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     Seems a lot of new information and "breaking news" has been thrown at us lately in the world of SAP HCM. The big news with SuccessFactors kind of steam rolled right into the HR2012 conference which already had it's own "new and exciting things in the world of HCM for SAP!" to cover even before SuccessFactors. The HR2012 conference, like any before it, overwhelms the attendees with information, some of which they hopefully can retain and take away to mull over and digest later (I call this the "separating the market-speak from the good stuff" time). The news around SuccessFactors is of course very interesting, but I am more interested in what was discussed around self-services and HCM Processes and Forms at least for the near future. From what I have seen as well as reading blogs from others who took time to put down their thoughts after HR2012, we could be looking at a "new and improved" HCM P&F....and that sounds good!!!

      HCM P&F has gained much more notice as of late with the release of EhP5 which included within it the "new" ESS (read as "ESS ported over from Java to Web Dynpro ABAP"). A lot of companies were waiting for this to "overhaul" or upgrade their self-services and as they rolled out the "new" ESS (usually along with MSS and some HRAS), they noticed that a lot of services were available built on HCM P&F. So suddenly, HCM P&F got a lot more attention than in the past (the last "bump" came when OM processes via SAP_PD were made available). I have noticed more and more HCM P&F projects starting up or more often, HCM P&F being referenced as a "needed skill" for other positions like "ESS developer" (it's funny because I see a LOT of HCM P&F related questions being asked in the ESS forums/space on here but HCM P&F is really outside of ESS.....too picky? haha). So now with everyone all excited with the "new" ESS, I (and others) have been asking "what new stuff is coming for HCM P&F?".

     Now of course a lot of this is all speculation at this point, but hey....entire television networks have been built on speculation....CNN, ESPN, Fox News!!! So why can't we have a little fun with this too?

    

     First off, if you poke around documentation for Enhancment Pack 6 (https://websmp203.sap-ag.de/erp-ehp), you will not find much if any information on anything "new" for HCM P&F. I think that is why there has not been much talk until after HR2012. That and the fact that many people are still settling into EhP5 and some are even "new" on EhP4. But like I said, "interesting" news came at of HR2012 and it's aftermath....

   

      Steve Bogner wrote a very good blog about his take on the HR2012 (http://www.insightcp.com/blog/reflections-hr-2012-conference). Part of it that interested me most reads:

 

"Aside from SuccessFactors we learned that Enhancement Package 6 (EhP 6) will bring a lot of various goodies for on-premise SAP HCM clients. The core-HR transactions are getting new HTML5 front-ends - so PA30, PA40, PP01 and so on get easier and more social. Another benefit of that HTML5 front-end work is that we will be able to implement HCM Processes and Forms functionality without Adobe - good news for those clients who don’t have or want Adobe licenses. This new functionality will sit on top of EhP 6, which is in ramp-up and will be generally available later this year. SAP also expects to release new functionality, over and above EhP’s, via various transports and notes as it becomes ready. They are really trying to position themselves to deliver new functionality more often, similar to their partners at SuccessFactors."

 

     A few things got my attention here....

1. core-HR transactions getting new HTML5 front ends? This has to be inreference to SAPUI5 (http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/index?rid=/webcontent/uuid/20a34ae7-762d-2f10-c994-db2e898d5f70 ). Personally, I don't think it's quite ready for "prime time". HTML5 itself is still being "cooked". Everyone is running to it, but there are still a lot of "holes" in it in my opinion. However, it will get there so best to start "boning up" on HTML5 now.

 

2. The statement "another benefit of that HTML5 front-end work is that we will be able to implement HCM Processes and Forms functionality without Adobe"...I think is misleading..but not entirely untrue. I have seen no where any mention of HCM P&F having a HTML5 front-end. However, I have seen mention of SAP adding the option to use custom Webdynpro ABAP as a replacement for Adobe Interactive Forms (which many companies already provide 3rd party products to do), but this is within the existing Webdynpro ABAP "Start Application" that is the "engine" for HCM P&F. Furthermore, SAP will make the "form" piece of HCM P&F open to any number of other UI technologies as well. Therefore, I guess you could say that SAP will not actually be providing a HTML5 front-end for HCM P&F, but they will be putting in "hooks" to allow you to make a HTML5 front-end if you so desire.

 

3. "new functionality will sit on top of EhP6"....catch that? He did not say it is part of EhP6. This is in reference to SAP's new-new-newest release strategy ("In-Advance Shipments")  for updates and rolling out new features and functionality(a very good ASUG article about this->http://www.asugnews.com/2011/10/11/sap-revamps-enhancement-package-strategy-extends-maintenance/ ). Gone are the days of the "old" Enhancement Packs. Geeez! Just as I was getting clients comfortable with enhancement packs as they are, now they go and change them. (haha)

 

    Now the most interesting part of this to me was not so much the blog (it was nice as I said), but the comments about the blog from other people. Most notable was this one:

 

"Steve,

Thanks for recognizing our new solutions.  As the SAP Solution Owner responsible for on-premise, employee and organization administration, HCM Processes and Forms I would like to clarify some points.  The new solution planned for shipment this year is browser based and can be run in the portal or NetWeaver Business Client (NWBC).

