The making of an openSAP course – behind the scenes of the Developing and Extending SAP Fiori Elements Apps course
I’m excited that our new openSAP course “Developing and Extending SAP Fiori Elements Apps” is launching in June 2021. It has been a long journey to bring this course to you, with a large, diverse, global team working on many tasks, often in parallel. While many of you are familiar with the structure and flow of openSAP courses, you may not know everything that happens behind the scenes to bring one of these offerings to you.
In this blog post, I will share the inside view of how we create an openSAP course. I hope this helps you appreciate all the work that goes into it and gives you insights into some of the fun and frustrations we encountered while creating the SAP Fiori elements course. I’ll focus on several areas that I feel are most important:
- Teamwork – there are many different groups that collaborate to create the content. I’ll touch on some of the key roles that enable us to complete the course development and package into the familiar openSAP format
- Timing – how long it really takes to complete all the different tasks
- Outtakes – I’ll share some funny anecdotes (imagine the outtakes in a DVD) about where we ran into problems, and how we can laugh about them today
While you see the presenters in any openSAP course, there are many more people that are critical to make the course possible. I’ll cover each of the major roles.
Presenters – These people put their personal and professional reputations on the line by appearing in online videos. And they become instantly recognizable at SAP TechEd, SAPPHIRE, and other SAP events because people have seen them in openSAP courses and think they know them. I guess “openSAP famous” is a subset of Internet famous. Behind each presenter are…
Video experts – Back in pre-Covid times, we recorded our openSAP units in one of the professionally-equipped studios on one of the SAP campuses. This ensured that everyone’s video had high-quality and uniform framing, lighting, and sound. For the past year, that has changed.
We now use whatever recording equipment we have at home, usually a phone or iPad for the video and laptop for the slides and demos. With everyone using different cameras, microphones, and room acoustics, it takes a great deal of skill to edit all the videos to create a consistent experience across all units. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the people who merge multiple videos into a seamless unit and remove unwanted dogs barking, trucks passing by, and birds chirping.
Content experts – In addition to showing the presenters on the course website, you also find the content experts on the page too. These people provide expertise on the underlying products or processes highlighted in the curriculum. In this course, there are also a few more people who contributed, but did not want to appear on the web site. We’ll keep them anonymous here too, to respect their desire for privacy.
Project management – To keep all the different elements of the course moving forward and track the progress, we had great project management. Colleagues from the SAP UX team (Marcus) and the openSAP team (Michael and Ruxandra) worked together to schedule meetings, track progress in various Excel worksheets, maintain the SharePoint site, handle logistics, coordinate resources and review cycles, and answer questions from all the colleagues. Without them, we would have a bunch of nice slide decks, but not a cohesive finished product.
Quality control – Every word and image that appear on a slide is reviewed by an expert on the openSAP team. They check all the assessment questions for clarity so there is no confusion about what the correct answer is. They also cross-check the questions with the videos to ensure that quizzes and exams only ask about content that is included in either a slide or the talk track. This helps avoid complaints from the students if they feel their answer is the right answer rather than the one in the answer key.
IT infrastructure – If you are doing exercises in a hands-on course such as ours, you are probably using some SAP system. It could be a trial account on SAP Business Technology Platform to access SAP Business Application Studio. It might be the back-end SAP S/4HANA system that contains the data that will power the apps you build. In any case, there are experts that maintain the systems and infrastructure that you use in the course, likely without even thinking about it. A course in which you develop and extend SAP Fiori elements apps would not be possible without their expertise and attention to detail.
Content owners – each openSAP course has one or more content owners. They are ultimately responsible for everything that appears in the course. I had this responsibility for the development week of “SAP Fiori Overview: Design, Develop and Deploy” course, so I had a sense of what was involved. For this course, I partnered with Stefanie Hager for the first three weeks on SAP Fiori elements and SAP Fiori tools. Oliver Graeff was the lead for the final week on SAPUI5 flexibility.
This consumed around half of each work week for the first few months of the year. In addition to creating content for our own units, we helped our colleagues with the story line, presentation slides, demos, and assessment questions. Stefanie and I met daily for between one and three hours for around 10 weeks. There was always something to create, review, or debate.
Weekly meetings, combined with email, Slack, and Teams communication kept everyone coordinated and allowed us to make good use of our geographic separation. It was common to hand off work at the end of one person’s workday and have someone else complete it during their day.
With all the innovation in SAP Fiori elements and the release of SAP Fiori tools in June 2020, we started thinking about creating a course for developers so they could harness these new solutions. We originally wanted to release the course in Q1 of 2021. Late last summer and in the fall, we thought of all the things we wanted to cover in the course. We talked with other teams to see if we should include adjacent content. We tested our ideas with customers and partners in our practitioner forums. With each passing month, we thought about how to create the course we wanted. Finally, towards the end of Q4 2020, we shifted from thinking to doing.
