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bernhard.escherich

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It is very easy not to forget the New year’s resolution. How? As Kevin Cassidy from SAP has demonstrated in the last 48 hours on Facebook a public survey can be a good starting point.

New Year's resolution: Quit smoking and debugging have already discussed whether quit smoking and stop debugging could be good New Year’s resolution.

I tried to complement these discussions by writting down some proposals for New Year’s resolutions for SAP consultants. They are based on my experiences during reviews and lessons learnt sessions which I supported during the year. If these proposals can influence your New Year’s I would be very satisfied. Do not get me wrong: Many of the SAP consultants I know are doing an excellent job. But sometimes the start of a new year is a very good point to question own habits.

Therefore here are my proposals:

  1. Listen:  I will listen actively and limit my speech time in discussions with customers especially in requirement gathering sessions. Moreover I will not enter a room with a fixed solution in my mind.
  2. Limit your working hour’s onsite: I will limit my working hours outside emergency situations to 8 hours as I will not be productive after that any more. I will clearly communicate this ratio to my customers.
  3. Say no: I will reject activities which I do not see as a good option for the customers even though that can mean that I lose some work in the first instance.
  4. Regular brain work out on SCN: I will finish my working hours three times a week with a brain work out on SCN which means reading content on SCN not directly related to my project activities.
  5. Offer new perspectives: I will offer my customers new perspectives in the new areas of Mobility, In-memory-computing and the cloud even when it is outside my project activities.
  6. Document: I will not finish any activity before I have documented it so that my customers can work with it without my support.

Perhaps you think that these are unrealistic New Year’s resolutions and that you cannot afford them. I do not think so. My deep conviction is that these are practices which are mandatory for a successful SAP consultant in 2012 and beyond. The 1st of January is a good day to begin.

There is a very lively discussion going on at the Harvard Business Review site about the importance of high performer for the success of companies and projects. In short Bill Taylor, the cofounder of Fast Company and author of several books argues that currently especially in the tech area great people are overrated. He criticizes the statement that a great developer is 100 times more productive than an average on. His arguments have received heavy criticism following the initial posting.

But what is in for the SAP community? Are single superstars decisive for the success of your SAP implementation or is team of pretty good people the better choice so that you do not need to spend a lot of time as a customer to find the exceptional one and only developer/ architect/ functional expert for your implementation?

During my career and my projects I was lucky to work with many people I admire in the SAP community coming from customers, partners and also SAP. Although it is difficult to decide what was the reason for the success of the projects I realized that no single answer fits to all the projects which will do them justice.

Therefore I think that we can divide the projects in two groups: standard implementations and projects with larger development proportions.

In short I would always prefer a well rounded team with pretty good people to one Superstar trying to cover all the aspects of a standard implementation project. If I take the example of a SAP HR project than we will need a group of pretty good experts for all the single pieces: HR administration, payroll, organizational management et.al. There is a lot of work to do and the precondition is that all these SAP experts have a good level of knowledge. Do not get me wrong: I do not say that these implementations can bear the burden of consultants with insufficient knowledge. I am just favoring the well rounded team above the brilliant superstar in the middle of the implementation with all people concentrating on his work in this case.

The case of a project mainly driven by the needs to develop new solutions for processes outside the existing standard processes is different. Here I really appreciated the single outstanding experts who developed the design and the big picture for the solution and the development or who always found a solution for the difficult development questions to help their team mates. In my experiences these outstanding experts were able to guide the way for their team. But again, also here they needed a pretty good team otherwise they will fail with their design.

The analysis of the football club FC Barcelona which Bill Taylor mentioned in his article gives a very good answer to the question which one to prefer. The success of Barca is based upon a great team spirit, a year-long education in their own academy and … exceptional individuals like Lionel Messi. Players like Messi are able to decide a tough match for their team. But they will only be able to do that with a good team around.

But the example of the FC Barcelona clearly demonstrated another management lesson: If there are many exceptional players in one team playing football or implementing SAP it really makes fun to observe their work.

Since I entered the world of HR software more than a decade ago I often noticed a desire from HR executives to be treated by their colleagues as equal business partner. Whether or not these feelings were true during the last years one thing have become very clear: HR is very high on the priority list of the boards and it will stay there due to the aging workforce in many countries.

The desired attention level impacts more and more SAP HR projects. They are becoming tougher as more and more KPIs are becoming part of the mission statements for HR projects.

