Fundamental Conference Coming Up

Be there or be 4:3 aspect ratio!

I can’t believe I’m late to this party. Fundamental Conference is an event “designed to highlight the best of front-end development and design in one place”. It’s brought to you by a team of SAP folks who work closely with Fundamental Library Styles, which works to bring Fiori’s look and feel to web apps from a multitude of UI frameworks (in reality, that means mostly Angular, React, and Vue these days – but the fundamentality of it means that it can extend to others as developers wish). As a developer, I deeply appreciate the work that is being done with those popular frameworks to make Fiori design mesh nicely with the functionality of their individual component systems.

Fundamental feels like a friendly place where designers and developers put their heads together to think about the future of design, front-end development, accessibility, and performance. If you visit the conference page you’ll see a link to their call for content, so make sure to submit hare-brained ideas. Their SAP blogs, Twitter, and YouTube let you learn quite a bit more, but the best place is really the documentation.

What I like most – perhaps because of my design blind spots as a developer – is the consistent up-frontness of accessibility. I am far too often blasting out web pages and mobile apps without even a second thought to accessibility. Making accessibility a first-class design concern makes the web a tool for everyone – and that most definitely those PO-approving biz apps.

API SmackDown: Round Two. BAPIs

Can we all just be friends?
Can we all just be friends?

After covering the “EDI vs API” controversy in the last issue, I didn’t expect to write about the APIs so soon. But this SAP Community post asking to “comment your views on using an API over IDOCs or BAPIs” made me think oh boy, here we go again. 

In common parlance, API means a piece of code that does certain thing(s). APIs typically have some input/output parameters but “what happens in API, stays in API”. One could think of an ATM machine as an API: we put our bank card in and get money out. What exactly happens inside the machine, we don’t know or even care.

In SAP, the earliest implementations of APIs were the function modules. And BAPIs (“business API”) are just a special type of function module. Later, global classes came around, then the SOAP / REST APIs. The latter are now commonly referred to as “APIs” and are exposed on SAP API Hub.

Based on the development context, the choice is obvious. If you’re building a web application or an external interface, then use the APIs. If for any reason it’s not feasible, then look for other options, which might include eventually using a BAPI (either via RFC or wrapped in an OData service). But if you are working “within SAP”, then web APIs are not going to be very helpful in ABAP code, wouldn’t they? So there is simply no scenario in which the thought “hmm, should I go with BAPI or API” would be relevant. JP

What’s The Deal With Agile?

Traditional product development methodologies rely on the “big bang” delivery process. Sadly, this tends to cause the “oh, hamburgers!” moments when it turns out that the customers don’t like what they got after waiting 6 months for the product.

Agile was supposed to solve that by working in iterations, to “fail fast”, get frequent feedback, and adjust. Wash, rinse, repeat. This is a great idea on paper but, as usual, reality ruins everything.

YouTube is full of the videos making fun of Agile, Agile is Dead talks, and even the Agile Manifesto creators “disowning” it. Twitter is full of posts like “you’re doing it wrong!”, “there are many flavors of Agile”, “Agile is waterfall with micromanagement”. So, is Agile a good or a bad thing and are you doing it “right”?

The article Agile / Scrum is a failure by Richi Jennings points the main problem that matches my own experience as well:

The Agile Manifesto paints an alluring picture. … The problem is, it’s almost always implemented in workplaces devoted to the bottom line, not to workers’ well-being[…]

[…]Taken to heart [it] means that anything larger than a developer can do in two weeks is infeasible. This often happens when the team building the software is not considered [as] stakeholders.

No wonder developers end up with “post traumatic scrum syndrome” when instead of creativity the process becomes all about the story points.

Main benefit of Agile is the product focus. When this is forgotten, the methodology doesn’t matter anymore. If your vision of “Agile” is a development sweatshop, then sorry, its failure is on you. JP

Salesforce Dethrones SAP

Everybody wins! Mostly shareholders.

If you look at the latest quarterly numbers for SAP and Salesforce, you’ll see that Salesforce ($7.72 billion) just edges past SAP (€7.517 billion, at pretty much 1:1 Euro to dollar) in revenue. If the name of the game is counting fat stacks of cash, Salesforce just moved ever-so-slightly into the lead.

Interesting to note that only $3 billion or so of SAP’s dollars are cloud revenue dollars. There is a TON of opportunity for both SAP and other players to mine that slowly shrinking space of large on-premises SAP installations, and on the flip side I imagine that SAP’s cloud ambitions are still only just getting started. Meanwhile, Salesforce lives entirely in the cloud and still puts up double-digit percentage growth numbers, so there’s no reason to think that train will derail anytime soon.

I’ve worked the majority of my career in the SAP world, but I (weirdly, maybe?) am not really a fanboy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy working with SAP solutions, it’s more that…I don’t have a dog in the fight over who dominates what enterprise software market. I just want to be there to do cool things that solve interesting problems. PM

Still More AI Art

You guys. I am so sorry. I know I write about this stuff all the time. I JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH. NLPGPT-3DALL-E 2GPT-3 againDeepMind. Nobody is ready for how deeply AI tools are going to penetrate into artists’ creative processes.

Check out this showcase of results from a tool (available for public use) released by Midjourney, a research lab focused on “expanding the imaginative powers of the human species”.

This image was created from nothing but the text “bronze statue of henry cavill, photography, beautiful, HDR, 8K, 80mm lens”. LOOK AT THAT. Is that the same thing as a human creating a wholly original work of art by hand? No. But often I don’t want to make the picture – I want to use the picture to illustrate something. And in that case, simple text prompts that generate amazing images that match the concepts in the text are absolutely good enough for me. PM

Check out this issue for more!

