SAP, SAUG and SEA MONSTERS!
SAUG Summit – 15th/16th September 2022
- A lot of this blog is going to be about the mechanics of conferences and speaking
- And a gigantic Sea Monster and it’s slimy servants
- And maybe a bit about SAP as well
Many years ago, the area which is now Bicentennial Park in Sydney used to be a swamp with assorted factories around the edge, all dumping their industrial waste into said swamp. This led to many strange mutations and ghastly creatures from nightmares roaming the area killing and eating all that got in their way.
Happily, Sydney got the chance to host the Olympics in the year 2000 and so decided that would be a good time to turn that swampy area into the Olympic village. Thus, if you were to visit the area today (and I live there) it looks a million dollars and all the monsters have been safely buried. Or so we like to think.
What is SAUG you may ask? In fact, he was the lead singer of “Madness” in the 1980’s and after that was over, he moved into the SAP world and started arranging SAP conferences.
NB, I made a load of notes during each session I attended which I transcribe below. However, during this blog, as always, I will lurch off into a fantasy world every so often, before returning to what the speaker was on about. So, if the speaker was talking about cabbages suddenly I will start talking about kings before eventually returning to the subject of cabbages. Put another way anything good below comes from the speakers, any madness is stuff I have added during my mental ramblings.
I gave a speech at this event myself, but I shall not mention that. I will say that I sang a bit of the “banana song” at the start of my talk.
Time Gentlemen Please
One thing the SAUG is not too hot at is time management. In a conference really you cannot wait till everyone turns up in the room, you must start the second a presentation is scheduled, especially the keynotes, and “gong” people off when their time is up. Otherwise as the day goes on things over-run more and more and this blots out the time for the breaks, thus upsetting the sponsors.
Department of Defence – Stephen Pearson – CIO
- In the 1970’s the Army + Navy + Air Force in Australia was unified into a central “Department of Defence
“. But only now has the idea of a unified ERP surfaced like a submarine supplied from France – oh dear, no that’s not right.
- The presenter did not read out the slides which was good, but he did stay behind the lectern. That can project the idea the speaker is hiding from the audience.
- The Australian Department of Defence has a big S/4HANA ERP project – 2.5 billion AUD over ten years. They have 120,000 personnel.
- They are going with all “modules” (apart from maybe SD – I cannot imagine the armed forces sell anything, except maybe Army Surplus) plus some sort of new “industry solution” for the defence forces that SAP has invented. I got the impression that Australia is going to be the first in the world here, and assorted NATO countries are looking on with interest. If it fails, no skin off NATO’s nose, if it works, maybe they will have a crack.
- As with NATO the Australian government has committed to spend 2% of GDP each year on defence. As such the IT department has hundreds of projects at any given time -a “minor” one is defined as having a budget of under 20 million dollars.
- This is private cloud mostly, as might be imagined, with some public cloud for external facing thingies.
- This is a greenfield implementation (as were 99% of the companies talking about their S/4HANA transformations)
- The slogan was “adopt not adapt” which I presume move to SAP standard, which is what SAP has always been saying for the last twenty odd years, to little effect.
- The long-term plan was to stay up to date constantly as opposed to gigantic updates ever five years.
- The most important thing to note was that the project logo was the same as the one from “Blakes Seven” in the late seventies
General – at the start of the conference SAP said the lifespan (support period) of an S/4HANA version was five years. During the conference an official announcement came out from SAP extending that to seven years.
SAP – Gerald Faust – Big Data
- He did not stand behind the lectern
- He did not read out the slides (except maybe a little bit sometimes)
- 80% of projects fail. That is not really news to me.
- 68% of organisations find no use at all for all the data in SAP they accumulate via the day-to-day transactions, or indeed any sort of data stored in SAP at all.
- Most SAP kernels are not up to date, and that is the end of the universe.
- 999% of organisations are crawling with unused company codes. Again, this is not news to me, where I work, we have hundreds of company codes and about three or four are actually used.
SAP – Chris Peck – AI
Chris Peck used to be a consultant where I work back circa 2000 but now, he is a big cheese in SAP.
- He did not stand behind the lectern.
- There were three clear points in the presentation. All presentations should be like that. More than three and the brains of the audience melt.
- The slides were not wordy. Wordy slides are bad because the audience start reading them, and whilst they are doing that they are not listening to the presenter. The presenter could be insulting the mothers of the audience and they would not know, they are not listening, they are too busy reading the slides. This principle was invented by Wayne and Garth which is why they always shout “We are Not Wordy”
- AI was considered new in 1956. I myself think that Alan Turing during the second world war was thinking about AI as in “the imitation game” by which he meant a computer pretending to be a human. LISP was a programming language that was supposed to enable AI (as the code is as variable as the variables and can thus change at runtime) and that is an old (in IT terms) language.
- The magic in AI comes when a human + data + an AI can all work together. The problem is that humans are biased (and so is AI) and that sometimes humans take the recommendations from an AI system without thinking plus the ever popular “the past is no guide to the future”
- Recent SAP software, especially in S/4HANA is stuffed with AI/ML like a roast turkey on Christmas Day. The example always given is good old F-32 whereby different customers pay their invoices in different ways and the machine must work out what it is they are doing in order to enable automatic clearing of customer open items. I wrote one of those ages ago.
