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Just to annoy a few mentor buddies, I initially thought of starting this blog with "Hi Gurus"

But let me resist that temptation and tell you more about what I did couple of weeks ago at SAPPHIRE.


John Leffler is the managing partner for the North American SAP practice at IBM.

John has been around SAP field for 25 years or more, and has seen this market evolve over time.

He also is a "people person" and very supportive of developing a career in SAP for IBM's SAP practitioners.

So I did 2 interviews with him - one on SAP in general, and one on career development.

The second video was supposed to be aimed at just IBM's staff - but when I watched it - I felt non-IBMers will have an interest in that as well.


I have posted both in my blog. Check it out and let me know if you liked it.

I have one more along the same lines which I will post in a couple of days.



This is my first blog on the new SCN, and I really wish I had a more positive topic to post. And as always, this is strictly my personal opinion - not that of my employer (or past employers).

Pinnacle awards are a big deal in SAP land. It is SAP's way to thank and recognize various partners every year. Some how, all the big partners will get some pinnacle award every year in some category, and they all use it to demonstrate their leadership in the market. Since I have worked for a few companies in my career, I know they all like to get one, since it is yet another differentiator in a crowded market. That being said, on a personal level - I am not sure how much a pinnacle award influences a buying decision - probably very little. Going by the snark fest on twitter  and other social media channels every time pinnacle awards are awarded, I assume there are many people who think this does not have a lot of meaning.

To be fair, Pinnacle awards are not the only awards that deserve such criticism - this is a widespread practice by all Enterprise Software Vendors.

The one time I thought Pinnacle award was given for a good reason was when SAP introduced it in 2010 for leadership in communities. Cap Gemini won the award that year. http://www.sap.com/partners/pinnacle-awards/2010-pinnacle-awards.epx

Now, we all know that SAP is one of the leading voices advocating "social" as the next wave in enterprise. SAP executives - CEOs and everyone all the way down the corporate hierarchy, have spoken all the right things about why community ( can you count how many times assorted SAP folks have shown a slide with 2 Million SCN members ) is the right way to go, and encouraging partners and customers to get active in SCN. In short, if you took them at face value - you would probably have thought SAP seriously considered community as a strategic asset, and were serious about their request to partners and customers to be a part of it. I know I did .

In 2011, IBM won the award for communities. http://www.sap.com/partners/pinnacle-awards/2011-pinnacle-awards.epx  . I was positively thrilled, and so were all my colleagues who were active in SAP community. In true community spirit, people who were already active in SAP community spread the word within the larger organization.

And then came the announcement of the 2012 Pinnacle Awards. http://www.sap.com/our-partners/pinnacle-award-winners.epx And guess what - there is NO category for communities. I was positive that this was just an oversight - and pinged Mark Yolton to confirm. To my dismay - Mark confirmed that there is no communities award for 2012. And he seemed as disappointed - if not more, than me. Mark also explained on twitter that  Eric Duffaut needed to reduce the number of #SAP Partner Pinnacle categories and #SCN fell out.https://twitter.com/#!/MarkYolton/status/184053629156728832 .  Eric is a very senior executive at SAP, and a well known leader. Here is his bio http://sme.news-sap.com/files/2011/07/Eric-Duffaut.pdf

I have no idea why Eric needed to reduce the categories . I can venture a guess on 2 potential reasons - 1. It is for budgetary reasons or 2. He did not see enough value in this category to do this in 2012. Hopefully Eric or someone else at SAP can explain the rationale to us.

I really hope there is a third reason why he made this decision - since budget for this award, although not cheap in absolute dollars for an individual, is not all that much considering the expense budget of a large corportation like SAP. And I especially hope it is not for the second reason - since that would cast some doubt on SAP's true commitment to SAP community. Partners form a very large part of SCN, and not recognizing them for community leadership - especially after doing it for 2 years makes little sense in my opinion.

