20 Years a Developer

Historical photo of the first ABAP developer

Seasoned developers, like myself, tend to reminisce about the “old days” (about 5 years ago) and either admire or grumble about the progress made since. In his article How is computer programming different today than 20 years ago? ex-Microsofter Sedat Kapanoğlu makes interesting observations on how programming changed in the last two decades.

Some items on his list, such as garbage collection, won’t ring a bell to SAP developers, but I found many of his observations quite relevant:

  • “Language tooling is richer today.” Probably less so for SAP proprietary languages but still, just 10 years ago our choice of tooling was like in the famous Henry Ford quote, “any color as long as it’s black”.
  • “IDEs and the programming languages are getting more and more distant from each other.” But, of course, we are still having debates on how SAP GUI is better than Eclipse. Time to move on, folks.
  • “Unit testing has emerged as a hype and like every useful thing, its benefits were overestimated and it has inevitably turned into a religion.” This perfectly reflects my own POV on unit testing. Debating with its adepts is definitely as pointless as trying to talk someone out of their religion.

Bring on the angry letters! JP

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AppGyver: Funny MacGyver Reference

It is psychologically impossible for me not to think of MacGyver with AppGyver
It is psychologically impossible for me not to think of MacGyver with AppGyver

There’s a developer community challenge for SAP AppGyver that just closed its entry period. I used to get fired up to go try out community challenges (even if I didn’t usually take the step of submitting the entry…it’s more like I just wanted to try the thing out) – but these days I guess I’m feeling my age more. I just go look at submissions and cast judgment from afar. 

So here are some interesting submissions I’ve seen!

  • Michelle Crapo is going to put her low-code skepticism to the test. I’m waiting to see what she has to say, since I hear lots of similar sentiment out here in the wild west.
  • Petr Kursin went to a lot of effort to make lots of different features in his app. For a try-it-out contest, I thought it was quite good at showcasing a lot of different features.
  • Kai Niklas contributed a food alert app. Of note here is that he thought about going further into the notifications side of AppGyver’s capabilities, but to his eyes the push notifications feature (which as of now runs through Firebase) didn’t quite fit the spirit (or his skillset) of low-code. 

I’m a huge fanboy of Firebase, by the way. I’m sure SAP has plans to roll the notifications feature together more tightly with BTP’s Mobile Services push, but until that happens Firebase ain’t that bad a place to be. 

I watch AppGyver with curiosity, since the acquisition isn’t even two years old yet and clearly SAP has a lot to do on their AppGyver roadmap. Low-code and no-code seem to have roughly two directions lately: general-purpose platforms that don’t care what your base business systems are, like Appian and Microsoft Power Platform, and platforms that get delivered with specific ERP-sized applications, like AppGyver (or what it will be) and ServiceNow’s App Engine. Low-code and fast app delivery is so clearly part of the future-becoming-now that it’s hard to pull my eyes away from developments in this space. PM

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Nerdcast Episode 005: APIs, Rebels, and Icebergs with Graham Robinson

The illustrious Robbo

Jelena and I talked to Graham Robinson – or Robbo, to those in the know – about a plethora of interesting subjects. Community keeps coming back up, like it did with Jamie Langskov, but we also dove into APIs, how to be rebels, and the impact of Antarctic journeys on one’s soul.

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BREAKTHROUGH with IBM for RISE with SAP

Being in The Doors is way cooler than being in a BREAKTHROUGH project. Sorry IBM.
Being in The Doors is way cooler than being in a BREAKTHROUGH project. Sorry IBM.

After taking a look at Accenture’s SOAR and Infosys’ ERPaaS, I’m turning my RISE with SAP eyes to IBM. They’ve got a service offering called BREAKTHROUGH with IBM for RISE with SAP – which to my eyes verges on silly. I can’t help but think of additional clauses, like:

  • BREAKTHROUGH with IBM for RISE with SAP for SENIORS with ARTHRITIS
  • BREAKTHROUGH with IBM for RISE with SAP at NOON on CHRISTMAS
  • TOUCHSTONE PICTURES presents BREAKTHROUGH with IBM for RISE with SAP featuring STEVE MARTIN with JAMES MASON as DRACULA

Anyway. Enough horsing around. 