- We have seen the beauty of AI in Australia – most notably when we had the horrible bushfire season some years back and AI was used to co-ordinate the response.
- Chris ended by saying that SAP was hiring. In fact, the guy from the Department of Defence said they were hiring as well. In fact, everyone presenting said they were hiring. I did not mention this in my talk but in fact my company is hiring as well, we are looking for truck drivers mainly, because we cannot get the product out of the door fast enough to keep up with demand. The point is that I get the feeling there is some sort of labour shortage in Australia now, across the board. A lady was saying to me yesterday (here in Australia) that her son was just finishing off school and putting no effort at all into his exams, as he knows he can just walk past any company that is hiring and they will forcibly drag him in off the street and give him a job.
- There was some sort of trade deal signed between Australia and the UK the other day. As a result, as far as I can see all restrictions on Australians working in the UK were removed. I do not know if that works the other way round as well, probably not as the deal was deemed to be “as one-sided as the ashes”, but if it does then the current labour shortage in Australia is something for UK people to think about.
- Silly panels are common at SAP conferences, to pad out blank spaces where they cannot find any actual presenters.
- You can spot one coming because chairs start to be brought on stage. As one executive once said “when the chairs come on the stage, I walk out the door”
- Then the panel are interviewed. In theory it is possible to make this structured and coherent, but in practice this never seems to work very well.
- To be honest you could go outside to the bus queue and hire everyone in it to come on stage and scream insults at the audience for fifteen minutes, and it would be just as useful. Probably better in fact.
- Silly Panel. Silly, Silly Panel.
No Sea Monsters.
SAP on Oracle – Gerhard Kuppler / Lam Kuen Sang
- This started on time though there seemed to be a huge difficulty in switching the background music off.
- There were three clear points- but the slides were very wordy
- The second speaker tended to read out the slides. That is no good – the audience is reading the slides for themselves so there is no point in a presenter reading them out as well. It is not as if the audience is listening.
- Oracle still has an office in SAP HQ at Walldorf
- Oracle on SAP is officially supported by both SAP and Oracle till at least 2030
- Lack of clarity over that date has been a huge worry for many people all around the world running SAP
- According to DSAG 75% of customers still on ECC 6.0
- SAP is still one of Oracles largest resellers
- New customers are still choosing ECC 6.0 over S/4HANA. Oracle can tell as they keep getting new streams of revenue from new database licences for SAP systems
- Apparently, a lot of customers who use “new new dimension” (my term) products from SAP like Ariba and Concur are still connecting via ECC 6.0
- They noted that an S/4HANA conversion project has a non-zero chance of failure. That is obvious really, but even if it did fail the organization would most likely try again. Oracle was hoping that if SAP customers had to do a new ERP project (which is what S/4HANA is) they might choose a different ERP provider (e.g., Oracle) but that has not happened.
- In essence this was a very clever talk – lads of reasons why you might want to stay on ECC 6.0 (Oracle Database) for a very long time as a form of insurance.
Whilst we are at this, here is my S/4HANA bell curve showing progress towards conversions based on information from SAP conferences. I think Australia is a bit ahead of curve in general compared to other countries due to all the government departments being mandated to make the move.
When S/4HANA first came out in 2015 Hasso Plattner said “If this does not work, we are dead – flat out dead”. Well for the first four years adoption was pretty much zero, and SAP still survived. Then in 2020 something must have changed (functional parity with ECC6.0?) and the bell curve of adoption began.
No Sea Monsters
Endeavour Energy – Simon Lewis – Feeding a Data Hungry Organization
I was facilitating this one. By which I means I must introduce the speaker (which is easy I just introduced myself as an SAP superstar and told the audience his name and job title and said “give it up for…”). The more difficult thing is trying to end the session. You must end the session because there will be another speaker waiting to come on afterwards. Some years back I just could not stop the speaker (who was not this speaker BTW). I did the things I was told i.e., ten minutes before the end stand up and stand near the stage, five minutes before the end start giving “wind-up” signals. Neither of those worked so at “time-up” I stood on the stage with him and that did not work either. I could see the next speaker waiting at the entrance (with the next audience) looking really upset. I wished I had a shepherd’s crook to hook round the current speaker’s neck and drag him off, or a Gong to bang.
In the “Live Aid” concert in 1985 the stage was set up into three sections like the CND symbol. That way a band got set up in one section whist another band was playing, and the stage would rotate to bring the new band onstage. In theory (though it never happened) if a band over-run their set they could be rotated off stage. That would be good here. Anyway, this time the speaker stopped the instant I forced the issue, which is good.
The problem is with the questions. The speaker says, “Any Questions?” and at first no-one says anything. Then at T minus One Second when everyone hopes it is all over and they can move on someone asks a question and it is rude to walk out so you are trapped. And as soon as one person asks a question everyone else in the room then decides to ask a question as well. So, it lasts forever until the facilitator has to stop it. I always say to ask me afterwards, especially if I am standing in the way of the free drinks. This is generally because each question is usually specific to the person asking and of no interest to any other person in the room.