If there was an award in 2012, I have no idea who would have won it. I would of course have been very happy if IBM won it, but I would also have cheered with 100% sincerity if some one else won it. It is SAP's call completely on what awards it wants to give out every year - but I would like to nudge them to reconsider their position on community award for 2012 and every year going forward.

Pinnacle Awards are not the only way to recognize community leadership - I get that. But stopping this award abruptly after 2 years - and without any explanation to the community from SAP leadership team - is not cool. I sure hope this is not the beginning of SAP losing interest in having partners play a significant role in the SAP community.

Am I the only one with this POV?

So it is November 2011 now, and I want to try to present my views on what will be the hot areas for SAP consultants for next year. All the usual disclaimers apply - these are just my personal opinions, and not of my employer's. And I did not do any scientific study to arrive at these conclusions. Take it with a grain (or pound or kilo) of salt :)

1. BPC - Planning and Consolidations

By far the most traction I foresee is on BPC, with a lot of customers moving their planning applications to BPC, and some also doing consolidations in BPC. It will be a good idea to learn the 10.0 version, and take advantage of this boom. BPC is also slated to work with HANA in near future, which gets rid of some performance issues that have been seen in past projects.

2. BI 4.0

Right next to BPC is BI 4.0 in terms of market traction. SAP announced it with an overdose of fanfare, and then had to work thru months of stabilization. There are still things to iron out - but it is at a stage where I can see many customers wanting to do big projects.

3. EHS Management

This is not an area I ever had an interest in, but now I see tremendous interest in this. Environment, health and safety management does not sit in isolation, and needs a holistic approach that includes other modules like MM, and of course BI.

4. Reverse logistics

Forward logistics is one of the most commonly implemented solutions in SAP - where a company sells to a customer. Reverse logistics is the opposite where a customer returns something that you sold, and you have to replace it, repair it, service it etc.  Apparently this process was not always cared for in a number of implementations and now there seems to be a renewed interest in it. Along with RMA, are areas like Service Parts planning and management.


ABAP, which was commoditized to a great extent, is definitely getting hot again. The difference is in the type of work that is done in ABAP though. The list processing, BAdI type of work is still commodity, and I don't expect that to change. The big driver I think is in the ECC implementation and re-implementation market, where some large customers are choosing to do some fresh implementations .

6. SAP HR - especially Payroll

Many SAP shops had historically chosen PeopleSoft for HR. And now I see many want to check out SAP HR again. Payroll seems to be pretty hot specifically. It is a specialized skill and needs some localization experience since there are variations for most countries, and has a higher threshold for entry for new consultants.

7. BW 7.3

I do expect to see a lot of upgrades in 2012 and it has better functionality now. Plus it is the minimum level you need to be for HANA to work with BW. It is not difficult to learn either.

8. Basis with upgrade skills and landscape design skills

Good basis guys always had a market, and 2012 should see increased demand. I expect to see many upgrade projects, and many other projects including new implementations were customers are looking for solid landscape design skills. Although I personally am not a big fan of solution manager - I should say that I am seeing significant interest in solman these days too - both from blueprinting type functionality, and also the landscape management functionality.

Some Honorable Mentions


Question with HANA is not "if" but "when". I am hesitant to say 2012 is the year where HANA will create huge demand for consulting. SAP is still evolving the product, and it now works with BW. Customers seem to be buying it too - given the statements made by SAP's Co-CEOs. However, we have only seen a handful of customers showcased at SAPPHIRE - and they seem to be running HANA as a parallel system to something else. Hopefully in 2012, HANA will mature to an extent that customers will put significant parts of their business in it. And if SAP manages to do that - 2013 should see significant HANA demand.  For sure, there will be some HANA demand in 2012 as well - I just don't see it to be huge to impact a large number of consultants. But irrespective of 2012 demand - if you want to learn HANA, I suggest spending some time learning good solid SQL. Once you master SQL, HANA is not a big challenge at all.

