Blogging for Silicon.de

Sybille Glassner, editor at Silicon.de read a comment of mine on a SAP-related news article a few weeks ago and asked me whether I’d like to become a guest blogger for their site. It was a tempting offer and I decided to give it a go.

So, today my first german blog post for Silicon.de appeared! It’s about customisations and Panorama Consulting’s latest analysis paper.

I’m very happy to now also contribute to a german site (for those who do not speak german: you will find translated blog posts on here).

Shelfware – the tumbleweed of Enterprise Apps

Shelfware is not a new topic by any means, but it’s probably novel that SVPs now talk about it. ASUG’s Thomas Wailgum reported that SAP’s Greg Pike used it in his speech at the ASUG Annual Volunteer meeting in Chicago.

“We have millions of lines of code sitting in our standard solutions that are not being used,”

Whilst it would be easy to assume that any “special features” which made it into the final version did so for a good reason, my take is that there are at least two more reasons -in addition to talented sales reps- why the industry faces this problem.

  1. Strong pilot customers: a lot of new suites and applications are built in cooperation with pilot customers who are willing to offer some of their business expertise in return for having a leading edge and financially attractive standard software system. Problem with this approach is that features one pilot customer sees as a ‘Must’ and thus make the final release are not used industry wide. In other words, we’re not really talking about a standard software anymore.
  2. Lack of Training: In many instances, I found that users are simply not aware of new features of their new system or release. Consulting partners, which assisted in the go-live, tried their best to communicate the new aspects and hoped for additional business, but on the customer side there was simply not enough will to set aside time to explore new parts of their system. It’s the “so what does the new SAP release give us?” scenario. More than often, green field implementations and upgrades are performed under great pressure, so looking into new features becomes a “phase 2” task, if that.

SAP is looking for new Mentors, wants more

March 2011 will mark my second anniversary as SAP Mentor. Being a member of this group has brought me even closer to the leading people in the industry. I have presented, discussed, worked, collaborated and even celebrated with some of the best minds in “SAP Land”.

STOP, REWIND, PLAY. Did you notice something? I had to say “some of the best minds” in the previous paragraph, because the truth is, there are still plenty of people out there who are not a SAP Mentor yet. If you know of such a person, then please nominate them using Mark Finnern’s form. Mark Finnern is the Chief Community Evangelist for SAP and the mastermind behind the unique SAP Mentor programme. He has also created a little video, asking for new nominations:

Regular readers on here might not be too surprised when I proclaim that I very much value the fact that Mentors have “Balls”. So this is a main criteria for me.

When I was offered membership back in 2009 my main concern was that it might be more difficult to be critical about SAP and its products, that it could even impact my independence. I couldn’t have been more wrong. More than any other corporation in the industry SAP wants the kickback, the qualified and constructive criticism from the Mentors. If you know someone who falls into the “balls” category then regard it as your duty to nominate her/him. 🙂

This Week in SAP

Hello und Guten Tag!

Welcome back to my weekly tour of purely personal SAP Land news. A lot of folks are still recovering physically and mentally from the awesomeness that is SAP TechEd. I realise that in terms of conferences -Bangalore and Shanghai still to go- we’re only at half time. To use an old football expression: “a LOT can happen in the second half” – but hasn’t it been full of interesting news and announcements already?

Some of my weekly news summary touches on these. I also think that SAP TechEd brings out the best in the whole blogosphere, with a huge number of top notch contributions. Let’s tuck in.

“You take the high road and I go to TechEd…”

Nothing on the Twitterverse this week. Haven’t forgotten about it though.

Hommage to the Certification 5

“Can we meet again next week same time? How does that suit everybody else?”

A simple question, however finding the answer is a little bit more tricky, because the meeting participants live in 5 different countries, 4 different time zones and on 2 continents. Those involved are: SAP Mentors Dennis Howlett, Jon Reed, Leonardo de Araujo, Martin Gillet and myself, Michael Koch. Meeting venue is the world wide web, Skype conference calls to be precise.

Quality isn't Job One - Being totally frickin' amazing is Job OneSo what have we been up to then?

Over the last 9 months we’ve been fighting time zones, meeting calendars and busy social diaries for one thing: SAP Certification, well, collaborating to manifest our view on it, make a critical statement and suggest what can be improved. If that’s not true passion for SAP then I don’t know what is.

We’ve created a SAP White Paper document that’s evolved over time, had several reviews and feedback (including SAP’s).

So why should you pay attention to our White Paper? Because I think it is an important stake that is being firmly placed in the ground by a group of five committed individuals. Moreover, we approach “SAP Certification Land” from different angles. There is Dennis Howlett, an experienced industry blogger and consultant on social computing projects. Jon Reed blogs, podcasts and tweets about all things SAP and is an expert on skills and market trends. Leonardo de Araujo weighs in as a SAP Logistics Functional and Technical Consultant with 12+ years experience. Martin Gillet brings the same expertise to the table for all things HCM and in addition runs HR training courses for SAP. Last but not least there is me, with deep technical and functional SAP experience across a range of modules and areas.

Our initial motives to work together as the “Certification 5” had been slightly different. Which is no surprise, because our approach and our exposure to SAP Certification was diverse. To me, one of the main achievements from our collaboration so far is that we managed to create a document that reflects this diversity, yet still shows that we’re all aligned in the desire to make SAP Certification better. The White Paper goes into a lot of details, but we also summarised our thoughts into Problems and Recommended Action Items in Dennis’ SDN blog post.

The result can now be viewed, downloaded and commented on SDN. We’re really keen to receive input and feedback from the community on our paper. Go to SDN and let us know what you think!

SAP from the Apple tree

This post is predominantly for those people in the SAP development community who lament the news that Apple has decided that with iPhone OS 4 any 3rd party dev environments are kicked off the popular mobile platform.

If you’re an accomplished iPhone developer who largely focussed on Adobe’s Flash-To-iPhone compiler or tools such as MonoTouch (both of which I do not know or have used, by the way), then I can actually understand your anger.

However, if you are a developer who lives and breathes the SAP ecosystem -and ABAP in particular- then this whole epipsode must sound to you like a sequel of “Back to the Future”. Apple’s move aims to create a development platform which is dominated by the one and only language Apple (who actually developed the platform’s hardware)  sees fit – Objective-C. Parallels to SAP’s own proprietary language ABAP are not out of place here.

I’ve recently dabbled a little with iPhone SDK and even though ABAP and Objective-C are not very similar languages by and stretch of the imagination, what they do have in common is that their respective “inventors” push these languages for reasons of stability (a strength of both SAP’s ABAP stack as well as the iPhone OS), reliability and performance.

For years now, SAP’s ecosystem has been mainly hailed for its rigid design under the bonnet, the bulletproof-ness, the stability. At the end of the day, vast numbers of global businesses rely on SAP’s technology day in day out. ABAP, love it or loathe it, plays a central part in that. (It also plays a central part in which future path for SAP to turn towards and innovate the core, but that’s another topic).

Maybe it’s because I’ve been using stable Macs for 15+ years now and been part of SAP’s ecosystem for many moons, but why is it so hard to understand that Apple is trying to provide a stable and reliable platform for iPhone, running on hardware Apple has developed itself? I’d wager that the same people who now complain about the locked-down dev platform would also be the first who would complain about crashing iPhone apps had the device not been so tighly regulated.