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AUSTRALIAN SAP USER GROUP CONFERENCE 2017 – DAY TWO!

Dustbins 002

On the 4th and 5th of September 2017 was the Australian SAP User Group Conference in Darling Harbour, Sydney. The user group has the acronym SAUG which is pronounced SAUSAGE.

In my prior blog on the subject I covered day one:-

https://blogs.sap.com/2017/09/12/saug-conference-2017-12-rise-of-the-cybermen/

The two notable themes were the large amount of buzzwords used by speakers at SAP conferences, and the actions the audience are supposed to do in return, rather like in the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” when Frank N Furter says “Prepare the Sonic Oscillator!” and the audience has to shout back “Not the Sonic Oscillator!”

The second theme was that of the “rise of the robots” and the suspicion many people have that robots, guided by some form of artificial intelligence, are angling to take our jobs and bring about the downfall of humanity.

Complete nonsense of course, and we were looking forward to the keynote speakers dispelling this myth.

KEYNOTE – RAY WANG – THE ROBOTS ARE TAKING OVER

Ray Wang is a wonderful speaker, very exciting, and he was here to tell us about our forthcoming demise at the hands of our metallic enemies.

He started with the slide he always uses which notes that since 2000 no less than 52% of the Fortune 500 companies have gone down the gurgler or got taken over. This is proof the Charles Darwin theory that you have to adapt rapidly or die in agony. I call it a “Kodak Moment” when a company refuses to accept that things have changed, and goes bankrupt as a result.

He noted that we have moved into an “after sale” economy where what you do after the customer has bought the product is a million times more important than selling the product in the first place. I suspect that is why more and more companies are giving their product away for free –  I doubt it is due to love.

Thus far robots can see and hear pretty much OK, with speech recognition and image recognition rates going through the roof in recent times, and they can also interact with things pretty much OK, thus simulating “touch”. You would think that smell and taste would not have much utility to a machine, but oh no, there are dozens of people working on bridging those gaps, to bring the full five senses to our robot overlords.

No talk would be complete without a mention of everyone’s favourite tax dodging taxi company so when Ray said the phrase “build an UBER style plumbing network” then Mexican Waves in the audience were just the start, soon progressing to screams of “Yes Michael!” and ending in a human pyramid reaching to the very ceiling of the lecture hall.

A little later Ray threw in the word BLOCKCHAIN apropos of nothing as far as I could see, but it had the desired effect.  The audience broke out into wild applause, followed by farmyard animal impressions, ending in a rendition of “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick” a song which was a huge hit for Ian Dury and the Block Chains back in the 1980’s.

Now we come to the idea of “smart services”. It took me a while but I got the concept in the end, the analogy in my head that I used was from the “Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

In one of the books lifts could see into the future, and thus could arrive at the floor you were on and open the door before you had even pressed the button to summon the lift, and the lift knew which floor you wanted.

This was of course a joke, but as it turns out lifts (elevators) can actually do that now. They do not really predict the future as such (though that is coming) but rather detect your smart phone or the chip embedded in your hand when you come into the lobby of the building, and they know where you work. In the book the lift tried to convince the passenger to go down to the basement (as it new the building was shorty going to be dragged into space) in Ray’s example the lift gave the passenger alternate suggestion to their normal floor, based on the fact the boss actually had a free slot, or that today there were free doughnuts on the third floor.

This sort of thing is “real” AI, as opposed to things like Workflow and BRF+ which are “false” AI. That is the latter two are reacting to fixed algorithms, whereas real AI adapts the algorithm as time goes by. A Kiss is Just a Kiss.

It was then time to move on to the specifics of what actual jobs the robots will take away first.

What better way to start than with a photograph from the factory of buzzword hero company TESLA. At the very mention of the name the audience went delirious with joy, made “vroom vroom” noises and launched into a medley of “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark” songs.  Anyway in the photograph of the car assembly line there were two humans and a LOT of robots. I am not actually convinced that is anything new.

There was then a bar chart with various occupations on the X axis, and the chance of being replaced by a robot in the medium term on the Y axis. The further your job was on the left the greater the chance of you being replaced by a machine. Note that this does not say that any job will NOT be replaced by a machine; it is just saying what order the job replacement will happen in.

On the left hand side was accountancy in pole position, followed by (surprisingly) politics and diplomacy. One the right hand side was fine art, IT and medicine. My career involved moving from accountancy to IT and up till now I had no idea I made that shift to avoid the hordes of robots that would soon be chasing me.