Let me explain this with an example from healthcare customers. Healthcare HR departments are under heavy pressure. They need to become very efficient on the one hand due to the overall cost pressure on healthcare institutions. On the other hand they are facing a severe shortage of qualified doctors, nurses and other medical specialists.

Therefore we have seen an increasing number of SAP HR projects in the last years in order to replace the outdated and diverse HR systems within many hospitals and consolidating them in one HR system. But now as the talent shortage is becoming stronger several projects are dominated by one KPI: Time to fill a vacant position for an expert. This KPI dominates the whole project as without the experts mentioned above the hospitals simply cannot work. The quality of the HR work is therefore directly related to the business success of the healthcare organization.

If you have a look at recruitment processes in hospitals which are mainly paper-based and are often lacking clearly defined you can imagine which room for improvement the project teams can find here. You can find numerous examples where a qualified doctor send her CV to a hospital and get an answer three weeks later. It requires no rocket science that the ability of an organization to process a CV very quickly can become a competitive advantage.

But the KPI mentioned above requires a new thinking of the project team. Although HR projects are used to KPIs like time and budget like any other project this increased KPI driven approach is a change for them.

I have discussed this development with SAP HR experts from other industries and they confirmed my impression that this trend has become stronger in the last two years. Examples include the connection between training courses for sales representatives for new products and their sales figures afterwards or the connection between trainings for service technicians and customer complaints.

But in all the discussions all the SAP HR experts agreed with my initial statements: HR is becoming more and more important which means tougher but also even more satisfying projects

There are a lot of discussions about privacy and data protection these days due to all the data leaks and breaches we can read about in the newspaper. HR data is especially sensitive in this respect and needs to be protected. The SAP HR system offers very good authorization tools (structural authorization, context sensitive authorizations).

But one things astonishes me again and again: When we are implementing a new SAP HR system there are always numerous interfaces existing between the old HR-system(s) and many other systems. And guess what: The funny thing is that at the beginning we are always discussing about the data protection for the HR system but nobody cares how the HR data you transfer to the other system is protected. Do not get me wrong: I do not want to implicate that the data is per se more secure when it is stored  on the SAP HR system and I know that HR data is needed in other systems for business purposes – e.g. for production planning. But nobody can release you from your liability as the owner of the HR data. And nobody will care when HR data will get lost from one system outside SAP HR whether you have done everything right. The reputation of the HR department will be damaged.

Therefore I always follow some simple steps in order to ensure an organization-wide protection of the HR data:

  1. New approach: I know that you are always under pressure to implement a HR solution as quickly as possible and that you will see these points below as an unnecessary burden. But just think of the cost for your company when a headhunter can get HR data out of a partner system and can hire your top employees. Therefore the first step must be that you see this area as part of your responsibilities. 
  2. Create a data map: Before discussing all the technical details for the outbound interfaces from the SAP HR system create a map with all the partner systems and with all the data which is distributed.
  3. Questions:  Discuss for every interface whether the distribution of the data is really necessary and whether it is not possible to exclude some data elements from the distribution.
  4. Service Level Agreements: Include a security chapter within the service level agreement. There should be a description included in the service level agreement which describes how the HR data is protected within the partner system and who can access this data.
  5. Approval: Present your findings and results in the project steering committee in order to be sure that all decision makers are aware of these challenges and clearly articulate the challenges if you were not successful with step 3-4 for a partner system.
  6. Hub concept: It is quite obvious that from a technical point of view you can support this approach by establishing the SAP PI as single point of distribution to the other systems so that you have one place to monitor all the data exchanges.

ERP EhP5 marks a turning point for the architecture of SAP Employee Self Services. With the shift of the architecture of the ESS scenarios from WebDynpro Java to WebDynpro SAP architects need to reevaluate the architecture of their organization in this area.

The challenge

Up to EhP5 the architecture of SAP ESS was quite clear. With most of the ESS services on WD Java a SAP Enterprise Portal was needed. This has changed now. With the new ESS you can implement them based on the Netweaver Business Client (NWBC) even without the SAP Portal.

In a nutshell you get three options for the future use of ESS:

1.      WD ABAP-based ESS with NWBC without SAP NetWeaver Portal

2.      WD ABAP-based ESS with SAP NetWeaver Portal

3.      WS Java-based ESS with SAP NetWeaver Portal

A lot of information is already provided by some notes and by the documentation which also lists up all the improved features of the WD ABAP-based ESS:

Note 1450179 ESS Based on Web Dynpro ABAP available as of EhP5

Note 1509139 ESS EHP5 solution Based on Web Dynpro JAVA available

EhP 5 ESS documentation

As a lot of SAP customers plan to implement EhP5 shortly or are just starting their ESS projects and are therefore defining their future SAP HR architecture.

