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I was reading a blog post few days ago about a 2013 system bug.  The bug really turned out to be standard known issue about batch data programs.  However I then asked the question why are we still using BDC style input in 2003.  I then realized that the whole SAP Netweaver concept turns ten at least for myself this year and are we really doing anything different.  I know that many of you are going to shout HANA, mobility, Business Objects, Succesfactors and other items, but that is doing something else and not necessarily doing something different.  The problem is that when I look at SAP ERP and even SAP CRM I still feel like I’m back in 2002 pre-netweaver for many important aspects.

What happened to ESA/SOA?

My first question is what happened to ESA/SOA?  I’m not sure but I still see the concepts use for communicating for systems that interface with the SAP Business Suite, but why did the business suite not adopt SOA for communication between components such as ERP to CRM or ERP to SRM or ERP to SCM?  Instead at least for SAP CRM we have a very reliable but RFC based method of communicating between systems.  Even though there are layers of abstractions on this framework, we are still stuck on a model where systems needs to match exact version numbers and have development synced to deliver new innovation.  I thought SOA/ESA was supposed to free us from this problem as long as both systems could communicated via enterprise services and agree on a common semantic interface layer.  It would have interesting to see the results if this had happened.

Why do I still have that SAP GUI on my desktop?

To be fair SAP did replace a good portion of the user interface for SAP CRM so that the average business user only needs a web browser.  However for SAP ERP, the SAP GUI lives on and I understand that SAP has gradually offered replacement webdynpro apps, but my real question is why isn’t 100% of the ERP experience via web browser.  In addition I don’t want anymore fat clients period on my desktop.  Yep I’m going to say this but don’t trade me SAP GUI for eclipse.  I want 100% browser based system configuration/maintenance/development experience that works on my tablet of choice.  Yep I’m not impressed by all the new development tools in eclipse for cloud applications.  Real innovation in development would require a new model that is completely cloud based, instead of just repointing fat client desktop tools to a different destination.  Yes I’m the guy who still remembers being told that eventually all I will ever need to access SAP applications is a web browser.

Can we not repeat the same mistakes?

In asking these questions, I want to know will the world of 2023 look any different or will the next generation business applications make the same mistakes.  In addition with maintenance extended to 2020, will we just end up with the SAP GUI staying around forever.  Will new components of on-premise or cloud applications communicate in semantic layers that don’t require precise version numbers.  In addition will people making the development tools for cloud solutions please loose their addictions to thick desktop clients and provide cloud-based development tools for cloud-based applications that don’t require thick desktop clients. 

Back to the Future again

As the saying goes as more things change, more things stay the same.  Even though there is a lot of exciting innovation that is supposed to change everything, if we do not execute those ideas to full completion we will remain in the past.  I honestly would have liked to have written a blog this year that would have said ten years of netweaver and look how the user interface was so quaint in 2003 and how SOA saved us from the release synchronization issues.  Will the new innovations being presented as the solution to our problems, actually solve the problems, or in 2023 will be facing the same issues as in 2013.  I see the promise the of the innovations, but I need to be shown(I’m from Missouri the Show-Me State) the execution into reality.

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  1. Andy Silvey

    Hi Stephen,

    I see two main items in your blog, SOA and SAP Gui for Windows.

    The recurring question I see in the blog is,

    Why do I still have that SAP Gui on my Desktop ?

    I think that SAP Community Network is not the right forum for that question, that question should be posted to the CTO/CIO etc of your company.

    Today in 2013, there is no reason to be tied to the SAP Gui for Windows, everything you can do in the SAP Gui for Windows you can do through the in the Web Browser through the Portal using a combination of Iviews containing the delivery tools for the respective functionality.

    Infact, in 2013, Users shouldn’t be opening the SAP Gui, the Portal should be _the_ entry point to everything SAP in an enterprise.

    SAP on Tablets, that’s already there, Portal on Device NW EP 7.31 SP05 or NW EP 7.3 SP08. Yes not all Business Packages/Functionality is remastered for Smart Devices, but that will come.

