Skip to Content

… to be involved with SAP!

And, how lucky I am to work for SAP!  I hope you get past the title and subtitle which may appear as blatant SAP propaganda and read on, because it is really how I feel.  A close colleague and friend questioned whether I really wrote my last blog Shop Talk – Long live SAP HCM Core On-premise, implying maybe there was a ghost writer involved.  I suppose the question came about because I said some things that may seem to conflict with issues I raised in the past.  Some people may wonder the same about this blog because I often come across as somewhat skeptical.  Some even threatened to nickname me after the character Eeyore (the donkey) in Winnie the Pooh.  However, a couple things happened today that reminded me of how fortunate I am to work for SAP. And I would argue that you are too as SAP implementers and customers.

So, what inspired me today?  First, I got an email from Jarret Pazahanick, pointing me to this blog, Is SAP NW EhP3 really Non-Disruptive?, written by Tobias Trapp.  Then, I got into a discussion with my 13 year-old son about what he wants out of life, and how school and career choices may impact him.

Jarret and I have this sort of running debate about what is “innovation without disruption”, a tagline that SAP coined a few years ago mainly in the context of Enhancement Packages. I guess I would say that Jarret and I might have some similarities here in that we appear to be critical on the surface. But I like to think it is because we care about making things better for our customers.  I am okay with this because I think it makes us try harder. I admit that I likely provoked this debate when I proclaimed that, with the more recent Enhancement Packs, our solution had matured to the point where more customers were finding the Enhancement Pack application much less of a challenge than in the past.  Therefore, customers would find it easier to upgrade to EhP6, the prerequisite for HR Renewal (see, New SAP HCM Functionality – HR Renewal 1.0), which has been a main focus of my work life the past two years.  In my defense, it was actual customer statements that prompted my proclamation.

Still, Jarret and I apparently missed out participating in debate club in college, because we like to go back and forth on this topic.  In my reply to him, where he pointed out the above mentioned blog by Tobias, I supplied some background, or “color” to him privately. After that, my earlier mentioned conversation with my son and his career ambitions got me thinking even deeper about my own career experience. While analyzing my experience, it made me realize how proud I am to work for SAP. One reason is how I have seen SAP react to customer concerns such as the upgrade issues. I realize that all this praise for SAP may be too much for many of you to bear. I know!  I listen to others do something similar all the time and it seems just too mushy, too over the top, to be true BUT, when I really thought about it, I realized: I am a believer!

Here’s why – if you didn’t go back and read Tobias’ blog, the basic premise, as I interpreted it, was that the basis part of EhP3 was more disruptive, at least in the case described, than one might have expected, given SAP’s tagline “innovation without disruption”. While I don’t have the basis expertise to really say one way or the other, I can bring the perspective of 15 years of SAP HR Developer experience. There was a real definitive time where we (SAP) got the message that customers were finding upgrades and patches more difficult than they ought to be. In response, SAP put significant focus on improving the upgrade experience for customers. I feel that this is what prompted SAP to come up with things like the Enhancement Package and HR Country Legal Change Packages.

Here is where everyone jumps on me and says how many issues they still experience.  Okay, I’ll take that!  However, I really believe it is “better”, and I can relate a little bit about what SAP did to make it better.  Realize also, we don’t always see everything instantaneously!  I know that things we did years ago are just now really paying off with the greater customer base.  I’ll say that you should still raise those issues!  I believe that SAP will respond because SAP is all the more keen to realizing that it is mutually beneficial to our customers and SAP to do so.

Anyway, I think Jarret and I agreed that “innovation without disruption” is relative, and that EhP implementations can still have bumps, and that it still takes competent, dedicated people to pull them off relatively smoothly.  Jarret appreciated the color I supplied on the subject so I thought you might too.  I am not trying to infringe on anyone’s territory when I say “I love my/our SAP customers”, yet those close to me know it is true.  In the context of Tobias’ blog, and even though SAP Basis is not my area of expertise or direct responsibility, I hate to see any customer experience with our software that is less than beautiful!  If something was deleted, I really doubt that my colleagues deleted anything willy-nilly.  I can tell you that quite a while ago, Development was informed, several times actually, about what the customer has to go through to do an install and what the landscape looks like after installing several of our solutions.  I don’t say this to discredit SAP – quite the opposite.  I say it because I am proud we get out and meet customers, feel their pain, and come back and commit to do better.  We take very seriously that our customer’s success has a very strong connection to our own success.