10. SUP and gateway

Definitely an area to keep an eye on and get some good experience soon. SAP is serious about mobility, and announced an App store in Madrid. Yesterday I saw on twitter that the store was down for a day, which makes me wonder about SAP's seriousness about this.  SAP's certification for apps is relatively inexpensive, but they all need to be developed in SUP to be put in the store. Since Dennis Howlett, Graham Robinson and Daniel Gravensen all wrote at length about the licensing issues on gateway, SUP etc to make it worthwhile for developers to jump into mobility - i will just let you read their pieces instead of rehashing it here.  But then again - this is an area where I am very sure SAP will get it right, and hopefully this will go to top of the list for 2013.

11. ByDesign an LOB OD

There is definitely some opportunity to write add-ons and enhancements for these SaaS offerings from SAP. The question in my mind is whether there is sufficient volume for consultants at this point to jump into this. SAP is aiming to hit 1000 customers for ByD by end of this year, and they will probably do that. But 1000 is a pretty small number in my opinion, if you compare to sales force dot com etc. I also got the impression that the SDK is also going to be available only some time next year. So I will put this in "wait and watch" category for now.

So there we are - I am looking forward to hearing your opinion and analysis.

I was at San Jose Airport when I saw on my phone the news that Dennis Ritchie passed away. Honestly - unlike the news of Steve Jobs' death, this did not exactly shock me. But I truly felt sad at some level, and my mind raced back to my school days and to the hand-me-down tatered covers of K&R - the definitive book on C programming.


The first programming language I learnt was BASIC on a hand-me-down PC, with storage on a cassette. I used to feel incredibly proud being able to write video games in BASIC. A year later, an uncle of mine visited us, and he was going to USA for higher studies. He gave me the K&R book - and told me "stop building stupid games, and learn this". If I remember right, that book was not opened for another couple of years.


And then a friend introduced me to a scientist in the space research center, who was a programming expert. He offered to teach me C. And I told him I have the K&R book. His answer was "Don't insult Dennis Ritchie, kiddo - you are not ready for K&R". And he was right - I was not. I went back and read the first chapter - and "hello world" made sense to me. But by the time it came to pointers - it was beyond me, and I felt terrible. But my teacher patiently walked me through each chapter, and in a few months - I was getting good at C. And finally - the book started making sense. That tattered book is still in my parent's home, and I fondly browse through it every time I visit. Along the way, I also learned UNIX. And I did not know then that Dennis Ritchie was one of the guys who invented it,


C++, ABAP and Java followed - and us young programmers used to ridicule them all, and the statement that ended all arguments was "that is not how it should be done according to K&R" . The big deal about ABAP was Field symbols and bit wise operators when I started in it. No trouble - it was nothing for peeps with a strong C background.


The guy who taught me C was appalled that I became an ABAP programmer. He used to yell at me - on phone, and on email that "That is not real programming - Ritchie will curse you boy". And we used to laugh about it. I sent him a short note from my phone when I heard the news. And just as I expected - he was devastated.I had to make one other call - to my parents, to send me the K&R by Fedex.


I don't program any more as a job, and I miss it. But programming was what helped me the most in building a career. It still is the one thing that gives me the most thrill - and I owe it directly or indirectly to K&R, and to Ritchie.


And I am sure I am not the only one feeling this way. Almost every programmer owes it to Ritchie - C is behind almost every language that came after it, right up to the stuff we need to make iPhone and iPad apps work. I know for sure - since that is what I am doing now, learning Objective C. Goes without saying that so is Unix - I cannot count how many derivatives came out of it. Even my favorite IBM Watson machine, is a Linux machine (and so is HANA)


Rest In Peace, Dennis Ritchie - and Thank You, from me and fellow programmers !

I was fighting a bad flu and throat infection, and working through email back log and also checking in on twitter as usual today afternoon. And then I saw a tweet from Associated Press ( @AP) that Steve Jobs died. I just was stunned. I could not move, or even think for some time.


I did not know him - never met him, never heard him live, I did not even buy as many Apple products as most people - but I thought all this time that I knew him well somehow. I have a feeling I am not the only one feeling that way now.