Anyway, that is good news for all us IT types. We get replaced last.

Next is the most important part. I travel a lot on work and so stay in hotels all the time. Up until now whenever I check in there has been a human behind the counter asking me for my credit card and giving me my key and all the normal things one would expect.

At no point was the person behind the check in desk a talking Tyrannosaurus Rex wearing a pork pie hat. I have always felt this was a huge gap in my life. Luckily for me if I ever travel to Japan this gap has been addressed. A video was shown to prove this, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I had heard that there was a hotel in Japan with no human staff, 100% of everything being done by robots, but I had made the mistaken assumption that the desk staff robots might look like humans as opposed to dinosaurs with hats.

Then something even more surprising happened. Ray Wang suddenly announced there was a special guest and who should walk onto the stage but SAP CEO Bill McDermott. This was not on the schedule at all, and as the head of SAP never ever comes to Australia I wondered if this might be a joke and it was an impressionist or – even more appropriately – a robot copy, but no it was the real deal.

I am not 100% sure but I think Bill McDermott was in Australia to shake up the local management, as there has been a lot of change of roles and resignations. Thinking about it after he left some state managers for SA “resigned” and I wonder if that was a co-incidence. The head of the SAUSAGE user group got to ask the SAP CEO some deeply uncomfortable questions which he took in his stride, seemingly apologising that SAP had in the past taken a more sales focused approach to dealing with customers in Australia, and would henceforth take a more empathy based partner type approach. I think that is what he was saying.

As you might imagine you do not become CEO of a huge company like SAP by accident. You have to be that much better than all of your peers in many different areas.  One of those areas is clearly buzzwords. I wrote in my notes “buzzword overload” as they came thick and fast and the audience just could not keep up doing the songs and actions for each one. The he delivered the coup de grace when he said that what he really wanted SAP to do was to BUILD A DREAMBOX.

That has to be the best buzzword ever, if Oracle and Microsoft want to keep pace with SAP in the ERP space then they had better lift their buzzword game, at the moment they can only dream (box) of getting to this level. Whenever I want you all I have to do is dreeeeeam, dream dream box etc.

Getting back to the actual content of the talks it seems that in Australia SAP already makes more money from its cloud products than the on-premise products, which is no mean feat, considering by about 2002 virtually every big company in Australia, and all the government, had SAP ERP solutions. By the end of 2018 SAP forecast that the situation in Australia (more money from cloud than on-premise) will be replicated worldwide.

Bill McD was only on for about ten minutes, and then Ray Wang finished up. The next subject was the ethics of having artificial intelligence make decisions. The most common analogy used in this area is that of a self-driving car that has to choose between killing its passengers or saving the passengers by driving into a bus queue of nuns, orphans, cute fluffy bunnies, Nobel Peace Prize winners etc. and wiping them all out instead.  It seems most human drivers face this exact same decision virtually every time they take a drive and every human makes the exact same choice when confronted with this common scenario, even though no-one will say what that decision is, and the poor old robots have no hope of replicating this.

Ray pointed out that ethics are supposed to e a reflection of the cultural norms of a society, yet no-one can actually agree on what the cultural norms of any given society are, let alone the worldwide cultural norms. He gave examples of how people in various different countries would react after having driven over a dog. He says in one country (I will not repeat which one) you would run it over again a few more times, just to make sure you have done the job properly.

IBM ADVERT – MOVING TO HANA OR S/4 HANA

SAP is 45 years old – happy birthday to it. It was of course founded by six former IBM employees who came to the powers that be in IBM Germany and said they had this new idea for an integrated business system and said wouldn’t that be a great idea? IBM showed them the door, presumably using the same sort of reasoning that led IBM to once predict that there would be a worldwide market of five, maybe six computers.

So Hasso and his mates went and formed SAP on their own, and 45 years later I have no idea if SAP is bigger than IBM or not, but it’s a global giant by anyone’s standards, and IBM could have had all that on a plate if they had wanted. It is rather like all those record producers turning down the Beatles because “bands with guitars are on their way out”.

In any event I found it somewhat ironic looking at a slide which boasted how many awards SAP had given IBM recently. It is rather like SAP saying “Oh IBM, you poor little thing, let us give you some awards, it will make you feel better about yourself, it will make you feel like you are a real company after all”.

