We went past apocalypse(?) without any major incident which means 2013 is right around the corner. So on the final day of 2012 I finally manage to put together this blog about the year it was in my professional life which happens to revolve around SAP and its applications and technology. By no means can it be terms an watershed or a landmark, neither did I get to change my job for better pursuits or for that matter move on to a new project assignment, but there were some interesting happenings along the way.
SCN in new platform
Earlier this year new SCN platform rolled out and frankly it took me quite some time to work my way through the change it brought about. My favourite used to be catching the blogs being published daily – miss going through the old feed link, checking out the blog headers before opening up the full blog that interested. Took some time to figure out http://scn.sap.com/content#filterID=all~objecttype~objecttype[blogpost] gives more or less same result in new SCN. While volume of blog posts have increased significantly there is question about quality content. There is no longer blog moderation and I still remember how I had to request for blogging – started as Junior blogger with each blog requiring review before it got published and finally the joy and satisfaction when I got Expert Blogger rights to publish without undergoing review gauntlet. Today any SCNer can create blogpost and it does not require review – this has “democratised” blogging but at the same time resulted in forum questions being posted as blogs 😯 . Note: Technically “Blogs” are the old blogs and “Blog Posts” are the new blogs.
The next favourite area was Wiki which did not technically underwent an upgrade but in the process kind of got lost. In new SCN different spaces and sub-spaces are the norm that leads into content of type Discussion (Forum), Blogpost or Documents (Articles / eLearning) but sadly no mention of Wiki.
Of course I keep Jason Lax‘s forum-finder guide handy as a bookmark (cool new SCN feature) but even that does not lead you to the Wiki. Some time back I was going through the Wiki to update SAP Inside Track India page and back-tracked all the way up to good old Wiki dashboard and to some of the Wiki spaces that I could proudly recall getting created by Mario Herger and then built from scratch like ERP Operations and SCM. For any old or new SCNer SCN Site Index should be one of the first bookmarks. The good old Articles (heavily moderated) have given way to Documents which anybody can create and publish another example of “content democracy”.
SAP Inside Tracks & InnoJam
In the new SCN there was new space called Events that got added where InnoJam, SAP Inside Track rubbed shoulders with TechEd, SAPPHIRE. If blogging represented “content democratisation” then surely SAP Inside Tracks or SITs represented “event democratisation” in 2012. SITs are a global phenomena with majority of the locations hosting it for third year and some more than 5 years now. What started as grassroots community meetup in unconference style organised by die-hard SDN enthusiasts and supported by local SAP Mentors has now created its own niche as the physical piece of an otherwise increasingly virtual community. The event was seeded from Community Day (pre-conference of TechEd) which evolved into SITs around the whole world. The content being presented, the interest generated is truly phenomenal and with many SITs sharing session recordings – you can technically “attend” SITs throughout the year. Some have been even compared to mini-TechEds with exceptional learning and knowledge sharing opportunity. If you have not attended one make sure you follow the space and attend one in 2013.
If you do not know what InnoJam is then lookout for the weekend before TechEd – this is one event you cannot miss as a Developer. Apart from InnoJam (which is a weekend event) there is CodeJam that last few hours of intense coding and learning. I managed to take part in first InnoJam at Bangalore in 2011 and could not miss it this year too even between client Production Cutover. Of course InnoJams have played an important role in bringing SAP’s Developer Connect effort closer with the Community and CodeJam evolving from Hackers Night. So as a Developer watch out these two as they will play a big part in 2013.
In the midst of tremendous technology flux and being bombarded with Cloud, In-Memory Computing a.k.a. HANA and Mobility the age-old core business applications SAP ERP still goes on doing its task. ECC along with its Business Suite (does anyone still refer to it as ‘BS’) cousins mainly CRM, SRM, SCM still drive most of the big numbers be it top-line, bottom-line, % of worlds GDP going through SAP transactions, “xyz” runs SAP etc. etc. Looking back in time, it was not so long ago that eSOA, BPX, BPM, xAPPs were the buzzwards which hardly find a mention these days. Certain things have evolved (like BPM into Process Orchestration that is combination of BPM with PI), some have got re-defined into new avatars (eSOA into REST based Gateway to expose classical SAP applications to lightweight human-centric applications) while few have fallen down the path of evolution (may I mention BPX).
Does anyone remember BPP (Business Process Platform) or SAP’s vision of liberating business application into modular functional units that can be consumed by clients according to their need. No one liked SAP Gui which evolved to Webdynpro then Netweaver Business Client but still majority of clients still use either classic SAP Gui or at maximum WebDynpro screens on a Portal. So when SAP announced Screen Personas, App Designer, SAPUI5 and shows it in TechEd keynote demos, one gets excited as a consultant but time will tell how soon customers will embrace it in their productive systems.
