SAP Watch


October 13, 2006  12:12 PM

New SAP Job roles: Composers

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This is the third part in our series about the new SAP job roles outlined by SAP executive Shai Agassi in his TechEd 2006 keynote speech. What's the difference between a developer and a composer? How can a SAP developer position oneself to benefit from the new modeling movement? Find out here!

Composers
The confusion between "developer" and "composer" as a SAP role is understandable. The developer is your classic ABAP/Java programmer with varying business skills; the composer is a business process expert first and techie second. Their main function is to make business process innovation happen in real-time. 

In the past, you had business analysts, application consultants and others examining the processes and basically putting together specs and requests for the developers to fulfill. Today, the same business analysts can make the changes they need, or perhaps create new applications altogether, using quick and easy models without extensive technical expertise.

"This is one of the more revolutionary aspects of NetWeaver," Reed said. "Modeling may present interesting opportunities for functional folks in particular areas to get more involved in the application development process. Those with some understanding of ABAP and other programming languages will probably have an easy time picking up on the modeling tools."

Needless to say, this trend has caused some concern in developer circles. So what can today's ABAP developer do to avoid getting pinched between outsourcing on one hand and model-driven, do-it-yourself business people on the other?

"You can't do everything with models," Inbar said. "There's going to be plenty of room for skilled programmers for areas like Java and creation of new services."

Inbar suggests familiarizing oneself with the model-driven tools, tapping into the BPX-community and looking for ways to leverage superior technical skills to "move up the stack." For those who work closer to the User Interface, embrace the modeling tools and start building the next generation of UI building blocks — dedicated, highly interactive components that require advanced technical skills.

For those who are true programmers at heart, try to find the unfilled niches between SAP's productized enterprise services for specific industries, advises Inbar.

"Still, the key question for many is: will these tools decrease the opportunities for classic ABAPers? The honest answer is probably yes," Reed said. "Having said that, I think many developers can and should get on board with the modeling movement. SAP wants it to seem like a functional expert in a particular area can come in and just design all this stuff. It's not that easy; they can do a lot, but they'll still need considerable support from technical people."

Bottom line, don't be all doom-and-gloom. Instead, make it a point to be the first in the office to really master the new modeling tools and position yourself as the authority on next-generation development. There will always be room for a liaison between the functional teams and classic techies, and the more you actively seek out that role, the more relevant you will remain to the company.

Even if you don't have access to SAP's own tools, you can gain a lot of experience by using third-party modeling tools, Reed advises. Not everyone is on ECC 5.0 or 6.0, which is pretty much what you'd need to get into this on the SAP side, but you can still pick up a lot of useful knowledge by playing around with similar technology outside the SAP world.

Check back on Monday for our final part of this series to learn what disruptive innovators do and how you can become one!

Matt Danielsson
Editor

October 12, 2006  1:16 AM

New SAP Job roles: Repository Keepers

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What is the next career step for classic Basis people? How can ABAPers avoid outsourcing? Part of the answer can be found in the four new SAP job roles Shai Agassi outlined in his TechEd keynote speech last month: consolidators, repository keepers, composers and disruptive innovators. How do these new roles tie into the current SAP ecosystem? How do you position yourself for the career sweet spot a year or two in the future? Here's the second part in a series of four where we discuss exactly what these roles mean and how to get your foot in the foor.

Repository Keepers
The core of a good SOA strategy is tight control of a central repository of Web services. Keeping vital metadata in the central repository is a prerequisite for the previously mentioned consolidators to do their jobs.

For example, take a CRM solution. The metadata must be stored in the repository in a way that makes sense in the long term. That means you can do a product and define a set of services that a company needs at a certain pint in time. But the next day, someone will say 'that's great, but I need some tweaks made to fit my job function better' and just like that, he or she creates a duplicate of that service. More will soon follow, and that's the point where you start backpedaling towards chaos.

To keep things running smoothly, the company needs people that can create and maintain the repository in a way that is consistent yet flexible enough to last for the long haul. That's a tricky balancing act, but those who can pull it off will be very valuable players on the IT team.