Anyway, going back to Endeavour Energy
- The presenter did not stand behind the lectern
- There were a few wordy slides (very wordy) but overall I though he was a very good speaker indeed
- Greenfield SAP S/4HANA (most companies presenting did greenfield) go-live was a few months ago
- Project took many years
- Moving to S/4HANA gives you a whole new load of “boxes” features, but you must manually unpack them
- Afterwards (after the transition to S/4) the IT department got the exact same complaints as before regarding reporting, pretty much word for word
- Put another way moving to S/4 is not a magic bullet. A lot of manual work is needed to realise the benefits
- They used Azure for reporting when the data was mostly non-SAP data, plus Azure was the mapping layer.
- After all this they are about half-way to their long-term goal which is to be “transformational”. Again, this says that just moving to S/4HANA on its own is not going to cut the mustard.
CSR – Amy Bentley (CSR) + Adam Adil (SAP)
- CSR have had a long and varied history. Their claim to fame was to be mentioned in the Midnight Oil song “Blue Sky Mine” as in “If the Sugar Refining Company can’t save me, whos’ gonna save me?”
- In more recent years they have been less of a conglomerate and have focussed on assorted building materials, a slightly different set of products to my company, but both sell building materials.
- Just before the talk Amy mentioned that her young daughter had been told about Australia having a public holiday because of the death of the Queen and it was going to be a National Day of Mourning. The daughter asked, “Is it going to be morning all day?” which I think is a very reasonable question.
- There were no slides at all which is good. I recall one time I was about to give a speech at an event and was told they had lost all my slides and I thought oh well, not the end of the world, I will do it without them, and then the slides were found at the last second. Here it was deliberate. That does mean there can be no possible distraction.
- Instead, the two presenters sat on chairs on sort of interviewed each other. This was nowhere near as bad as the Silly Panel thing because it was very focused.
- CSR appear to be doing a huge ERP implementation project, with an initial focus on logistics. My company did this circa 2000 and it had a huge benefit, as I am sure it will have for them.
- That is moving from regional despatch to three transport hubs. Again, as I know from experience this will serve them well.
- They are using SAP Transport Management. That was not available 22 years ago, so we used a third-party product to achieve the same sort of thing.
- They decided that standardising processes is in the “too hard” basket. That is also common, something SAP should really take on board instead of screaming “Best Practices!” again and again where “Best Practice” means how SAP have written the software as opposed to the most optimum way to run your business.
No Sea Monsters. Apart from some giant alien sharks from the Selachian Empire who suddenly materialise and shout “Death to the Human Plankton!” before trying to murder everyone in sight. No-one wants to die just before the free beers, so we all run to the last breakout sessions.
Jocelyn Dart – UI5/Fiori – Just before the BEERS – How to get Maximum Impact from Fiori
- There were four clear points in the presentation
- She did not stand behind the lectern
- She was dramatic and did different voices for different characters in her stories. Presentations should always consist of stories as much as possible. Everyone can relate to a story.
- No prizes for giving users lots of Fiori apps
- Such apps can solve a lot of pain points BUT the difficult bit is working out who is in pain and what apps are available from SAP to help them. Therefore, the aim of the game is to “funnel down” the gigantic number of available apps into ones that be useful for you specifically.
- There is an SAP service they sell to help you do this – to “teach you to fish” as it were. As we will see fish and other aquatic creatures had a negative effect on this conference.
- Ignore happy GUI users. Do not force them onto Fiori – that will make them unhappy.
- She says the main pitfall of S/4HANA conversions is that people think of them as a technical upgrade. Really it is a “Business Process Re-Engineering” project (like the SAP projects in 1999/2000)
- You must sort your UX projects (user needs) into “now” then “next” and then “later”. The later ones are for things that are not yet possible and can also serve as a business case for an upgrade as in “we need to upgrade as that will solve problem XYZ”
BEERS – Networking Drinks
As a seasoned conference attendee, I am often asked what the meaning of “networking” is. If you look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary you will find this definition.
Networking (noun) – the practice of imbibing as much free alcohol as you can, as fast as you can, whilst sticking close to the people you arrived with, and never even thinking of talking to anybody new.
My colleagues had gone home, so what I do is visit all the stalls and talk to them. This sort of turns the tables. In the day they are desperate to attract me. At night they cannot get rid of me.
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) is a parody novel by Ben H. Winters, with Jane Austen credited as co-author. It is a mashup story containing elements from Jane Austen’s 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility and common tropes from sea monster stories.
The story follows the plot of Sense and Sensibility but places the novel in an alternate universe version of Regency era United Kingdom where an event known as “The Alteration” has turned the creatures of the sea against mankind. In addition, this unexplained event spawns numerous “sea monsters,” including sea serpents, giant lobsters, and man-eating jellyfish.
Unfortunately for the SAUG delegates “The Alteration” happened just after the free drinks had started, leading to the aforementioned sea serpents et al. rising from the waters of Darling Harbour and launching a mass attack on the partying delegates.