The two decisive questions for your HR architecture:

Which version of ESS should be used in the future (WD ABAP vs. WD Java)?

Should we use SAP NetWeaver Portal for ESS or the NWBC?

 

I have tried to facilitate your work by listing up some of the decisive points:

1.      Evaluation of the as-is situation

  • Existing HR IT Architecture (if such architecture already exists it will contain a lot of the points listed below)
  • Existing SAP HR systems within your organization
  • Existing ESS implementations within your organization
  • Implementations based on releases prior to ERP 2004 (based on ITS technology)
  • Custom developed ESS scenarios
  • Overall portal strategy of your organization

2.     Determination of future requirements

  • List of standard ESS-scenarios which should be used in the future
  • List of requirements for additional ESS-scenarios:
  •       Scenarios which can be realized by using HCM processes and forms
  •       Scenarios which needs to be developed

3.      Designing your future ESS architecture(s)

  • Decision whether one unified ESS approach will be feasible throughout your landscape

The decision which ESS technology should be used within your organization will be made in this phase. The clear recommendation from an SAP’s HR architect point of view is to use the ESS WD ABAP whenever possible. The main reason which I could see against it is a very huge implementation of custom developed ESS scenarios based on WD Java. But even then it must be clear that future ESS functionalities will be based on WD ABAP.

Whether you use the SAP NetWeaver Portal or not depend on your strategic portal decisions and also needs to consider which other SAP scenarios you want to use in your portal implementation.

4.      Designing your future HR architecture

A lot of strategic HR initiatives mean a lot of interesting activities for SAP architects. In some cases these activities create a very strong need for a HR architecture. In the past a clear architecture document for a SAP HR system was not always high on the priority list and substituted by a list of interfaces and SLA for the connected systems. With more and more customers adopting SAP ESS, SAP eRecruiting and SAP Enterprise Learning a clear document with architecture guidelines could save your organization a lot of redundant efforts which would be created otherwise.

A key question which needs to be solved in all HR projects which offer self service functionalities for learning, recruiting or administrative functionalities like leave requests is: How can we ensure a high and quick adoption rate for these new applications within the workforce of our organization?

A lot of good approaches have been established in the past including newsletters, town-hall meetings, demo booths in canteens just to name a few.

But in a recent blog Steve Boese brought up an interesting idea. Based on an example from a red button on new remote controls for TVs  with a mark: Do not click this (which will animate a lot of people to click this on button which will connect them to a streaming service) the author made the point that HR people need to make their approach unique for the really important tools and messages so that it is really heard even by using unusual ways.

This blog was thought provoking for me and it just made me think how to use this in SAP projects. I remembered the time when Google Wave was invitation only and how desperate people (including me) tried to get such an invitation just because it was limited.

Let us just take the example of an ESS project with such an approach:

Instead of asking people to test this application the project team can add an ESS area on the homepage with a clear mark on it: Do not use this link – by invitation only. I am quite sure that a lot of people will complain that they are not invited and that the ESS project will be discussed during the next lunch breaks very often. Yes, I know that this could cause problems with the workers’ councils so as always it is very recommendable to speak with them about this approach before.

Instead of restricting the access to your application you can also go underground with your project. In case the project does not set up an official communication about the project before tangible results (a running application) is existing you can achieve similar results as in the first example. A lot of rumors will occur when several people spend their time on a project without disclosing what they do. If you were able to have a very short implementation time and come up with an up and running application at one point of time suddenly you can transform the rumors into curiosity to use it.

The third approach is the most difficult for HR people but it will be needed in the future. With the digital natives entering the workforce they are using their new gadgets even at work and are building up new mash ups which they will use not only at home but also at at work to fulfill their tasks. This will demand a good reaction from HR professionals and the SAP experts within your company as well. The users clearly express the need for a new tool with their application. So the HR department of the future should not only send out unique messages but also need to listen to these messages which the employees give them. Especially in the area of mobile learning a lot needs to be done as it was outlined in an Thought leader interview  – Prashanth Padmanabhan plans to revolutionize SAP’s learning and talent management.

