Happy New Year, SCN! I am delighted to announce our first Member of the Month for 2016, Paul Hardy. Paul is an ABAP expert, author and speaker, currently residing in Sydney Australia, working at Hanson Australia. Paul shares his deep understanding of ABAP programming, playful spirit, and cheery wit with the community through popular blog posts in which he explores some of the finer points of ABAP programming and SAP’s products with other SCN experts. He’s been around SCN for a long time, but he’s one of our members waiting for an account merge, so be sure to also visit his old profile to see his full contributions.
Some highlights from our talk:
- He enjoys viewing the SCN blog feed every day, and believes anyone doing so will be sure to find something useful for their organization
- He thoroughly enjoyed giving his first SAP TechEd lecture in Las Vegas last year, and he recommends Toastmasters and for anyone that does any public speaking at all… stop reading those power point slides, and check your uhm’s at the door
- He’s looking forward to the mobile experience when the community re-launches, and hopes the blog roll goes back to being sorted by created on descending
- He is so enthusiastic about the recent additions to SAP’s core products, he wrote a book about it; though he wishes SAP would stop with the product renames… imagine all the edits in a book that size
If you watch to the end of the video, Paul sings an excerpt from his ABAP song, Matt Fraser will be so proud!
Paul at a conference in Melbourne, Australia, 2014
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, what kind of work you do, and other things you would like to share with the community (hobbies, fun facts)?
I am from the UK originally; I joined the organisation I work for straight after university in 1990. I was an accountant for seven years, and then the SAP implementation came along. Since then I have worked on SAP implementations in the UK, Israel, Germany and Australia.
These days I live in Sydney, Australia, close to Olympic Park. I started off as a so called “functional” consultant in the area of FI/CO but since 1999 have been an ABAP programmer.
My main hobby at the moment is “Toastmasters” which is all about public speaking – I would call on everybody who speaks at SAP events (or any sort of event involving public speaking at all) to join this organisation as a matter of urgency. It is a fun thing to do, and in no time at all you will realize all the schoolboy errors you are making and take steps to avoid them. As an example, I cannot believe people still read out the text on their PowerPoint slides.
When did you become a member of SCN and which areas are you most active in?
I joined SCN the instant I was able to do so, which was about 2001 as I recall. In those days the “IT Toolbox” was the go-to place for asking and answering SAP questions.
I still look at SCN almost every day –predominantly the blog entries. I answer questions where I can but generally write blogs about how I feel ABAP programming relates to the classic IT books that have been out for a long time but I am only just reading.
What motivates you to keep coming back to SCN and help members get answers to their questions?
When I was 14 I used to write computer games on my ZX81 and later BBC Micro. I used to read the UK magazine “Computer and Video Games” and whenever I heard about a new feature in a game I had to work out how to do this new thing myself.
Much later on as an adult it is the same – there is nothing that motivates me more than being told something is “impossible”. You hear this time and again. There was an American colleague in Germany who, when he wanted something came to me and said “I want XYZ – I asked all your German programmer colleagues first and they all said it was impossible”.
He knew how to push my buttons. I could not rest until I had got whatever it was working. Only years later on I started to wonder if he had actually even asked the Germans.
In the same way, the SCN is full of people constantly being presented with “impossible” problems – problems I would love to solve for them. The main problem is that in the “forums” those sort of interesting problems are swamped by really basic problems of the “is there an IF statement in ABAP?” (actual question) type problems.
So I have to stick to the blogs and answer people who have got most of the way out of the pit themselves and are stuck with a few niggling “impossible” problems.
What’s your advice to newer members? Top 3 mistakes to avoid?
- When doing a “review” of some sort of SAP event you have been to e.g. Inside Track, TECHED, or whatever, don’t just submit a blog consisting solely of photographs. No-one cares what it looked like, they want to know the content that was discussed or more accurately how it could help them in their day to day job. SCN is more of a work based social media site than a purely social one.
