Teach yourself something you already know
My partner and I decided to buy a house recently. We had the dilemma of which suburb to commit to living in for the foreseeable future (be gone the days of renting). What caused this problem for us is that we both grew up in different parts of the city. I was a Northsider and him a Western suburbs guy. Had he been a Southsider, the relationship would have been doomed – in my town you just don’t cross the bridge.
We both recommended what we knew. From my point of view, Northside is where I was born, where my parents live, where my siblings have settled down and where my friends and their families had done the same. I would never consider the Southside and only partially be open to the Western corridor (I guess it was love as it definitely wasn’t road works on the freeway!). Southside was soooo far away. Southside needed a freeway to get anywhere (it’s a Northsider thing). But this predicament forced me to stop and reflect on my reasons for dismissing the Southside (our idea of comprise was neither of us got our “way” so that left South as East was too expensive). It forced me to go back over what I knew to discover maybe there’s more to it.
There’s more than one way
Being open to learning new ways of working is necessary for a successful career. Life changes and so does SAP. In my current job, I am wearing the customer hat in a type of Quality Control role. It is a very strange situation to be in where I am not the architect (my boss jokingly told me not to void the contract by taking over). But what is has meant is I am working with Architects who have different approaches and ideas on how SAP should be implemented. And this is where I have again found myself in a situation where I was unwilling to consider some options as I had never done it that way. I won’t go into the specifics (breaking client confidentiality and the ability to bore you aren’t my goals here). But we found ourselves debating which is best.
Re-learn what you know
In preparation for my role as the customer representative, I wanted to make sure I was in a position to identify any gaps in the solution, build and also ensure the solution was supportable (projects get you to go live but someone has to keep the lights on afterwards). The solution was using new technologies but also the latest Basis release – 7.40 (and running on a HANA platform so my inner techy nerd was on cloud 9).
In addition to up-skilling on new technologies and platform, I took this as an opportunity to revisit my current knowledge. My motivation in doing this is to eventually sit certification (it’s on the list) but also SAP has changed so much. I have been working in SAP security for 10 years now but a lot of the fundamentals I know were taught to me at the beginning. On a 4.6 system.
Part of this realisation, is some of what I know may not be entirely accurate. Some of justifications for certain build and design approaches may no longer be valid (perhaps there was a system limitation back then or performance issue). Some of why I processed requests were based on who taught me and they didn’t know any better. Some more may have been due to different client exposure (different industry, customer base, components in scope and other complexities).
By forcing myself to revisit the information (this week involved stepping though standard SAP help Security Guides and re-reading everything I usually disregard as I already know it) I discovered what had changed. I could see where SAP had made progress and improvement which were more than likely to resolve the original limitation. I discovered new tools. It has meant technical approaches once deemed unworkable might now be useful. It has also meant new ways to support security and audit, and these can be incorporated in the design to ensure a better outcome for my customer.
Be open to changing your position
Keeping yourself current with the technologies and options is the first step. But the reality is, if you are only prepared to work one way then you will find yourself moving from client to client with a cookie-cutter approach to design that is at risk of becoming outdated.
In collaborating with these architects it created situations where we got into debates on different technical approaches. What was fantastic about this discussion is both sides discussed the positives and negatives of why we should design the solution in such as way. We all looked at it from different points of views. And in the end, we both adjusted our view points and incorporate the best approach for our situation. It worked well as we respected each other opinions and were all prepared to adopt the others position so long as it was justified. In one situations, my straight out feedback was “I really don’t like using XYZ but if you can explain and justify why then I’ll support your recommendation”.
In preparing for these sessions, I had re-taught myself. In participating in these sessions, they taught me.
My challenge to you for 2015 is to teach yourself something you already know. Choose a specific SAP topic that you think you know inside-out or a rule or principles that you have applied as “that’s how it must be done”. Take those assumptions and push them to the side. Have an open mind.
In this challenge, retrain yourself and see if you can discover alternative options. Read up on SAP help. Join the SAP Learning Hub (even the free edition). Discuss ideas with your colleagues and peers. Search your SCN space (maybe even create a discussion if it’s not a basic question). Go in with an open mind. Learn.