"The repository keepers are kind of like the keepers of the crown jewels," Inbar said.

A good repository keeper must have very deep understanding of the meta data and must also have a firm grip on exactly how the applications are being used across multiple departments throughout the company. Simply put, you need to be intimately familiar with both the business processes and the technology architecture to excel in this role.

"SAP is really emphasizing master data and metadata as a way to make sure data is structured consistently in the company," Reed said. "That idea is a core aspect of NetWeaver, but for the job itself it depends a lot on the size of the company and the number of Web services they're running."

As with consolidators, Reed doesn't expect to see "Repository Keeper" to show up as a de facto job title anytime soon, but he points out that this has good potential as an evolutionary skill to learn. As companies grow and expand their services, the need for a central control person grows accordingly.

As a rule, Reed feels that this kind of role favors those with technical rather than functional skills.

"As we move forward, you will see people already involved in the creation and management of Web services get pulled into repository keeping," he said. "MDM/BW workers and some developers are also well-positioned for jumping on this bandwagon."

Stay tuned for more information on composers tomorrow.

Matt Danielsson
Editor


October 11, 2006  4:16 PM

New SAP Job roles: Consolidators

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Those who attended TechEd in Las Vegas last month may recall that Shai Agassi mentioned four new SAP roles in his keynote speech: consolidators, repository keepers, composers and disruptive innovators. How do these new roles tie into the current SAP ecosystem? How do you position yourself for the career sweet spot a year or two in the future? Here's the first part in a series of four where we discuss exactly what these roles mean and how to get your foot in the door.

Consolidators
This is a new role that has already begun to show up, but it's not quite formalized; people do it, but there are no dedicated teams yet.

"What consolidators do is look at the entire landscape of all the applications and technologies a company has," said Ori Inbar, Sr. vice president, solution marketing, SAP NetWeaver. "Then they map it to core (what helps drive differentiation with the company) and context (what you do to support existing commitments,) and start looking for ways to consolidate things."

This cuts across all layers; hardware, databases, data level, user interface level… the works, Inbar said.

As the name implies, the gist of the job is to reduce the amount of systems in use. It may seem like something of a dead-end career choice where success is rewarded with a pink slip, but Inbar says that is not the case, especially for large corporations.

"It never ends; it's an ongoing project," he said. "Every time there's a new acquisition, there's a slew of new systems entering the ecosystem. Somebody has to be there to keep things streamlined."

It can still be something of a challenge though. Would you like to be the guy telling the colleagues that the system they've been building and nurturing for years is redundant and has to go?

Still, it seems those wishing to go down the consolidator route are set for a fairly secure career path. There is no scientific answer to what skills or certifications will serve a wannabe-consolidator best, but it seems clear those with an innate sense for efficiency will have a leg up on the competition. They may not need deep business process expertise, but they'll probably have considerable system expertise.

"Classic Basis system admin people are well-positioned to evolve into this field," said Jon Reed, veteran SearchSAP career guru and VP of SAPtips.com. "Basis folks are often used to straddling the fence with architecture elements, and you can't really identify redundancies without a good grasp of the current processes in use."

System architects are also well-positioned to move in this direction, just like those working with data management and business intelligence today. Anyone who's looking at how data is filtered through the enterprise can evolve into this type of a position, Reed said. The key word is "evolve" — don't expect "consolidator" to start appearing on business cards anytime soon.

"I believe SAP is accurate in their assessment of future needs," Reed said. "Companies will want a single infrastructure in which all data resides, not a mess of apps and redundancies. Having said that, I'm not sure it will become a specialized role anytime soon. Rather, I see it becoming a Basis/sys admin add-on skill, kind of like how a Basis person evolves into the go-to guy for security issues."

Just like having those security skills in the Sys admin toolkit boosts the value of that person, the consolidation skills may become a vital edge for SAP professionals looking to move up the ranks in coming years. But for now, expect a gradual evolution rather than a sudden revolution, Reed cautioned.

"The best way to position yourself for this type of role is to familiarize yourself with the NetWeaver architecture and use your hands-on tools to grow into it," Reed said. "Enterprise application integration is a good skill to learn."

