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I was only supposed to write a short comment to DJ Adam’s excellent blog post, but instead it grew into a rather long blog post.

The first one in over 2 years actually, so here goes πŸ™‚

 

I see myself as one of those individuals who operates on both side of the bubble. In fact, I have just returned to the SAP bubble after working in the world of “pure” web development for year.

 

SAP is doing a great job at promoting and communicating new technologies and products to already existing SAP developers, customers, partners etc. SAP hosts a number of different events, like d-code, CodeJams, InnoJams, DemoJams, Innovation Forums, SAPPHIRE Now, SAP Insider. And the list goes on.

And then of course, there is SCN, which has been a great place for all of us to share our expertise with the world-wide SAP community.

 

But one thing I heard frequently from other developers at TechEd in Amsterdam last year, was that they worry about the gap between what SAP is presenting at these events and what most of them work with in real life. There is definitely a disconnect between the projects many ABAP developers work on and where SAP would like for them to be in terms of skill set.

 

In many ways, what the Neptune Software guys are doing, is brilliant, as they take new UI frameworks and make it available to ABAP developers in the IDE they spend 99% of their time in and is familiar with. Who says ABAP developers can’t develop great looking apps for mobile devices? πŸ˜‰

 

Then there is the “other side”.

How many web developers do you know who has made the switch to become and ABAP developer?

Most web developers don’t even know what SAP, or enterprise applications for that matter, is. The only experience the team of designers and interaction designers I managed last year had with enterprise applications, were time capture and expense management systems. And I don’t think I have to get into the user experience of these. Needless to say, enterprise applications, regardless of vendor, do not have a great reputations among designers.

 

The world of web development is a super exciting place to be right now, innovation is happening with the speed of light, and there are new libraries out each day and enough cool projects for everyone. What is the incentive for good web developers and designers to leave that world to start working with, let’s say SAPUI5 apps? I see very little talk about the why.

 

And this is where I wish SAP was more visible in the non-SAP world.

It isn’t enough to create an open source HTML5 library and then think the developers will follow automatically. No front-end developers I have talked to know about SAP’s OpenUI5 initiative.

 

My former employer, Adobe, for instance, has a great evangelism team that worked to grow Adobe’s developer ecosystem. We were high and low and everywhere engaging with developers. We spent time at Adobe’s own events (developers/analyst/press), but spent the same amount of time speaking and being present at non-Adobe events. We would give keynotes, sessions, workshops, working booths and doing a lot of talking, explaining strategies, products and helping developers along.

 

Just to take a random example. In Munich alone, I can think of around 12 events (some of them with montly happenings) targeted at front-end developers and designers. Why isn’t SAP present at these events?

 

I don’t think there is one definite answer to how we should move forward to grow our developer community. I think several things need to happen simultaneously.

 

I defintiely wish SAP would be more present at non-SAP events and in other developer communities. That SAP would drive that conversation more than it does today. We will definitely help where we can, but we also have daytime jobs we need to take care of.

 

Or what about introducing a program like Microsoft’s Tecnical Communities or Adobe’s Community Professionals? Both these programs give professionals recognition and access to special products and programs, but at the same time for instance requires presenting at events or lead user groups. That way we can go hand in hand with SAP in presenting the cool stuff we see to other developer communities.

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  1. BjΓΈrn Vilhjalmsson

    There are several important points here.  Teched / d-code is one very important point and I agree, it can be very frustrating to learn about the latest greatest technology when there is almost zero chance or an extreme effort needed to be given the opportunity to use it.  It can be Mobility, HANA etc that sometimes is too costly for customers to buy and implement or there are simply too many rollouts, upgrade etc. project ongoing that take the priority.  My focus has turned more to whatever is free for customers (NWBC for example or SAPUI5) or so big of a change that I feel it is important to be onboard from the start (Fiori, a little Hana). 

    I don´t know of any Web developers that have converted to ABAP but that being said, there are most likely very few great SAPUI5/OpenUi5 developers around and here demand most likely will exceed supply, meaning a good salary etc.  At the same time, a quick search on some job websites don´t reveal a great current demand either so ….

    When it comes to evangelism and marketing of OpenUI5 vs what Microsoft/Adobe and others are doing, I guess it comes down to the strategy and motivations which are different.  Adobe and Microsoft earn money from developers directly when they pick their tools while SAP earns nothing directly but gets increased license fees when one of their customers wants to have more users accessing the system.  It might even cause someone to cancel his plans to switch from SAP, straw off the camels back when it comes to unhappiness with Dynpros.  Nonetheless, I do like the idea that evangelists get some nice SAP perks πŸ™‚   Free D-code tickets, access to some great systems from SAP, free developers licences πŸ˜‰   SAP can offer a lot of nice stuff which would cost them little but could really motivate and find some new the Dj´s out there. 


