A double-Logo SAP ?

Just a few notes on the SAP logo story today: After SAP’s soft launch of a new, golden logo at the end of October, german weekly Wirtschaftswoche reports today (Google translation into english is here) that internal resistance of SAP employees has brought the old logo back. (Update: Handelblatt now also reports on it, quoting an ‘internal employee survey’ and ‘Bill McDermott wanting the company to re-focus again on the actual business’).

Holger Mueller, VP & Principal Analyst of Constellation Research tweeted this about the logo-backflip:


There are many angles on this topic: cost, vision, culture. However, it might just show that SAP’s employees saw themselves confronted with (too) many changes in recent years. A new logo might have taken this too far for some.

Bringing back the blue logo resembles the “Piece de Resitance” for many of them. You could see it as ‘heritage’.

Having said that, for top management it’s potentially easier and more cost effective to keep things as they are and focus instead on customer-relevant changes. Which is precisely what SAP (blue or orange) now does.



TechEd Keynotes – they’ve grown up!

Bjoern Goerke on stage during the TechEd keynote

Bjoern Goerke on stage during the TechEd keynote

Having attended both opening presentations of SAP TechEd && dcode 2014 in La Vegas, it is safe to say that SAP keynotes have grown up. By providing a more engaging style of delivery, Steve Lucas and Bjoern Goerke have managed to capture the audience’s imagination. This is a change that was long overdue. While Lucas’ style was more off-the-cuff, it was Goerke who offered the necessary “Ueberbau”, the almost academic foundation which is an important aspect and will go down well with long-time SAP customers.

The Monday night opening was also a big advert for SAP’s product and community advocates, SAP Mentors. Altogether 4 of the group’s existing and alumni members came onstage to showcase solutions. This in itself is a case in point that Mentors are more than an illustrious group of experts who provide a sounding board for the german software business, they’re agents of innovation.

Bjoern Goerke’s demo on Tuesday morning, driven by an as-always bubbly and entertaining Ian Kimball, was another highlight and example for the change of keynote delivery style we’re witnessing. In a suit/geek style, the duo built a mobile application in 3 simple steps. An exec building an app on stage surely has to be a first within the Enterprise software arena.

All-in-all, this change in delivery style is promising and provides a hopeful lookout. For me at least.


Disclosure: as a member of the Mentor program, my conference attendance ticket is paid for by SAP.

If you spot me at SAP TechEd Las Vegas…

SAP CTO Vishal Sikka meeting Mentors at Tech Madrid 2011 (photo M. Gillet)

… please come and say Hello. I might be deep in conversation, thoughts (making sense of it all) or have my nose in a Latte. In any case, please feel free to interrupt for a chat. You’ll usually recognize me by my SAP Mentor shirt with the “@Pixelbase” Twitter handle and the number “70” on the back.

If you don’t want to talk to me then you can still go and discuss all things SAP with any of the other mentors. Believe me, these guys and gals feel as passionate about SAP as you and we are always interested in your views.

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Why I think coding is not creative

Can we please stop talking about “creative programming”?

Many years ago, I had a cartoon pinned up by my office desk. It was a caricature of a pianist-like dressed man, sitting by a PC. Over the course of several sketches he got more and more excited, hitting and bashing the computer keyboard in ecstasy. The final frame showed him throwing back his hair, a satisfied smile on his face. He seemed exhausted, but happy. Alone, yet in awe of his work. Underneath the cartoon it read in German: “Der kreative Programmierer” (the creative programmer).

Fast forward to 2012 and this cartoon of the creative programmer appears to be more alive than ever. I have had it with tweets/posts/articles telling me about “creative programming” or something close to it. In my world, combining the words “programming” or “coding” with “creativity” does not compute. I find it also not helpful, because it gives the wrong impression to aspiring software developers as to what is actually involved in the task. You are not sure? Well, bear with me a little.


Welcome to my world

What is my world? For those who do not know me, I have been a SAP Development Consultant since 1998, who mainly programs in SAP’s proprietary language ABAP. There are other languages like Javascript and Flex I sometimes need to use to get my work done, but ABAP is what SAP’s applications are mainly based on, because that’s what you use to code business logic for a SAP system. It’s what this language was made for. However what I am saying is universally applicable to any programming language or development environment. Depending on the projects I work on, I also get perform analysis and gathering of requirements.

When it comes to development of business applications, best practice is to either have a design, a specification or some sort of document that tells a programmer what is required from him or her. It’s what comes out of the analysis phase. Such a specification is the cornerstone of business application development, because it is a contract between the people that requested functionality (you might even replace “functionality” with “app” here) and the ones that cut the code for it. Believe me, if you are an IT department, without such a document or agreement, you will spend too much time and money getting your developments right. If a specification or design is done right then the programmer should know pretty well what to do. There is no programming creativity required anymore at this stage, the program should cascade from the specification. In addition, there should be a standards document that gives the programmer information about naming standards, how to structure your code and how interfaces should look like, for example.

If you now say that specifications never live up to the detail they ought to contain in a perfect world, then I say: this should not be ironed out by a creative programmer, who goes away and does his or her own thing. If a specification or analysis document is below par then this reveals a poor development process in general, which has to be resolved upstream and at the source. Otherwise it’s like compensating for a bad golf swing by simply moving your body to one side. It’s lazy.

