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Michael Keller — Member of the Month, March 2020

By now, you may have seen my community spotlight interview with Tammy Powlas, and if you have, you saw that I was looking to expand beyond the Member of the Month series to recognize newcomers and long-timers alike within the SAP Community.

In that interview, I acknowledged I had a Member of the Month interview lined up for March — and here it is. But even with this interview, I’m still looking to expand a bit — to draw attention to members whose contributions range beyond the typical criteria I applied most frequently over the past several years.

Typically, an inductee into our Hall of Fame is a workhorse in the Q&A area: answering hundreds of questions and earning those coveted Diligent Solver badges.

That’s not the case this month. In fact, March’s Member of the Month has only answered a few questions.

“Hey, Janda, what gives?” I hear you asking. (Or maybe those are just the voices back in my head again.)

OK, maybe he’s not busy in Q&A, but the guy has published forty blog posts. That’s right. Four. Zero. These posts have drawn thousands of views and hundreds of likes and comments. He’s been a featured contributor in 2018 and 2019, and I have no doubt he’s got another one of those badges coming his way in 2020.

As a blogger myself, I envy — sorry…admire — those numbers and accolades, but his blog activity isn’t the only reason he’s our latest Member of the Month. In addition to his prolific writing, he’s the kind of member who comes up with and shares ideas to make the SAP Community better.

I’ll get into that more in the interview.

In short, March’s Member of the Month is a writer who is passionate about SAP Community.

Definitely my kind of guy.

And that guy is Michael Keller.

 


Michael visiting Valencia

 

Congratulations, Michael! Thanks for taking some time away from blogging to chat with me today.

Hi, Jerry, thank you for the award and this interview. I’m honored and, to be honest, I’m still very surprised about the award.

So you’re an ABAP developer working at prego services GmbH. Can you tell me a bit about your job and what you do at prego?

I work as an ABAP developer in the “Materials Solutions” department at prego services GmbH. My team consists of consultants (SAP/non-SAP) and developers (ABAP and Java). Our focus is on logistics processes, especially in connection with SAP ERP systems.

The customers are on the one hand the materials management department of prego services GmbH, on the other hand companies of different sizes and branches, mostly utility companies from Germany.

Recently, I also started supporting the training of new developers in our company — a topic that’s very important to me.

Where is prego based and are you from there originally? If not, could you tell me about your travels?

Prego services GmbH has several locations. Our offices in Saarbrücken and Ludwigshafen are particularly worth mentioning here. I work at the Saarbrücken office. That’s about 114 miles from Frankfurt am Main. I was born near Saarbrücken and also live there.

And prior to prego…where did you work, what did you study, et cetera?

Before my time at prego services GmbH, I worked for enycon Unternehmensberatung GmbH (SAP ERP consulting and development). I was already working for this company during my studies and thus gained experience with SAP ERP systems and programming in ABAP.

I studied business informatics at the University of Applied Sciences Trier, Environmental Campus Birkenfeld. A great time. From the beginning, a green campus concept was practiced there and interdisciplinary work promoted — some kind of “network thinking.” I’m also a lecturer there and help students get started with ABAP.

According to your profile, you joined SAP Community in 2014. Is that accurate? Regardless of when you joined, what prompted you to sign up?

There’s even an older, now closed account from 2007. At that time I wrote my diploma thesis in the area of SAP Portal and needed — and received — help from the SAP community. Thanks again to the community. My thesis would not have been so good without the helpful information on iViews and other topics around SAP Portal.

In 2014, as far as I can remember, the “impersonal” visit to the SCN disturbed me. Without registration, you can read blogs, but you cannot really participate — for example, you cannot write a comment. However, reality quickly caught up with me: My wife and I bought a house in 2014 and started renovating in 2015. We first had to learn a lot in terms of craftsmanship. In the meantime, work continued as ABAP developer. An exciting time.

You’ve been blogging pretty regularly since 2016. What motivated you to start blogging initially? Any nervousness the first time around?

In summer 2015 I was on vacation in Provence in southern France. I’ve often been there. After the interview, I’ll send photos from different years so that you can imagine the landscape. [Jerry’s note: Michael delivered as promised. Please see three pictures below. Captions are courtesy of Michael.]

