAP in my career, and it was a struggle for me at first in HANA. 

Vijay: Initial HANA POCs may only require Explorer running against a schema, but full scale projects require sophisticated analytics front ends. “Don’t forget the analytics part of HANA – the high speed data needs something beautiful to come out on the other end.”  BI/analytics tools mastery is part of the skills equation for sure.

Harald: I do a lot of work on the tech/infrastructure side of HANA. As for the Basis side of the skill set, a year ago we started defining the new HANA system admin roles because we were concerned about training. You need more DBA type skills when it comes to HANA admin, which many Basis folks don’t necessarily have – so you may have to go back and learn more about DBA skills and tools. We still see a need for performance tuning with SAP as well, working closely with the hardware vendors like HP and IBM to make sure our people understand the architecture. This really helps the Basis person understand how to support HANA.

John: I would add there is another important area for consideration, which Steve Lucas has called the HANA performance consultant. This person knows end-to-end HANA processes and how to optimize them. If we want to get information from HANA more quickly and getting it out more quickly, that means optimizing four to five disparate areas. A HANA performance consultant needs to be able to look across those, and attack the areas that matter – rather than just focus on BW on HANA. Those who can do that well will have a dramatic impact.

Vijay: Also remember security on HANA is very different than NetWeaver security. HANA security is not about profiles, it’s closer to database level security of read/write/change, and that takes thought/planning. For POC projects, security isn’t often a priority, but if you move to go-live, you’ll need total data security and skills.


51:24 HANA TechEd expectations, and closing banter

I’d like to thank John, Vijay, and Harald for grappling with time zones and technical snafus in order to get our conversation nailed down. Vijay ended up reverting to doing this taping on his iPhone, which worked surprisingly well. From his perch in the UK, John managed to stay largely awake and even give Harald a hard time which may or may not have been deserved.

We look forward to your questions and comments and we’ll try to incorporate them in future videos and blogs…


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  1. Bala Prabahar

    Nice job. Well balanced views. You all did a wonderful job explaining your thoughts on all topics 🙂

    A few thoughts:

    Sadly, Independent consultants have not become a major player in SAP-HANA implementation yet. John A kept explaining the need for experts with an end-to-end knowledge on HANA. I agree wholeheartedly. In my opinion, one would find a big chunk of expertise – which would help understand HANA quickly – in independent consultants’ space. However the independent consultants are finding it very difficult – if not impossible – to work on real HANA projects. Unfortunately the discussion didn’t focus on independent consultants. I heard John Appleby mention Independent consultants just once in 58 minutes.

    There are independent consultants who worked on plain SQL for years before working on SAP projects. They’ve worked on home-grown applications writing either ESQL/C code or 4th generation languages. And as Vijay mentioned security was implemented at the DB level. In 1995 or 96, don’t remember when, when role was introduced by DB vendors, it took a while to understand the DB role concept. Until 95, they used to grant or revoke privileges at the object level for every user. No role was available. It seems SAP-HANA need people with those skills; however SAP-HANA projects are not making use of their expertise. Remember in order to be successful, SAP-HANA projects should be implemented right initially (& documented) in order for the success to continue.

    Sharing knowledge is a very important and critical topic. It would benefit everyone. However what kind of knowledge we share is important too. Not sure how independent consultants can contribute without working on real projects!(AWS is not an answer).

    Once again, very nice job in explaining your thoughts/opinions/views!

    Best regards,

    Bala

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    1. Jon Reed Post author

      Bala thanks for the feedback – would be interesting to hear one of the other guys respond to that. You probably know that independent consultants are at the heart of what I consider the lifeblood of the SAP market. Unfortunately with new technologies it’s very difficult to get exposure as an independent. HANA for example is primarily staffed by SAP and its partners. I would expect the partners to use their own people first, and the first independent consultants we see in HANA will likely come out of the HANA partners after they have several HANA projects under their belt.

      I’d say the best way for an an independent SAP consultant to get exposure to HANA, aside from the free tools, would be to work on a project where they get pulled into helping with aspects of a HANA POC, for example, an FI/CO consultant gets pulled into a HANA financials POC or user case.

      Those are the realities I think – independents tend to command premium rates and companies tend to be reluctant to pay good hourly rates to bring an independent up to speed on a new area. You could make the argument that they have a lot of the relevant experience already – and it’s an argument I’ve made before – but that’s the nature of the challenge I think.

      Thanks again for a very good and important comment, I’ll try to address more future content to this audience.

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      1. Bala Prabahar

        Hi Jon,

        Thanks for encouraging response. I didn’t bring up this issue until now due to the reasons you stated(premium rates, SAP first, SI next and then Independent).  Since good part of your discussions focused on skills shortage, I wanted to highlight how independent consultants could help fill that gap. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

        Best regards.

        Bala

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        1. Jon Reed Post author

          Bala – agreed and thank you for bringing it up. The problem however is there isn’t universal agreement on what a “HANA skills shortage” is or if there is one right now. My view is that there are probably more HANA certified people than there are projects but not enough of the folks who can actually make a difference via bona fide field experience. One of the goals of the Distinguished Engineer program is to help try to fill that gap by creating an educational community.

          How independents can fit into that will be interesting to see. Basically more work needs to be done figuring out how existing independent SAP consultants can make an impact here. But one of the tough lessons of being an independent consultant is that companies tend to want to pay you for what you’ve already done, not help you with skills expansion. I had the same issue trying to get independent CO/PA experts into BW more than ten years ago. They would get the BW certification and try to get it but opportunities were scarce, even though as you point out, having prior relevant experience can be powerful.

          I’ll try to keep covering this angle on the topic. Cheers.

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          1. Bala Prabahar

            As always, Jon, your views are well balanced. Yes, companies want to pay for what independent has already done. Frankly speaking I expand my skills everyday regardless of whether the technology is new or 10+ years old. HANA implementation requires, as John Appleby pointed out, end-to-end understanding of whole 9 yards of IT, not just how to load data or create views or migrate from another db to HANA. Troubleshooting an issue is not easy. More than knowledge one requires soft skills such as passion, hard work, perseverence,experience etc. In SAP space, I still make use of what I learned several years ago in non-SAP world. Frankly speaking my success in SAP world is due to non-SAP experience! Actions not words speak volumes so don’t want to spend time in documenting my thoughts here. Nothing can be more powerful than what you said: “… having prior relevant experience can be powerful”.

            This video blog is a great success story for Google Hangout!

            Best regards,

            Bala

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  2. XL Tutors

    Good information you have explained all the thoughts regarding this. But a team of expertise require to work on SAP HANA projects so it would be better to work as a team to understand SAP HANA projects quickly. Experts can be created only if we have the knowledge about the latest techniques and aspects online so there are many institutions which provide online tutorials on XL Tutors. We provide the best online tutorials about the latest updates our well experienced staff has trained lots of student in this particular course. So that we can see advancements in this field in the upcoming time.   

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