My pal Joel Albert commented earlier this week that he admires the energy I put into this community.  It’s been a hectic conference; I’ll try to capture my flavor of the last day, spiced with commentary about enterprise software and the universe in general, gently baked for a day or two to remove the pungency of central Florida. I’m sure the flora and fauna love the heat, humidity, and rainfall more than I have.  The title also relates to Jon Reed’s story of the birthday gift whole fish he dealt with right before leaving for Orlando.

In the morning, rather than sit and listen to the keynote(s), which I could observe from anywhere in the world nearly verbatim via Twitter, I gathered last-minute workload statistics from several of our ECC systems being moved to new platforms this coming weekend.  As I don’t have hands-on responsibilities, my task is to observe the before-and-after states to document the return-on-investment, and detect any anomalies needing attention.  As Bill Murray says, “at least I got that going for me.”  These conversions are not to HANA systems, nor to in-memory Oracle 12 databases (that might be next), because we decided this is our best next step.  From a few peers I talked to this week, we aren’t alone.

A4609 : Using Digital Transformation to Amazon-Proof Your Pharmaceutical Business

Is this a provocative session title?  A bit, yes.  It intrigued me.  Most of the audience were in the Pharma (as they call themselves) business and for the most part suits, which I say with great respect. Practically as soon as Raj Subramanyam finished the introductory business references (he’s with CSL Behring LLC, a $5B company not a household name that I know), I tweeted:

“Using digital transformation to amazon proof your pharmaceutical business” #asug2016 “no transactions no tools”. Way out of my comfort zone

I can converse with business partners about processes, KPIs, metrics, and the like, but this was a different spin.  In talking about Amazon’s successes, the story presented is essentially how to avoid becoming the buggy-whip sales people of the previous century.  It isn’t only about competing against Amazon, or just cooperating with them, it’s about avoiding having such companies take away your business in one way or another.

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Raj claims a developer background, describing writing a game in ABAP (Alvaro Tejada Galindo take note), evolving into his current role as a senior Global Logistics manager. He knows how Amazon works, how companies like FedEx and UPS work, and he sees Amazon biting into the shipping industry as they’ve bitten the heads off book stores, CD/DVD, etc.  He projects Amazon will own captive transport (not the ABAP kind, the physical kind) channels on the land, in the sea, and in the air.  Not his exact quote, I think that was Winston Churchill, as he detailed more about the sea container business, where he believes there are oceans of optimization opportunities.

Raj also mentioned JET.com, a reference that didn’t ring a bell (all I could think of was Jet magazine, which is JetMag.com ). I found a Forbes article, though as that has an ad moat, I’ll let you find it with the search terms “recently launched amazon competitor” if you’re up for that. That’s a tall order there.

The last two example I heard before I dashed off to a parallel universe in the Mentor space: (1) reducing “lot size” to one, in other words focusing on a single customer, and (2) managing recalls with high specificity to avoid costs, bad press, and wasted time.

After the conference, I found Raj on LinkedIn. Hoping for future collaboration and communication.

Thomas Saueressig Succeeds Helen Arnold as CIO

That was part of the Wall Street Journal headline; here is the SAP press release link:

https://news.sap.com/sap-names-christian-klein-as-chief-operating-officer-thomas-saueressig-as-chief-information-officer…

As an SAP Mentor, I am privileged to be invited to meetings with all levels of SAP management, which can be daunting at times.  As people have different personalities, I may identify more closely with some than others.  To just be in the same room and hear the style, general plans, and perspective of those who are definitely play in a different world than I, is a learning experience to say the least.  The picture below is one of my sometimes too candid shots, so apologies in advance to my great friend Susan Keohan for snapping this where she had a deer-in-the-headlight moment, and also for catching Abdulbasit Gulsen peering into his mobile (I also cropped this for reasons not worth mentioning); I guess the worst shot is the one you didn’t take.

Thomas is great, from the few minutes I was able to meet him.  The Mentors had good questions, basic ones relating to his youth and newness to the role (officially under 1 month), and what the future will be for his organization.  I look forward to continued progress, not the least being this SAP community platform (Oliver Kohl sat next to me most of the meeting).

Two phrases I took away: “revenue recognition” and “long tail”. I take that to mean not everything is cloud-ready, yet can’t be sunsetted,

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And here is Oliver Kohl presenting on exactly that (new SCN), about two hours later.