 

Vineyards

 


Visiting Vaison-la-Romaine

 


River Ardèche

 

I was reading Jane McGonigal’s book “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” at the time. The facts, thoughts, and ideas contained in the book had an incredibly strong impact on me in this environment. I’ve thought a lot about what motivates me and what I’m good at. Then there were many changes.

I installed an SAP NetWeaver Stack from the Cloud Appliance Library on my Amazon Web Services account. A great offer and a great opportunity. This restricted me to technical topics, but there are more than enough of them. So I started my own leisure projects on ABAP.

Since I believe very strongly in topics like open source and crowdsourcing, I naturally wanted to share my ideas, experiences, and results. I also wanted feedback.

This is how my first blog about creating “smart screenshots” came about. Incidentally, the term “smart screenshots” comes from Alexey Telitsyn. I built a prototype and he gave it an appropriate name. A nice example of why sharing in the community is worthwhile…

I remember my feelings pretty well. Very nervous. The term “nervous” is an understatement in relation to my physical condition at the time my first blog was published.

Nowadays, what’s your incentive for blogging? 

There are very different incentives.

I get a lot from the community and can give something back. Without the numerous blogs and Q&A of other members, there would probably be thousands of additional hours of overtime in the world. That’s not necessary. This time should be better spent with family and friends. Therefore, I like to contribute something so that others can find a solution more quickly or just smile. Anyone who reads my blogs knows that I take fun very seriously!

A chat with Enno Wulff from a while ago also fits in this context. The basic message of our chat was that ideas have to get out of our heads. Otherwise they stand in the way of new ideas. And blogs are a good solution to spread ideas. Pure self-protection, so to speak. That being said, ideas have to be viewed from different perspectives and need a chance to grow.

Then there is this orange dot in the profile picture. When I see it, something has happened. It’s a nice surprise every time. We should create our own word for this feeling of “positive curiosity.” Maybe “ODE” (orange dot effect)?

I find that blogging is probably the most intimidating activity on SAP Community for most members. Do you have any tips for first-time bloggers — people who’d like to write a blog post for the community but they aren’t sure where to start?

Funny you ask that because I planned a blog about it. Unfortunately, it isn’t yet finished. Therefore you get a preview here.

I can recommend everyone to read, look, try out, and discuss with others as much as possible. Own experiences have a high value for me, shared experiences an even higher value.

In addition, you should be able to write down your thoughts, ideas, and observations anytime and anywhere. No matter whether digital or analog. This creates notes from which you can group headings over time. The main ideas of individual blogs result from the headings.

When it comes to writing the content, you should check out the community’s tutorial on the subject of blogging, particularly the steps about knowing your audience, writing in your voice, and understanding structure.

And then you need some courage to publish. Family, friends, and colleagues can certainly help. I think that a passage from a chat by Michelle Crapo and me fits here, too. She wrote to me once: “If you reach just one person, it’s well worth it.” Right!

I find that avid writers also happen to be avid readers. I’m both myself — which is why I was so excited to start the Weekend Book Club. (Sorry for sneaking a plug into our interview, Michael, but I hope you’ll join!) And since you submitted the improvement request on our Customer Influence site about adding a book recommendation for people’s profiles, I’m guessing you probably fit into the avid writer/reader category. Assuming I’m right, who are some of your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books?

You will be surprised: I read a few books a year, but a lot of IT news and blogs.

The books are less about fiction, but more about science. As just mentioned, I like “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” by Jane McGonigal. Another book that has made me think a lot is “Network Thinking” by Ulrich Weinberg.

I recently read the history of the game company “id” — John Romero and John Carmack. Currently, I’m reading a book about the future. Funnily enough, the book is from 2012. The statements are often correct. Unfortunately, many negative statements about our environment.

Among bloggers in the community, I like the works of Frederik Hudak very much. I also really appreciate the ABAP Weekly Newsletter from Damir Majer.

And speaking of improvement requests, in the introduction, I mentioned that you’re the kind of member who comes to us with ideas on how to make the community better. The idea about book recommendations is just one of them. Another great one is what you call the “wishing well.” I think it’s a great proposal and a wonderful example of a grassroots initiative where members help other members, which is what a community is all about, because… Well, I should probably shut up and stop stealing your thunder! Can you explain what the “wishing well” concept is, how you came up with it, how members can support it, et cetera?

I’m currently reading a lot of fairy tales to my two-year-old daughter. The magic of a fairy tale is wonderful after a day of technology and business. At some point I thought about how to link this magic with the SAP Community.