    I think SAP techies should give SAP one more try (after being burned by different new new things that didn´t really take off as expected).  SAPUI5 is what is going to stay IMO and it is just getting started.  

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    1. Anne Kathrine Petteroe Post author

      I think a lot of the demand for UI5 is handled internally and therefore doesn’t show up on job websites yet. The projects I know of has mostly happened within large consultancies that have all the expertise they need in-house.

      What I would like to see is also a demand for smaller “cooler” projects and more independent developers and smaller consultancies. And for that to happen I think we all need to demo and show the world what we are doing.

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  2. Holger Stumm

    Hi Anne,

    Wow – that is an important post and a great wakeup message. Recently, on a family event, my “little” (20 year old) nephew showed me his android app he build recently – and successfully self-promoted it in the Google play store. While he knows that I am somewhat with the “big guys” in computing and knows that we are always in the big number game of development, his little app, the fancy UI stuff, the tablet application and his passion for his work make me feel so old and boring. He was really provoking the same thoughts as you mentioned: How proud, vibrant and lively the new communities are and how boring SE80 is.

    (And not only boring. ABAP is technology backwoods)

    I think, that SAP has to learn an important lesson here and that needs to be quickly. The current ABAP technology is 40 years old. You rarely see SAP evangelists anywhere – the software sold itself in the past. Outside of the SAP bubble nothing of SAP is to get excited about these times (except HANA)..

    But there is a danger, that this new generation just steps over everything that was in the past – just as everyone who is young doing. And giggling and laughing, they step into a bright mobile future with all the fun. We will sit there with dinosaurs, next to the SAP key accounter at the customer site and start writing our “LOOP AT itab…”

    Somebody needs to start a change..

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    1. Anne Kathrine Petteroe Post author

      I don’t see ABAP being old as a problem. It works πŸ™‚

      Of all the different backend systems I have worked with, I’d much prefer SAP and ABAP over Java systems actually.

      Which is why focusing on what is happening on top of that backend is important.

      And look at where we are now compared to only 5 years ago. A lot has happened and I believe we are definitely moving in the right direction.

      And as for younger generation stepping over everything. That’s what we have seniors for; mentoring πŸ™‚

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    2. DJ Adams

      Good comments. I couldn’t resist, however, picking you up on the “ABAP technology is 40 years old”. That’s not quite true πŸ™‚ ABAP appeared on the scene towards the end of the 1980’s. I remember writing this strange new language (very restricted in those days) in SYSIN DD * statements in the JCL job definition. So it may be decades old, but not four πŸ™‚

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    3. Uwe Fetzer

      From one dinosaur to the other: you are right, SAP is getting old, but ABAP isn’t (anymore). ABAP never had been so “agil” like in the last couple of years (NW 7.xx onwards).

      And if I have seen correctly, you are changing your profession already (if it was your short story in the last c’t…) 😎 c’t – Inhalt 3/2014 – Seite 198

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      1. Holger Stumm

        Hi Uwe,

        thanks to Yojibee, this is a great blog and a great comment lineup. Of course I was overstating the “old fashion” thing here. The world is changing, and I have seen some cool ABAP stuff recently (And yes, as an old guy mentor, I teach this “new” style quite a lot to seasoned programmers half my age. Still running  and still having fun.

        As for my career change – Yes, Uwe you are right. I won third place in Germanys largest IT magazine – storytelling contest.  (“And the darkness could not comprehend it”) With my story of an older SAP consultant, walking through Frankfurt City Banking Quarter in the morning and see the CEO of Germanys largest bank crashing out of the 44th floor and splashing right in front of him on the concrete – the story end’s with all IT consultants are fined to Faustian eternal damnation into infinite programming inside the Internet .. arrgh kind of crude summary, but it was real cool to write that.

        Some people said after reading I SHOULD quit my daytime job. Not sure about that. SAP is still way too cool these days to give up. And given the pay of an author vs. pay of a SAP consultant..need to sell a million of my story on amazon kindle store…

        But I am degressing, I don’t want to steel Yojibees thread here..

