SAP Development: having the guts to be great

Some of you might have seen Hugh McLeod’s picture about producing something “amazing”.

As it happens, today I had a work discussion that touched on just that. We were faced with the choice between something that ticks the “timescale” and “achievement” boxes and something that ticks the “appealing” and “users will love it” boxes. Suffice to say what the obvious business decision was… once again, Quality was Job One.

I see this at a lot of SAP sites. The implementation team knows that users are not particularly happy with the system, but everyone seems to be getting their work done, so why do things different? The SAP team therefore focusses on the measurable part, the quality. They might even say: “Hey, SAP is standard software after all. If you want to have fun, install Garageband on your own machine at home!”. I used to say that, too. But not anymore. Because things have moved on.

So here are some key points to all of those who oversee developments and have the power to decide whether a development should do same-old-same-old or push some boundaries:

  • trust your senior developers, let them “loose” every now and then
  • use prototyping to explore new areas once in a while
  • not everything has to be done in SAP GUI (or downloadable into Excel, for that matter)
  • send your team to events such as TechEd
  • have the guts to defend your team’s efforts and ideas in front of your superiors
If you have been affected by the points raised above then please feel free to come and chat to me about it at SAP TechEd Madrid next week.

interesting conversation on SAP Outsourcing

Fellow SAP Mentor Vijay started an interesting post series on Offshoring and Outsourcing over on his blog. His first edition deals with a little bit of SAP Offshoring history. A trip down memory lane so to speak. Vijay provides some very interesting insights into an industry that has seen a lot of growth in recent years, but is also slated for not always providing best value for money.

Nowadays outsourcing of SAP resources has become commonplace. Standards and SLAs have improved the overall service provided. However I have yet to speak to a client who wholeheartedly loves it. Most of them do it, driven by cost pressures, not conviction or deep belief in its merits.

As mentioned in my comments, I compare it to the big mains gas or water utilities that bring in expertise to deliver a service to your street or door. Skilled in-house teams or freelance resources then get it into your home.

It’s not what outsourcers will tell you, but it’s what my experience has shown me.

I’m looking forward to the next instalments.

on blogging

There’s an interesting blog post by Hugh McLeod aka Gapingvoid, announcing that henceforth he will stop using Twitter and Facebook. His explanations about “taking a stand” (see in the comments) got me thinking.


Twitter, Facebook and even Blogging have become a very crowded space. I get what Hugh says about reclaiming blogging – it remains an area where you can put your own stamp on something, on your own site. To a large degree, that’s why I always blogged very little on SDN.


Having said that, even attempts to create something new can easily be copied and claimed by the pros, like TWIS. It was a commented link-list and I didn’t find very satisfying over time. Within reason, it gave me popularity and clicks, yes, but it was not my own content, really. So much for the sour grapes…


Nevertheless blogging can still give you that sovereignty that Hugh is talking about. So here’s to more blogging, new ideas and sovereignty on !

HANA and Watson – the elevator pitch

Last Wednesday analysts, industry experts, influencers, bloggers, mentors and other luminous individuals gathered for a day in Boston to attend the Run Better Tour and an influencer event with SAP board member Vishal Sikka.

I managed to get a few seconds with Vijay Vijayasankar of IBM and asked him for an elevator pitch about his recent thoughts on HANA and Watson opportunities. See the video below. There is also an funny and very insightful video by Dennis Howlett of Vijay and Vishal Sikka talking about the same topic. Vijay is rocking this topic, so watch this space!

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Customisations – an ERP for you and you and you

note: this post was originally published in German on my Blog on

The problem is as old as ERP standard software itself: Customisations. On the one hand customers want their software and processes to be as aligned as possible. On the other hand software vendors such as SAP warn customers who go too far with their mods, as these might threaten future upgrades – could even make them impossible.

“As little as possible – as much as required”

During the late nineties when I started out as SAP Developer I pretty soon learned  the golden rule of customisation “As little as possible – as much as required”. Meanwhile SAP tried to promote topics such as “Best Practices”. And there was a good reason for that: the Walldorf concern has insight into a vast amount of corporate processes and value chains – this knowledge is leveraged in “Best Practices”.

We want to be different, but how?

Halfway through the past decade it seemed as if the protagonists of vanilla SAP ERP system had won the customisation battle. Meanwhile, many customers started comparing a SAP Implementation with pouring concrete of their processes, set in stone forever. While I always thought this view was slightly exaggerated, you can’t help but ask yourself the question where IT-relevant competitive advantage is supposed to come from if more and more companies use the same software and none or very few customisations are allowed.

In a publicised report from February 16th 2011 by Eric Kimberling (Panorama Consulting, Denver, CO) about a survey Panorama conducted amongst 185 customers who have implemented ERP, it appears that customisations are back on the block. While 2009 28.3% of implementations were free of any customisations, 2010 only 15% left their ERP system in its original condition.

I think the following additional findings of the report need to be taken into account here:

  • shorter implementation cycles: if less time is consumed to implement the system, the more can be spent on customisations
  • more implementations with a business case: those customers who do their “homework” are obviously also more clued up when it comes to requirements for their customisations

It also has to be pointed out that for example the tooling used for SAP ERP customisation have become more reliable, more flexible, yet have also become safer and standard conform. However it has to be emphasised that the calibre of consultants performing the customisations is paramount.

A future without customisations?

When looking at the survey results from a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) angle, there is obviously another interesting aspect. Software vendors like SAP emphasise the fact that its Business ByDesign suite is not customisable at the core and thus provides more stability and rapid innovation. It’s important to note that ByDesign is an offering for small and medium sized enterprises. Plus: smaller customisations and add-ons can be developed for ByDesign using a SDK (Software Development Kit), but it still remains to be seen whether that is enough for customers in this category.

Do the survey results show that customers want “their” system again? Don’t IT Departments fetch the development toolkits again in order to give their ERP system an IT-driven competitive advantage? No matter how customisable and flexible ERP systems of the future will be, “As little as possible – as much as required” will remain our motto for longer than some make us believe.