We all have wishes. And there are also many who like to fulfill wishes. So we should bring these people together within the community under the keyword “virtual wishing well.”

An example: Someone is interested in a certain topic, but cannot find a blog about it. He could wish for the blog and someone else would write it. In my opinion, wishes do not necessarily have to be related to SAP or technology topics. These could also be recommendations or help on everyday topics. If the idea is accepted, the wishes and answers come from the need and creativity of the community itself. And you may be surprised more than once.

For the implementation, I started a discussion in our virtual Coffee Corner. It has a pleasant atmosphere for such an overall idea. If someone is interested, go to the conversation and feel free to wish via comment or help to fulfill a wish. I’m really excited and curious. Thanks in advance to everyone.

The “wishing well” is a fantastic way for members to support each other, but another great form of support is advice, particularly for those just getting started. Generally speaking, do you have any advice for members — beyond the blogging tips you gave earlier?

Perhaps this is less an advice than a suggestion: You should take a look around and try everything out. The community offers many opportunities to participate. Maybe someone has a lot of fun answering questions…Q&A. Others like to write blogs or to comment on blogs. Maybe someone misses a function that she or he knows from other communities. This could result in a suggestion for improvement. There are also special events such as receiving a new badge. A lot is possible. The main thing is that it’s fun.

 


Michael — rediscovering the world with his two-year-old daughter

 

One last question — the fun one I ask all Member of the Month honorees: What do you like to do during your free time? Any favorite activities or hobbies?

I have a two-year-old daughter and spend a lot of time with her. She’s like a little whirlwind. That’s why there’s always something to do. It’s nice that I can rediscover the world with her. For me, it’s crazy what I have forgotten as an adult. There’s a lot to catch up on.

In addition, because of my job and typical renovation work on our house, there’s not much time left.

I can always get excited about series. On Amazon Prime, for example, “The Expanse” pretty impressed me and “Game of Thrones” has been a favorite for years.

From time to time, it can also be a computer game that catches my attention. In this context, I’m a big fan of “Good Old Games,” also known as “GOG.” Ideal are single-player games that you can play in between. I’m always impressed what designers and programmers create.

When I meet friends, I find board games nice to spend time together. Gladly after a good dinner.

Good stuff. Thanks so much for your tips, your writing, your knowledge, your excitement, your ideas, and this conversation, Michael!

I have to thank you, your colleagues, and the community.

20 Comments
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  • Hi Michael,

    Congratulations on winning the title of “Member of the Month”. You’ve earned it. Even though I am mainly working in the integration environment (PI/PO/CPI, …), I have stumbled across your articles from time to time and was never disappointed.

    I also find the reference to Jane McGonigal’s book interesting. I’ve stumbled across the title in the comments of the community lately, so I recently bought and read the book. Inspired by the topic (Gamification), I am now working my way through the Octalysis Framework (Actionable Gamification by Yu-kai Chou). Have you read that too?

    Best regards

    • Thanks a lot! I am glad that you like my blogs. I keep trying to cover general topics in my blogs. So hopefully there is always something for you.

      On the subject of “gamification”: I believe that gamification is one of the key methods for motivating people. In the future, people will have to work together even more to achieve important goals. This collaboration should be fun 🙂

      Thanks for the note about the Octalysis Framework. I didn’t know that. But I will certainly check that. After reading Jane McGonigal’s book, I’ve read “The art of Game Design” by Jesse Schell.

      At the moment I’m working from time to time on a concept based on gamification to show students ABAP programming.

      Best regards

      • A gamification concept for students sounds good. I’m still struggling with a real-world implementation. I would love to develop a concept for the colleagues at our department. But to be honest: As much as I liked Jane McGonigal’s book, from my perspective it often lacked the practical relevance. The examples were all coherent, but in my opinion difficult to adapt to a “classic” working environment in the consulting field. I hope that “Actionable Gamification” will provide this practical relevance as well as more methodology and toolset. Let’s see if it fulfils the expectation. 🙂

        Can you give a short review of “The art of Game Design”? Is it worth reading?

        Best regards

        • Hey Raffael Herrmann – I am also one of Jane McGonigals fanboys… 😉

          You wrote:

          I’m still struggling with a real-world implementation.