I was at the Ariba Live conference the other day and much was made there about the SAP/IBM alliance with regard to artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Ariba event was of course focused on procurement, but here the focus area was much broader, with the “Watson” AI technology being used all throughout the Business Suite or S/4 HANA, or whatever.

Now I don’t know if this counts as a buzzword – probably not – but I am going to make it an honourary buzzword anyway, as I want to encourage more speakers to use this in their presentations.

The phrase in question is ONE MILLION TONS OF BANANAS. Anyone reading this who is going to present at SAP TechEd Las Vegas, please try to sneak this phrase into your talk. I know I am going to try to, if you can make it seem relevant and unforced then you win one million dollars’ worth of alarm clocks.

The slides in this presentation were literally crawling with words, one billion words per slide, this is a terrible mistake to make in any presentation, sales or otherwise, as the audience tries to read the slides and pays no attention to what the speaker is saying. Then when I finish reading the slide my mind starts to pay attention to what the speaker is doing, which in this case was reading out the slides. That’s not good either it sorts of implies your audience cannot read.

MORNING TEA

A little known fact about the recently built International Convention Centre in Sydney (where this conference was held) is that whilst the event is in progress the entire building can “multi-task” by turning into a giant hovercraft and skimming over the desert sucking up valuable minerals from the constant storms that ravage the Australian Outback. All this whilst the delegates listen to the SAP speeches not even noticing the vast hoppers underneath the floor of the lecture theatre filling up with priceless wealth.

There are three sorts of robots who operate the hovercraft – DUMS who cannot speak and carry out the basic tasks, VOCS who can talk and interact with the humans, and SUPER-VOCS of which there is only one, managing the whole affair.

Unfortunately for the SAUSAGE conference morning tea on the second day was being organised by mad genius Taren Capel who was raised by robots and had convinced himself he was one himself. He had reprogrammed the “Robots of Death” manning the exhibition area stalls to brutally murder any delegates who put their business cards into fishbowls in the hope of winning a prize.

Luckily his plan backfired when he accidentally inhaled some of the helium from the balloons adorning the Revelation Software Concepts stall, and thus his robots could no longer recognise his voice, and brutally murdered him instead.

By this point I had visited every single exhibition stall and thus filled up my “passport” which I then handed in to go in the raffle for yet another prize. A useful thing you also get given by exhibitor companies are those battery charger things which are in the shape of long rectangle and you charge up the battery from your computer, and then carry it around with you, and if your phone runs out you can hook it up to the portable battery and it will keep on working. Those are really useful, and as you will see later on a real life safer at this conference. Also, In the picture below note the “INTEL” socks.

Toys 002

UWE GRIGOLET – S/4 HANA

This was a good speech in general partially because the content was so interesting but extra points were awarded because almost at once the speaker mentioned an ELECTRIC CAR causing the entire audience to launch into a heartfelt rendition of “Cars” by Gary Numan, which starts off “Here in my car, I feel safest of all…” He also sang “Are Friends Electric?” (Gary Numan, not the speaker) so nothing could be more suitable. The context here was that TESLA had designed an electric car from the ground up whereas all the other auto manufacturers had put an electric drivetrain in a car that was designed for an internal combustion engine. S/4 HANA was like the TESLA of course, with a totally re-written code base, totally rewritten from scratch. I am not 100% convinced of that last bit.

In any event the stated goal of S/4 HANA is to have at least 80% of the transactions formerly known as TCODES to be auto-executed by robots (honestly) guided by an AI which starts off following a set of rules and then continuously learns and adapts. Not huge metal robots but what could be called “agents” acting within the ERP system. Eventually the idea is to have 100% of the transactions automated when AI takes over and then you will not need any end users at all. You probably think I am making this up as I go along, but this was honestly the impression I was given. It does not even seem that far-fetched a goal to me, given what I read every day in the IT press.

One thing is clear though – even if you replace all your end users with virtual robots there is NO WAY they will be able to complain and moan as much as real end users. Maybe that is the secret SAP plan to lower the number of complaints about the usability of the system. Why go to all the effort of improving the UX when you can replace users by ones who do not care? I bet they wish they had not spent all that company developing UI5 now.

It was claimed that in the S/4 HANS code line there is finally a clean implementation of the MVC pattern as opposed to the business suite running on DYNPROS like VA01 where lots of the business logic is sitting happily in the UI layer (view). I would note you could even put business logic in the views in Web Dynpro ABAP, if you wanted to badly enough.