Even if you're stuck with an older, non-NetWeaver system in your current job, you can still do the homework — read books, listen to webcasts, attend conferences — since it's only a matter of time before even the most stubborn company has to upgrade. Worst case, you may have to jump ship to another company.

Tune into our next post tomorrow for a closer look at the second of the new SAP roles, the Reposity Keeper! Then get the skinny on the new business expert/development hybrid: composers.

Matt Danielsson
Editor


October 5, 2006  1:43 PM

Are ABAPers doomed?

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Old-school ABAP developers are pinched from two directions — outsourcing and the model-driven movement. Is there a future for ABAPers? Yes and no, says career guru Jon Reed in a recent entry in the SAP Jobs Info Center .

"It's true that SAP is hoping to reduce the amount and expense of custom development for its customers," Reed says. "However, I don't view XI as the key to this. I think the key is the modeling environments they are rolling out to allow functional folks to design programs at a higher level."

In other words, plain-vanilla ABAP programmers may have reason to fear Visual Composer. But before you start practicing the line "Want fries with that?" in front of the mirror, it should be noted there's a remedy at hand. Says Reed:

"The career prospects are not good for the 'average' ABAP programmer. But for the exceptional SAP programmer, the one who knows ABAP but also knows their way around all the NetWeaver development tools, I think there is still a good future."

Do you agree? Do you have a game plan for staying ahead of the competition? Read the full post and see what else Reed has to say about the issue.

Speaking of careers, both Shai Agassi and Peter Graf on the SAP executive team were banging the big drum for the four new SAP roles at TechEd in Las Vegas last month. If you were there or tuned into the webcasts, you may recall these were:

Sounds neat, but how does this translate into reality? What kind of skillsets are we talking about? What kind of certifications should you have? What background do you need to make a claim to any of these roles? Stay tuned as we pick Jon Reed's brain next week on how to best prepare for the new wave of SAP jobs!

Matt Danielsson
Editor


September 29, 2006  3:01 PM

SAP MDM (Master Data Management) All-In-One guide

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Did you know that bad data like innacurate customer information, vendor purchases and inconsistent supply chain management costs American companies over $600 billion every year? Because this anomaly is prevalent throughout enterprises, SAP has provided a solution within NetWeaver called Master Data Management (MDM). Of course, SAP isn't the only supplier of MDM and it is possible to create your own MDM solution making the MDM concept far-reaching.

On that note, we are pleased to announce the new SAP MDM (Master Data Management) All-In-One Guide . This guide will define MDM, introduce you to SAP's MDM software and provide best practices for those already with MDM. Full of Web multi-media, this guide provides an excellent source of learning material along with case studies and statistics.

Here are a few examples of what you will find:

Recent surveys suggest the MDM market will reach $10.4 billion by 2009. This translates into the fact the MDM is a part of the enterprise future. Be ahead of the curve with this SAP MDM All-In-One guide. We recommend you bookmark this guide because it will be updated continuously as new MDM content becomes available.

- Juli Austin, Assistant Editor 


September 25, 2006  9:38 AM

Top four ways to optimize the user experience for independent software vendors

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TechEd '06 offered an educational class titled Harmonizing the User Experience of Composite Development Tools. This session was presented to share user development (UX) design best practices with independent software vendors (ISV) who intend to create composite applications for use on the NetWeaver backbone.

Jonathan Gordon of SAP described SAP's core design strategy to support developers.

Don't ignore best practices

Be sure to identify common user patterns. Developers appreciate seeing the same buttons in the same locations. Many well established UX designs exist in tools today.

Respect dynamic nature of tool users

Tool users work across multiple systems, some tool users change their profile over time, depending on tasks.

Support adaptability and change

Needs change as technology, methods and expertise advances. The tool user will either adapt the tool or leave it behind. Good developer tools will have increased usability with reduced complexity.

Always reflect reality

Be sure to conduct research. Explore the real world and collaborate with actual users. Hold beta testing sessions. Take that information and apply it to a user-centered design methods.