    Back to the point, the only answer to the question why do you still have SAP Gui on your desktop is, ask your CIO/CTO, or even go one step further, educate the Business, educate the CIO/CTO, the Business Process Owners, the Business Units in your organisation of the capabilities of Portal and why they should be moving away from SAPGui and have one entry point, one url to everything in your SAP Landscape through the SAP Portal. It’s down to us to make that change, to show the Business what is possible. Change starts at home.

    I hope that helps, if you need more information on the current capabilities of Portal then look no further than Portal and Portal On Device sections of the SAP NetWeaver Basis Administrator’s Toolbox… as a starting point for information.

    As a Basis Administrator and having been part of the journey from R/3 3.1H upto the latest versions today, I think where we are today from a technology perspective is a million miles from where we were 10, 12, or 14 years ago. Just look at EP today compared to EP5 SP2 !  Look at EP7.3x compared to EP7.0x, look how fast Support Packs go in now, I am seeing 45 minutes to run a Support Stack on EP7.30 and EP7.31 – this is huge progress in reducing downtime for Support Stack maintenance – and that’s only one area to choose from.

    All the best, and I set you the challenge to educate the Business that everything should be through the Portal.

    Andy Silvey.

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author

      I’m really not sure that the CIO/CTO is to blame.  I mean does SAP honestly deliver every transaction in ERP in an interface that does not require the SAP Portal.  The problem with the SAP Portal is that unless you provide replacements for all the SAP GUI transactions then nobody will use it instead.  So can you prove to me that all the content that I need to replace the SAP GUI is delivered by SAP in the portal? As a customer I don’t want to have rebuild what SAP should have already built, so any answer saying I could build it all via custom is not acceptable. A portal without content is worthless no matter how cool it is.

      Even SAP has admitted that they can’t replace all the old SAP GUI screens yet with equivalent Web Dynpro Java/ABAP/etc type applications.  So the SAP GUI lives on until the change is made.

      The real point of my questions is that with new innovations unless decide to full adopt the paridgm shift they bring we run the risk of not moving forward and still doing the same old thing.  If SAP is going to create a next generation business application on HANA then the mistakes made during the Netweaver/SOA need to be avoided.  I think failure to fully adopt a new UI for the ERP part of the business suite and rebuild the business suite via SOA internal are two of the biggest missed opportunities for this generation of solutions.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  2. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Stephen, I wanted to respond to your comment in the blog you’ve mentioned but am glad you’ve created your own.

    At least for me the reason we still use BDC is because there are big pieces of functionality missing in the “core R3”. For example, I feel manufacturing is severely underserved in SAP in terms of functionality. There are hardly any BAPIs for simple operations (e.g. I had to use BDC just last year to add components to a planned order). How do you build SOA or whatever when there is just no functionality inside SAP? I’ve heard this said before on SCN that SAP has small attention span and instead of improving the existing products they just move on to the shiny new toy. Looking at your blog, I feel this might be quite true.

    In general, I’d say that many things still exist because they work and they are simple. (Why do we still have command prompt in Windows? 🙂 ) And it might not be very clear what exactly are advantages and ROI of spending resources on “shiny new toys”.

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author

      Exactly sometimes I feel that innovations are exactly SAP’s way of saying “ignore the man behind the curtain”.  I wrote a coffee corner post about three or four years ago on the fact that the Vendor Master Create/Change processing in ERP was still using a BAPI that was simply a wrapper around a BDC.  The post was something like how can BDC be the backbone of ESA.  It is sad if you have to use BDC in 2013 because there are no alternatives.  

      The real problem is that in ten years the product still has not evolved to the full technical potential and many of the old problems still exist along with a new set of problems.  The lesson to be learned here is that even something like HANA with unlimited potential could sputter out if not executed to the full vision.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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      1. Jelena Perfiljeva

        Yes, and fancy OO methods are wraped around good old function modules. 🙂 You might want to tag the blog with ABAP, so that it shows up in that space too.

        Thanks!

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