Another example is xAPPs or Composite Applications. In my area of interest namely SCM, xSOP was introduced way back in 2007 (if I remember correctly) embracing the new eSOA concepts. Conceptually it was great, addressing the grey areas in SAP APO application that had individual modules like Demand Planning, Supply Network Planning, Production Planning. But clients had to always build a new custom solution to cater their basic Sales and Operations Planning process needs. xSOP was the panacea integrating the best features of these individual modules so that the client can deploy it out-of-box rather than custom development. But either it was ahead of its time technologically or the timing from economic standpoint was not right to bring in yet another application into the SAP Landscape. Now SOP on HANA is back with the same premise built on Cloud + Mobile with power of HANA and sprinkling of Analytics from Business Objects. Gartner outlined 4 stage S&OP Maturity model in November 2010 that was given a twist with IT strategy and technology by Richard Howells’s Forbes article in April 2012 and finally announced by SAP as SOP 2.0 powered by HANA. Interestingly the cloud-based application at a technical architecture level shares the xSOP’s eSOA based design principles as found deep in the API Guide [note: Service Marketplace login id required to access] and Streamwork for capturing the different parties collaborative discussion and meeting points that goes into S&OP cycle. Looks like I was right in blogging about possible use-case of 12Sprints (a.k.a. Streamwork) for S&OP process back in early 2010.
On solution front there is clearly a rise of SAP Transportation Management with new releases coming out in less than one years time and if someone explores will find support packs for 2 more future releases showing the exciting development taking place. Along with TM, EWM (Extended Warehouse Management) and EM (Event Management) is coming to forefront converging into Supply Chain Execution solution suite. So Supply Chain Management now extends from Planning (read APO) and Collaboration (read SNC) to Logistics and Execution (read TM, EWM, EM combined). Likewise SAP Procurement is extending what started with SRM as a new-dimension product from core MM. The new-dimension products from few years back seem no longer niche but evolving into more sophisticated business applications catering to the specific business requirements.
Finally SAP Mentor impressions from TechEd Bangalore
I consider myself extremely lucky and thankful to a few who unknowingly elevated me to a cohort where I could not dream of being even 5 years back. Nevertheless over past 5 years I first got to meet select few physically at Community Day / TechEd 2007, SAP Inside Track London 2009, SAPPHIRE 2011 at Orlando and TechEd Bangalore 2011. But this year TechEd Bangalore saw quite a few Mentors from around the world and from diverse areas converge. It gave a great opportunity not only to meet and interact but also made some impressions that I thought to share.
Paul Hawking from Australia: his first time in India and his first comment was how long it took to go from one part of Bangalore to another 😀 . Regarding TechEd (note he was present in TechEd Las Vegas and came straight from Madrid) – not necessarily surprised by the enthusiasm but surprised due to lack of Vendors and SAP Partners, at the same time noted lot of participants seemed lost and kind of drifting around in the showfloor. He was keen interested to understand the motivation for people attending TechEd pointing out companies or people who buy stuff are not here but mostly developers.
Simha Magal from Great Valley State University, Michgan US : his first time TechEd Bangalore, gave practical perspective of University Alliance program that SAP has and which type of educational institutions fit in to this program best. He is co-author of a book named Business Process Integration with SAP ERP that should be great starting point for a newbie into SAP ERP Functional area. Interestingly he and Jeffrey Word his co-author provided a great perspective of “publishing democratisation” brought about by digital revolution in publishing by forming their own published – Epistemy Press. Both of them urged us India-based SAP Mentors to take up the challenge of writing a book based on our collective experience being close to a vast SAP developer and offshore consultant base that has really set me thinking for 2013.
Matthias Steiner from SAP Germany : first time in TechEd Bangalore, not first time in India / Bangalore though, best know as SAP Cloud Evangelist. You should really go through his blogs mainly around SAP Netweaver Cloud (a.k.a. NeO). In course of our chat he briefed on a probably lesser-known fact how SAP has been a contributor to Open Source Software. But what really struck me was his comment “as an Architect 95% perfection is absolute must, even 85 or 90% is no good“.
Jansi Rani Murugesan who is brand new Mentorette now relocated to Singapore : highlight was getting connected with Product Lead of Solution Manager which is her core area of expertise. On technology front she mentioned about CCLM, LVM that should ease the life of BASIS consultant, TDMS on cloud but what stuck her in TechEd this time was Design Thinking and Empathy leading to building of really useful human-centric applications. She took part in a Design Thinking private event where her team took on the challenge to design a wallet that ultimately led to development of “iPhone 9S”. But before that a truly inspirational 10 minute talk by Seung Chan a.k.a. Slim opened her eye towards empathy and design.
Well there is more thoughts from 2012 but that can come some other day or probably not – for now its time to say HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013!!!