The new landing/start page for the HR Professional (Employee/Personnel and Organization Administrator) is based on HTML5.  Employee master data (a.k.a., infotypes) and organization maintenance is based on WebDynpro ABAP that also employs an attractive new theme.  It is also true that we plan to offer an additional interface for HCM Processes and Forms (HCM P&F).

The additional P&F interface will be based on WD ABAP where the design time utilizes SAP Floorplan Manager (FPM).  P&F is also an enabling technology for multi-infotype updates.  We are also exposing P&F services to make it easier for customers and partners to plug in other interface technologies.  All of the above are in addition to and not replacements of existing solutions.

We plan to ship this on top of Enhancement Package 6 using a new methodology that will support more frequent deliveries.  The shipment method will be in the form of a Support Package, modeled as a new type of add-on, and we plan to refer to this shipment type as “In-advance” shipments.  Subsequent Enhancement Packages would then consolidate these new solutions.

Robert Moeller

Solution Owner, HR Line of Business Solutions

SAP Labs, LLC"

 

      If this truly is Robert Moeller (one can never be sure on the internetz! haha), then this is even more interesting! So a few things on this....

1. "attractive new theme"? I am guessing this is referene to the Corbu theme(New Visual Identity - Corbu Theme for ESS/MSS)

2. "plan to offer and additional interface to HCM Processes and Forms" and he goes on to mention that "an" (ie. one) being the WebDynpro ABAP option.

3. he does mention that HCM P&F will have "hooks" for other's UI technologies to "plug in" to the services of HCM P&F.....sweet!

4. he mentions that this is "on top of Enhancement Package 6"......not part of Enhancement Pack 6! Again, this is in reference to SAP's new update strategy with "In-Advance Shipments".

 

 

   Another blog by Courtney Bjorlin backed all of this up as well (http://www.asugnews.com/2012/03/22/major-usability-enhancements-coming-to-sap-hcm-core/ ). Again, Courtney mentions...

 

"These include a brand-new landing page based on HTML-5, Infotype maintenance based on Web Dynpro, more integrations with collaboration technologies, and an additional interface for HCM processes and forms based on Web Dynpro ABAP. The latter is capable of leveraging configuration work that went into Adobe processes customers have built."

 

I am guessing that "leveraging configuration" means you will keep your HCM P&F config (ie. work done in HRASR_DT) but you will replace your "form" with a WDA "view" (or "views"?).

Also, once again, there is mention of a paraphrased statement by Robert Moeller...

 

"In turn, many users now license Adobe Interactive Forms separately. SAP plans to offer an additional interface for HCM Processes and Forms based on its native Web Dynpro ABAP with “hooks” for other technologies as well, Moeller says."

 

That makes 2 times now that this has been said!!! (for those keeping up at home haha). From reading Courtney's blog, the focus is still heavily on PA and OM related processes, however, no mention of new functionality (such as out-of-the-box OM functionality past the current jobs, positions and org units options).

    

     So time to speculate further.....

     Webdynpro ABAP as an option now, eh? Nice! I have been coding a LOT of WDA applications over the last few years, so this is particularly good news. It's also kind of sad though because I have done a lot of Adobe Interactive Form development work as well....and learned a LOT of neat little tricks for it to keep in my arsenal as well! I will say that each has it's advantages and disadvantages. For Adobe forms, the main disadvantage is of course the licensing cost (which I blogged about long ago with HCM Processes & Forms: Why HCM P&F often fails before it even has a chance). I like how SAP's approach seems to be "well, we have a company full of geniuses that built the world's greatest business software but we can't figure out a suitable licensing model for Adobe forms, so screw it....here's a Web Dynpro ABAP option." hahahahaha. I will say that one main advantage I do like with Adobe forms is the ability to put in client side Javascript. It's very nice. WDA doesn't have a similar option. For WDA, we also do not have the control over layout, fonts, colors, etc. (branding) like we do with Adobe forms. However.....it is all OPEN now....so heck....Adobe.....WDA....HTML5....whatever you like....we will now have that option! Very nice news!

     It will be interesting to see what happens now with all those companies that were offering 3rd party products to replace Adobe Forms with WDA in HCM P&F before though. I am guessing that many will change their stance from offering this as a "product" to offering it more as a configuration "accelerator" or "rapid development" toolset. (haha)

     While adding this ability to HCM P&F on the front-end, I very much hope they are doing a LOT of work on the backend...refactoring and enhancing the HCM P&F "engine"/framework to be more efficient. A few things over the years have "bugged" me and I think need work:

  • how the "initialize" event is handled (ie. grouping up all fields for all services and going through "initialize" methods even if not used or needed!)
  • "user events".....do not get me started on how lazy and poorly I think this was implemented (haha).
  • handling of multi-form scenarios and reading of process object data
  • "rules".....nice but need work
  • and more...

 

     The last big thing to note in this, however, is all of this depends upon being on enhancment pack 6 first before you can then take advantage of this new content in the form of additional installs on top of EhP6. Soooo.....we gotta get the horses before the cart. EhP6 is still a little ways off (unless you are a lucky ramp-up customer), and I am sure as is the case with much news from SAP, all of this is "subject to change without notice". (haha)

 

     Interesting times are indeed ahead for HCM P&F though.....time to get going on my HTML5 training and keep up my WDA skills! I am sure there are going to be many more blogs to come out of this in the near future. You keep reading them, and I will keep churning them out. (haha) Till next time....let your own speculation commence!!!

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