Regarding Tobias’ basis experience, he talks mainly about changes in TADIR entries, not real problems he suffered as a result although I am sure there were some.  But let me tell you a little bit about what I experienced as an HR Developer.  I don’t remember problems, at least not painful enough to trigger a memory, that were the result of SAP Basis deleting something we relied on.  I know there were some remarks about the size of the code and unused objects, and so maybe the issues mentioned were part of a systematic “clean-up” effort.   Assuming the issues mentioned don’t have some other explanation, SAP Basis must play by different rules than HR because we are/were not allowed to delete objects (or only under an extremely rare exception).

All I can say is what I said in the past: I know that the HR Line of Business put a lot of demands and restrictions on us to ensure smooth(er) Support Package applications and upgrades.  Not being able to delete objects was just one restriction.  Off the top of my head, limiting back-ports, user-interface changes without a switch, strictly limiting database updates were others.  It was not just left to the honor system either.  Controls were introduced to enforce many of the new rules.  They enforced a 4-eye principle to release notes. Then we had a series of quality reports that scanned the code and DDICT for issues, and we could not release unless we met the KPI’s. Those are just a few measures we put in place to improve quality and the upgrade experience.

There was also a requirement that customers be able to deploy all of our solutions together on a much simpler landscape.  Sometimes, we wondered if people knew they were asking the impossible, and I think it led to some compromises too.  For example, we were allowed to use only certain UI technologies in order to reduce the number employed, and thus complexities experienced on the customer side.  However, I am sure you realize these examples can cut both ways – a simpler install may also show up as a less-than-the-best possible result for the end-user because of technology restrictions.  I haven’t always liked all the decisions because I wanted to use the best possible tool for the best possible result. But I realize, more now than ever, that those decisions were made in the spirit of trying to make the best overall result for the customer.  Was it always the “right” decision? I would say it depends on your perspective.

So now, here is the point where my colleagues are sure a ghost writer is involved or aliens took over my body, because they remember me complaining up and down at the time.  Developers don’t want restrictions, others checking on them, or having to fix a bunch of “nitpicky” items.  Developers want to use the tools that allow them to build the best end-user experience and don’t think about the installation complexities.  We (speaking as a former developer) HATED hearing and feeling that we didn’t have the best user-experience, and it was especially painful to hear some of our own people question whether we knew how to create a beautiful user-experience.

Oh!  It still hurts me to recount those experiences.  But I am also stubborn and, don’t give up easily.  So, FINALLY, we got to work on the user-experience with our HR Renewal program.  Now, I realize this may not be perfect either, but many of you that have seen it have expressed quite a bit of excitement, and some have said they haven’t seen any better elsewhere.  On another front, as I understand it, SAP HANA now has the potential to dramatically simplify customer landscapes and make our software fast as heck.

Still not buying it? – okay!  Let us put you on our cloud and we will take care of patches and upgrades for you!  So now, we say it is all about choice.  How lucky we are!

To report this post you need to login first.

13 Comments

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.

  1. Former Member

    Robert, your post put a smile on my face. Great work! I admire your enthusiasm.

    I still laugh, or at least chuckle, when I hear ‘innovation without disruption.’ Now, I understand and recognize that development has improved, quality has improved, and there has been a lot of effort to minimize the adverse impact of changes. That’s great. Improving quality is good for its own sake.

    The problem I have with ‘innovation without disruption’ is that it sets some bad expectations. Innovation does bring change – disruption – and that’s not always a bad thing. In fact, I think we (clients and consultants) have to get better at handling disruption, because successfully managing change is one way we make things better. But we need high quality disruption: for example – new and better processes, not the disruption that comes with faulty code or poor design.

