ABAP Hath Risen Again

ABAP, the roly-poly of zombies, is on the rise again!

First, a big announcement from SAP: the learning journey Get Started With ABAP Programming on SAP BTP is the official, free, and I’d say first cohesive course for the ABAP beginners. It’s surprisingly good and my only gripe is that SAP just haaaaad to slap “SAP BTP” brand on it. It covers core ABAP syntax and many classic ABAP concepts that have nothing to do with SAP BTP and would work in any ABAP version. With all the gratuitous branding, it’s still a huge step forward in ABAP education. Imagine if this was available 20 years ago.

Also, the massive list of new features and improvements in CDS view entities was shared on SAP Community. The view entities have been available for some time but were lacking some functionality. Set operators UNION, EXCEPT, INTERSECT, useful functions, and extensions are just some of the highlights. I’ve really warmed up to the view entities, they are so much faster to generate and simpler to use. Highly recommend getting to know them better. JP

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RISE, SOAR, And Then…?

I can see the value in a program like RISE with SAP, from at least one perspective: giving customers one neck to choke that covers both software and cloud infra/platform licensing. Lots of new SAP customers are choosing it – though I don’t know if existing customers upgrading to S/4HANA are going along with RISE to the degree that SAP would like.

What I didn’t know about RISE until Sapphire was that Accenture has a complementary program, called “SOAR with Accenture”. Since it’s not a competitor for RISE, I got curious to find out exactly what SOAR is. Here are some facts:

  • SOAR has a “move your business to the cloud” feel similar to RISE.
  • In Accenture’s words, SOAR “brings pre-configured industry solutions, business process models, extensibility architectures, end-to-end delivery capabilities, cloud-native technologies, and industry cloud solutions all driven and delivered by Accenture myConcerto.”
  • I feel like descriptions like the one above are word-dense but information-sparse. I can’t really tell what SOAR means from that.
  • myConcerto is an “insight-driven, digitally integrated platform that orchestrates the power of new SAP solutions and technologies, and Accenture’s industry and functional expertise to create exponential business outcomes.”
  • Word-dense, information-sparse.

I feel like sometimes I miss the point of big consulting firms’ programs. Maybe it’s my engineer side looking for a concise, packaged-up thing, when those companies are in the business of selling ideas tied to person-hours of labor.

SOAR has the same problem that I outlined with the general SAP Sapphire keynotes: if you don’t tell a story, you start to lose me. I can’t find SOAR customer stories on Accenture’s website, so until I can hear someone outside of Accenture tell me what they actually got, I remain in the dark. PM

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Sapphire 2022: A View From The Peanut Gallery

There was something ominous in Sapphire not being spelled in all caps this year. Typically the grand sales event, it seemed subdued and even though SAP published a long list of news, there wasn’t technology or product news that particularly stood out. And the ho-hum online content felt like a “hybrid event done, boss” checkmark.

It was good to hear an acknowledgement that partnerships are important for SAP and I’d love to hear more about the next steps. Especially for the partners that are somewhere between The Big 4 and an edgy startup (for which SAP has yet another program). Also ASUG Annual conference was co-located with Sapphire, as usual, but it was barely even mentioned anywhere. Not sure what’s up with that.

The eye-rolling moments for me were the appearances of the “mobile executive dashboard” and AR/VR devices. The dashboard was interesting when it was first presented at TechEd around 2015, in full HANA glory. Now it’s also on mobile. OK, cool. And I think we should face the reality that people just don’t like wearing any AR/VR things for work. Let’s deliver solutions for devices that people actually use (laptops, cough).

Overall, if you took all the buzzwords and marketing speak from SAP Sapphire, it would be as short as The Sopranos with all the cursing edited out for broadcast TV. JP

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An Enterprise Nerd Goes To Sapphire

I attended SAP Sapphire 2022 in person in Orlando. As a new SAP Mentor, I got lucky and scored a ticket. It may have been hot and sweaty outside, but it was worth the trip. Here are my unfiltered thoughts:

  • Every day featured a morning keynote presentation. As I get older (and wiser, of course) I find my preference for cut-through-the-BS storytelling growing stronger. Every keynote moment that moved away from a real-life customer story was a moment that risked losing my attention.
  • The second day keynote presentation featured a story about Casey’s reimagining their consumer app experience, and that resonated STRONGLY with me. It also made me hungry, because damn if Casey’s doesn’t actually have some of the best gas station pizza in the world. I’m from Iowa, and every time I go back home I stop at a Casey’s gas station.
  • Sustainability made an appearance in several places. I think turning the business world toward that goal will be one of the most impactful things we can do in enterprise software.
  • The show floor experience was better. There were fewer people present, but the show occupied the same square footage as earlier years, so it was a little easier to breathe.