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  3. DJ Adams

    Hey Yojibee, welcome back! πŸ™‚

    You make some great points in this reply, and have great insight due to your work. I wanted to pick up and echo two of the main points, as I think they’re really important:

    – ABAP and beyond: as I think I mentioned in a reply in the discussion thread of my original post, I don’t see people (including myself) as “ABAP” developers. That’s restricting from the start. At the very least, if one wants to specialise, think of it in terms of “enterprise developer”. Better, just “developer”. That’s a very honourable title, and isn’t restrictive either explicitly or implicitly. And yes, Neptune have made a really compelling bridge between the ABAP world and the UI5 world … but in all honesty the leap isn’t that huge. It’s not like we’re suddenly programming in Lisp or something. JavaScript is still an mostly an imperative language (with some lovely functional stuff thrown in for free), and while I’m not really a CSS person, with UI5 I can put out some pretty decent looking apps thanks to the super folk in the UI5 & Fiori design and toolkit teams

    – SAP needs to be present at more non-SAP events. I’ve said this before (as you probably know) and it needs to be said again. This is changing, but perhaps not fast enough. I was at the first Strata conference (“big data” etc), no sign of SAP. They are now. Also, perhaps not widespread enough. Many grassroots and smaller conferences than the “usual suspects” are candidates for SAP presence now they are a valid player in the JavaScript and open source space. I personally know about some movements in the conference presence area, but will keep them under my hat for now πŸ™‚

    But the best part of this conversation – you are back!

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    1. Anne Kathrine Petteroe Post author

      I totally agree with the “developer” label.

      I have gone from web, to SAP, to web again and now back to SAP, so I definitely don’t see myself as only one type programmer. (not that I program a lot these days anyway LOL)

      As a developer I think it is important to keep up to challenge oneself and also learn other programming languages. Even if just for the fun of it.

      The team I led, the designers had to learn CSS (and some HTML). The interaction designers knew HTML/CSS/jquery. It made the communication between us easier and it also made the designers/interaction designers think code from the beginning.

      One thing I don’t quite understand with this discussion though, is why all ABAP developers needs to learn HTML and CSS and be as proficient in it as a front-end developer?

      A web or a consumer app project typically consists of a designer, an interaction designer, a front-end developer and a backend developer.

      Why should it be any different with enterprise applications? Why shouldn’t ABAP developers focus on the backend programming, after all it is what they do really well.

      It takes a lot of time to be a proficient ABAP developer and it takes a lot of time to be a proficient front-end developer. Trying to keep up with innovation in front-end programming is almost a full-time job itself.

      And yes, I wish SAP would target some of the smaller conferences too. That they would widen the net a bit. And maybe also talk more apps/UI5 on the smaller influencer events? I still see a lot of HANA and Cloud, but very little talk about UI/UX innovations.

      I think I see a need for beers and great conversations soon πŸ˜‰

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    2. Uwe Fetzer

      Hey DJ,

      unfortunately I have to label many developers on client side as “ABAP Developers” (or former “COBOL developers”) and even more unfortunately this will not change in the near future (until they retire).

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      1. NjΓ₯l Stabell

        Hey Uwe,

        I don’t really think it is necessarily “unfortunate” to have these old school developers. Remember that a lot of the traditional ABAP developers didn’t come from an IT education but were business process consultants with a few weeks of C and ABAP training before they were thrown into projects. They have over the years acquired great knowledge of SAP as well as real life business processes. In my experience these people are what saves SAP implementation projects, and if we can enable them to create modern UI as well it is, in my opinion, better than getting a “techie” straight out of school that has no clue of what a business process is.

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        1. Uwe Fetzer

          Njål, your are right. Mostly I’m glad to work with them on my projects (more than with the school kiddies). But when it gets into “new” (lol) technologies like OO, BAdIs, WDA etc. they often don’t have the willingness to learn. They complain about “no time to learn” and I have to do all the work. (Ok, I’m earning also all the money, but it’s not why I’m in da house… 😎 ).

          Maybe they just need a little push from management. Or does the management need a push?

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  4. Katan Patel

    I agree with DJ and definitely think that as developers we need to come out of our shells and pick up new languages.  Often you learn new techniques and ways of dealing with things and it’s even better when you can use both to build complimentary applications.  Like BSP with JS, or Java Services invoked from ABAP, etc. I’ve only really started to appreciate this in the past year or so and this stuff has been around for ages.  

    I think it’s great when SAP use Open Languages that everyone has access to & helps to engage developers from those respective backgrounds.  I am however a little concerned with products like River, which introduce a new propreitary language.  I think this kind of goes against those developer engagement initiatives. I personally am a little reluctant to invest time in this, as I have concerns that it may not take off and there are heaps of other things I could be learning.  Without a real requirement from a client, I don’t think it will be on my agenda, but I’ll keep track of it’s uptake none-the-less. 

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    1. Anne Kathrine Petteroe Post author

      I think a lot of us feel the same way as you ref. River.

      I have no idea where to find the time to sit down and learn that right now, and choose to wait for the demand to be there first.