With release of 1709 SAP claim that S/4 HANA has pretty much reached parity of features with the ECC 6.0 Business Suite. The kicker has always been that it did not matter how many NEW things had been added that R3 could not do, the replacement also had to do every single thing the old one did as well otherwise it was deemed utterly worthless. That is really unfair, but that is the way a lot of people think, even if only subconsciously.

One thing I am really confused about is that I hear two utterly conflicting claims about S/4 HANA. On the one hand when I attend an SAP speech like this one all the slides make much of the fact there is “one code line” shared between the on-premise and cloud versions – this is what I would have expected.

On the other hand all over the IT press, and even from some Mentors who have experience with real S/4 HANA projects, it is claimed that the on-premise, private cloud and public cloud versions of S/4 HANA are so dissimilar they should have different brand names, and have utterly different scopes in terms of available features, and even have separate development teams. Now, this cannot be true, surely, so why do I keep hearing it again and again?

As always I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. I would love to believe the SAP version of the truth without question but the cynic in me cannot help but think that the “alternate facts” might actually be the inconvenient truth in this case.

SAP says that 965 customers are now live on S/4 HANA in all its flavours, so you would hope the truth will bubble to the surface eventually. Apparently a product is only “mature” when it hits 1000 live customers so SAP are hoping for this magic number to be hit  before the end of the year.

I have a friend working on an S/4 HANA implementation in Singapore for a large Australian company – a company I have shares in so I hope it succeeds – which are going to try to interact with the ERP system solely using SAP Ferrari. I think they may have to lower that lofty aim, but I will be interested to see how it goes – the project time frame is two years by the way, read into that what you will.

This would be a good time to write out my notes from the SAP Mentor webinar we had about S/4 HANA 1709. I was waiting in case it was secret, but the slides have already appeared on the SAP Community site, and this presentation said pretty much the same thing, so I think I am safe to go ahead here.

The latest version is called S/4 HANA 1709 (for 09/2017). A new version comes out every year for on-premise deployments, but you do not have to upgrade for 5 years. For cloud versions you get another version every three months whether you want to or not. The support packs released every quarter are called “feature packs” though really they are exactly the same as the current support stacks in ECC, as these often added new functionality.

The 1709 version is targeted for release on 15/9/2017 as might be expected, though the actual release is always late. The ABAP version is 7.52, currently I am only familiar with up to 7.51. When we go to EHP8 we will be on ABAP 7.50

There was a sort of interim version of S/4 HANA called S/4 HANA Finance, which was finance only. That is now dead.

There are multiple version of S/4 HANA with different scope depending if they are public cloud / private cloud or on-premise, though all seemed to have gaps relating to ECC 6.0

This seems to be almost gone now, the press have noted this release has many things that “should have been there from the start”.

Examples are:-

Transportation Management

Extended Warehouse Management

Quality Management

Catch Weight Management (all to do with companies that kill, package and sell Turkeys or similar animals. This is not a joke).

Variant Configuration is now there as well. In the cloud you cannot use the so called LO-VC functions (which we use to call up our custom BOM calculation and UI rules). SAP claims the algorithms in the standard VC are now much better, they bought them off some laboratory in Germany, and everything now runs much faster of course. There is also something called the “Recipe Finder” which looks like it simulates possible changes, and attempts to find the cheapest recipe. There were already several different configuration engines available, it looks like there is now another one.

Everything is supposed to be crawling with “machine learning” though what that means exactly is not clear.

Two formerly stand-alone products seem to have been merged into the core:-

GRC (Governance / Risk / Compliance)

Master Data Management

The Global Trade module (accidently switched on in our ACD system) has been totally replaced with a utterly different module which does the same thing. It’s called “foreign Trade” now. You don’t get optional (need to be switched on) business functions in the cloud version, that would not make sense, as the functionality is uniform for all customers. Then again I also heard the exact opposite, that all new functions were dormant.

The so called “new dimension” products introduced in 2001 are now all defunct as of 2025.

The SEM was merged into the ECC core some time ago.

The operation reporting part of BW is supposed to be in the core now.

Half of CRM goes into the core (call centre CIC0, leads and inquires and what have you) the rest into SAP Hybris. The CRM merge does not actually start until Q1 2018 i.e. in the next quarterly release after 1709.

All of SCM goes into the S/4 CORE (That is supply chain management by the way)

Half of SRM (Suppler Relationship Management) goes into the core, the other half into Ariba, Concur and Fieldglass.

