Well I’ve arrived back from Las Vegas after another amazing TechEd and feeling inspired to write a few blogs – kicking it off with this one:
The SAP TechEd Las Vegas Wrap-Up According to Matt Harding
It’s “according to me” as it’s my reality inspired view of events which may only be my perception of some aspects or misheard announcements, but at least at the time of writing, this is my understanding/thoughts. Please correct me where I’ve got it wrong!
User experience matters!
Well who would have thought 5 years ago that there would be so much focus on User Experience at SAP – and for someone who specialises in trying to get the best user experience out of SAP, this was music to my ears. Sam Yen is definitely getting some wins albeit the marketing message is a little too black & white for my liking but you can always hire an SAP Consultant to tell you it depends if you want less black and white I suppose 😛
Fiori, Fiori, Fiori…
Even before going to TechEd, I knew Fiori was going to be a big topic. There are customers already keen on it. At TechEd, there was even a sold out workshops with 90 people wait-listing at the door at a session on Friday which is unheard of (could also be the fact the workshop was at 10:30 on a Friday rather than the dreaded 8am workshop sessions)*! Also, the related UI Theme Designer workshp sessions I helped out with were at full capacity with many sitting through the entire workshop in the back row.
My thoughts: SAP have a product they are selling which is seen to have good business value. It offers a good (focused) User Experience at a low cost and non-IT people want it whether IT are ready for it or not. There’s a blog coming around this in the near future, but my take is that while it is being pushed as the new UI paradigm for a lot of SAP, it is still a very focused solution; and we still need to think about Portals/NWBC/SMP/FPM/Agentry/etc; but more on that in a future blog.
Something to be aware of, the Fiori launchpad (the role based personalisable launchpad for Fiori apps) runs on a portal (it’s all online only as I understand it for now) and SAP weren’t completely opening the Fiori libraries to be leveraged for custom solutions at this point; though nothing stopping you developing a Fiori like app using SAPUI5/Gateway to deploy alongside your Fiori deployment.
* Please note – I was only just getting up at 10am on Friday morning, so this information is definitely 2nd hand.
The Fiori Extrapolation
Several years ago, Al Templeton and I presented at Demo Jam this idea to make an offline/HTML5 mobile/desktop agnostic app that used RESTFul services to talk to SAP. And while developing the app is easy, we never really gave a solution to how to manage network security and authentication. So the really cool thing about Fiori is it will make IT solve this problem ASAP and then if there isn’t a Fiori app for that; then just make your own (more on that later too).
Caveat: Making IT solve this problem doesn’t make this any easier, but at least some of the offerings from SAP can help you these days.
Features before Technology
Al Templeton raised a good point in his session and that was features, then software architecture then build; which the point I take most out of that is to say what features do you need before you talk technology. The related point of this is that I get HANA, I effectively know what it can and can’t do; but I’m not into learning it end to end at the moment, since use-cases for HANA are very specific (especially within Australia) and until the price of HANA is on par with having a standard SQL Database and I can use it by default; I’m not the best to talk about HANA at TechEd (actually – please don’t).
Ironically, one of my discussions with another global company was to introduce HANA to solve a mobility back-end performance issue, but I suggested re-architecting the solution as a preference first.
Another technology mentioned a lot is the various versions of SAP HANA Cloud. I’m very intrigued by some of the Cloud solutions/features coming from the more cloud specific parts of SAP (including the fact that everything can run on a HANA cloud in the near future according to one announcement). Again, it’s more a kit bag component of my thinking for now, with my biggest concern that SAP need a Fiori like business application to get this off the ground for existing SAP customers since IT would need to go towards cloud solutions purely from a TCO perspective and it’s typically hard enough to get patches into SAP environments since the business usually doesn’t see much in ways of benefits for them. That said, SAP are getting closer to SAP customers exploring these options since technically, some offer a lot of important features (note – I’m not talking about Success Factor type cloud solutions which are important for differing reasons).
Direction and Vision is Good, not quite all built today, but the right direction for the next 2-3 years
I’m not going to describe the direction and vision, but you can see a lot of focus on HANA Cloud Platform, SAPUI5 Fiori like apps deployed optionally on top of SAP Mobility Platform as optionally Hybrid Web Container apps leveraging Kapsel (SAP specific Cordova library plug ins to provide container style security – more info here – http://scn.sap.com/blogs/johnwargo/2013/10/21/an-introduction-to-smp-kapsel), enhancing experiences with branding and full screen pictures of Cheetah’s on all screens leveraging the theme designer; etc.