"Game changing" is an often used term in the enterprise software world - and I, and many others have rolled our eyes many a time when we heard the phrase. And I have lost count of the number of times people have explicitly held enterprise world to Apple's standards to make a point that it is not in the same league yet.  Steve Jobs set the gold standard for game changing, and it is a bar set high enough not to be challenged that easily.


When people said "consumer" - they meant Apple for the most part, and when people said "Apple" - they almost always meant "Steve Jobs". How many people are in that league? Maybe Henry Ford or Einstein and a couple of others. Just being alive during his life time feels like an honor.


I have read many times that he was stubborn, controlling and so on. Another person with those qualities might not have succeeded - but Jobs did. And I believe he did so because he understood exactly what the customers needed and wanted, often before customers themselves needed or wanted any of it. And he was able to articulate it to the world in a way that was unique to him. If the rest of us can aim to move in that general direction - I think the world will be a better place in many ways.


His products were not perfect. I complained bitterly on battery life of iPhones for ever. But despite constantly having to charge the thing, I cannot even imagine using a blackberry anymore. I have switched phones before for not having good battery life, but the iPhones features far outweighed this problem for me.  He wowed us with products, got us hooked with near perfection from the first release - and then got us to upgrade (spending more money) with subsequent releases. Now - that is genius right there in my eyes.


I don't know how many other CEOs had the mix of an artist's soul and a technician's brain. He used them both in the right ratio. Plus he proved to be a great CEO in the traditional sense too - hiring the right people, and managing for the long term. We saw how Apple ran succesfully with a COO leading the charge, when Jobs was out on extended leave. And the moment he could not do that job, he resigned. He did not have to hunt for another CEO - he had that already from within. Is there any wonder investors constantly kept faith in Apple, despite knowing that Jobs might not be there for ever?


And yet today, we must reconcile to the fact that like the rest of us, he was a mere mortal. My big regret is that I never got to meet the man in person. If I tried hard enough, I am sure I could have made that happen. It is a good lesson for me not to postpone important decisions for ever.


To the best designer yet in my lifetime, to the best CEO yet in my lifetime, to the best innovator yet in my life time , to the only true game changer yet in my life time - You will be an inspiration for this and many generations , and will live in our thoughts for ever.


Rest in Peace, Mr.Jobs . God Bless

During his keynote at SAPTECHED in Las Vegas, Vishal Sikka asked everyone to try https://www.experiencesaphana.com/ to experience HANA. So I did that, and I did not like it at all.


When I mentioned that on twitter - Vitaliy joined in. And from SAP's side, Aiaz Kazi - an all around great guy - responded asking us what we would have liked to see. I am going to list my thoughts here in the hope that collectively we can provide some useful feedback to SAP.


1. Integrate with SCN


Why would you not put this on SCN where you already have an audience in the millions? Plus SCN has information on everything else HANA needs - ECC, Data services, BI 4.0 and so on. Why should users scan multiple sources for this information?


Also - on SCN, people already know how to use forums, blogs, Wiki etc. https://www.experiencesaphana.com/ does not have most of this. Except where we can ask questions to SAP - it is not as interactive as SCN.


Mark Yolton and Aiaz separately mentioned that eventually they will merge. But why eventually? Why not right upfront? It might be unintentional, but from outside - it looks like SAP does not value the significance of SCN to carry messaging on a stratgic thing like HANA


2. Registration - is duplication of data and effort a good thing now?


If not integrate - atleast can't we use the same login as SDN or Service Market place? Why do I have to enter everything again ?


3. What is "Try" ?


Since Vishal asked people to go to this site at Teched, I assumed this was intended for technical audience. So I had high hopes of trying hana for myself when I clicked on "Try" on homepage.  And all I see is a bunch of marketing type videos. I felt seriously let down. There is nothing in "Try" that makes sense when one hears "Try".


4. What are "Subspaces" ?


Under "Try", is a frame called subspaces. It is empty. I have no idea what it is. Have never heard that term before either.I suggest it should be eliminated, or a better name and content should be figured out.