There is no HR/Payroll in S/4, you have to use SuccessFactors.

SAP has released a whole bunch of new and/or improved tools when migrating from ECC to S/4.

Up till now (amazingly) you had to download all your data out of SAP onto spreadsheets and upload it to S/4 HANA, just like when me migrated from “legacy” systems onto SAP in the first place. Now it is more like a proper upgrade, with automatic conversion via RFC.

Oddly enough SAP no longer recommended switching the database to HANA without also moving onto S/4 HANA. I am not sure why as yet.

The guy from SAP (German gentleman working in Walldorf) made much of his new “landscape transformation” tool. This is where you have two or more totally separate SAP systems, in two or more countries, and you want to merge them together into one unified instance running on S/4 HANA. He said given his wonderful new tool support for this process, then you would have to be insane to do this manually in two separate steps (his words). I am not saying anything.

The latest version of S/4 HANA is “in no way inferior” when it comes to the type of searching you are used to on modern internet browsers like Google. It has also got geographical enablement (more on this later) “clever” ATP functionality and – wait for it – MODERN ANALYTICS. Thank goodness for that – I would hate old fashioned analytics.

Another area I am not clear on is that a lot of the cool and groovy new features – like an AI application to clear customer open items – seem to come from the DONATELLO set of products. Does this mean you need a separate license?

S/4 also brings in the SAP version of Cortana which is called “Co-Pilot” which knows all about the various SAP business objects like Sales Orders and the like. The long term goal for this is that you can interact with this using voice control (currently keyboard only) whilst you are sitting in an ALL ELECTRIC SELF DRIVING TESLA CAR owned by UBER.

One other thing the IT press (Enterprise Times) noted was that with the latest release companies are now able to integrate third party warehouse systems using IDOCS. I am glad to see that IDOCS are still here but odd to find them described as new, Does that mean that until now poor old IDOCS had no place in S/4 HANA and you had to use weird things like PI or Gateway?

My final note is that the speaker noted that moving to S/4 HANA is like conducting surgery on the beating heart of your Enterprise, but to be fair, a lot of upgrades I have been involved in have been somewhat like that. Of course, it could be said this is not an upgrade, rather a total re-implementation.

Next, here is a picture of one the signs directing you around the International Convention Centre:-

Business Suite – Is it on HANA?

ESRI

ESRI is a supplier of mapping software, where you can for example geo-code locations, and work out the fastest route between two points using the road network.

This talk was not actually about ESRI it was instead all about the geospatial abilities of the HANA database, but ESRI was getting pushed as the preferred supplier. This was one of the few talks where they scanned you as you went in, which to my mind means a vendor is lurking in the wings, about to punish you for going to the talk by bombarding you with emails.

With my Toastmasters hat on there was a lot of reading out of slides going on here, but that was offset by a liberal does of humour and variety in the content e.g. live demos instead of just slides. He even got really technical at one point, which lost everybody including me, but actually reassures me as it means that (a) he knows what he is talking about and (b) the technology probably works.

The problem historically has been that GIS systems are too slow. I know that first hand, what my company uses at work to get the driving distance between the target destination and several possible supply points take a while – not anything that over the top, 10 seconds max, but enough to be a bit of a bottleneck, enough so we have to limit the possible supply points.

So of course the solution – the solution to every problem in the world – is to use a HANA database. Things have now got to the point where ESRI can use a HANA database – previously you needed two databases, one for the ERP system, one for ESRI. From a technical perspective the HANA database looks onto the same data source as used by NOKIA HERE to get the map data and I use that to navigate in my non electric non TESLA non self-driving non UBER car.

I find this next bit very difficult to believe but the claim is there is no licence cost for all this – it is all just seamlessly embedded within your SAP system.

The demo was all about landslides in Japan. Using a mixture of spatial data and predictive analytics a proposal was made as to where to situate the emergency rescue camp.

It was noted you can do all this in UI5 yourself without having to involve ESRI – the “all this” being to call the geo-spatial abilities of the HANA platform.

Some good quotes were:-

“Data is the new everything”

“DATA SWAMP” as opposed to “DATA LAKE”. This is much more accurate in my opinion.

“Things have happened / Things will happen” as a summary of a huge slide crawling with words about the history and future direction of the technology.

LUNCH

Strangely there was no actual food at lunch the second day, just row upon row of battery chargers which a surprising number of delegates plugged themselves into. I was starting to get a bad feeling by this point.