Every day we can read a newspaper article about the soaring costs for healthcare and the need for changes in this area. A lot of sometimes big projects are under way in order to provide the necessary changes with a modern IT.

But sometimes even smaller projects can make the difference and support the actors in healthcare: patients, general practitioners, hospitals with its doctors and nurses and other medical service suppliers. I realized that recently during some discussions with customers about information sharing between small physicians’ practices and hospitals. Hospitals all over the world are very interested to strengthen the relationship with physician practices as they are referring their patients to them. The physicians are very interested to get the result of the treatments and the clinical documentation as quick as possible ideally in real time in order to enable a collective decision making between the physician and the doctor in the hospital about the diagnosis and future treatments. Today the reality is very often paper-based after the dismissal of the patient from the hospital.

SAP StreamWork can close this gap without the need for huge IT infrastructure investments. The small physician practices have very often limited IT equipment and a small budget for it. The software for the administration of practice very often consists just of a PC program and an Internet connection to transfer data e.g. to the health insurance. Moreover there is no dedicated IT staff existing in many cases.

Therefore a service offering from the hospital to the physician that they can access the clinical documentation via SAP StreamWork can have a huge effect on the relationship between the hospital and the physician.

As the physician can be invited by her colleague from the hospital via the StreamWork feature the long discussions in similar projects how to enable the collaboration can be cut short.

With the growing support for mobile devices by SAP StreamWork there are also other very interesting use cases existing within the hospital. Doctors from other wards or special departments (e.g. radiology) can quickly have a discussion within SAP StreamWork about lab results and other diagnosis in order to come to a collective decision about the future treatment of the patient.

As always in healthcare data security concerns has to be taken into consideration. But the Enterprise Edition of SAP StreamWork with its security features is a very good starting point for these use cases.

As one of the key challenges in healthcare is quick and instant sharing of information and a facilitation of quick collective decisions I am quite sure that other usage areas will occur in the future including more actors in healthcare like health insurances and health maintenance organization just to name two.

Over  the last weeks I realized that SAP StreamWork has a lot more potential than I detected at the beginning. With the new Enterprise Edition of SAP Streamwork a whole new area is opened for this collaborative decision making solution: HR.

SAP StreamWork enhances the possibility for HR processes as it covers all the social interactions which are at the core of HR processes and bridges the gap with the more transactional view of the SAP HR system.

Let us first have a look at one process which is relevant for nearly all of us: the annual HR performance review. Many of us are facing the same challenge in the first quarter either as manager or as an employee: For the annual performance review process forms have to be filled with assessments and self assessments. Even if a mid-year review is established within the organization this process lacks a lot of input in terms of participants ( in most cases it is the employee and her manager, some additional appraiser at best) and timeliness (an outstanding effort at the beginning of the year is sometimes difficult to remember). Therefore we have a gap between the social interactions which a real performance review requires and the need to put in an assessment in order to process the transactional data (e.g. pay for performance bonus).

SAP StreamWork offer the ability to make this process a permanent and social one. The employee can invite colleagues and even customers to give feedback on SAP StreamWork at any time they want throughout the year to his activities so that the appraiser gets a better picture and she herself gets also more accurate input for her self assessment.

On the other side it can also be an appraiser-driven process if she as a manager invites coworkers of her employee or customers as well to give feedback throughout the year while working together.

As always this tool does not solve the challenge to motivate people to contribute to this process. But if it is established throughout the organization it transforms the former formalized HR process based on forms in a social one as the interaction is no longer limited to a certain period of time.

Another field where SAP StreamWork can add a lot of value to HR is the area of talent requisition. Assessing the quality of an application requires input from a lot of people as it is a collaborative decision process at its core.

The first reports on Google Apps Marketplace for SAP StreamWork clearly demonstrate that the users are quickly embracing the potential of SAP StreamWork in the HR area.

One of my key tasks as a strategic architect is to find mid-term and long-term trends for the industries I am responsible for. This year SAP HR is one of the cornerstones of my attention as 2010 has been an exciting year for SAP HR all over the world. With the huge economic recovery and the clear signs of the demographic shift which includes a short supply of skilled workers in many countries around the world HR is now at the center of many discussions in the corporate world.

Therefore I was keen waiting for some HR predictions for 2011 and read the predictions from the business of HR and the HR bartender with great interest.

Reading these and other blogs I realized that I can share some predictions on my own based on a lot of discussions with customer and colleagues, reading a lot of studies etc. As always these predictions are my own and do not represent SAP’s official view.