5. Implementation library under "Implementation"


I expected to see "how to" guides etc here. Instead, it takes me to a forum to ask questions.  There are links to SDN on right side of the page, but not where the eye goes naturally. There is a section called "featured posts" right under this, whose content is what I would have expected under Implementation library.


6. How do non-SAP employees contribute to the knowledge base?


Unlike SDN which has blogs, Wikis etc where ecosystem can add content - here I don't see an option beyond forum questions. In this day and age, does any one care for mostly one way information flow?




Personally, I don't think this site https://www.experiencesaphana.com/ will do SAP any favors in increasing awareness of HANA. It looks like a rush job at first sight - and for something as innovative as HANA - this site is a poor first experience to the ecosystem. You don't get a second chance to create a first impression, so I would urge SAP to get thei design thinking experts to do something before Madrid events, if not Bangalore.

As HANA starts on its maturity curve, we as users of the technology need to get a clearer understanding of the potential speed bumps. HANA started as an in-memory data base on which you can build analytical applications. Next up, from November, it becomes an optional DB for BW . And further down the road - it becomes the DB for the business suite, and pretty much everything SAP builds. That is the vision. But just by putting HANA as a database, will we get enough benefits?


First up - how does HANA speed up software apps? It is primarily by making the application's interaction with database super fast. On top of holding data in memory, in columns, and using insert only deltas - HANA can apparently also do massive parallel processing.


So first thing obviously is to pass a SQL or MDX query to hana that is tuned to how hana works. This is not a simple task - optimizing BW or ECC to pass  queries to HANA in a way that is optimum is quite complex. If you don't trust me - just expiriment with some of the MDX statements created by BW or BPC to get a hang of it. SAP has steadily improved this for RDBMS with every new release, and going by past experience, they will need some time to make it work for HANA too. I expect SAP to solve this quickly by drawing on past experience with RDBMS.


HANA is considered to be optimized for BI 4.0. That is probably a true statement compared to other tools. But if you see what gets transfered between HANA and BI layer, it is not always very optimized. In some of the POCs, we had to write handwritten SQL and point BI to that, instead of using standard BI functionality. Again, it will only get better with subsequent releases of both HANA and BI. The point is - it is not easy to write generic programs that can generate highly optimized SQL for many different cases.  It is especially harder in HANA's case, since it is getting a lot of revisions internally too.


Moving on , so what happens when data starts to scale? Say the compressed data cannot fit into one 2 TB box, and several such boxes need to be linked together. Now there is an over head of moving data within memory before it can be used. This scenario can also happen within one box - since not all parts of memory can be processed at same efficiency. So we need to understand all the nuances of scalability too. And this needs to be demonstrated and benchmarked somehow using commercially available hardware from multiple vendors.


Massive parallel processesing can help improve performance tremendously. But Not all applications were written with this paradigm in mind. So if an existing application largely needs its instructions to be executed in a strict sequence - which is normal for several normal applications - then there is not much benefit that HANA can bring to make it better. There is an overhead to constantly allocate and deallocate memory, but probably this can be done in the background without affecting the actual processing of data. I am keen to find out how SAP does this - and hopefully someone from SAP can educate us on this.


What about applications who are already efficient in database level, but are not optimal in say the ABAP layer? There is very little HANA can do in these cases. A lot of ECC transactions were written with multiple tables storing line item and aggregate tables. They probably have optimized DML already. But unless they are rewritten to use a leaner data model, there is only so much that HANA can do to help them. But rewriting a stable application is not an easy thing to do. So most probably SAP will need to keep existing datamodel, and build a parallel schema that can use the power of HANA . This applies to BW and BPC too - a lot of processing happens in ABAP layer.


To net it out - to me, it means two things


1. If HANA's power needs to demonstrated to the world, SAP and its ecosystem are better off writing applications that are designed ground up in a way that is optimized for HANA.