My unease got even worse when there was thunder in the sky and lightning flashes and suddenly muscle bound naked men started appearing curled into balls and started saying to delegates in an Austrian accent “I want your clothes, and the keys to your Motorcycle”. It turned out they had been sent back in time by a world spanning machine consciousness called SAP HANA SKYNET to try and kill the grandparents of whoever had given it such a stupid product name.

AGL

AGL stands for “Australia Gas and Light” and is a power company in – guess where? That’s right – Australia! I get my electricity from them and have shares in them. In fact I have a small amount of shares in every company I pay bills to, as when I get slugged each month for some crazy reason I get some sort of comfort in the fact that 0.0000001% of what I have just parted with will come back to me later as a dividend.

Anyway because of people like me, AGL have all the money in the world, they have the deepest pockets it is possible to have and thus an unlimited IT budget. That must be a nice situation to be in.

You think I am joking, don’t you? You would not if you had sat through this presentation.

The title of this session was “Testing at the Speed of Agile” and I wanted to go to see if they were using ABAP Unit and it turns out they were. I am already in an email discussion with them about this, as I thought I was the only one in the world using this tool. They even talk about – horror of horrors – Test Driven Development.

AGL have some sort of $300 Million dollar IT project going on at the moment, and I think that is independent of their proposed move to S/4 HANA.

They have a six tier landscape – DEV -> QA -> STAGING -> PERFORMANCE -> REGRESSION -> PRODUCTION. Six tears have flowed into the river, six tears have flowed into the sea. They also have that lovely situation where you have two development streams – projects and business as usual – touching the same development objects and you have to keep merging the branches (ABAP Git anyone? Only joking, they don’t use that).

They have about 35 projects per month, and in the month of May 2017 had about 3900 transports go into production. Maybe to some companies that is nothing, but it makes what my company does look like a drop in the ocean and we get an enormous amount done each year.

In their “as-is” environment they found that every project consumed 50% of its time and 30% of its budget (money) in testing. It also took a fair old while to get things from DEV to POD

This could not go on, so they decided they needed not only a project to fix this testing environment up, but more importantly a big buzzword they could use to describe this project.

After a lot of effort they decided that the name of the project to improve testing and thus speed up all the other projects hereafter was to be called the EXTREME PROJECT. That is only a slightly silly title, as it sounds like the more mainstream “extreme sports” and probably gets taken more seriously than if they had called the project ONE MILLION TONS OF BANANAS.

You may of heard of “order to cash” or “purchase to pay” … now we have “idea to production” and the target timeline for such a beats is five days. “It can’t be done” I hear you cry “It’s like crossing the road before the ‘walk’ sign changes to don’t walk’”. I am a bit dubious myself but in any event here is how they went about trying to make the impossible possible – NB they haven’t done it yet and maybe never will but I like the fact they are even trying.

From a philosophical point of view they want to do a “safe agile” methodology where something goes to test each week, even if it is not ready. In such a case the testing will of course fail, but at least you have the test case defined, a test case you are going to automate. As the weeks go by you would hope to have (a) the failing tests changing to a “pass” and (b) more test cases every week.

The idea is to “shift testing left” because as we all know it is not uncommon to have most of the testing done right at the end, fifteen seconds before go-live.

OK, so that is the philosophy. How to make this reality? If you can then one possible method of addressing a problem is to throw money at it as much money as you can as fast as you can. So they went out and bought five tools to help them achieve their testing goal.

  • Data Slicing (vendor not yet announced). This is all about moving chunks of production data to DEV and TEST every weekend. The standard SAP TDMS could not cut the mustard here as it took longer than the two days of the weekend. I suspect they are just moving the delta of what changed in production during the week, as that would be far less intensive than a system copy. In the UK, our 30 year old legacy system used to move a copy of production to DEV every night, but then, it was so old it did not know that was supposed to be impossible.
  • TRICENTIS – these were the ones where they gave me a jigsaw piece and I won a “nerd box”. Anyway what they do is test automation and some sort of “data mining” where they interrogate what actually happens in your live system and generate test scripts for you on that basis. They also create “mocks” that pretend to contact external systems without having to have an actual interface. If you have ever read any of the nonsense I write about unit testing you will see I talk about that concept all the time.
  • REVTRAC – this controls the transport of development objects throughout your system. As a disclaimer my company uses this, and we think it’s great. This would be especially useful for managing the collisions when different development streams are trying to change the same objects at the same time. A big problem AGL has is changes getting into production from one stream (project or BAU) that then need to be propagated to all the test systems.
  • Defect Management – the exact vendor here was not yet decided and so secret, but I imagine there are a fair few tools to choose from here.
  • Some sort of over-arching framework which sits on top of all these tools and makes it look as if they are all one big tool.