That put rather a “dampener” on things, so to speak. It also did not bode well for the next day.
This was an unofficial event arranged by Mike Doyle at a Japanese restaurant quite near the ICC. The idea was after the free drinks had finished you could just wander down the street and continue partying.
There was quite a good turnout I have to say. My proposal is that in future this happens on the second day of the event rather than the first, to try and prevent the mass exodus that tends to happen in SAP conferences about 75% of the way through.
DAY TWO – FRIDAY 16th SEPTEMBER 2022
Powerlink Queensland – Marek Pozdena
I saw this in Queensland earlier this year, but it is a good story and worth repeating. I suppose the point is that most government and semi-government organizations (e.g., utilities) have been mandated to move to S/4HANA. This is a utility company that operates the power grid.
- He made a big thing of telling the audience not to read the slides. That is good but it does not work. If the slides are there, they will get read. It is just human nature.
- And there were some wordy slides. Often such slides can add a considerable amount of value, but only if you do not show them and put them in the PDF version of the slides that the delegates get after the event.
- I have been on many SAP projects in assorted countries and one thing you have to watch out for are the so called “Legal Laws” you get told about. This is defined as a “law” which means you must configure the system to act a certain way, but it is not a law at all, just the way it has always been done before. To be fair the person telling you might think it is an actual law. Then a few years later they move jobs to a similar organization in the same country and very puzzled why the “law” is not being followed.
- In this case the “law” was that government and government like regulated bodies were not allowed to go to the cloud and/or that the cloud was not as secure as what they had before. Both turned out to be myths.
- Sometimes a presenter says something, and I think “That really needs to be in my next book”. In this case he had a slide about the Spaghetti Monster. You much think such a monster is like the Cookie Monster and eats Spaghetti instead. But no, this monster designs computer systems which are based on intermingled reams of custom code. That way a break in one part of the system can bring down a seemingly unrelated part.
- Many years back in Sydney it was grudgingly admitted the rail network (equivalent of London Underground) was like that. There were lots of different lines and they all looked independent on the map but as it turned out a delay on one could stuff up a seemingly unrelated line. So, they did a huge exercise to separate out the lines, remove the dependencies.
- That is not so easy to do with computer code, but with an S/4HANA project, since it is a re-implementation, you never have a better chance. Probably a chance you will never have again.
- Both Powerlink Queensland the Department of Defence came up with a way of avoiding “customizations” by which I presume they mean Z code as opposed to IMG customization. In both cases any new customization must be signed off by the people at the top of the tree (i.e., head of the Navy, Army or Air Force for the DOD or the board of directors for Powerlink Queensland). Then if it all goes pair shaped the top dog who signed it off personally gets the blame. So, they do not want to. So, it never happens.
- Then I got conflicting messages. On one hand there were “no customizations” in the new system. On the other hand, there was a custom code remediation exercise to remove all the unused custom code so I presume the currently used custom code was put into the new system so there would be existing “customizations” but no new ones.
- Now we come to the ever popular “buy vs build” decision. Powerlink Queensland decide to “buy” for once only activities and build for recurring activities. That sounds sensible does it not? Mind you, maybe it is just where I work but every time we have “bought” anything ever we have ended up building it ourselves. And some cynical might say that even applies to standard SAP given how much Z stuff we have built. But I could not possibly say such a cruel thing.
- One point raised in this presentation was an attempt to move from “computer tells you what to do” to “you tell the computer what to do”. Again, that sounds obvious BUT it could be said that both in the year 2000 and with the advent of S/4HANA public cloud the message SAP was sending was “change your business to match our software because it is best practice”. Eventually everyone sees that statement for the nonsense it is, which is why SAP had to backtrack both times.
TRICENTIS – Anastasios Kyriakopolous
The lady who is chief of SAUSAGE had a good attempt to try and pronounce the speakers name correctly. He explained he usually goes by a nickname to try and avoid this problem.
This was of course a sales pitch. You must have some “vendors” giving keynote speeches because they pay the bills for the conference.
First off, I have to say there was a fair bit of reading out the slides here. Tut. Tut. By now you will have realised I view this in a negative light.
- In any event the point was made – and it cannot be made too often – that moving to S/4HANA is not an upgrade. In effect it is a totally new ERP implementation and the correct way to do those is a business process re-organisation project. That is, a rare opportunity to address the “we have always done it this way” mindset. Put another way new technology on its own is never a silver bullet for anything.
- Tricentis is a company that specializes in selling testing solutions. So, what was the presentation about? Yes, that is correct – the mating habits of Goats in the mountains of the Andes.
- That is not correct as my mate Dancing Des would say. The correct answer is in fact that the presentation was all about testing.
- I talk about testing all day long, every day, mainly in the context of automated unit tests, so I am not going to disparage the subject matter.
- The philosophical point of the talk was that “testing is seen as a barrier to innovation”. That is if putting something new in requires so much testing, and that is time and money intensive, then you might be inclined not to bother doing that innovation in the first place. Put yet another way how can you lower the cost of the innovation such that the cost/benefit analysis or payback period looks better?