          This is IMHO one of the most misunderstood aspect of Gamification. We want Gamification to engage people and let them have fun while doing boring work. But this conclusion leads in the wrong direction. It’s like: “I don’t want people to read Hamlet or Ringelnatz because these texts have lacking business relevance.” You will not write more humerous or exciting documentation to make people read them. But you might want them to read fairy tales, fantasy and detective stories to make them more skillful with words and long texts. And make people stick to a text even if the solution is not within the first 20 words…

          Lots of Gamification that Jane describes and the games she invented is to get people into doing, into networking, into makeing them used to work together.

          Of course that does not prevent us from writing a bit more cheerful documents… 😉

          ah, by the way: congrats Michael Keller ! 😉 I enjoyed reading your interview! Keep on blogging \o/

           

          • Hi Enno,

            thanks for your thoughts. Maybe you misunderstood me (or maybe I simply wasn’t precise enough). By saying “I’m […] struggeling with a real-world implementation”, I didn’t meant to write humerous documentation or “inventing” just another leaderboard/badge system. I think I got the aspect of getting people doing stuff with pleasure, getting them into networking and socializing.

            But, and I think one agrees, from “just reading Jane’s book”, nothing will change in our organization. What I mean is, yes, I got new input/knowledge, but if I’m the only one, who read the book and don’t change anything in my behaviour/work processes, nothing changes at work.

            By searching for “a real-world implementation” I meant the actions and changes in behaviour, communication, … or whatever is needed to make work for us more joyful, letting us feel better, to create awe inspiring moments and rise the overall motivation.

            I got it, that there is no masterplan or general tool, that can be applied on each company/division/sector. And that is also not what I asked for, but change doesn’t come from reading a book an doing nothing. Reflecting the information from reading the book and abtracting actions from it, that’s what I struggle with at the moment.

            Hopefully it’s a bit clearer now, what I meant.

            Michael Keller – do you plan write a blog post or two about your gamification experiences/approaches? (Especially with view to your ABAP students?)

            Best regards,
            Raffael

            Offtopic: Enno Wulff, have you met my brother Oliver? I think he worked at your company a couple of years ago. 

          • Thanks for clarifying, Raffael Herrmann ! in a real world I think gamification will fail because it’s hard to invent a framework that works for everybody and is suitable for everyone. Plus: instant feedback is quite important and that will also be hard to achieve.

            Nevertheless Gamification is a great concept and it’s worth thinking about it. May be the solution is not an all-knowing and overall framework but many little “games”…? I wish I’d know. 😉

            I must have met your brother but he was only a very short time my colleague… ;(

          • As soon as I’m done with my concept, I’d be happy to. At the moment I am surprised how much interest there is in the use of “gamification”. Perhaps we should set up a permanent discussion and exchange of experiences in the coffee corner?

          • Thanks Enno. I always enjoy our exchange of ideas via Twitter. It’s been a while 🙂

            I support your statement “Lots of Gamification that Jane describes and the games she invented is to get people into doing, into networking, into makeing them used to work together.“.

            By the way, Audrey Stevenson should be happy how many McGonigal fans are in the community 🙂

          • I am enjoying reading your exchange here, yes! I’m a fangirl who was lucky enough to hear Jane speak a few years back (and screwed up my courage to find her in the venue after her talk and get a selfie with her).

            Gamification here in the community is a real-world application, though of course different from the kind you two are discussing. I’d like to think it enhances the overall community experience here, now that we have some years under our belt and understand better how to boost motivation without driving too much noise.

          • My experience with gamification within the community is positive. As I wrote to you some time ago, I find the “surprises” very nice at the moment. Thanks for that.

        • The first half of the book was the most interesting for me. There was also a graphic that was expanded from chapter to chapter. In the end, the entire concept was understood on the basis of the graphics. However, the book has many pages and therefore requires a lot of time. Maybe more of a standard book for “real” game designers.

    • Hey Caroleigh. Thanks a lot for this. A very special badge for me 🙂 I never thought that this would all happen when I published my first blog in 2016.

    • Hi Mahesh Kumar Palavalli, it’s great that you like my blogs. Since I am currently dealing with CDS and UI5 will also be important to me, I will be happy to read your blogs on these topics. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge.

      The blog with the blogging tips still needs a lot of work. It’s crazy: Sometimes for what you do automatically you need an incredible number of words to describe it. On the other hand, doing it is somehow easy.

    • Hey Sue. Thank you very much. But I have to thank you much more for accepting and supporting the idea of the “virtual wishing well” so positively.