More KPI driven SAP HR projects

More and more SAP HR projects will have clear KPIs as specifications for the project. This is a clear result of the increased importance of SAP HR in many organizations due to the developments described above. The time to fill a vacant position (e.g. a surgeon, an engineer) is a prominent example of these KPIs. This tendency offers very good possibilities for SAP HR experts to develop new skills in the area of HR analytics.

Strong growth for Talent Management projects will stay

Attracting people with the right qualifications and retaining them has become a major task for many HR departments. Therefore the strong number of projects for SAP eRecruiting and also SAP Enterprise Learning will even increase in 2011.

Organizational management and other redesign project activities will grow

With the need to implement Talent Management solutions many responsible for SAP HR systems realize that they need to redesign some of their SAP HR functions, especially the organizational management. As the primary focus often was at payroll and time management in the past SAP OM was not used to the full extent and now has to be revisited in order to lay the foundation for the new applications. The first redesign activities have been started in 2011 but we will see much more in 2011.

Second Wave of ESS/ MSS projects will stay

After the first wave of ESS/ MSS we have seen a huge coverage of ESS/ MSS projects in the last two years. This trend will remain intact in 2011.

HCM processes and forms will take off

Many customers who have already implemented ESS/ MSS-scenarios (especially the leave request scenario) are now willing to go one step further and implement a broader approach based on HCM processes and forms. The huge demand for ESS-/ MSS-consultants will remain and will offer good opportunities for payroll consultants to develop their skills.

Quick adoption of SWP based on HANA

With the strong emphasis of HR analytics we will see a wave of quick adopters of the strategic workforce planning based on SAP HANA in 2011. SAP experts who offer a clear process model for redesigning the workforce planning processes will have a great advantage in the market in 2011 and beyond.

Huge growth of HR for healthcare projects will remain intact

I have stated this in former blogs: HR for healthcare is a very hot area for SAP HR experts as the need for qualified workers (physicians, surgeons, nurses) and a hot competition about these experts is driving many SAP HR projects. This trend will remain intact in 2011 and beyond.

Mobile HR scenarios will be created beyond the scope of existing ESS-/ MSS-scenarios

With the new possibilities of the Sybase platform a lot of innovations will be created in 2011 in the area of mobile scenarios for SAP HR. If the adoption pattern for the mobile scenarios as a whole will be valid for the SAP HR scenarios as well the new scenarios will not be just a repetition of the traditional ESS-/ MSS-scenarios on mobile scenarios. Rather new scenarios will emerge with a strong focus on mobile learning.

Many SAP HR installations will enter the area of EH&S

As the number of older employees is growing within many organizations occupational health management is becoming more and more important in order to keep their fitness. Therefore many SAP HR projects were already looking at the SAP EH&S solution in 2011 in this area. This trend will become stronger in 2011 and beyond and we will see a lot of projects in this area.

 

A prediction can always be just a snapshot and there are lot of aspects which could have been mentioned alternatively. But now I am waiting and observing in order to see how many of my predictions will become true. Just wait for the end of 2011…

 Real innovations solve business needs

For me the real interesting technology innovations are the ones by which we can solve business needs. In the last months you can observe a real good example in the higher education industry: SAP Netweaver Identity Management.
It is interesting that these projects are mainly driven by the IT departments but the areas concerned with a better service for students and teachers. The FU Berlin just recently presented very interesting insights in his IDM implementation at different customer events.

Fierce competition in higher education requires better services

Universities and other institutions in the education sector know that they are in a fierce competition for the best students, the best professors, and not least financial resources.
Most of their customers (teachers, students) are very demanding and they are using the latest IT at home (digital natives). Just think of universities beginning to give each new student an iPad for free. So it is not acceptable for these students to fill in five or more different paper applications for the various IT systems of a university (network access, email, Student Lifecycle Management System, Library System, Faculty leave system). Rather, they expect their access ready to work up from the first minute this on the campus already.

Identity management as a strong backbone


The slide below describes the process by which universities can achieve this goal:  image"

The entire process of applying for a university and the enrollment is on the Student Lifecycle Management system. These are precisely the data that are needed to create a user for the students. Thus, the data to the central identity management system, distributed and there created an identity for the student. As far as possible, the necessary technical roles are assigned, for example, a user of the library or a user for the computer systems in the data center, depending on the field.
The important thing is that unlike many companies, the individual faculties very many rights regarding your IT strategy and the selection of their systems (freedom of research and teaching). So does the architecture also includes a faculty level, where either Directory Services or separate instances of identity management systems implemented. While this supposedly leads to an increased expense, the gain by a high level of acceptance and avoiding political conflict is very high.