Funny name stuff aside, I actually found that from the website copy and videos I understood IBM’s offering better than either Accenture or Infosys. It shares the digital transformation-speak, advisory services plugs, and industry-specific templates that the others have. But as a company, IBM can offer an additional piece those other two cannot: its own cloud infrastructure. “BREAKTHROUGH with IBM for RISE with SAP, Premium Supplier Option” makes use of IBM’s Cloud IaaS as the infrastructure layer for all the other pieces. As a one-stop shop, it seems like an attractive option. 

They’ve also given what seems to be quite a bit of thought to the move-to-S/4 process. There are (at least) two styles of upgrade/movement they offer, with “IBM Rapid Move for SAP S/4HANA” seeming to focus on more complex upgrades, and “IBM Accelerated Move” looking like the focus is on simplified, t-shirt sized simpler upgrades. 

I’m intrigued by all this. Not because of curiosity about huge consulting firms’ offerings, but because somewhere down the line, after all the upgrade dust has settled, everyone’s going to have to get back to the business of innovating. Innovation cycle speed after the S/4 migration is done will be the true test of any S/4HANA project. PM

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Cargo Cult Programming and Other Beasts

Clean Coders Hate What Happens to Your Code When You Use These Enterprise Programming Tricks

YouTube is the place you go for a quick tutorial but 2 hours later find yourself watching the latest K-pop sensation and wondering how you got there. But sometimes, you also stumble upon a video that is just <chef’s kiss>.

This 2017 NDC conference talk “Clean Coders Hate What Happens to Your Code When You Use These Enterprise Programming Tricks” is exactly that. If you have ever worked on any enterprise software, you will laugh, cry, and nod in agreement for the whole hour.

Here are just some highlights for SAP developers.

  • Reusability also creates dependencies: think unreleased function modules and using data types from random unrelated packages.
  • What should be in the comments? Many digital swords have been broken on this battlefield.
  • “All roads lead to Stack Overflow” but “not all roads are well-cleaned”. Yes! SAP Community is great but YMMV on following the advice of random strangers.
  • “Programming by coincidence” and “Programming by superstition”. “No, we always maintain Ship-to at the header level”, sounds familiar? Business users are such liars! And there is the whole set of “ABAP urban legends” that lots of code is based on.

Schedule a meeting with yourself and enjoy this fine presentation. Your programming (or development?) will never be the same. JP

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Game On!

Which video games do you play? Apparently, some companies started asking this question in the job interviews, so you better be ready with an answer that is most likely to land the job of your dreams. Accounting? Can’t go wrong with Monopoly. SAP Success Factors consultant? Human Resource Machine. Security and Compliance? Obviously, Prison Architect.

The developers are expected to like building and puzzle games. Personally, I’ve always been into world domination: Sid Meyers Civilization is my jam from the days when it was just a bunch of pixels. 

I’ve always been surprised why Civilization is not a required game for the managers. You need to balance many needs of your empire and to know when to use diplomacy or force with your digital opponents. And it teaches an important life lesson: happy citizens perform better than unhappy ones. Take it from someone who’s been a subject of many We Love The Queen day celebrations. JP

[Jelena, what is the job of my dreams if Horizon: Forbidden West is top of my list these days? It’s about fighting robot dinosaurs with bows and arrows! Should I start polishing the ol’ resume? PM]

This story is from Issue 16 of The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter.

Trailblazing Women

My first reaction after hearing about Salesforce’s Trailblazing Women Summit was “ugh, not another women in IT panel”. But as I tuned in, I was pleasantly surprised by the great group of hosts and guests. (Especially recommended: the story of Claudia L. Gordon who spoke about challenges faced by women with disabilities.) The conversations radiated warmth and compassion that was a stark contrast with the typical “panel” cringe. Kudos to the organizers.

One quote from the event press coverage caught my attention.

[…] the average woman in business spends about 200 more hours a year on non-promotable work – cleaning cups after a meeting, mentoring the new starter, organizing the office birthday party – than men.