SAP Community Meets AI

Elevate User Experiences with AI-Powered Personalized Recommendation Service | SAP Community Call

No, this is not about a bot that prevents the monthly “extract Excel from ABAP” blog posts and redirects to ABAP2XLSX instead, sorry!

We’ve written about the SAP Community calls before (e.g. Event Mesh and SAP CAP). These are usually covering cutting-edgy subjects with less marketing speak and are very helpful. But lately I’ve not heard of any calls and was wondering what’s up.

Turns out that instead of visiting the SAP Community page, now we need to sign up for the upcoming calls on YouTube channel. Community calls are listed as ‘Upcoming live streams’ (look for the pink-orange background). The upcoming call on August 31st will be about AI-Powered Personalized Recommendation Service, which sounds pretty cool.

Continuing AI theme, there are also 2-minute videos about different SAP AI offerings. I find the Document Information Extraction service particularly interesting and recommend exploring it at your leisure. JP

Check out this issue for more!

Accounting For Developers

If you don’t get the joke, you definitely need to read this!

Enterprise software development is not just about algorithms and programming languages. It’s also about business processes. And for every enterprise, this means accounting. 

It’s always weird hearing the accountants talk. “Clearly, this chargeback goes to a revenue recognition account. – Indeed. But we need to offset tax liability for asset depreciation. – Quite!” I imagine that’s also how accountants feel when developers are discussing OData filters.

One does not need to go back to college though to learn just enough about accounting to understand that the dialog above is pure nonsense. Recent article Accounting for Developers explains accounting basics very clearly and is reasonably short for the volume of information it covers. I highly recommend it to all the SAP developers in particular. (As we know, all roads in SAP lead to FI.)

And for those partial to YT 10-minute video format (no judgment!), there is an excellent video Accounting Basics Explained Through a Story and more on Leila Gharani’s channel. JP

Check out this issue for more!

Cloudy Days For Industry, But In A Good Way

Sometimes I wish I’d shut up about the cloud already

I feel like every other issue I’m throwing something out from Bob Evans. Apologies, Bob – maybe if you didn’t write such interesting stuff I wouldn’t regurgitate and link to it so often. I’ve written about industry cloud before, but this time Evans takes us to it through the lens of some of the older enterprise players: Oracle, SAP, and IBM. 

With Oracle, Evans calls out a recent huge acquisition, industry-specific apps for more than a decade, and positioning industry as central to Oracle’s business. I’ll add that Oracle’s impressive catalog is what sticks out in my head as its strength. SAP gets kudos for half a century of industry insights and RISE being a success (I wish I knew more details on that). From my view, SAP should by all rights have the largest store of industry brainpower. IBM gets praise for unifying its consulting with its product, and I just gotta agree with that. Is there any other player that can match firepower with boots on the ground at that scale? 

I don’t even know if it’s possible to be too optimistic about cloud. From infrastructure to platform and software, it’s just gonna keep steamrolling through and changing the equation on everything. Until the next thing. PM

Check out this issue for more!

EDI vs API

Just like Godzilla vs King Kong, EDI vs API battle is only imaginary

In a recent LinkedIn post, SAP integration expert Michal Krawczyk inquired what do others think about an EDI myth “APIs are better suited than EDI for small to medium enterprises”. As an IDoc book author, of course I have an opinion to share.

This is not really about the enterprise size. “EDI vs API” is not even apples vs oranges, it’s more like HTTP vs bananas. While both apples and oranges are fruit, EDI and API are different species.

EDI is a standard format for business information exchange. It signifies agreement between everyone involved that specific data would have specific format, place, and meaning. One might say that API kind of does the same thing (it tells you what data in what format it needs). But API is not a standard per se, while EDI has specific global standards. Also, API is more about the means of information exchange, it’s about functionality itself.

You can even use APIs, if you wish, to implement an interface based on an EDI standard (heck, you can even blend IDocs and APIs). So “EDI vs API” is just not the thing for any enterprise size. Myth busted! JP

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Futurism @SAP

“SAP” and “future” are concepts that rarely connect in my head. That’s not meant to be a hater comment – just that the sci-fi fanboy part of my brain thinks of the future as the place where we travel to the stars, not where we match invoices 14% better. SAP does actually employ futurists, though. This blog caught my eye and got me thinking. It’s a profile of Upen Barve, who along with Martin Wezowski is co-founder of The Future Hub at SAP. 

“We spearhead & shape SAP’s long-term innovation vision, produce and supervise future concepts, create Macro POV’s and build concept cases and concept-prototypes to make the vision tangible. We inspire & strategize with our ecosystem to investigate possible futures, and validate with tangible PoCs.” 

Upen Barve on Future Hub

It takes a bit for the interview to get going. Lots of high-sounding phrases that – while I’m sure have lots of meaning to the futurist crew – don’t take shape for me as a reader until he goes into detail on a few AI outputs and predictions:

  • Barve’s four pillars of human ingenuity and machine intelligence coming together: individual augmentation, enterprise decision augmentation, autonomous operations, autonomous networks
  • Points to a forecast saying between 2042 and 2045 that machines and humans will be at equal capability. Calls it “inevitable”. 
  • Will AI be able to learn emotions? He says gut feelings will continue to distinguish humans from machines. 

I suggest going out to Barve’s LinkedIn profile and looking at some of the videos to get further details. While the future is necessarily murky, futurists and fusionists alike should work to be clear in their communication. PM

Check out this issue for more!