And you never know, you might just have taught yourself something yourself thought your already knew 😉
Oh and forgot to mention – been living happily on the Southside for the past 6 months. Northside is now sooo far away. Southside is so close to the city and airport (work home is on the side of the country), has fantastic restaurants, close to the Gabba (cricket fans can pick the city) and just love my home, its location and my neighbours. Turns out, the freeway isn’t that bad after all!
Another great blog, Colleen!
This summarizes for me the base of every fruitful discussion, not matter the topic. If everyone has this mind set, you can get somewhere and get stuff done. Otherwise it's just a waste of time.
Funny thing is, this is what happened to me this afternoon when my colleague taught me, that something in IDM can now be done, that didn't work before our last update (which was over a year ago)!
Because I knew it won't work, I never tried it again (and since I ironed out most of the source problems for it, I kind of never needed to anyway). When we had an issue today, she was like "You can just do this." and I was like "No, it won't work. I know that, because I had a lot of trouble because of that." and she went "...but I've done this a lot of times...".
So I tried it and of course it worked. Challenge accepted and done. 😀
IMO keeping an open mind is really important. I'm a big fan of constructive criticism, which kind of goes in the same direction. You have a point of view and somebody else shows you, that there are other - maybe sometimes even better ways - to do something. Only through feedback from the outside you can really grow, because where else could the impulse of a new outlook on known things come from? To look into something you have to at least know it is there.
that's fantastic. Such a badge would be brilliant!
I do wonder how often we rule out one option due to a SAP bug and it gets fixed in the next release but we never realise! Quite often we will find alternative solutions and workarounds and then just live with them. It's rare we get a chance to rethink already delivered solutions to improve them.
Excellent advice, Colleen, for anyone at any stage of their career. I especially like how you wove it into the story of choosing (and compromising) on where to live, and then the conclusion in the postscript was perfect (see, you're a natural storyteller!).
This really rang true for me. When I started on my first implementation, as a customer, we didn't actually have a Basis consultant, but the ABAP consultant lead had a lot of Basis experience and essentially taught me. He was very good, I learned a lot from him, but I always remember that he had a "rule" about importing support packages: always import them one at a time, never in a queue. Seems he had had a bad experience with this previously. Now, of course, I know that importing them one at a time is a terrible way to manage support packs, and in fact there are often bugs in them that are fixed by ensuring they are imported in a queue together with later patches.
From that, and my own experience later as a consultant, I realized that just because a consultant says a particular method is the best way doesn't mean it's so. As you said, they are typically focused on getting to GoLive, and it's the customer who has to keep the lights on afterwards. The consultant is using "tried and true" methods that worked -- for them -- on prior projects, which often are a sort of tribal knowledge, passed from consultant to consultant, and may not reflect advances in the technology or new ways of thinking. There is a lot of value in that tribal knowledge, but almost every implementation ends up being on a newer release than the consultant has previously seen.
Another great blog, and a great challenge to us all. I hope to live up to it. 🙂
I doubt you will have any issues with such a challenge based on seeing how passionate you are on SCN to learn new things!
I agree with your statement around tried and true - they can sometimes be labelled as Best Practices. People learn it that way and continue to believe it is the best way. In many cases, it might be. But sometimes, a different approach may be required and you need to know your options.
This is a great challenge. I revisited some of my long-held assumptions when I was gearing up for the Workflow Certification - I've done things the same way for a long time, and it was definitely worth it to refresh my ways of thinking. But that was two years ago, so now I will have to come up with a new challenge.
Thanks for being an inspiration (but I don't know how you can stand that Western corridor.) 😛
Sue, you're always one step ahead 😉
Amazing the number of assumptions we make and not even realise it!
What a twist ending! M. Night Shyamalan must be green with envy!
There is definitely always more than one way - my way or highway. Or freeway. 🙂 But all joking aside it's a great advice. I just wish more people and especially ABAP consultants would follow it and once in a while ask themselves "why on earth do I keep copying this?".