Gordon claims the ultimate goal for developer user tools is to have "extensible, scalable composite tools UX design based on the real world".

 

-Juli Austin

Assistant Editor 


September 22, 2006  10:48 AM

SAP stops clock on mySAP ERP 2005

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At last week’s TechEd conference in Las Vegas, SAP put the breaks on the latest version of its software suite, mySAP ERP 2005. An upgraded version won’t be released until 2010. Until then, SAP plans releases of feature enhancements around specific modules.

The move was greeted by TechEd attendees as good news because many said that they didn’t want to undergo an upgrade project with the possibility of another upgrade in only a year or two. “ERP fatigue” is what one analyst called it.

“R” Ray Wang, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. told me that SAP is doing all it can to motivate customers to move to the latest and greatest version of SAP. The latest software were laid out like carrots – Duet, enterprise search and the Business Intelligence Accelerator – but Wang said SAP users are quietly saying they want a one or two year break before moving forward with big upgrade projects.

But questions remain about whether SAP is falling behind its schedule to service-enable the entire mySAP Business Suite in 2007. Already about 500 enterprise services have been released to the business process repository. How many enterprise services need to be released before the entire suite can be considered services enabled?

“I think they are definitely on track with the integration pieces,” Wang said. “The business services piece needs more work.

SAP’s new software delivery plan left room for Oracle to ruminate about whether SAP is falling behind. Oracle has been touting its Fusion middleware as the foundation of everything SOA.

“SAP appears to be rethinking their strategy as they lose application market share
to Oracle and confront the difficulties of moving their application software to a modern Service Oriented Architecture (SOA),” said Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison.

SAP struck back:

“Larry Ellison's statements in today's Oracle earnings press release about SAP's product and acquisition strategy are a complete misrepresentation," said Bill Wohl, vice president of product and solutions public relations, SAP. “Since January of 2003, SAP has consistently articulated and delivered on its vision for enterprise SOA following a course of organic growth combined with strategic acquisitions.”

More to come…

-Rob Westervelt 


September 6, 2006  10:25 AM

SAP ramps up risk and compliance

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SAP and Cisco announced a broad partnership today that integrates the SAP NetWeaver platform with Cisco’s services-enabled network architecture.

SAP will also launch three new applications that address governance, risk and compliance called the SAP GRC Repository, SAP GRC Process Control and SAP GRC Risk Management.

Two of the new applications are a result of SAP's recent acquisition of Virsa Systems Inc. The GRC repository centralizes company data including corporate policies, board of director minutes, regulations, compliance and control frameworks as well as key business processes. The repository will also enable customers to link to multiple control frameworks to address international regulations.

The SAP GRC Process Control application automatically aggregates business process risks for the entire enterprise, provides supporting evidence of compliance, and pinpoints control violations. The software will integrate automated control monitoring for SAP and non-SAP applications.

A new application developed by SAP called GRC Risk Management will act as an analysis tool for customers to analyze business risks across organizational entities, business processes and IT infrastructure. SAP has designed intuitive and collaborative processes to guide professional risk managers and business owners in identifying financial, legal and operational risks, analyzing business opportunities in light of these risks, and developing appropriate responses.

The joint marketing agreement in the United States and Canada addresses access and identity management between an SAP customer’s applications and its Cisco network architecture. Cisco embeds Web services in its networking software to address application Oriented Networking, unified Communications, security, mobility and identity services.

More to come including an interview with AMR Research's John Hagerty.

-Rob Westervelt


August 31, 2006  11:25 AM

Critical database flaw discovered

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Symantec has issued an advisory about a crtical flaw in the SAP MaxDB database that could be targeted by hackers to execute arbitrary code. Researcher Oliver Karow of Symantec is credited with finding the database vulnerability.

The flaw was fixed in the latest version of MaxDB 7.6.00.31. "It is possible to execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the 'wahttp' process by sending a malformed HTTP request. Authentication is not required for successful exploitation to occur," according to a security advisory issued by Symantec.