- So naturally Tricentis broke down the testing problem in general into various specific problems, and for every problem they can sell you something to fix it…
Keynote – SAP – Uwe Grigoleit – Innovation
- The idea here was to have three presentations in a row all about innovation, the first and third from SAP, forming a sort of SAP innovation marmalade sandwich.
- Lots of buzzwords in this presentation. I often think in “Toy Story” they should have called one of the main characters “Buzz Lightword” with the catchphrase “To Paradigm Shifts and Beyond!”
- It is not news to anyone that the last few years have been a non-stop series of crises. As far as I can see this has not even stopped e.g., the UK seems to be in a self-imposed economic meltdown now.
- This sad situation has been good news for assorted IT companies including SAP. You have probably heard the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” – after all that was how computers were invented in the first place, to break the Enigma Code.
- A major difference between ECC 6.0 and S/4HANA is that S/4HANA is supposed to add embedded analytics + predictions into the ECC 6.0 transactions
- I remember seeing a very good presentation from a lady from SAP explaining what embedded analytics in SAP transactions were all about. I recall my CIO asking me what I thought about the concept afterwards. I recall sitting next to the presenter on my flight home to Sydney. That helps me date the conference where I saw that presentation. It was in Brisbane in the year 2001 – when I still had hair.
- There was a picture of the core ERP system surrounded by various “networks”. The Ariba network was one for buying things, presumably one was one of many CRM systems SAP owns, one was a Logistics network for connecting to freight companies (they are worse than death) and one was a network for collaborating with suppliers.
Innovation Mindset – Sarah Cristin Reichmann – owns her own consulting company
- She was a very good presenter. No-one in the audience got bored.
- This did though remind me of the “team bonding” events. I recall back in the year 2000 the entire SAP implementation team had to keep going to a country house which was a martial arts centre. They taught us to do the “Dragon Stance” which is where you pretend to be dragons. The result is that you are a much more effective project team. For some reason one guy always called in sick on the days these events occurred.
- At first glance some of the “tree-hugging” concepts can seem very abstract but then I can relate it to real life events that I have encountered at work and suddenly the whole thing does not seem silly at all.
- She started off with the statistic that 20% of all medical cures are down to the “Placebo Effect” – that is the patient is given a pill that does nothing at all, and it cures them anyway because they believe it will.
- In the same way in Haiti the Voodoo sorcerers can kill people using “magic” because the victims believe in the magic, not because there is any magic.
- The conclusion drawn was that if you truly believe you can succeed then you can. Like in the “Peter Pan” story where one of the elements in being able to fly was to believe you could. In that book you also needed fairy dust, which to be honest could come in very handy on ERP implementation projects as well, but I cannot find any dust anywhere.
- The reverse of this is a fixed mind set (and I have known a fair few managers with such a mind set). They do not believe any change is good, that any new technology can ever work, and if forced to implement that new technology the project is bound to fail because if the person in charge of implementing believes it will fail that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- That sort of fear can stop you doing anything pro-active. Once I spotted an end user who kept getting short dumps. I could see from ST22 what they were doing, and the solution was obvious. Luckily my boss let me make the fix. The business analyst for that area went ballistic and demanded of me and my boss “Make no more such innovations!”. I could not see why not. It worked, and the end user was happy, they could achieve what they were trying to do at long last. The issue was it was a RISK because it was a CHANGE and it MIGHT NOT WORK. So do not make that change, just in case.
- However, the point being made here is you can only really grow if you are pro-active and not afraid of failure. Indeed, you should embrace failure – hence the “Fail-Fest” conferences you have around the world where organizations share their horror stories of failed projects and what they learnt from them.
- She phrased this as “you need to struggle to grow/innovate” and learn to love failure.
- This is back to the anti-fragile concept I keep on about. The more stress you must deal with, the more upside there is if you can come out on top. Having no stress at all and then nothing will ever get better as everything will always stay the same to avoid the slightest risk of stress.
SUSSAN LAM – SAP – INNOVATION
- She was the best speaker at the entire conference. Hands down, no contest.
- I want everyone to be that good – every single speaker – which is why I aspire to be that good myself (e.g., go to Toastmasters) and make such a big fuss about speaking techniques in these blogs.
- Can you imagine what a conference would be like if everyone was like that – it would be ten billion times better and you would not have the situation where everyone starts leaving halfway through the last day. Because they would want to hear every single presentation because they would be so good.
- Toastmasters is a lifetime journey – you can never be good enough. But generally, most people who do public speaking never even think about connecting with the audience or anything – just write down what you want to sell/say on a big bunch of slides and read them out and think you will be right, and then wonder why the audience falls to sleep five minutes in.
- Anyway, going back to this speaker, she did an “A1 Gold” thing and started off with a personal story. People love stories. Everyone loves a story because everyone has so many stories within them. In this case the story was about how she loved tennis when she was young and then as an adult helped SAP produce an app for tennis coaches.
- The slides were all simple, and there were only five main points.
- First fun fact – since this was in the “innovation” section of the conference she mentioned the list of the 100 most innovative companies in the world. SAP comes 63rd.