    Of course if I hack up my SAP system so much that it doesn’t like the updates, that’s my own problem to deal with (tip: don’t hack your SAP HR system).

    (0) 
    1. Robert Moeller Post author

      Thanks for the comments Steve.  I can only encourage you to keep voicing your concerns the way you do.  Perhaps we need another big push like the one I alluded to in my blog to get us to the next level.

      (0) 
  2. Jarret Pazahanick

    Great to see that you brought our discussion public as it is an important topic for customers and one where there is a wide variety of views. I will first say that I personally really like your writing style as well as you have the empathy to see your words from a customers perspective and then explain why they should reconsider their views.

    I will start by saying SAP over the last 5 years has done a LOT better job minimizing the impacts customer face around Support Packs, Enhancement Packages and I am a big fan of the new Feature Packs (although install documentation is poor). Having been part of ramp ups for EHP1,2,4,5,6 I know first hand the value they can bring yet given the non-HR pre-reqs it was alway a struggle for my larger customers. Most customers are still under the old mantra of treating everything like a mini-upgrade with extensive regression testing. Check out articles like this to get a sense and that is the norm http://searchsap.techtarget.com/feature/City-gets-help-in-managing-SAP-enhancement-pack-testing. I have been at some customers where it take months to get approval to get a few support packs put on which I obviously dont agree with.

    Here is where I think OnPremise is treated unfairly vs SaaS as customers are open and see the value of being on the latest and great with 4 updates a year for SuccessFactors for example and minimal regression testing yet have a different mind set around enhancement packages and feature packs. Sadly I dont see this dramatically improving anytime soon. We talked about this double standard and EhP6 in detail in this recent podcast.

    SAP HCM Enhancement Package 6 and HR Renewal

    I asked Aiaz Kazi on a call today why SAP stuck with the Innovation without Disruption for the Suite on HANA given that it needs EHP6 (disruption) and obviously a new database has “some” disruption and he said the message is really focused toward no disruption for users (ie system wont be down for a month) but obviously there was work for IT. That made a lot of sense to me although I think SAP might struggle to effectively communicate that messaging as it was not successful for EhP’s.

    On a side for all of you that dont know Robert, he and his team has really done a great job with the HR Renewal and once they release the Landing Pages for the Portal I will stop bugging him 🙂

    (0) 
    1. Robert Moeller Post author

      Thanks for encouraging me; it is especially nice since I still consider myself a “newbie” when it comes to blogging.  You and Steve bring up some other good points.  Steve mentioned hacked up systems and you mention the different customer mindset around cloud releases and on-premise releases.  I translate Steve’s “hack” message to customer modifications not done in a way that facilitates support package or enhancement package implementation.  This is not to say all customer modifications fall in the “hack” bucket. 


      I think the solutions have matured such that there is much less need for many of these modifications in the first place.  The Business Add-ins (BAdi), user-exit concepts and other tools that were introduced also make it possible to more easily fulfill gaps without falling into the “modification” characterization and thus avoid some of the complications.  I do see more customers trying to phase out those modifications and adopt more of the enhancements we delivered in the last years to make those patch/upgrade implementations less disruptive and more similar to the SaaS experience.  Thanks also for adding the explanation from Aiaz that the message “innovation without disruption” is aimed at the end-user. 


      I guess the end-user still has to be the most important focus but I think we realize it has to be installed correctly before the end-user can have any experience with the solution and we need to maintain and improve the ability to put that innovation in front of the user.  Thanks also for the compliments on HR Renewal.  Obviously, I am must one of the more visible characters and there are many dedicated people that make this happen so thanks to all those colleagues.  You got me on that portal comment – it is still coming!  Really, I intend to Tweet the note numbers as soon as I have them (Robert_SAP).  I am happy if you keep bugging me as it gives me license to bug others.

      (0) 
  3. Tom Cenens

    Hi Robert

    Good read and nice to hear you love doing your job 🙂

    SAP Basis is main street for me and I can tell you that the actual tooling (SAPinst, EHPI, SUM and alikes) to perform the maintenance of SAP systems have definitely gotten better over the years.