The openSAP team has lots of experience creating courses and guiding the product groups through the process on a strict timeline. This was the sixth openSAP course I contributed to, so I was familiar with all the steps and how long it would take. We managed to start things in time to release the course in Q2 of 2021, although it will extend into Q3. As our parents told us and we tell our kids, good things are worth waiting for (or some variation of that, depending on your region or language).
The first months of course development focused on creating the overall flow of the course. We decided on the business scenario, considered how to include the various floorplans for different types of apps, and started working on the flow of how the development process would build during the course. We mapped out what foundational information people would need and who was best suited to deliver the content for each unit. As expected, some of the people we approached embraced the opportunity to present in an openSAP course. Others need some convincing.
Once the course structure was set, everyone started building their slide decks and demos. Stefanie and I consulted with our colleagues to ensure that everything was consistent throughout. Consistency was a big part of this course. Since SAP Fiori elements enforces UX consistency, we felt an especially large responsibility to ensure that everything in the course was consistent. The openSAP team already does this for fonts, graphics, and language. But, we had much bigger ambitions in terms of the flow, messaging, and slides to introduce similar content across the units.
When the content was complete, it went though several review cycles, first the content owners, then the openSAP experts. Once everything was locked down, we gave everyone the go-ahead to record their units. Without the constraint of only a few studio openings, you would think there would be a great opportunity to parallelize the operations. But, since there are several dependencies, we could do some units on their own, but others needed their respective pre-requisites to be completed first.
After the videos are filmed, the presenters shifted their attention to creating the assessment questions. While this was happening, the openSAP team finalized the videos, created the course web site, and packaged the course for you to enjoy. You can start this process on June 8, when the first week goes live.
Outtakes (or “learning through repetition”)
As with any large complex project, mistakes happen. Things that are obvious in hindsight were not necessarily clear while we were working on them. In the course, we are building multiple apps. As you would expect, there are many dependencies.
While everyone is running forward to create their respective units, sometimes we learn that we can’t show something later without something earlier being in place. Rework. Our goal is to deliver the best course possible. Sometimes someone sees something late in the process that would make everything better. Rework. In the quest to create a great offering, we bring some smart (and opinionated) people together. Discussions about some topic take time, often while other parts of course development are moving forward. Then, a decision is reached. Rework. Here are some specific examples we hope you will find amusing.
- Capitalization turned out to be a more complex discussion than I had anticipated. Some of this was the result of the quirky product naming of SAP Fiori elements and SAP Fiori tools (note the lower-case “e” and “t”, respectively). SAP provides guidelines for capitalization of slide titles and slide headers. Since the product name contains a lower-case e, this caused some challenges for consistency. What happens if one rule says to use “Elements” in a header and “elements” in a sub-heading? Fortunately, we were able to come up with consistent rules to follow. Of course, this was the result of much discussion and many emails.
- We wanted to do something interesting for the agenda slide. Since the course is about SAP Fiori, we decided to mockup an SAP Fiori launchpad (there’s that lower-case usage again) and have each tile represent one unit of the course. This slide appears in each unit with a slightly different treatment to highlight the current unit and show which sections you have already completed. During the course development process, we added units, removed units, changed the order of some units, and renamed some units. Fortunately, we did not have to regenerate a new launchpad slide and replicate it into all 23 units every time we made a change. But, it happened more times than anyone would have liked. Several of us shared the load of making the updates, so no individual had to run through the process more than a few times.
- Recording in a home “studio” presented some unique challenges. For some people, finding a plain white wall was difficult. Creative solutions included putting up a sheet behind your workstation or using a pull-down window shade. Or, finding a partial wall to use as a backdrop.
Many home offices were in high traffic areas with many people passing through the kitchen (perhaps in addition to lots of street noise coming through the window). It was often difficult to find a quiet time to record, so some colleagues resorted to recording in the middle of the night. There are many moving parts for capturing the recording – setting the laptop to capture the correct window in the right size, having the camera, lighting, and microphone just right, etc. Often, each take would have a different glitch. Finally, at the end of a perfect run, the door swings open (if you are lucky enough to have a door in your recording area) and a sleepy kid rushes in. Or, you have another great recording, only to notice that Camtasia was set to capture sound from the wrong microphone. And the dreaded word or phrase that trips you up – again and again and again and again. As everyone learned, it’s all part of the process.
- Working with such a large and diverse group is very fun.
- Creating a multi-week openSAP course is lots of work.
- Seeing a final product that you and the entire team can be proud of is very rewarding.
We hope you enjoy the course and have a better feel for how the final product is made.
Please register now, if you have not done so already.
For the entire team that created the Developing and Extending SAP Fiori Elements Apps course, Peter Spielvogel.