What is true for the SLCM can also be done for the employees from the HR system.

At each university there are a lot of visiting scholars who also need a very good service. Up to now also these processes need to be started via paper formulas. Here the self service components of the IDM system facilitate the whole process. The visiting scholar applies for the access to the university systems by herself. In order to create the identity an approval by the responsible professor is needed and is triggered via the connecting workflow processes.

The first wave of universities  is already live or starting their implementations. But its still a very huge field with a lot of opportunities. I am quite sure that the release of EhP5 will even accelerate the growth in this area with enhanced functionalities. But this will be covered in other blogs.

If you are at the SAPPHIRE now in Frankfurt I will be happy to discuss this topic in more detail and share our experiences.

„What will be the hot but sometimes overlooked SAP skills in 2010? " A former colleague who is now working at a system integrator asked me this question when we both meet at the airport in Düsseldorf on our way home for the holiday season. As my mind was more concentrated on the presents I had to buy I promised to share my thoughts in a blog with him and other members of the SCN community in the New Year. So here we go:

HR for public sector: There has been a huge demand for SAP HR experts for the public sector in 2009 and it is sure that this trend will continue in 2010 and beyond. This offers a great opportunity for HR experts from other industries. As always they will need to go through some learning phase with even lower rates as they are used to. But the public sector will offer numerous huge HR projects in the next years. The need to recruit new employees in a much tighter workforce in the future in many countries around the world will accelerate the trend we can see at the moment even more.

HR for healthcare: Healthcare will have an even greater need for HR practices and new systems. Even in the crisis hospitals could not find enough qualified doctors, nurses and other qualified staff. Although the projects will in most cases be smaller than in the public sector (as the hospitals apart from hospital chains are not so big) the huge number of projects will offer you a very good perspective for the years to come.

DFPS: I already There is one solution which every BPX must implement in his career about SAP's solution for defense forces and public security organizations some time ago. What I said then will remain true in 2010. The demand is high and even increasing due to many new projects. And the good news is: Most SAP experts have already a strong foundation they can build upon. As DFPS integrates all ERP areas your former project experiences offer a good starting point. Especially logistic experts or consultants who have worked in the high tech industry before could find a very promising new area here. Together with two colleagues I will support new starters in DFPS with a book about DFPS which will be published in the first half of 2010.

SAP Interactive forms by Adobe: I wonder again and again why Interactive forms are not already a hot topic for many SAP experts out there. The demand from the customer side is there. Even if you are not a technical oriented person this is a unique opportunity. The right design of the process flow with the forms and even the design of them are as important as the technical part. I have tried to summarize some important points in Damaging your SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe project effectively some time ago.

SAP Compliant Identity Management (=Identity management + GRC): Security was named as top priority for decision maker in all prediction lists for 2010. Therefore it is for sure that the increase of projects and the demand for skilled experts in this area will remain. 

Industry specific SAP CRM: CRM is becoming more and more important for industries like healthcare and public sector. Although it seems perhaps a bit unlikely for outsiders the growing competition between hospitals makes patient referral management one of the top growth areas in 2010 and beyond. In the public sector not only citizen management projects are based on CRM. With the new solution Cool Innovation with CRM 7.0: Sneak Preview Investigative Case Management CRM experts can find a lot of projects in the area of public security. As public authorities will even increase their investment in these areas it is a top growth area. Therefore CRM experts who are willing to expand their knowledge will find numerous projects in 2010 in these industries.

Solution architecture skills: The trend is very stable. SAP solution architects who combine a deep process expertise with a strong technical background will face a strong demand of their skills as we have seen in the last years.

I think you have noticed that I have focused on the industries I work on. I am quite sure that other industries offer overlooked opportunities as well. And as always: These predictions are my personal ones and do not represent any SAP statement.

Swine flu continues to remain as a threat. I have Swine flu, pandemic preparedness and SAP before to provide information how SAP solutions can help to answer this crisis.

SAP TV just recently publishes a report about a customer example where patient data is analyzed in order to detect patterns very quickly and to react very fast.

A new approach for best practices!