- The top three most innovative companies – and these will come as no shock – are Amazon, Apple, and Google. Strangely enough all three companies have an SAP ERP system.
- Another fun fact. One of the most innovative ideas ever was putting wheels on luggage. It has often been said that the definition of a genius is someone who spots the obvious first. So, we ended up with the strange situation that the human race developed wheels on luggage after it had managed to put a man on the moon.
- The next point was working backwards. Steve Jobs said the idea was to start with the customer experience and then work backwards to develop the technology needed to fulfill that experience.
- That seems to me – at first glance – to be the direct opposite of “build it and then will come”
- My other favourite quote is from Henry Ford “If I asked my customers what they wanted they would have said ‘Faster Horses’ “
- I can only presume you square that circle by trying to work out what it is people want as opposed to what they say they want.
- I get that all the time at work – people saying they want A when really, they want B but are unaware of the latter until you give them A
- In rhyme “The user replied with a sneer and a taunt, that’s just what I asked for – but not what I want”
In 1983 pop artist Sting (aka Gordon Sumner) sand a song called “Synchronicity II”. By an amazing co-incidence at the ICC during the conference Sting was one of the featured artists on the walls because he has an upcoming concert in Sydney called “My Songs”
Anyway in 1983 he sang: –
Many miles away
Something crawls to the surface
Of a dark Scottish loch
He was most likely referring to the next form of life after Homo Sapiens, as David Bowie did in 1969 with “Oh You Pretty Things!” or Ray Bradbury did in “The Midwich Cuckoos”. Or it could have been your common or garden Sea Monster. Evidence suggests the latter.
Anyway, the monster did not much like life in Scotland. It was a bit on the cold side, and it did not like the taste of haggis, so it decided to swim to Australia. That is a fair old distance and so it took many years and by a strange co-incidence it arrived in the waters of Darling Harbour just around morning teatime on the second day of the SAUG conference. It was a bit hungry after it’s long swim, so it came upstairs and ate several SAP conference delegates. It told me they tasted a lot better than Haggis. Oddly enough I have always quite liked Haggis but then I am not a Sea Monster so what do I know.
One of the other featured artists on the ICC was Boy George who also has an upcoming Sydney event. But he has no Sea Monster connections, at least as far as I am aware. Although the video for “Karma Chameleon” was set on a riverboat.
DEVOPS on SAP – Nigel Ross – BASIS Technologies
- Nigel had been to my talk earlier in the event and decided to start off as I had by trying to hook the audience by saying something unusual in the first 30 seconds. That’s all you have – after that point if you have not got their attention the audience starts staring into space having elaborate fantasies for the rest of the session or plays with their phone.
- The slides were very simple which is a big green plus
- This term DEVOPS means different things to different people
- In essence the aim is to make change (which no-one likes) more comfortable
- Leading companies in this area make 973 times more changes in the same period as laggards plus a 3 times lower failure rate and a 6750 faster lead time. He was not talking about ABAP here but rather programming languages in general. A 7000 faster lead time? That sounds bonkers does it not. That would mean making a change, doing a quick test and a few seconds after you are happy it is in production without breaking anything. That sounds like living in a dream world but some companies (e.g., Amazon) do this. Other organizations want to aspire to this, hence the interest in buzzwords like DEVOPS and AGILE and ONE MILLION TONS OF BANANAS
- The term “agile” is easier said than done. It is not just about hurling a load of buzzwords like “sprint” and “burndown” and “retrospective” and “scrum” and “rugby ball” around and then not actually changing anything you currently do. Just buying a tool like Jira and saying, “that is our helpdesk / change management tool now” and then thumping yourself on the back does not cut the mustard either. Holly ends up sacking Jira anyway.
- When I last lived in Germany, I was in SAP HQ one fine day and saw a guy from Microsoft give a talk. His job was to go around various companies who thought they were doing “agile” development and explain to them that they were not. His position was that agile development did what it said on the tin 100% of the time – if you actually did it properly. But 99.9% of people do not.
- I personally have seen two approaches to this. I work in more than one environment and one of those is currently going down the Jira / Sprint / Retrospective route. The heart is in the right place, and it is still early days but there is still a quarterly release cycle and if anything, there is a push to reduce this to a four month, or even a six-month release cycle. That is not compatible with the term “agile” as I understand it.
- Meanwhile in Australia I think we have been truly “agile” since the year 2000 (when we put in SAP) even if we never used even a single one of the buzzwords like “rugby ball”
- I base this on the time from change request from the business to production deployment. This does of course mean a higher rate of failure of changes moved to production – but not that much higher than the ultra-cautious approach to be honest.
- That is our CIO preferred giving the business ten things they want each week, one or two do not work and get fixed the next day, rather than making them wait months, and then giving them a hundred things at once, with a slightly reduced failure rate.
- Now – back to the actual presentation for two seconds – for “agile” you need a “product owner”. Time up. We had that back in 2000 – there was a “National Funky Manager” for each area e.g., concrete production, aggregate production, quote to cash, purchase to pay and so on. They were generally either board members or one level below i.e., board members in waiting.