I heard several people make comments like “I don’t know if it’s just how excited I am to be around people again, but I feel like this is the best Sapphire in years!” – I have to agree. In the past I judged a conference based on the announcements of new tech, ideas, and approaches; under that grading scheme, this Sapphire would have been a bust. But I’m into stories, and connections, and communication now…and under that scheme, this Sapphire was great. PM

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Upskilling on Cloud In One Hour or Less

In our previous stories and conversations about SAP developer learning, two questions came up consistently: what to learn exactly and where to find time?

SAP technologies are going in so many directions, there is so much content, and at the end of the day, developers want to go home too. “Standard” learning recommendations of openSAP courses or developer tutorials are great but can consume hours and days. And telling someone to learn “cloud” is like suggesting learning Math or Physics: cute idea but not exactly helpful because it’s such a broad subject.

When it comes to Cloud, this 13-minute video from Fireship YT channel could be your best time investment. It’s dated 2020 but it’s still valid and offers an excellent explanation of the foundational concepts. If you want to dig in a bit more, then my top choice for general Cloud knowledge is IBM learning. The UI is crisp, articles well-written, and content organization makes sense. 

In SAP world, we need to become familiar with Cloud Application Programming Model (CAP). SAP folks couldn’t keep it short if their life depended on it, so you won’t find great 10-minute videos just yet. The best bet for CAP is this recent 1-hour recording of SAP Community call.

Start with these little investments and expand your learning portfolio if and when you need it.

Composable ERP: Business Heaven and IT Hell

Spend N years working in IT and you will see some things come full circle. Remember how SAP’s major selling point was one integrated system vs. “best-of-breed that didn’t breed”? Well, guess what, best-of-breed is back! And it has a new name: composable ERP.

The idea of composable ERP is that applications from multiple vendors will work together, joined in harmony by a database, platform, UX, and a butt-load of APIs (see the illustration above). This sounds amazing, but anyone who ever integrated enterprise software will tell you this is a utopian ideal for the business and a living nightmare for IT.

Setting aside the whole DB and Cloud subject, all the blocks of this magical ERP will need to communicate with each other. Will platform of choice play nicely with all the players? Will APIs actually do what is expected? Who will connect them? Who will maintain, support, and monitor all those connections and integrations? One article bravely states that “in the cloud, it becomes the vendor’s problem to get all these bits and pieces to run”. Right. As we say in the South, “bless your heart”. When your financial postings don’t work, it will ultimately be your problem.

My family was one of the first cord-cutters, we got tired of paying for cable TV and disconnected it in favor of 2 streaming services. These days, cord-cutting is mainstream. But now to get all the different content, we need to subscribe to a multitude of streaming services, bringing the cost almost to the cable TV levels. And while our family manages this by switching services on and off, in the enterprise world, switching off, say, a sales module for a month is just not the thing. So, before anyone gets sold on the grand promise of The Composable ERP Paradise, ask if this will not become the very problem it’s meant to solve.

This story appeared in Issue 13 of The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter

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Build Your Corporate TikTok With Loom

Sometimes you stumble upon an application and feel like yes, this has exactly the features I’ve been looking for! This was the case for me with Loom, the neat “asynchronous video tool” that can be used to create short videos and share them with coworkers on the fly. For example, instead of typing a long Slack message to your teammate in another time zone, you could simply use Loom to record both camera and screen (or just one of them) and convey your point much faster.

As an experiment, I’ve used Loom to create this short clip showcasing my mad SAP GUI knowledge. This was take number 15 or so and I spent a good amount of time with the app. Here are my findings.

Pros:

  • Loom is stupid easy to use (pick what you want to record and click the big red button).
  • Video editing tools are simple but effective. There is a variety of filters and special effects, as well as a neat drawing tool.
  • Loom can be easily integrated with Slack and other messaging platforms.

Con:

  • When choosing to share just one application, Loom could not correctly pick multiple windows associated with that application. I had to resort to full screen sharing, which weirdly also recorded Loom’s own controls.

Loom “test drive” was fun and I definitely recommend checking it out for your personal and enterprise needs. JP

This story appears in the Issue 11 of The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter.

Total Eclipse of The Heart

Even though I still indulge in an occasional trip to SAP GUI, most of ABAP development these days is happening in other IDEs, such as Eclipse.

Switching to the new IDE can feel like a confused Travolta meme. When we use something for a while, we create our own pathways, workflows, and take time to learn helpful tools and shortcuts. With new IDE, all of those little productivity boosts seem lost. It doesn’t have to be that way.

When moving from SE80 to ABAP Development Tools (ADT) in Eclipse, this FAQ document was very helpful to me. And most recently, I’ve discovered that even more tools, add-ons, gadgets and gizmos are available on Eclipse Marketplace. For example, these clipboard tools can help to keep track of several recently copy-pasted values. This is very helpful when running test with specific key values, for example. And with more general, non-SAP tips from the websites like Eclipse Can Do That you will be using Eclipse like a boss!