Reading books at the beach during the  holidays can help to find new perspectives. "Lean brain management" from Gunter Dueck from IBM was such a book for me. Therefore I changed my blog from tips and tricks for a successful SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe project to the new title. I hope you will have fun and hopefully learn from it how to avoid these mistakes:

Make a 1:1 conversion of all paper forms:

Do not try to analyze the paper forms. Insttead make a 1:1 transition of all the paper forms to the Adobe Interactive Forms. In many project teams have successfully reduced the number of paper forms by analyzing them and found the common denominator for all these forms. Moreover they designed master formulas at the design time which combines fields from different forms in one form out of which the forms for the users are created at run-time. Avoid this approach as it can speed up your project.

Do not differentiate between online- and offline-forms

A good way to damage your performance is the use of offline-scenarios for online-use. As the forms for offline-scenarios are much bigger normally (due to the need to avoid any check with the backend-system) they could have a very good effect to damage your online performance.

Avoid any guidelines for the layout

Ongoing and fierce discussions about the layout of the forms can make your projects nearly unmanageable. Great! That's exactly what you need. Therefore avoid any guidelines and be open for discussions at any time especially in steering committees sessions where you can discuss about buttons and colours in details.

Make your forms as big as possible:

Adobe has given some recommendations how big your forms should be for a good performance. As you strive for a huge damage you should make your forms as big as possible. The minimum requirements are 10-12 pages, just have a look at the guidelines. But the more pages your forms comprises the better in order to damage your performance.

Avoid usability:

Avoid any help on formulas so that the user is confused. Formulas with very large drop down boxes and many scrollbars can also be very helpful to damage user acceptance.  Therefore always use the original paper size format.

Avoid any frameworks, build everything from scratch:

SAP ECC provides you with two frameworks: ISR (Internal Service Request) and HCM Processes&Forms on top of SAP Interactive forms by Adobe. Chris Solomon has written a lot of blogs how to use HCM processes & forms in your project to speed up the implementation of processes. This is exactly what you need to avoid in order to damage your project. Build everything from scratch.

Ensure a low Support level for SAP Netweaver 7.0:

Make sure that you do not use the newest support level for SAP Netweaver 7.0. The Adobe-SAP integration has been enhanced with the support packages. By avoiding the newest one you could gain problems and trouble which helps you to achieve your aim.

 

And now: Do the opposite and use all the benefits from the SAP Interactive forms by Adobe technology and enjoy your project. Besides if you want to have a very good help for your SAP Interactive forms by Adobe project read the excellent book from SAP Press.

Hosted conversations as a new concept

Google presented a new product on its developer conference: Google Wave. This video gives you  a very good overview of the new functionalities.

In short: The different tools which we use today for eMail, Instant Messaging and Wikis will be combined in one tool. You can add people to a conversation dynamically and you can reply not to a whole conversation but add your comments directly at the appropriate piece of the message. Moreover the tool has a replay functions. Therefore people who are added later on to a conversation could see how the conversation has evolved over time with all its dynamics. In order to protect data conversations or part of the conversations could be marked as private.

But even more important: Google offers a rich set of APIs up from the beginning and promised to open the source code for developers as they would see a rich set of solutions. Furthermore ist should not onnly offer a solution with all the data on Google´s servers with all the security concerns discussions for companies involved but also the ability to deploy the solution within a company network with its own servers.  

I was really excited by the new opportunities which this tool could introduce to my personal workstyle and I am keen to test in out in order to see whether it gets through the reality check..

The SAP perspective

It is very likely that Google´s Wave will be a huge success with many users. Therefore a Google Wave/ SAP solution could complement the already existing combinations with the Microsoft (Duett) and the IBM world (Alloy). For the SAP world this solution offers different usage scenarios:

1. Google Wave as additional interface for collaborative scenarios, e.g. Recruiting

Collaborative scenarios like the recruiting of new employees include a lot of conversations between different actors (requesting manager, recruiter, HR department, works council et.al). With this integration between Google Wave and eRecruiting all these conversations and even the interaction with the applicant could be handled from the same place all the people involved use for their normal communication anyway. In order to use the benefits of such a scenario other use cases are required.

2. Google Wave as authorization management interface

Adding new people to a wave (e.g. recuiting of a new employee) requires SAP HR authorizations. Therefore a functionality is needed which triggers such an authorization process in the SAP system in case a new ressource is added to the Wave. The Google Wave API should enable this.

3. Google Wave as additional interface for approval processes

The same functionality is needed in the area of approval processes as a complimentary piece for the UWL.