Back in the days of work in an office, I was totally guilty of random cup washing. Not because of my gender but because there is something in the combination of running water with repetitive activity that helps clear my head of ABAP. But with other examples mentioned, I wonder why is this non-promotable activity in the first place? Is celebrating birthdays and office camaraderie not important for your organization? And mentoring is not promotable? How come?

It’s about time we start recognizing the value of community work that women clearly tend to do more of instead of asking them to be more like… well, men. JP

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The Intelligent Nerdletter Platform

Microsoft announced the Intelligent Data Platform at Build 2022 last week. Of note in the new announcements that fit in this bucket is Purview, providing data governance for enterprise data. From an enterprise perspective (and hey, that’s what this newsletter is all about), there is absolutely value in the data governance space. Satya Nadella called data “your most important architectural consideration”, and I agree. 

(We’ve done governance on a podcast I co-host, and I co-wrote a book about enterprise data – I really do think there is connected value in the two concepts.)

When I searched out “Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform” and got directed to this page, I was left wondering “…so it’s just a name slapped on a bucket of stuff they already make?” I am always one step behind smarter interpreters of such things, because as I kept searching around I got to Mary Jo Foley’s piece at ZDNet. She helped with some more clarity: Intelligent Data Platform is marketing-speak analogous to the way Microsoft talks about “the Microsoft Cloud” as the combo of Azure, 365, and Dynamics 365. Everything data – DBs, analytics, and governance – counts as “Intelligent Data Platform”. I guess that still means it’s more of a bucket name than an actual thing, but it shines some light on the strategy. PM

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Are Continuous Upgrades Actually “Up”?

In ERP land, the Cloud’s promise of instant and seamless upgrades is impossible to resist. No one likes to run 6-month project to upgrade to a year-old version of software. But Josh Greenbaum’s article “Quality Hell in SaaS-Land: Is the SaaS Business Model Based on a False Need for Continuous Upgrades?” raises some interesting questions.

Everyone has their “upgrade fail” stories, from the UI redesign from hell through multi-day outages. How many times have you updated a phone app and thought “ugh, I liked it better before”? Imagine this on the enterprise scale. Josh writes:     

Too many SaaS vendors have decided to err on the side of embracing an upgrade/update cadence that favors newness over quality, and frequency of updates over actual need. Or usability, desirability, and bug-free performance.

There must be a happy middle ground between “never install a new version until SP1 comes out” and “innovation for the sake of innovation”. How to get there? The “feedback loop in enterprise software”, as Josh highlights, is the crucial element. It seems like a no-brainer but how many SaaS companies actually listen to the customers and do it well? JP

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CaaS – Complaining as a Service

Mr. Walken's reps were unavailable for comment
Mr. Walken’s reps were unavailable for comment

complained about SOAR with Accenture in the last issue, so it’s only fair if I spread the love for more RISE with SAP companions from large SIs that ambiguously define their value. So here are a few things of note for Infosys’ ERP-as-a-Service (which I’m abbreviating ERPaaS).

  • Similar to myConcerto from Accenture, Infosys has a couple of branded cloud-accelerator template tools: Infosys Catalyst, part of Infosys Cobalt
  • It’s less overtly obvious that ERPaaS is a thing. Apart from a podcast with the always excellent Bob Evans, it’s hard to find mention of ERPaaS in the wild. 
  • Positively, one of those mentions is a customer story! Which – as I said before – has a clarity-achievement effect that otherwise is nigh impossible. 
  • Also positively (for SAP) is that Fiori and Fiori Launchpad continue to garner mention for improving the ERP user experience. Haters, form an orderly queue to the left, because even if it’s not your thing as a techie, Fiori is a real thing of value. 
  • Industry cloud and/or industry templates are a thing here, too. Between the big SIs and the hyperscalers, it’s clear that product-makers believe industry cloud is really a thing. 

I find I have slightly fewer things to groan about with ERPaaS than SOAR – maybe that’s because its claims seem less grandiose? I’m actually kind of enjoying my brief, high-level evaluations of these RISE with SAP complements. I may just do BREAKTHROUGH with IBM next (yes, that’s a real thing). Actually, it appears to be officially called “BREAKTHROUGH with IBM for RISE with SAP” – somehow, that’s funnier to me. PM

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