- If you ask a question saying “I cannot do XYZ” and then solve it yourself, append the answer (solution) to the original post. A lot of people just add an entry saying “don’t worry, I have fixed it myself” and then that drives anyone else with the same problem wild, as they do a Google Search for that problem, find the entry on SCN, see their exact same problem, get excited thinking they are going to find the answer and then read through a series of replies ending with what might as well be “I am all right Jack, I do not care about anyone else, until that is I need their help again”.
- On the internet you can find some great advice about how to structure blogs. That advice is based on blogs in general but naturally applies to any SCN based blog i.e. an eye catching title, an abstract right at the start, have some structure etc…
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Wonderland
Have you been following the plans around the upcoming changes to the community (#1DXCOMMDEST – http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-63650)? What’s your perspective on the upcoming changes? What do you hope gets better? What is working well that you hope doesn’t get broken?
I have indeed been following the accounts of the work being done to move the SCN onto a new platform. It is a very good thing that the mechanics of this have been made public; as that is the sort of thing IT people love hearing about. The current SCN works very well indeed. What needs to be better is as follows:
- The current search is not up to much. Currently you are better off using Google. The SCN search comes up with all sorts of strange results and takes forever; I have often thought it might need some sort of “in-memory” database to speed things up, if such a thing exists.
- It would be good to be able to look at the SCN on a mobile device. Naturally you can at the moment but it is not “adaptive” to the reduced screen area of a phone for example. SAP needs to get onboard the so called “mobile revolution”.
- A little tiny thing, but worth noting – right when the “new” SCN was launched a lot of people complained that the default view of content was “last changed descending” rather than “created on descending” as was the case in the “old” SCN. I would advocate having this as a personalization option. It is quite possible for someone to go into their blog each week and add a full stop, thus bringing it right back to the top of the list.
Paul and his wife Vikki looking royal with Queen Elizabeth and Princess Kate
Looks like you have two accounts on SCN and have been hoping to have them merged? What’s that experience been like?
When I joined SCN the only possible way to do so was to use your “S” number. That is all well and good, but a lot of SCN members are consultants who work for many firms and may change “S” numbers frequently, and naturally SAP professionals who work full time for companies move from job to job changing “S” numbers as they go. I gather that nowadays (I bet about ten minutes after I joined) you can have a “P” number which relates to you as a person rather than as an employee of a particular company.
Oddly enough I never actually left my organisation, but when we got taken over the SAP licenses was renegotiated and all the “S” numbers changed, because the SAP installation number changed.
So, getting a “P” number was quite easy and I was very happy to be told that since this was such a common problem a list was being drawn up of people who wanted their former account and new account merged, and would I like to be on that list. Indeed I did, and got added to that list. This was eight months ago.
My guess is that such merging is “impossible” under the current system, but since everyone has to be migrated anyway to the new system that is when they will merge accounts – rather like when we move from a legacy system to SAP and have to merge duplicate customer numbers and their outstanding balances to one new customer number in SAP with the combined outstanding balance.
Since that (merging duplicate customers) has happened in every single SAP installation ever for the last 30 years I would be interested to know if this is still deemed “impossible” by the SCN. The internet is full of how “agile” “spaceman’ systems like cloud systems like the SCN can do so much more than rigid “caveman” systems like on-premise ERP. If that was true why would the cloudy systems struggle with something an ERP system was able to do with ease 25 years ago?
Congratulations on being a speaker at TechEd in Las Vegas. Was this year your first lecture? How did your talk on Push Channels go?
This was the first time I have ever spoken at SAP TechEd. I have spoken many times before at SAP events in Australia. I have to say that TechEd was wonderful, everything I could have expected and more.
Paul with Jelena Perfiljeva
You can tell when a speech has gone well – the acid test is whether any of the audience has found anything in your talk they can use in their own company to help them. SAP conferences are not cheap and – naturally – everyone is looking for some sort of return.