2. As layers collapse (like how Vishal Sikka explained in his keynotes), SAP has an opportunity to shorten the path to value realization. It needs every part of SAP's development organization to articulate this in their execution, and that is not easy to pull off consistently for such a large organization.


I am sure that SAP has a solution (or a plan at least) for all of these. We just need to get educated on those solutions and plans.

I will be posting a daily update from SAP Teched 2011 from Las Vegas in my personal blog. I will update this post every day this week to add a link for the day.

If you want me to find something out from SAP - leave a comment here or on my personal blog - and I will try my best.




Monday and Tuesday




Wednesday - Friday


Most of what I learned is not information I can share at the moment due to confidentiality issues. But, more importantly there was a panel on inclusion and design thinking on Wednesday evening. I missed it - and regret it a lot. So on Thursday morning, I posted this to explain my POV. I would love it if the community expresses what we think on this really important topic.


Travel has been crazy off late for me, and I do not look forward to yet another flight, rental car and hotel room. However, the sheer excitement that Teched raises trumps all of that, and I am going yet again. My number one reason to go is to meet the "real" who is who in SAP ecosystem - fellow mentors, customers, bloggers, consultants and SAP experts.


For the fourth time in a row, I am presenting something at Teched. This time, it is about HANA - how to make an analytics scenario work from provisioning to modelling to reporting. I will have to do it at the speed of HANA to finish in an hour :) . Also, it is the last session for the day - and I will be standing between the audience and Vegas nightlife. Can't wait :)


Marilyn and Heike - two of the most wonderful people at SAP that I know - have invited me to a panel discussion on Design Thinking and Inclusion on Wednesday evening. I am very honored, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and learning from the group there.


Despite having played with HANA quite a bit - that is the topic I am most keen to learn about. There is a lot that I do not know about HANA that I expect to learn at Teched - from SAP experts like Thomas Torf, as well as folks like Harald R, Vitaliy R, John Appleby. This will also be an opportunity for me to give my feedback on HANA back to SAP.


One conversation I am looking forward to have at Teched is the future of SAP consulting. Will there be a big disruptive change? or will it be incremental? I see a lot of stuff on internet by analysts and bloggers that disruption is going to happen any minute now. I have not seen that at my clients - so I want to sit down as discuss this to see why I am the only one living under a rock.


Here are my thoughts on this matter.


What is going to drive disruption? the common answers are HANA, mobility and on-demand. Lets take a look at each of them.


HANA is brand new. While price-performance ratio is quite good, between HW, SW and consulting - it is still quite pricey to implement it for just datamart scenarios. Next version becomes DB for BW. But then, there are only about 15000 BW instances in the world as I understand. And not many are in the latest 7.3 version. In short term I expect some upgrade opportunities for consultants, but I wonder how many will actually implement HANA in near term. Long term - HANA becomes DB for Business Suite, and probably will make a significant impact. But I see this as an incremental increase, and not a mass movement.


On demand is an area that could cause disruption in long term - in terms of decreasing the dependency on consulting effort. But LOB on demand solutions are all in initial stages and ByD - while making progress, is not anywhere near the number of seats that SAP's competitiors have. My guess is that by 2015 or so it will become a half billion dollar revenue stream for SAP, assuming they get some big shops to buy lot of seats. SAP has stiff competition for netsuite, workday and SFDC and others. There is also the question of cannibalising existing on-premises systems.  It puts SAP in a hard spot - there is always a risk of customers moving to competitor's OD solutions, but on other hand - a proactive move from SAP will cut existing maintenance fees.  I am very curious to see how this play out.


Mobile is where I see the most disruption in short term. I do not believe that Mobile is the new desktop. Mobile is a good second device to have, and parts of the business process can surely be done on Mobile. My best guess is about 10% of ECC functionality can be mobile-only and rest will stay as it is. But 10% is quite a bit, and should be a good thing for consultants. Although creating a hello world mobile app is very easy - it is not child's play to have enterprise quality apps. It is not just the app itself - device support, maintenance, licensing, security, provisioning, native/HTML5 type issues - it is quite a big deal. But all said - this is where I have seen the most interest from customers on where they want to invest money. I am looking forward to all the innovations SAP will showcase in this area.