    However, the complexity of the landscape has also drastically increased and calculating the packages for the maintenance that is going to take place is not something where SAP delivers a great experience if the landscape is complex (lots of products interconnected). It’s advertised as fully automated but when the landscape gets complex, it no longer is. This is valid for EHP or non-EHP.

    The end-user experience for Basis administrators is not great either. My “remove” download basket approval idea is still getting votes / likes:

    https://ideaplace.brightidea.com/ct/ct_a_view_idea.bix?idea_id=%7b2833F35E-919B-47DF-B1D1-EFA9A80189E4%7d but SAP archived the idea some time ago and I haven’t gotten any feedback since except for the fact that Aiaz Kazi picked up the idea as well.

    Even in the most used transactions for SAP system administration there are improvements possible. Take transaction SNOTE. For Solution Manager you have a central SAP note which holds all the needed SAP notes to apply bug fixes for a certain release / version. You download that one note through SNOTE which downloads twenty others SAP notes for example, you apply all of them and once done, you have to click on each and every one of those SAP notes, separately and hit a short cut key and then again, click confirm. There is no fun in doing this twenty times while just before, I clicked “confirm” on the question: “Are you sure you want to implement this note?”. If I was sure then, I’m still sure after the actual implementation. Even if they don’t want an automatic confirmation it would still be nice to be able to select in blocks instead of only being able to select single and having to confirm those notes one by one. The lists can get huge and at that particular moment in time, I just feel like time is being wasted.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love where I ended up, in this SAP community, working with SAP products / working for SAP customers and collaborating with SAP to make things better but at times knowing that so much improvement is possible and not seeing things change fast enough can frustrate me really.

    Similar annoying (waste of time) activities exist in SPDD/SPAU transactions which one needs for doing the maintenance as well.

    SAP HANA has potential for sure, I’m convinced of that but these basics are not changing and as long as SAP doesn’t revisit the past and also reworks these “basic” things, from an administrator point of view, nothing much will change in the near future. Our end-user experience is still at the bottom of the chart.

    Innovation without disruption is not something SAP can really deliver on yet for on-premise based SAP systems in my opinion. They are getting closer to it compared to before but they are not there yet.

    Best regards

    Tom

    (0) 
    1. Robert Moeller Post author

      Tom,

      Thanks for the comments. I admit most HR developers never get to experience what you do in installing systems or applying patches or upgrades.  I have never formally held the role of implementation consultant or been formally part of basis but I did have some experiences that may allow me to feel more of your pain than others might.  Once upon a time, as an SAP Developer/Project Lead, I was in the unusual position of being responsible for doing some of my own system landscape administration (with no formal training I might add). 

      The project was heavily reliant on HCM Processes and Forms with SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe at a time where both were also under heavy development.  To give you some idea, I ended up with several landscapes for different release levels, development, test and consolidation.  Each of these had a backend, a portal, and was hooked up to an Adobe Document Server plus the other usual stuff.

      We were obviously modifying the code so I did also have to deal with code conflicts when applying Support Packages/notes.  I had a real “aha” moment when I finally realized (after tapping a SAP colleague, not a luxury most of you have) why one of my test scenarios stopped working after applying a Support Package. Turned out, one of the notes had a manual step that I had not run and I thought “Am I really supposed to read through all the notes in the 3-4 Support Packages just applied”.  The next thought was “Aha!  This is what my customers are facing.  This is why they demand something better”.  So, let’s all keep working to improve! 

      Best Regards,

      Robert

      (0) 
  4. Former Member

    Hi Robert,

    With Regard to Enhancement Packs, i’d like you to read SAP’s own guide to best practice.

    http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/go/portal/prtroot/docs/library/uuid/50346c14-aabf-2c10-da82-fc169222e62b?overridelayout=true

    There is no real difference between implementing enhancement packs and old school upgrades i’m afraid. Business Blueprinting etc still needs to be undertaken etc.

    The New Tools such as SUM are much much better, but installing EHPS and switching on business functions still require a lot of work for customers, in the testing and realization phases.