As a temporary workaround, MaxDB customers can disable the SAP-DB WWW Service or restrict access to it, according to Symantec. SAP customers can download the latest version at www.service.sap.com. In 2004, SAP entered into an agreement with open source database maker mySQL to cross-license SAP DB.

The open source database was then rebranded MaxDB. It is optimized to run in conjunction with the mySAP Business Suite and the mySQL database management system.

Check out the Symantec SAP MaxDB security advisory.
Visit our security topic center for more security related  news and information.
We also have more information related to MaxDB.

-Rob Westervelt


August 25, 2006  1:57 PM

SearchSAP readers speak out on Duet

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What do real-life SAP users think about Duet? We recently asked our readers to share their two cents on the new product. The vast majority of the 100+ readers who were kind enough to submit comments to us were overwhelmingly positive. No doubt about it — the buzz we saw around the Duet booth at Sapphire 2006 is alive and well.

However, buzz does not automatically translate into actual implementations — at least not this year.

"I think Duet looks like a great way to deliver SAP functionality to end users," said Paul Krier from Johnsonville Sausage, Sheboygan, Wisc. "We may be able to use Duet in the Portal we are putting together, but at this point we use Lotus Notes as our email server, so I think we are a ways off from implementing Duet into our systems."

Colin Ross from Austrialian steel firm OneSteel echoes the positive sentiment. He considers the ability to run quick and easy reports directly in MS Outlook as the biggest benefit of Duet, and foresees his company getting on the Duet bandwagon in 2007.

"[This is a] nice product. I think it will be especially useful for users who only interact occasionally with SAP," Ross said.
Dan Amend from Tuthill corp., Burr Ridge, Ill. likes what he has heard so far but isn't ready to get in the game quite yet.

"We do not use much of the HR functionality in SAP," Amend said. "Most of the early Duet demos focused on T&E-type functions, so we have not gone too far with it. As it moves more into the financial arena with budgeting and analytics, we will get more interested in it."

Based on the responses we've seen, it seems many have choosen a slow and careful approach to Duet — but they'll probably get Duet with it in the end. This cautious angle has the proven benefit of having the early adopters clear the inevitable land mines before they take the plunge in 2007 and beyond. There were some downsides to Duet, however.

Bryan Beasley from CMC Steel Group is currently working the blue-printing of their SAP implementation. He works largely with Microsoft development, so this is a natural area of interest to him. Still, he has some reservations about Duet at this point in time.

"Based on reading and nothing hands-on, from what I can tell, the feature set is still somewhat limited," Beasley said. "In other words, it seems it may be hard for enterprise to cough up the bucks for a product that will have limited impact and will probably increase support costs in the short term.

What I have not seen from SAP is really how is it cost effective to develop something in Duet versus other environments such as Sharepoint, VS.NET or something more custom to SAP. And what about distribution and management of Duet solutions?"

Fellow SAP professional Sunil Aghi is generally very positive to Duet, but he did point to the Achilles heel of cost. This was something of a common thread as cost and excessive upgrade requirements on the SAP end appears to be the most frequently mentioned concern for SAP professionals.

"I see the success coming gradually, over a medium term horizon of 2-3 years," Aghi said. "[However,] cost, and upgrades, could be a deterrant."

Another question that came up was that of Exchange. What if you don't want to use Exchange? Many companies don't because of security concerns, one reader pointed out.

General distrust of Microsoft and its history of occasionally playing hardball with customers is another sticking point. The old Microsoft vs. Open Source debate appears to be alive and well.

"My biggest worry is that Duet is tied into Microsoft and does not allow for any latitude in the Open Source area (e.g. open office)," said Carl Cavendish-Davies from Barloworld Equipment. "This will heavily influence our decisions here as we are in a three-year cycle of migrating and proving the use of an Open Source Operating System."

So what's the final verdict on Duet? You be the judge! Check out our Special Report: Duet in a nutshell for a rundown of the benefits and technical specs you need to know. Tune into our latest podcast for an interview with Duet skeptic Jim Murphy of AMR Research. Then test your Duet knowledge in our Quiz: Duet 101.

Matt Danielsson, Editor


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