If an audience member thinks the talk was useless, a waste of their time, they run right out as soon as the talk ends, hoping the next talk will be worthwhile. If everyone feels the same way there will be no questions at all.
If there are questions – especially practical ones about how to do whatever it you have been talking about – then you know you have succeeded. Thankfully I had a bunch of such questions, so I was happy I had not wasted everyone’s time!
As an SAP consultant working with SAP’s products since 1990, you must have seen a lot. What’s the most important thing SAP needs to do to keep customers enthusiastic about its products in the future?
The good thing about IT in general is that every year is different than the last, and I have seen SAP go through all sorts of twist and turns, generally successful but with some big white elephants here and there. However to be fair to SAP you cannot make progress any other way, you have to take risks, even if some fall in a heap like ESOA.
Moving on to SAP getting people enthusiastic, since I have just written a book about all the new things SAP have added to their core product in recent years, clearly I personally am enthusiastic about what they have done, and am trying to spread the news. The SCN does a wonderful job here naturally.
However, and it may sound obvious, SAP would get a lot more respect if it did not devote such an enormous amount of time and effort in renaming all its products every week. The whole world is laughing at them for doing this crazy thing, not in a nice way, and they (SAP not the whole world) should just take a good look in the mirror and ask is there a better way they could be spending their time.
At the risk of being burned at the stake as a Witch I would say the worst thing SAP ever did was to move from having a new version every few years to the “enhancement pack” concept. Installing an enhancement pack is just as much effort as an upgrade, with the downside that all the new functions are dormant. As I have seen first-hand, this makes it a bit difficult to build a business case to move to the latest and greatest technology.
Once you have installed an EHP (not an upgrade of course) in theory switching on a single function means you only have to test a small area, but in reality you had better test every single thing just in case, once again I am speaking from experience, who would have thought activating something to do with sales orders would affect purchase orders …. Sigh …..
Is there an SCN member you admire (OK… you can name a few)? And for what reason?
As I mentioned earlier I look at the SCN blog feed almost every day – this is worth doing after a while anyone doing so will 100% find something useful for their organisation.
There are some people I will open up the blog just because of who it is writing it – Graham Robinson or Jocelyn Dart for example – otherwise I am looking for people who have written some code they want to share with the world and get feedback to improve it e.g. Sébastien HERMANN
A special mention also goes to Naimesh Patel for his work on improving the ALV model to do things it was not supposed to do. I asked him to do something impossible, which he promptly did, which prompted me to try and do something impossible as well – which I did – all off this online in the form of SCN blogs
Do you have any fun talents you’d like to share with the community? Jokes, songs, a poem? (I’m still hoping for someone to match Matt Fraser’s ABAPer’s Carol.
I did in fact write two songs about ABAP programming – one about procedural programming and one about object orientated programming, in the course of a series of blogs I was writing comparing the two styles of programming. They would not make a lot of sense unless you knew “Eagle Rock” and “Ooh-Aa! Just a Little Bit!” which are both quite (very) old now, and moreover both Australian written songs. I am currently 47 which gives you an idea of what music I liked when I was young. Anyway, here is the link: http://scn.sap.com/community/abap/blog/2014/01/29/team-procedural-vs-team-oo
The day after those songs were published I got contacted by SAP Press to ask if I could take over from Thomas Jung in writing books about the latest ABAP features. I rest my case…..
Are you on Twitter?
When I used to go to SAP Inside Track in Europe I noticed every single person except me was on Twitter, even to the extent of having their “hashtag” on their t-shirts. I thought at the time about joining, but have never got round to it.
recall feeling a bit out of it, and then a guy walked by with the hashtag “@SE38” on the back of their shirt and someone else asked me “oh, what does SE38 mean?” and then I did not feel so bad.
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Every month, a member of the SAP Community Network is recognized for exemplary behavior: sharing knowledge with peers, being helpful and taking on additional tasks to support community engagement. See the list of previous members recognized on the SCN Member of The Month Hall of Fame.