    P.S. HR Renewal 1.0 is EHP6, so a upgrade, and also requires the NWBC which i’d hazard a guess most SAP customers use ESS/MSS via the Enterprise Portal at the moment. Which is a big change from the SAP GUI……

    Regards

    James

    (0) 
    1. Robert Moeller Post author

      Hi James,

      Thanks also for your comment.  Please also see my replies to the others.  Regarding HR Renewal and portal requirements, you can continue to use ESS/MSS on the portal as there is no requirement to move that to NWBC but it is an option.  At the moment, NWBC 4.0 for Desktop is required to support the new SAPUI5 landing page for the HR Professional maintaining Personnel Administration and, or Organization Management data.  As mentioned, ESS/MSS may be utilized also via NWBC and in-turn, we do also intend to support the new landing page on the NW portal.  Portal support for the landing page should really come soon, I am told via notes.  Sorry to everyone for the delays on that part but be on the lookout.

      Best Regards,

      Robert

      (0) 
  5. Kenneth Moore

    Still waiting on a nice report writing tool.  SAP Query?  Really?  You were on the right track with SmartForms with great integration to ABAP, then left to Adobe.  Doesn’t seem to be any Web Dynpro report writing RAD tool.

    (0) 
    1. Robert Moeller Post author

      Hi Ken,

      Thanks for the comment.  I personally don’t have a good answer for you.  I cannot endorse it as I have not evaluated it or others but I did see something at HR2013 that you might want to check out by spinifexIT.

      Robert

      (0) 
  6. Luke Marson

    Hi Robert,

    I’ve only just got around to reading this and it was definitely better late than never. I love the perspective and the effort you and your colleagues have gone through to achieve a better experience for customers, both through technical and functional upgrades, but also to the end-user experience with HR Renewal.

    Keep up the great work.

    Best regards,

    Luke

    (0) 
  7. Former Member

    I’ll piggy-back on Luke.  I missed this blog too somehow and only saw it based on a tweet from Luke. Great blog and a great discussion topic! 

    One of the issues as an avid SAP-watcher over the years is the number of cases where an engineer locked in a backroom somewhere came up with the definitive design, often to disastrous results.  My $.02 is that the emphasis on tools is part of the problem: if SAP will stay close to the main stream of their customer base and what the solutions really need to do, there is less need for customization in the first place. SAP has access to a pool of some of the best HCM shops in the world that happen to be their customers.  Go out and meet with them, summarize the data, and build out consensus-driven solutions. 

    I know for a fact that Robert subscribes to this theory since I’ve seen him onsite probing customers for insights.  I hope others will follow his lead.

    (0) 
    1. Robert Moeller Post author

      Thanks Luke and Brandon.  Brandon brings ups another point about customer input but there again SAP did listen and act.  Brandon was at a customer when representatives from the HR Renewal Products team and I visited several North American customers to take feedback on HR Renewal before the initial release.  Teams did visit on-site and, or conference call with customers in several regions with an emphasis on the initial four focus countries for HR Renewal.  The idea of working with customers to develop our software is not new but it was formalized in recent years with what is known internally as the Customer Engagement Initiative.  We advertize though user groups our projects asking for customer participation.  The problem is when customers realize a gap, the need is often urgent so it is filled with a customer modification.  What we are working on is figuring out how to shorten that window between when a customer realizes a gap and when they can have the SAP solution live.  Yes, that can be an advantage of the cloud model but it does not mean we aren’t trying to make it better for our on-premise customers.  Remember also, the idea is that our customers leverage their on-premise Core HR investment via the hybrid model on their journey to the cloud.  The “in-advance shipments” on a quarterly basis with HR Renewal goes a ways towards improving this but we understand that things like the Ehp6 prerequisite are still significant hurdles for some existing customers.  As always, I cannot promise, but I can tell you there are discussions regarding whether we can continue retrofitting some of the on-going HR Renewal enhancements back to Ehp6 after release of the next Enhancement Package.   Anyway!  Keep up the great feedback so that you can be heard!  Thanks all for your support of HR Renewal – I have passed some of it on to the rest of the team and they really appreciate it!

      (0) 

Leave a Reply