As always, I will attend at least one session each by Ingo, Thomas Jung and Prakash Darji . I am taking the easy route by not gaving a fixed agenda. There are some mentor meetings on my calendar that Mark Finnern has organized kindly for us. Apart from that, I just intend to go with the flow, and check out anything that catches my eye. I do expect to wear the mentor shirt most of the time - so it should be easy to find me. I am looking forward to great conversations with all the teched attendees, and having some fun.  

Even if you are living under a rock, there is a fair chance that some one would have clued you in on HANA. You cannot talk to any one in SAP without HANA coming into the conversation these days.

My colleagues and I expirimented with HANA quite a bit, and I would like to share with you the details of how to set up an analytics scenario in HANA end to end. From getting data out of a source, to putting it into HANA, to making analytics/calc views on it, to reporting out of BI 4.0 tools.  Of course it is only one hour in the session - so we will focus mostly on HANA itself and less on data services and BO tools, except for the integration aspects.

If you want to read about our experience in setting this up - please check out my personal blog http://andvijaysays.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/sap-hana-we-did-it-in-4-days-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale/

Of course I am just planning to give you what I learned from my experience. I don't work for SAP, and cannot give you a lot of details on what will happen in future, and what other neat tricks exist and so on.

I am looking forward to seeing you at my session - BI 105, which is on Wednesday from 5.45PM to 6.45PM


This is something that has been bugging me for a while now - and I ranted on it yesterday night on my personal blog. If I was a bit more focussed, I would have posted it here on SDN in the first place, but any ways here it goes. Big thanks to my friend Jarret Pazahanic for nudging me to post it here. Although I am generally opposed to cross posting, I think I will be forgiven in doing so here this one time.


This is not just a problem with SAP projects - it is applicable in all kinds of projects. I firmly believe it should be debated and put to bed - and what better place to do it than SDN.

I am very interested in hearing your opinions on this subject. You can comment here or on my personal blog.

So I had an awesome time at SAPPHIRENOW - in all my roles. I was an IBMer manning the booth and meeting clients, an SAP mentor, and a blogger. It was my first year at SAPPHIRE as a blogger, and I must say it was quite educational watching the big guns like Dennis Howlett, Vinnie Mirchandani, Ray Wang, Jon Reed and Frank Scavo at work.


I already blogged on my personal blog on my report outs - so let me just put the links here in case any one is interested.

SAPPHIRENOW 2011 Report Out day 1 - BusinessObjects 4.x is pretty cool


SAPPHIRENOW 2011 Report Out day 2 - CEO Keynotes, On Demand


SAPPHIRENOW 2011 Report Out Day 3 - HANA, Mobility, Gateway and Sting



What I particularly noted this time is that there is a good amount of technical content at an otherwise "event for suits". Hasso and Vishal keynote would have gotten the same applause at Teched. And the product managers went to great technical depth when we discussed finer details with them. I cannot begin to say how much I appreciated the "beneath the hood" view.


For me personally, it was a lot of fun doing videos with many of my friends - for SAP as well as for JD_OD.com. If you have not seen JD_OD yet, you have no idea what you are missing. Pls check them out. The quality of their content, and the technical quality of the videos itself is top notch. It was quite an honor for me to take part in these videos. And guess what - video blogs are much more fun than typing one :) .  Thanks to Dennis Howlett, Jon Reed, John Appleby, Harald Reiter and David Hull for the collaboration.


If I had one complaint - it was the lack of time to hang out more with my mentor buddies more. Time just flew by, and I could not even meet some of the mentors once. And some others - we just waved at each other from across hallways etc. I cannot wait for teched to catchup more with my favorite gang. There was just a couple of exceptions, which came unplanned. I caught up with Vitaliy at the GC party on Tuesday - and of course we spent 2 hours talking about...what else, HANA ! And I could also spend a little bit of time with the awesome enterprise geeks gang - Ed Herman, Thomas Jung, Rich Heilman and Craig Cmehil on Wednesday evening before the Sting concert - and had some more HANA talk :)


In a few months, Teched will be here - and it is a shorter plane ride for me. Can't wait to meet every one, and see what is cooking in SAP labs !