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Between these two times, I gave the “simple lunch” tip to Oliver, Martin Lang about grabbing food on the third floor, where ASUG sessions are presented, rather than the very long walk to the backside of the show room floor.  Paul Aschmann joined us as well, and I got great tips about consumer electronics, Evernote, Spotify, and some kind of personal cloud. Paul told me about cal.sap.com, though he wasn’t quite sure that was the URL, for AWS templates that make Netweaver provisioning easier.  I will put him on speed dial when that time comes.

A4958 : SAP Intelligent Business Operations, powered by SAP HANA

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Peter McNulty, a great friend who has collaborated with me on many ASUG sessions, and Venugopal “Venu” Chembrakalathi presented on the latest in business process management, or process intelligence. Of course, HANA is in the title, though the content was more about end user experience and operations than the supporting technology stack.  They demonstrated multiple KPI tokens (or panels, or tiles) on a single screen. It was not a flamboyant dashboard, leaving the observer to use their imagination to “connect the dots” and determine how powerful this tool can be.

Peter differentiated process intelligence from similar views such as application performance management, or the classic/legacy views of workload analysis that many of us still employ, by describing the target audiences for the views.  Rather than a business warehouse, which would show trending from a historic perspective (even in HANA views), this attempts to display projected gaps on an immediate basis.  Peter said the event or record collection is “source agnostic” so not tied to a typical transaction-to-reporting-system chain.

The business scenario described was automobile accident management from the perspective of an insurance adjuster, collaborating with their customer, and with multiple third parties such as car rentals, repair shops, etc.  To make the unhappy experience of such an event easier on the client, views into the interactions and handoff of multiple sub-processes can highlight bottlenecks and delays.  Coordinating availability of alternate transportation for maximum convenience but minimal cost is a clear improvement area. On one of the slides or demo views, two values were listed related (at least in my mind) to MTTR – Mean Time To Repair.  One was a projected date and the other was a planned or similar date.  As both terms seemed synonymous to me, I asked Peter to clarify.  He said one metric was given to the customer (availability promise) and the other was an internal projection of calculated delivery time (operational delivery).  Peter agreed that the display was unclear about which number mean what.  The purpose of showing the internal data was to give the operations team a view into where delays could be occurring so they would have time to correct.

The time slot was rough, the content quite specific, leading to few attendees, which is a shame because I think these techniques have much greater immediate adoption potential than some other HANA-related scenarios I’ve seen.

Jim Spath @jspath55    May 19

S330F With @mcnultyp on intelligent business operations #sapphirenow #asug2016 plenty of seats! Come on down! Er up.

Peter said the attendance at a session with “order to cash” in the title was packed.  We should not skimp on the marketing side – catchy titles can draw crowds.

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The SAP Press team [i.e. Kelly Weaver ] had a choice spot at the top of the escalators/stairs down to the show floor.  On my small data sample, it seemed like the last day was better attended than earlier days, maybe because people would defer carrying the paper with them until as late as possible.  The register line was 10 to 15 people when I took these shots. I don’t know if there was the same last day motivation that booth swag pushers have (“take this so we don’t need to pay to ship it back home’).  I didn’t buy anything; my bags were tight already.

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BSOD; continuing my streak of having something go wrong during the conference.  Fortunately no data loss.  I also continued attempts to use the Dropbox text editor to keep occasional notes, but without complete success. In some cases, I scribbled on the paper notebook provided by a vendor (as I jokingly called them “No Huawei”, “Yes, Huawei”), or typed on my PC with Emacs, or tweeted (way to keep the content public; as Brad Paisley sang on Prairie Home Companion the other week, “the internet is forever”).

A1706 : How Texas Instruments Leverages SAP LVM to Manage Complex System Landscapes

The final ASUG education session I attended had more people in the audience than I would have expected at 3:30 PM on the last day.  Maybe the impending evening concert kept people in the OCCC, or maybe it was the frequent rain showers, but whatever the cause, Basis and infrastructure content still draws.  For those unfamiliar with the acronym, LVM is “Landscape Virtualization Management” (auto-corrected to “Landscape Visualization Management” in the ASUG session description I had), originally known by an equally cryptic moniker “Adaptive Computing Controller (ACC)”.

The presenters ( Mike Spry and Asif Rahmetulla ) gave background on the complexity of their business systems; like other customers who have evolved enterprise software stacks over time (decades) they have many SAP products, different release levels, and tie them together with (hopefully) best-of-breed components.

