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All for One and HANA for All

Co-Innovation among SAP and its SAP Mentors enables optimization of the ABAP platform for HANA

This is the fifth article in the 2012 informational series called “Meet the SAP Mentors.” SAP Mentors are a super-smart, engaged global cohort of nearly 110 experts in all things SAP – customers, partners, employees, bloggers, consultants, business people and technical wizards nominated by peers in the SAP Community Network and selected by SAP. Every day, SAP Mentors demonstrate their personal and professional commitment to leadership by helping SAP customers and practitioners solve the business and technical challenges that come with achieving better business results via SAP-based solutions. As a byproduct, the SAP Mentor Initiative is enriching the culture of SAP with a more open and collaborative dialog between SAP decision-makers and stakeholders. A shared commitment to dialog, collaboration and customer success helps to make the SAP ecosystem a predictable source of competitive advantage to the world’s leading organizations.

A fast-changing economic environment makes it essential for businesses to identify technological breakthroughs more quickly than ever and incorporate them into new solutions.

That is partly why IT professionals in the SAP community believe in the importance of cooperative efforts that make it faster and easier to adopt technology game changers such as SAP HANA.

Recently, SAP’s ABAP platform and solutions marketing teams launched two co-innovation initiatives that demonstrate the value of SAP Mentors to the SAP ecosystem. One initiative seeks to optimize the ABAP stack for HANA, while the other tackles the challenge of code exchange in a modern integrated development environment. The goal they share is to improve the speed and quality of technology innovation and delivery.

Optimizing ABAP for HANA

Andreas Wesselmann is SAP’s chief product owner of the ABAP Platform. He’s also one of the champions of ABAP-centered co-innovation at SAP.

“As an outcome of a ‘Meet the SAP Mentors’ event at SAP TechEd in Madrid, and SAPPHIRENOW in Orlando,” says Wesselmann, “we explored what ABAP on HANA could and should mean.”

Adds Gert Schroeter, senior director of solution marketing at SAP: “We tried to get engaged a little bit more with the mentors [and] SAP Mentors asked us how to get involved into our development projects.”

Video capture image: (L) Gert Shroeter, Senior Director of Solution

Marketing, SAP, and (R) Andreas Wesselmann, Chief Product Owner

of the ABAP Platform.

According to Wesselmann, the use of agile frameworks, such as Scrum, helps to accelerate the development of adaptable, flexible solutions leveraging the ABAP platform for SAP HANA.

“Some developers are engaged in actual projects, such as SAP Mentor Thorsten Franz and Tobias Trapp and their employer AOK Systems GmbH [a leading provider of IT systems and software for healthcare and social security in Germany],” he says. “Franz and AOK Systems, for example, are doing a proof of concept in an internal development environment as part of a customer engagement initiative.”

Wesselmann explains, “A good thing about the AOK project is that they work with real data in real life and give SAP feedback in parallel with our development process.

“They feel involved and I and my team gets a lot of excellent feedback quite quickly, which helps us to build momentum with HANA.”

Co-innovation is AOK…for everyone

At independent software vendor and SAP partner AOK Systems GmbH, Franz and his colleague Tobias Trapp, also an SAP Mentor, share responsibility for overarching portfolio management, new technology recommendation, development guidelines, programming methodologies, strategic innovation for software architecture and maintaining key professional relationships with SAP.

“All of SAP’s customer engagement initiatives are open to everyone in the SAP space,” says Franz. “Even though there’s a concentration of SAP Mentors [in the code exchange initiative], it’s open to everybody.

“The type of developer who seizes this kind of opportunity is likely to become an SAP Mentor in the future.”

The key thing, according to Franz, is for SAP customers and partners to be diligent at taking advantage of the opportunities that SAP makes available and to learn “the hottest new skills in the scene.” He adds that customer engagement initiatives allow developers to propose a wide range of prototyping projects to SAP and can decide what kind of input they want the teams to provide.

Developers can come to SAP at an early stage of ideation. Or they can find interesting ways to add features to decade-old SAP software that SAP is improving for upcoming release.

“I am part of several customer engagement initiatives,” he says. “Teams have a tough time findingenough customers and partners, which I find utterly weird.”

Franz adds that SAP innovates quickly now because its formerly slow-moving culture has adapted to a sea change in technology innovation and customer need.

“It’s no longer your grandfather’s SAP,” he concludes. “It’s a great time to take advantage of the opportunities.”

Exchanging code

Wesselmann is working with the SAP Mentor community, as well as the developer community, on a second co-innovation initiative, which focuses on best practices and mechanisms for co-developing and exchanging ABAP software code in a modernized integrated development environment based on Eclipse open source software.

The co-innovation initiative highlights the open and extensible nature of the new development environment, which is based on a Software Development Kit (SDK). Using the SDK, customers and partners can enhance the standard toolset according to their needs. As a result, the SAP and the ABAP developer community are able to deliver new innovations in shorter cycles.

“SAP Mentors and the development community have good ideas for leveraging best practices,” says Wesselmann. “Lots of SAP Mentors and developers from all over the world [from Europe, the United States, the Middle East, Australia and more] are exploring that.”

How did Wesselmann sell the idea of co-innovating approaches to code exchange?

“For SAP developers, the idea of code exchange was adopted without turbulence, it was an easy sell,” he says.

“But if you look at [business and IT] management and different roles,” he continues, “then it’s a bigger project.”

To help management understand the power of agile methodologies that SAP Mentors and developers use all the time, Wesselmann provided “experiential” training to management in the form of daily standup meetings that developers use to speed development.

On a daily basis, managers and team members had to share precisely what they did the previous day and what they would do the next day. Over the duration of a few weeks weekly status update meetings became unnecessary.

“Just by letting management touch it,” says Wesselmann, “they convinced themselves of its value.”

The power of co-innovation, it seems, is here to stay.


Sidebar: Co-innovation explained

Harald Reiter, is a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP. Involved in the SAP Developer Network since its inception in 2003, he was also among the first cohort of SAP Mentors in 2008.

Reiter offers his explanation of co-innovation. “In co-innovation you [usually] have a product developed by one or more party,” he says. “In this case, SAP is more focused on validating its technology and, as [technology-oriented] partners or customers, we help them validate the platform.”

For a given new SAP technology, co-innovation participants offer feedback about what works—and what doesn’t—typically prior to beta release. Also, they do the following:

  • Propose potential prototyping projects
  • Develop approved projects using the new technology
  • Attend workshops and webinars that SAP presents
  • Contribute final feedback at the end of the prototype

“There are advantages for us,” says Deloitte Consulting’s Reiter. “We get direct access to hands-on developers who assist with our prototypes and we get weekly feedback on our progress and documentation, which helps our developers.

“We also gain access to the new technology before the beta release and, ultimately, by having some of our people trained early [on the new SAP technology], we can help our customers deliver projects better and faster.”


Video testimonial of Andreas Wesselmann and Gert Schroder of SAP, “Meet the SAP Mentors: Co-innovating with SAP”

“Not your grandfather’s SAP” – blog post by Thorsten Franz

Other Articles in “Meet the SAP Mentors” Series

Advocating for Excellence

Tree of Talent

The Inside Track on Community Engagement

Trust + Results = Success

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