4. Google Wave with integrated BO capabilities

Google Wave could also be used in the area of Business intelligence by offering functionalities to include BO capabilities in Waves. Again the authorization usage scenario would be of great importance here.

5. Google Wave as knowledge sharing tool with strong connections to SAP HR

Using Wave not only as a tool to bring asynchronous (eMail) and synchronous (Instant messaging) capabilities but as a wiki with connections to SAP HR could be another usage scenario. People could mark text in a wave as important for a special area of expertise (e.g. for consultants involved in ramp-up projects). By using a qualification catalogue in SAP HR this information could be distributed to the relevant experts within the company. Such scenarios could improve the knowledge sharing process within the companies tremendously and help to overcome one of the biggest obstacles for people to share knowledge in a company: the need to put in additional efforts to the normal work in order to share the knowledge with other colleagues.

 

I am quite sure that many of you will find additional scenarios for such a combination. I am quite thrilled about the perspectives which such a combination would offer. But perhaps my enthusiasm about a new tool misleads my judgement. Therefore my question to the community: Should SAP join the Google Wave?

 

Please note that all my thoughts about possible scenarios are my own and do not represent any planning or assessment of my employer.

Swine flu = a new challenge for pandemic preparedness

The outbreak of  swine flu in Mexico caused major concerns all around the world. The WHO is monitoring these outbreaks very carefully. Although this news seems to be very frightening and caused a lot of fear (just have a look on the ongoing twitter communications which updates every second at the moment) there is also a lot of reassuring information: Health officials and public authorities have spent a lot of work and ressources on pandemic preparedness in the last years due to the enduring threat of an avian flu pandemic. The flu wiki is a good starting point for an overview of all these activities. These preparations could now serve as a foundation for pandemic preparedness against swine flu outbreaks in other parts of the world.

In the last years a team from SAP has worked with several customers and partners to share experiences and also to demonstrate how SAP solutions could contribute to these efforts. I would like to share some of these insights and experiences in this blog.

The challenges for health authorities

Situational awareness is the key challenge for health authorities during a pandemic. Managing shortages will be a permanent task as it is nearly impossible to provide enough antiviral drugs and vaccine. Collecting robust data in order to check the prediction models and permanently adjust them to the new situation would be a permanent task.

SAP´s solution components

Based on experiences with existing solutions for disaster management we have worked out a flexible and easy-to-implement solution.

The key components of this solution are SAP Interactive forms by Adobe and a flu notification cockpit based on Webdynpro Abap. The forms are standardized by health authorities. They could be linked to websites which offer up-to-date information during the pandemic. General practitioners but also citizens could type in the necessary information. As the identity of a person is not decisive the privacy regulations could be assured while gathering the necessary information. Even if not all cases were reported the assessment of health officials was that it would help them tremendously as they need samples in order to check their predictions and to manage the crisis appropriately.

The challenges for companies and organizations

Although health officials and disaster manager will be at the front-line for the fight against a pandemic companies and organizations will face similar challenges. Studies predicted that 30% of the employees in a company will not be present due to illness or for other reasons like the care for their families.

Therefore the organizations have two main challenges:

  • A good situational awareness
  • The ability to react very quickly and to keep the business going with a reduced workforce

A crisis management plan in a company needs a lot of actions which could not be described all here in detail. A very good overview of the necessary actions could be found in the flu wiki. But we were also able to identify SAP solutions which could improve the crisis response activities.

SAP´s solution components

SAP Interactive forms by Adobe and a flu notification cockpit based on Webdynpro Abap offer a good foundation and a good starting point. Using this solution could mean that the corporate crisis management center gets an overview which subsidiaries are still working and which ressources are still available. The solution offers a framework by which the critical ressources for each process could be identified. These could be machineries as well as persons. Services are included so that existing data (especially HR data) could be used for the crisis management. Moreover it provides guided procedure by which emergency managers get the necessary actions they need to do.

The picture below offers an overview of some sample screens. Please note that for confidentiality reasons these are no real world screens.

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During our process analysis we noticed that the access to applications were an area which is constantly underestimated. Just imagine that colleagues in your accounting department need to get new authorization roles and that your security administrator is not available (due to a sickness). Therefore we identified the former GRC firefighter (I know that the wording has been changed but firefighter seems appropriate in this context) as a key component for an improved crisis response.

 This blog has been written in cooperation with my colleague Markus Voss.

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