Is SAP for Customers or Developers? An Inside-out View
As an avid SAP NetWeaver Portal developer, with experience in mobile and enterprise UI developments, SAP has been an integral part of my career and probably most of the readers of this blog. But even in our large organization, teams are categorized as SAP and non-SAP. In the non-SAP world, the company is sometimes not looked upon favorably. I lived in this world when my position moved to a non-SAP team. Here’s my story.
Initially, the discussions with the team management was about exploring the benefits of SAP and non-SAP. Slowly but surely, the discussions turned into preparing proposals highlighting the weaknesses of SAP. I was moved to non-SAP team to utilize my skills in understanding the weaknesses. It was frustrating but it was a clever strategy.
Personally, it allowed me to view SAP from the outside with an unbiased view. In every discussion, I had to either defend SAP in front of non-SAP experts or collude with the team management in preparing proposals with suggestions against SAP. I learned that even though SAP is close to my heart it still has a few flaws:
- non-SAP members feel apprehension with some of SAP’s products. SAP is famous for creating propriety terminologies instead of using common terms (ESOA is a classical example). You need to be an SAP expert to simplify the concepts and tear down the cover.
- The silos within which SAP experts operate limits their option. Everything is about the specific SAP version. If every solution has to be provided by SAP, then as consultants we are mere machines. It’s surprising the number of times SAP consultants (including me) take refuge from customer requirements with a simple answer: SAP does not support it. Really, did we even try another option?
- SAP sometimes pampers developers instead of being developer-friendly. It struggles to push the developer to innovate; instead we are spoon fed with ready to use solutions
- SAP is a challenge for customers. I can speak about it from the portal point of view. As a web solution, it’s frustrating when the customer’s basic UI requirements are restricted by the rigidity of the platform/framework.
On the other hand, SAP has put forth a tremendous amount of effort and has come a long way in terms of UX. But how many of us are using these extensions? We wait for an editor/tool with ready to use wizards/templates for the customer. Who pays the price for this? The customer. As consultants we need to be in a position to fulfill the requirements to the best of our abilities with an existing infrastructure. If our approach is to go back to the customer with the sole requirement for an upgrade then it will definitely make them re-consider the necessity of using experienced SAP consultants.
We have to be more creative in our approach to address customer requirements. Instead of mapping the customer requirements with the Product Availability Matrix of the SAP technologies, we must offer innovative and practical solutions with minimal expenditure. In other words, real value for the customer while reducing the TCO.
SAP has come a long way in supporting customer-centric solutions. But it has not fully been realized by the customer – or the customer’s customer. As SAP consultants, we owe it to our customers to ensure they continue to receive the best solutions possible. Let us innovate with our creative skills rather than wait for the next version of SAP Enhancement package. Happy learning!
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