- Back to the presentation again. Here comes the term “shift left”. I like the quote that a defect costs one dollar to fix in development, one hundred dollars to fix in the quality system and ten thousand dollars to fix in production. Therefore, the earlier (more left on the timeline) you fix a bug the less money it costs you.
- There are half a hundred ways to “shift left” – doing SQL traces, peer reviews, extended syntax check, automated unit tests. Our development process has all these baked into the cake.
- The DEVOPS thing is all about automation of such checks – but automation does not mean less people. Often this is the perception, but I always like to bring up that on every business case for an SAP system I have seen there is always a “headcount reduction” cost saving but in real life that never happens.
- As an example of an automation tool – for my experience not from the talk – I would pick the RevTrac change control tool. Instead of listing all the transports on a spreadsheet and manually using STMS to hopefully send them in the right order, you have a tool to keep track of the workflow (i.e., who approved what) and automate the transport steps and automatically make sure all the dependencies are managed and transports do not overtake each other and so on.
- The last thing I had on my list from this talk was “KPIs and Metrics” and that these were easier said than done. The aim is to prove that the more DEVOPS thingies you do the better off you are now- but how do you measure that?
- I have seen a very large number of meaningless charts that look nice but as far as I can see do not provide any useful information at all. Those charts take a long time to collate manually and if that process can be automated everyone dances around the room with joy, but the charts are still useless.
- As an example, when I was on an SAP project in the UK each week a bar (column) chart of defects was published. At the bottom was a list of people assigned to fixing the defects. The height of the column represented the number of outstanding defects per person. It was sorted from smallest column to tallest column. One week I had the most defects assigned to me out of anybody, maybe twice as many as the nearest “competitor”
- So, a female colleague looked at the chart and said to me “Paul, you have the largest column out of anybody on this project!”. Then she thought about what she had said and wished she had not said it. But it was too late.
- Quick as a flash I came back with “I may have a gigantic column, but it is full of defects”
One problem with SAP conferences is that they tend to attract comic book super-villains.
In this case Doctor Octopus arrived and because he has eight arms, he was able to raid eight sponsor stalls at a time, stealing all the Oracle Socks and Rubik’s Cubes and other “swag” that was being given away, leaving none for the delegates.
This sort of behaviour does not go un-answered and so from beneath the waters of Darling Harbour emerged the Man from Atlantis (aka Bobby Ewing) and Aqua-Man and the Sub-Mariner. They then proceeded to have a mighty battle with Doctor Octopus.
These battles can cause a lot of collateral damage, but luckily Doctor Octopus retreated to the other side of the conference centre where the Wristwatch conference was taking place. Thus 99% of the casualties were at that conference and not the SAP one. So, we in SAP world breathed a sigh of relief and moved on to the next breakout session.
YANCOAL – Graham Slattery (YANCOAL) + Trevor Moxon (SAP)
- This talk was also done as a sort of interview. There was the SAP account manager in one chair, and in the other the ICT chief of Yancoal.
- I had to look up what ICT meant. I recall that a long time ago the IT department where I work was also called ICT. It turns out it stands for “Information Communication Technology” and dates from the time when the primary purpose of IT was to look after the phones on people’s desks.
- In any event this is a coal mining company as you can probably guess from the name. Australia has a bit of a love/hate relationship with coal, mainly love.
- Our last Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, went into parliament one day carrying a big lump of call and shouted HOW GOOD IS COAL? Meaning that it was really good, in that Australia exports a vast amount of coal, meaning a vast amount of money constantly flowing into the country.
- This year Australia has had a change of government and the new one is a bit more environmentally focussed. Indeed, during the week just gone there is now a plan to shut down all the coal fired power stations by 2035 and replace them with renewable power. You would think Australia would not have much of a problem generating solar power given we have a desert about 90% the size of the USA smack bang in the middle of the country. But we also have a lot of coal.
- However, for reasons that will be shortly become clear I get the feeling the new government is not going to stop the huge amount of coal exports. The main change here is that when questioned about Australia pumping the world full of coal instead of saying “This is Great!” they will now lift up their finger and say “Tut tut, now now, come come!”
- Anyway, back to the presentation. The service implementation partner was Deloitte, and the option was “RISE with SAP” to move to migrate ten existing SAP systems to one big S/4HANA one in the cloud.
- Their first SAP system went live in 2010, and every different site had its own SAP system, every system doing everything differently, which is common. Very few organizations manage the ever-elusive “global template”
- This was to be a “brownfield” implementation, which is quite ironic when you picture what an open-cast coal mine looks like.
- Moving along to the business case as you will see from the chart below the international coal price had been relatively stable for many years, but then in 2020 it hit an all-time low of about 60 dollars. So as might be imagined a coal exporting company was getting worried.
- SAP said if you do the RISE with SAP thing then your IT costs will plummet. As it turned out this was not a Porky Pie, it happened. Had it not, I doubt I would have been siting there listening to the success story presentation.
- And then of course – OF COURSE – the very instant the project was over the price of coal skyrocketed to levels never seen before in history, to ridiculous levels. Which is why I tend to think the Australian government maybe does not want to stop the exports.