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  5. Nigel James

    wow — there must be something in the air. I have been having the same thoughts lately and by co-incidence I have just taken on a new client where my primary role is to bring a scalable architecture to a great web property. i like to think of myself as a bridge between SAP and the outside world because as you and DJ rightly point out SAP often exists in a bubble.

    Legacy ABAPers should look over the fence and look at other languages and cross skill. Something some of us on SCN have been talking about for a while but on SAP sites it not what I often find.

    I may have to turn this comment into a blog point of my own…

    Cheers,

    Nigel

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  6. Moya Watson

    Count me all in!  I live in the middle of the Mission in San Francisco and there’s nothing if not tech communities (and their Google Buses) surrounding us, for better or worse.  I actually think SAP could do a huge service to the current tech responsibility conversation – fund better public transportation – and get right in the middle of where the developers are.

    I think this is the goal of d-codes as I understand them.

    as for this –

    >In fact, I have just returned to the SAP bubble after working in the world of “pure” web development for year.

    YAY _ DO TELL – where are you?

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  7. Stephen Johannes

    From the “legacy” side of the world the biggest issue for many old-school ABAP developers from using the new stuff is sometimes SAP itself.  Even if you a lucky enough to be an ERP environment with sandboxes, you are still probably stuck down on Netweaver 7.00 or 7.01 from the ABAP side.  Despite SAP’s preaching about enhancement packs not being upgrades, a lot of companies view that way and now stay on the same release level until say like 2020 now πŸ™‚ .  If your employer isn’t demanding you to change and even you did the self learning you have to pay(all those AWS instance usage ain’t free), you really don’t have true incentive to go more than one release where you are at times.

    That being said SAP’s other biggest issue is that the non-SAP part of most shops doesn’t even look at SAP’s toolsets.  We can preach about using UI5/<name your SAP tool> to the rest of the world(great idea), but if the install base is using mostly something else for their external apps that use SAP data, how do you convince someone with no ERP, etc to even use those tools in the first place.  Some might call this looking for new markets, while I would call this a major red flag to an outside observer.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Anne Kathrine Petteroe Post author

      The disconnect between the environment developers typically work in daily vs. the environments needed to do all the cool new stuff, is part of the reason why I think SAP needs to own the conversation for now.

      It needs a coordinated effort across the organisation, from marketing, sales to technology/product managers.

      Where I feel the community can help is to excite other developers about the cool stuff that is happening. I don’t see why non-SAP developers shouldn’t look at SAP’s toolset now. Even in the web world we learned how to make responsive websites well in advance of getting the first actual project.

      I choose to see the opportunities that lies ahead of us. πŸ™‚

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  8. Gretchen Lindquist

    Yojibee,

    It is great to hear from you, and I agree completely that it would be helpful to have more SAP presence at non-SAP events, such as SxSW Interactive which is underway this week in Austin, Texas. It gets a lot of press every year and could bring SAP’s tools to a whole new set of developers who never heard of ABAP.

    Gretchen

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  9. Jon David

    Nice post. In my opinion, SAP does not evanglise as much needed with the C suite on the importance of Developers and hence the slow uptake of newer technologies.

    ABAP Developers are at the bottom of the totem pole. We are told that if we want to climb the corporate ladder, we need to become managers. Even Functional consultants or Domain experts are more valued than ABAPer’s. Technical architects or Design experts are not available to give sound technical leadership.

    SAP’s vast customer base are not technology companies and don’t appreciate the value of a hacker culture within the IT organization. At my place of work, being technical is seen as a negative.

    I would love to see Vishal Sikka do a Steve Ballmer style “Developers, Developers….” rant at SAPPHIRE to drive home the message.

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    1. Stephen Johannes

      Worse yet is that SAP’s technologies are not “in-play” for exposing/consuming SAP source systems in many SAP ERP centric shops. 

      If SAP wants to be platform player, then getting non-ERP apps in SAP shops that connect and consume ERP data to use the SAP platform would be a major must.  If you can’t get people to use your platform where integration benefits are highest, how you do expect to go to the rest of the world?

      The other thought is we fail to remember that many companies bought SAP ERP as a “package software” and arent’ in the business of developing software for the outside world.  Therefore solutions have to be business first and technical second.

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      1. Jon David

        The promise of Packaged Software is install, configure and run. The reality is install, configure, tweak endlessly, run and then tweak some more.

        Even for internal consumption, you have to develop on top of the product or platform.

        SAP’s customers actually fell for the sales pitch that they can run off the shelf Business Suite without a serious technology team backing it. Oh well, times have changed but the sales pitch remains the same.

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