One thing I noticed that was if all goes well then when the transport goes into QA than the automated tests run automatically and if they all pass the transport moves straight into “staging” without further human intervention. At this point I do not know if that is good or bad.

AFTERNOON TEA

It is quite difficult to enjoy the fairy cakes served with afternoon tea when you can see a robot that looks like Yul Brynner from “West World” gunning down various delegates seeming to zero in on the ones who had “HR” banners attached to their lanyards.

At this stage roughly half the delegates had been replaced with so called “digital twins” and so the robots were no longer afraid to stand in the shadows. They were not actually attacking any humans yet but stood around shouting “Beware, Fleshy Ones!”

Amongst the scary posse standing around the conference centre glaring at the remaining humans were Rossums Universal Robots, Metal Mickey, Robbie the Robot, Robot Monster (who looks like a gorilla with a diving helmet), the Robots of Dawn, the Androids of Tara, R2D2 and C3PO, NOMAD, Doctor Roger Korby, Tweaky with Doctor Ashtray hung around his neck and Marvin the Paranoid Android. Optimus Prime was there as well. I decided to hide under the table, until I had to venture out because it was time to give my speech.

ME – INTERNET OF THINGS

Once again I had the last slot of the day, just before the conference ended. You notice I keep making fun of buzzwords but without them I would never have scored two speaking sessions at this event, or indeed any other SAP event. So my first speech (yesterday) was about S/4 HANA and my second one (today) was about the Internet of Things. Luckily I do not have to make anything up, I am preparing the custom code for the jump to S/4 HANA even if that is eight years away, and we are putting sensors all over our trucks and production machinery and interfacing it all into SAP and we do in fact have a data scientist who is building a digital brain to make sense of all that data and make predictions about the future. We also have a Giant Robot.

Here is a slide from my talk on the vitally important robot matter:-

Giant Robot

CONFERENCE CONCLUDES

When I got back out of the lecture theatre I found that by this point the vast majority of the delegates were more mechanical than organic, with flashing red eyes and implants all over their bodies. Meanwhile huge cubed shaped spaceships were hovering over the convention centre.

Sensing the SAUSAGE conference had ended the cyborgs decided to relentlessly pursue any surviving humans (fleshy ones) and convert/assimilate them.

Myself and the remaining humans in my final talk managed to get to the escalator with about twenty cyborgs in hot pursuit. At that point we activated the Emergency Medical hologram and told him to delay them whilst we went down the escalator.

That worked quite well, and then when we got to the bottom of the escalator we sneaked into the holodeck opposite the exhibition area, first of all switching off all the safeties, setting the time zone to the First World War. Then when the cyborgs arrived we used our machine guns to blast them to bits, which was in some senses sad, as many of those self-same cyborgs had formerly been fellow delegates, or speakers, or exhibition booth stallholders or even SAP Mentors. Still it let us sneak out of the conference centre, and swim into Darling Harbour pursued by all the remaining cyborgs. At the last moment, when it seemed all was lost, we jumped out of the water onto a floating platform, and  then, all as one, we stuck the mobile phone battery chargers we had been given at the exhibition stalls into the water, thus electrifying the entire ocean and shorting out all the cyborgs, thus ending the robot menace for the time being. Just before I stuck my battery charger into the water I shouted out “Resistance is Futile!”

The cube shaped spaceships sped off into the sky but not before a cry of “I’ll Be Back!” was heard.

CONCLUSION

All in all a fascinating conference, it gets the mix right with far more customer stories than SAP (or worse 3rd party) sales pitches, though I understand the latter are needed for commercial reasons. If you come out of the two days knowing at least one useful thing you did not know before then you can count the event a success. Also not being murdered and replaced by a robot can be counted as a success also, so I get two points.

This conference was pretty big by Australian standards but of course pales into insignificance compared to the event I am speaking at next month, namely SAP TechEd in Las Vegas. There will be something ridiculous like ten thousand people going to that, plus killer robots of course, though I hope the latter are thinner on the ground than they were at the Australian event.

Cheersy Cheers

Paul

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