Anyway, some random thoughts on what is going to be cool:
- Theme Editor for Fiori is good, but not quite ready for mobile platform wrapped Fiori which is not an out of the box solution yet. Personally, I’m looking forward to having the ability to export the Theme Editor to my own Kapsel wrapped apps running SAPUI5 in a Hybrid Web Container. The Theme Editor in general for NWBC/Web Dynpro is also going to help users love your SAP system more. FYI – Personas is there but that’s a very specific solution in my mind too (refer to features before technology above).
- There’s a good blog about the SMP 3.0 ASUG pre-teched session here – http://scn.sap.com/community/mobile/blog/2013/10/22/smp-30–my-notes-from-asug-pre-conference. I’m waiting for an equivalent of SMP 3.1 running in the cloud using the HANA Backend Connector. Getting a common set of libraries to handle authentication, authorisation, network security, etc; will make mobility a hell of a lot easier since the actual apps themselves are more a problem in design than build. The Open SAP Course for mobility really got me excited when it came to the fact that I can install the HANA Backend Connector in my private network, and can open the channel to the SAP Mobility Platform without poking a hole in the firewall is a big win when it comes to getting buy in from your security team. And the fact that future versions will support Agentry in a similar vein then – well simplicity is best!
- But maybe in the mean time, if you’re in the IT function and need to get Fiori running on BYOD devices, the Secure Browser found in the add-in to Afaria may be interesting to look at (available soon I believe).
Blogging makes a difference
Here’s something I didn’t expect; while dropping in to catch up with Uwe Kylau (running the Theme Designer sessions I pretended to help out with), he introduced me to a product owner and development architect to discuss one of my blogs and they gave me some preview information (plus a lengthy discussion) to see if that addressed my concerns. That’s just cool that blogging led to this and I really appreciated them reaching out to me.
Business Process Management
To be honest – It’s still a little obscure the true use-case for BPM, and I’m still very concerned about the runtime monitoring parity with PI/ccBPM and PI/BPM from an interfacing perspective. From user workflow perspective, I still mostly prefer SAP Business Workflow over BPM for nearly all use cases that happen in reality (unless we start to get into complex event processing which is another thing altogether).
Process Intelligence looks interesting though (based on top of Process Observer to a degree I believe).
The use of Integration Flows beyond PO is great as I struggle to get anyone using Integration Flows in PO.
Well if there was a theme to DemoJam it was connectivity. But as a watch guy, I’m not so sure about Pebble based UI’s; though I also still struggle to see us using Google Glass; but these are all just stepping stones (or pebbles) to something that will be just a part of life in 5 years time, whatever that looks like. Still cannot believe how much effort John Astill put into the 6 minute sprint he did; and the colour of Greg’s top! And what an epic drum solo!
The big positive was that a lot of DemoJam this year was about being a bit silly and futuristic which in my mind is what we want to see on stage, and not something which is too real and actually adding value today! i.e. It’s to get you thinking “what if…”
Networking (with what time???)
From the more social networking aspects; one of my favourite moments of all of SAP TechEd was the moment during the SAP Jam Band (proudly brought to you by SAP Mentors) where we wanted to play AC/DC but didn’t have a singer so I yelled out to the audience for some audience participation so that we could play AC/DC; and .5 seconds later, we had a near Bon Scott (Sydney based rather than Melbourne) singer who committed big time to it and the audience became less an audience and a part of the band at that point which is what we strive for with this particular event.
Now to be honest, last year trumped this year in terms of my networking with people as there was so much content going on this year and I did not get to hang out with everyone nearly enough. Still some good discussions, good times, etc; but when there’s a few mandatory catch-ups that you miss out on; and you know you’ll need to wait for next year at TechEd, or hopefully Mastering Technologies (in Melbourne) which is earlier in the year; then the TechEd doesn’t feel complete.
There is lots of other stuff to talk about that I can’t recall right now plus plenty of content I didn’t see like BW/BO, security and ALM related topics (I’ll just have to read up later); and all the ASUG sessions; general product updates (for ABAP even which has got lots of cool stuff coming). In short, I could easily have attended 3 TechEds in a row and still missed stuff – Even just the mini Code Jams would have been awesome but just not enough time. Anyway, better go finish my OpenSAP mobility exam now and enroll in the HANA Cloud OpenSAP course! Till next year!