In prior years, I was introduced to the ACC when it was a “free” SAP tool.  As it has matured and evolved, it’s no longer free, has a new name, and does more than ever.  We don’t use it in my shop; after this session I may bring it back up for reevaluation.

You might think the “Virtualization” title implies competition with OS virtualization such as Xen, VMWare, PowerVM, and the like, but this tool is a higher level and broader focus.  It can complement those in coordination with SAP application management.  Best not to separate those stacks if feasible.

The presentation covered a lot of ground from a Netweaver/Basis perspective and I’ll focus on one area I deal with in my role, that of workload automation.  Some might call that “batch job management”; I see it as more of business process management operations, as data and content flow among systems.  They talked about one way they have leveraged LWS in the shutdown and startup of SAP systems during maintenance windows.

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With a typical 4 hour window, shutting down the systems can’t start until the window opens, and time spent quiescing the application and all parts of the stack is time lost in administration (the reason for the shutdown in the first place, such as patches, hardware or parameter changes, etc). In the second screen shot above, the baseline duration that had built up was 37 minutes.  Automating tasks that would be done by people, as well as parallelizing multiple steps, can take time out of that part of their schedule, giving more time to hands-on work.

My company has automated similar tasks using an enterprise scheduler, so comparing the LVM approach to that brought up a few questions.  Enterprise scheduling could cover all application and infrastructure teams; this tool covers primarily Basis, in my view.  I asked how the two management tools could interact, as we would not replace a global scheduler that interacts with many applications (primarily holding up batch transactions during tech support maintenance windows).  The short answer was there is an API for that.  I’ll need to investigate the ease-of-use (some APIs are better than others, frankly) and find some reference customers.

After the presentation, an SAP person came over to ask me about my interface question.  I explained what I do with scheduling, and after he introduced himself [ Markus WINTER ] I mentioned I knew Gunther Schmalzhaf from previous conferences.  Markus’ title is “Chief Product Owner, Cloud Management”.  Definitely a contact for the books.

Links for LVM:

While the ASUG tracks were over, SAP Mentors stayed busy networking with SAP resources to the end of the day.  A couple shots follow…

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Jason taking the Mentor pulse, handing out assignments, and passing out the swag (no entitlements, but sometimes pleasant surprises).  I missed the raffle by one digit, more or less.

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THE END

JUST ONE MORE THING

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I saw pictures of Marc Oliver Schaefer in tweet streams.  Another long-term collaborator in ASUG sessions on Business Configuration Sets, Marc and I did not meet physically this time and have reconnected after many years, on Twitter of all places.  Maybe new SCN will enable further collaborations.  And I will learn what “Focused SAP” means.

Working the ASUG booth one day, a gentleman stopped by and we conversed about user groups.  Turns out he is the Executive Director of JSUG, the Japan SAP Users Group.  Fascinating dialogue comparing our perspectives.

At the Amazon booth, another (I know you’re tired of hearing about my old friends – I did make new ones, honest) former ASUG colleague now with AWS shared updates on their newly-announced certified platform for SAP ECC (call it what you will).  I looked here:

SAP Standard Application Benchmarks

but did not see the published benchmark.  Perhaps by the time you read this the document will have passed muster and been posted.  I look forward to comparing these.  Note these cloud benchmarks are all SQL-Server based, including multiple vendors. No other databases.

Thorns, Roses and Butterflies

Jason Cao had the Mentors give “one thing you liked and one thing that needs improving” about the conference during our first “debrief” session, so here is my spin in that sense for the entire conference, noting I wore multiple hats.  One of each category only.  Others will come to mind anyway.

  • Thorn: Probably the conference app was my biggest pain this week.  I didn’t install it as I disagreed with the allowed privileges, which meant I could not rate any ASUG sessions. In concert with this, the agenda builder once again does not list speakers; finding out who spoke is unnecessarily difficult. I have yet to try to download session slides and hope that is a better experience.
  • Rose: Networking this week was top notch.  Met new friends, renewed previous collaborations, and am taking great insights back to the office.
  • Butterfly: I wish, like Vijay, that I could attend more sessions, visit more booths, and figure out where everyone was.

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  1. Kelly Weaver

    Excellent, as always, but particularly with respect to the Amazon session. This would never have hit my radar (I probably would have stopped reading after “Digital Transformation”…), but I wish I’d had a chance to attend. 


    Next year I need something on Amazon-proofing the publishing industry. Whoops, too late….

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