And finally, a big thanks to Mark Finnern, Mike Prosceno and their respective teams for all their help in making SAPPHIRENOW a memorable event for me.

I forgot who put this idea on my mind - but I am pretty sure it started with me finding a tweet about this topic, and then getting all excited at the prospect. It sounded very logical for me, and I was sure I can get one of my customers to try it out. Due to contractual issues, I will have to explain this in general terms, and hopefully it won't affect the point I am trying to explain. I planned to blog on this earlier, but did not get to it. And then yesterday, Ray Wang said something about fail fast on twitter, and I thought now would be a good time to get this blog done.


Well, it was actually not very difficult to convince the customer. I pointed him to all the literature I had read on the topic. So as not to waste too much time or money, we decided on choosing 3 options to solve a problem, and stick with the best idea to implement and discard the rest. The time frame was 10 days, and each option was worked on by a 2 person team. Generally, we thought that one great solution coming out of this will be totally worth the trouble.


Each team took 3 days to design and mockup their solution, and then they invited business to check out the solution. Option 1 was a non-starter, and that team agreed to step down and let just the other 2 teams go forward. Business liked both options based on their mocked up version. 3 days later, both teams had a working prototype. Once business tried these two - they like option 2 a lot better. So option 3 was killed, and we all agreed that option 2 was best solution. And we finished in 7 days, which was a big saving compared to our plan of 10 days. I was indeed feeling rather smug.


Well, I was wrong - at least mostly wrong. It is a long story, but here is the Reader's Digest version.


1. Business thought that they could get this solution in a few days in production. They hated it when they realized that everything has to be built according to IT standards again, and they said "shoot, so we wasted all this time? we will never do this again".


2. Since it is not the first time business has taken this stance, we knew what to do to get them back to the table. So they co-operated and we got the solution developed. Except, just as in normal projects - we started hitting integration problems. Again, to cut to chase - we figured that from an integration point, option 2 would have been a lot easier to do. Few meetings later, we switched to option 2. There is no way we would have known of these issues in initial 7 days, since the pilot did not plan to go that far in the first place.


3. When this was reported in the steering committe - they were not exactly thrilled. The general message from upstairs was "We encourage educated risk taking - so we are ok with you having tried this out once to see if it worked, but we should stop now. We expect IT and external consultants to bring best known methods from past experience, and not just go on a product development type activity".  We also got chided a little for not respecting the time spent by some business users, who all had to wake up at early hours since they were a few timezones away.


We do a post mortem as part of every implementation, however large or small. And while we totally understood why it did not work the way we planned in our case - we also had to agree that this might not be a good scalable model to go forward with. At least not before we find something new to change our minds.


Lessons learned, and some tips if any one else wants to try this in an implementation scenario.


1. Business teams are generally not used to this model, They expect a more structured waterfall type solution where people do a detailed design for one solution. Essentially, there is some significant change management required to pull this off.


2. Choose the scope of the pilot carefully. If we had chosen to include integration aspects to the pilot, maybe we would have saved some trouble. However, this would make the pilot a more exhaustive exercise, and it comes at a higher cost if 3 options needed to be taken that far, across a large project.


3. Consulting contracts typically do not cater to this kind of model. Even if customer is willing to pay, it is hard to estimate the effort since there are no known metrics to depend on. And not many customers will want to do this on a "Time and Materials" basis, since it can be very open ended.


Maybe this is an excellent way to go about product development for a software vendor. However, in my brief experience, I am not a believer of this working out for a project, especially the big complex ones with lot of integration points, multiple time zones and so on. Or quite simply, I might have attempted this in the wrong way from the beginning.


I am all ears, and would love to hear success stoies of people who could make it work in an implementation project scenario.


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