- Fun fact – with “RISE with SAP” you are charged based on the amount (volume) of data you have so archiving on a big scale before you start the project is vital.
- A slide showing the project plan flashed up. It was 28 weeks – from Feb 2022 to June 2022 i.e., go live on 01/07/2022 (that is the first of July 2022 for you Americans). It was fixed price contract.
Now comes the important bit. Near the end of the presentation the SAP guy was alluding to the fact that things went so well that the end users changed from saying “This cannot be done” to saying, “When will this happen?”
He described this using the term PARADIGM SHIFT!
AUDIENCE: Whooooooooooooooooooo! (Does Mexican Wave) (Sings) Bananas, bananas, one million tons of bananas! Ba-na-na-na-na-na, na-na, na-na! Ba-na-na-na-na-na, MAKE YOUR BODY SING!
As an aside every month there is a blog on SCN about how to use ABAP to download data in an Excel format. In the comments of those blogs myself and several others point the blog author at ABAP2XLSX.
Often the answer is that this is not a viable option because the company has a no open-source policy. And yet the blogger expects every other company in the world to use their open-source solution to the Excel download problem for which they have just published the code.
Someone from SAP at this conference noted that SAP has just made it into the top ten open-source software contributors worldwide, which is no small thing. It could be said – if something is good enough for SAP then its good enough for me.
Many years ago, when my company first introduced Ariba we had to get a special exemption because the company worldwide had a “no cloud” policy at the time. Needlessly to say fast forward to 2022 and that is of course no longer the case at all. It seems strange now that it ever was the case. I think people will look back on their “no open-source” policies in the same way one day, especially when they grasp the fact that policy was never even followed as they were always using tons of open-source software but did not realise it. Apart from ABAP which is a special snowflake.
Many millions of years ago the planet Earth was ruled by intelligent reptiles. On land these were called the “Silurian’s’ and under the sea there were the “Sea Devils”.
They thought a giant planet was going to crash into the Earth destroying all life, and so they went into hibernation, to be released when the atmosphere of the Earth returned. However, the planet did not crash into the Earth, instead it went in to orbit around it, becoming the Moon. Thus, the lizard people were never awakened.
Nowadays they only get awakened by accident, and when they awake, they are most upset that their planet is now full of intelligent mammals walking round on two legs doing things like attending SAP conferences.
Sadly, during afternoon tea, some Sea Devils who had been hibernating under Darling Harbour for millions of years were accidentally awakened by the incredibly loud snores of some of the delegates who had fallen asleep in a particularly boring presentation.
The Sea Devils made their way to the conference exhibition centre and proceeded to kill assorted delegates by shooting them with the funny shaped torches embedded into the area where one of their hands should be. At that point I thought I should beat a hasty retreat to the upper level where the next breakout sessions were about to begin.
MICROSOFT/SAP INTEGRATION – ATHOL HILL – CHROME CONSULTING
- This was supposed to be all about integrating SAP with Microsoft 365. At work our users are logged into both, all day long, as indeed is the IT department, so I am always looking for new developments in this area.
- It will come as no shock to anyone to learn that COVID-19 was a huge benefit to Microsoft. In 2019 TEAMS had 13 million users. In 2022 that number is 270 million.
- Good news for Microsoft, bad news for SLACK (of which TEAMS is a clone). I used to go into SLACK every day as SAP used to use it for internal communication with Mentors like me. But then Salesforce bought SLACK and you cannot send secret messages via a platform owned by a competitor. Well, you could, but it might not be a very brilliant idea. There would be no chance at all of your feet falling off.
- Next point is that it is difficult to find information in an unstructured system like TEAMS. I cannot argue with that.
- Then the subject moved on to SharePoint. It is also difficult to find information there. Once again, I cannot disagree with that statement.
- Then the discussion moved on to document management systems. I know these are important – especially in the area of Plant Maintenance.
- Our quarries in Australia are classed as mines by the Australian government which is fair enough – they are in effect “Rock Mines”. That does not mean all the staff sing rock songs all day long, but rather that we blast rocks out of the ground. In any event that means there is a lot of paperwork to be dealt with, and this unstructured data needs to be associated with the corresponding work orders and notifications and what not inside SAP.
- This is what document management systems do. You take a PDF (or whatever) document and then tag it with vendor numbers, equipment numbers, all sorts of metadata.
- As I said this is – in many senses – vitally important. But it bores me to tears and so I fell asleep.
When I woke up the conference was over. I staggered out of the lecture theatre and noticed the entire building was shaking. I looked out of the conference centre window and noticed Godzilla had surfaced from beneath the waters of Darling Harbour.
He was fighting the “Smog Monster” and even as I watched he picked up the entire ICC building and used it as a weapon, bringing it down on the head of the Smog Monster. I managed to jump out of the window just in time, and as I fell, I was really glad one of the conference sponsors had been handing out portable matter transmitters along with the Oracle Socks and Google Cloud Socks and so on. So, I managed to transport myself to safety nearby and watched as Godzilla demolished his enemy.
In conclusion it was good conference overall, sea monsters notwithstanding, and if they can rebuild the conference centre in time, I am looking forward to next year’s event.