Saying this is of course not very fashionable and snazzy, especially with all the innovation hype that’s pumped out by today’s software corporations. These days, every software developer who is seeking success is easily sucked into thinking that in order to develop the next Instagram or Twitter, you have to be perceived as out there, creative, getting it. Here is the kicker: as far as the pure programming is concerned, you need to stick to agreed rules.


Am I saying that no creativity is involved ?

My answer: Far from it. But here is my criticism: No one seems to say that coding in itself is not the creative part of developing software successes. From my own experience, successful software projects are based on all or a combination of these points:

  • Good, successful software is a team effort – this has always been the case in IT history and is not a new paradigm
  • Analysis and gathering requirements with the actual users is important because that’s where you ensure your product doesn’t suck. It’s where you listen.
  • You never design or specify software in a vacuum. Respecting boundaries (budgets, software platforms, languages, your customer etc) is important. It’s also an important difference to the work of artists, who are not limited by boundaries.
  • If you develop in a team environment, you need standards and agreements that go beyond the daily programming and span entire projects.
  • Finally, coding requires focus and discipline. You need to stick to what has been agreed and specified. In some cases, this is one of the last steps of a long software development journey


Just a human brain and a machine

Of course, you can sit at home and hack away to your heart’s content. I deeply encourage you to do so, because it is great for learning. You might conjure up some cracking prototypes, something that combines technologies and will be the foundation stone of IT’s future. You will still be restricted many things, but this probably is the closest to creativity you can get. It’s just a human brain and a machine – I know this can be thrilling, for sure. It might be the first of a million baby steps towards something new, but it does not resemble the creation of something that is scalable, timeless and profit making, which are the hallmarks of successfully designed software.

Successful software is brought to life not by creative programming, but by listening, analysing, negotiating and (in the end) coding and sticking to what people have agreed on. Coding is a skill, not a talent. Power needs control.


By the way: I’ve been trying to dig up the mentioned cartoon, but can’t hunt it down. Please contact me if you have it or can get hold of it.


Technology Forum, UK, Day 1 – a summary

At a time when lots of my Mentor colleagues are at SAP’s internal DKOM events, I had the opportunity to attend SAP’s semi-public UK Technology Forum in St Albans on March 21st and spent day 1 there, mainly focussing on information around User Interfaces and Netweaver Gateway. As a regular TechEd visitor, events such as this are not providing you with a raft of new items around SAP products, but instead give you with a gut feel for the local customer and developer community.

I have yet to see this evening’s Demo Jam, but so far it’s been a worthwhile trip, which is mainly down to networking and chats I had. Here are my key points:

User Interface and User Experience: demos and presentations were around HTML5 – either driven by Sybase Unwired Platform or developed straight using HTML5 and CSS3. For example, Keytree demoed an interesting live retail app for iPad that uses HTML5, hooked up to a SAP retail backend via homebuilt RESTful services. CompriseIT demoed a new SAP tool to generate native iOS consumption UIs for Netweaver Gateway services.

UI5: It didn’t come as a surprise to me, but there were no specific news on SAP’s new UI framework UI5 (which is jQuery based). However, according to the SAP partners I spoke to it is something everyone is looking into now. Keytree mentioned they are using Sencha libraries (a Javascript framework) on top to add touch interface capabilities to UI5 (which currently only is for desktop). Personally, I am excited about UI5 and expect further developments on tooling and framework from SAP later this year.

Gateway: I liked that most presentations clarified that not just SUP can be used for consumption, which was in contrast to information available during TechEd 2011 in Madrid, where participants often thought SUP is the only way to consume Gateway. I attended two interesting sessions by SAP labs’ very own Yaad Oren, including a Kinect-enabled Gateway solution and a Siri-based prototype called SiPi (using Open Ears). In the latter, a video showed a SAP CRM lead being created using iPhone voice recognition and later an image was added to the CRM business partner by searching the person on Facebook, based on facial details. This is a very likely future use-case, yet it still makes me slightly shudder! (Disclaimer: the app is only a prototype!). As far as a wider developer engagement for Gateway is concerned, it seems that a reliance on the SAP partnering framework is the chosen path for now. Whether this will hamper the “billion users” ambitions SAP has remains to be seen.

So if you’re at SAPPHIRE NOW / TechEd Madrid…

smiling coffee cup

… and you spot me either rushing from session to session or in deep conversation with someone, I urge you to interrupt me for a chat. You’ll recognise me by the “@PIXELBASE” Twitter handle on my SAP Mentor shirt.

Independent SAP Development Consultants like myself can be less influenced by the latest trend and fashion, because our work is very often based on current customer project requirements. I therefore tend to be more pro customer-side, trying to “keep it real” and end-user relevant. Having said that, it’s also important to get a glimpse of the future and accustom yourself with upcoming products. That’s one of the reasons why we’re all going to TechEd.

One more word with regards to SAP Mentors: We’re a groovy bunch, but just because we’re Mentors doesn’t mean we know everything. SAP Land is a vast space and not one single person can claim to have the complete knowledge. And to be honest, we don’t have to, because we are a passionate, open, collaborative and extremely communicative team. Believe you me, we can talk for hours about SAP stuff.

If you have a question about Mentors, our initiatives or you even want to chat about something that bugs you, then let us know. We can be quite critical about SAP and its products, too and we’d love to hear your constructive thoughts.

And most of all…. HAVE A GREAT CONFERENCE !