SAP Watch

September 5, 2008  3:48 PM

Get ready to fall into Business Objects

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

News from SAP this summer centered around three topics — TomorrowNow’s closure, the maintenance fee increase and Business Objects.

Summer’s end leads to “conference season” and SAP seems to want to make sure this season belongs more to Business Objects.

Next week Business Objects CEO John Schwarz is headlining TechEd in Las Vegas.  He’s also the keynote speaker at ASUG’s Fall Focus conference in Dallas, along with Business Objects executive vice president Doug Merritt.

ASUG also announced this week it’s starting a user group devoted to Business Objects — the Global BusinessObjects Network. It’s hosting a Business Objects User Conference concurrently with ASUG’s Fall Focus in Dallas.

Amidst it all, it’s worth noting that Business Objects was a significant shift in the way SAP has done business to date. Acquiring Business Objects was a shift in SAP’s organic growth strategy and the results stand in sharp contrast to the failure of TomorrowNow.

Since the acquisition in October of 2007, it has released new products and further integrated the Business Objects line with SAP NetWeaver. In a conference held in Boston in August, Business Objects executive vice president Marge Breya told our sister site, “we’re exceeding our expectations on almost all measures.”

So does Business Objects’ success, and the attention SAP seems determined to draw upon it, signal a permanent change from SAP’s traditional approach of organic growth to growth by acquisition? Could more product-centered acquisitions — analysts agree the Visiprise acquisition was a win as well — be in the cards?

It’s obviously the approach championed by rival Oracle, which by the way, just announced another acquisition this week — ClearApp, a company that helps manage applications that combine two or more SOAs.

Courtney Bjorlin, News Editor 

September 5, 2008  9:43 AM

What to do when you can’t get an SAP job

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

The SAP skills shortage has been conclusively documented by research from Foote Partners and AMR Research as well as by independent consultants such as Jon Reed and Justin Burmeister. However, it is also true that a number of people who would like to work in SAP are unable to do so. One such reader wrote a particularly strong message to us that included what amounted to a death threat.. Here is an excerpt:”You are spreading lies and wrong information.

This is very serious crime, you are commiting[sic]. I know a number of my friends[sic] are SAP Ceritified[sic] and experienced in BI, Nwtweaver and Web Dynpro etc. But they are struggling. They can’t find a job. Even job agencies are surprised.”

This letter demonstrates the intensity of feeling generated by those still having trouble finding work in SAP, but it is also helpful for demonstrating how to respond to your personal SAP career search in times of adversity. Ask yourself the following five questions:

1. Have I honestly evaluated my skills? You, your friends and recruiters may not be the most objective judges of either your talent or your prospects in the workplace. Are you active on SDN and, if so, how do you compare to your peers there? If you attend SAP events on your specialties, do you feel left behind in the technical workshops? It’s painful to say, but SAP certification is not a one-time process like getting a medical degree — your skills have to be continually honed, expanded and practiced to be valuable.

2. Am I in the wrong location? The reader above writes from Sydney, Australia. Could it be that the local economy is slumping, thus impacting all IT projects? In IT, you have to be willing to follow the money, which is why so many non-native techies and business people have relocated to places like Bangalore and Shanghai over the past decade. Your home town may not always be the best place in which to find SAP work, or be recruited for SAP work, given your local economic conditions.

3. Am I in the wrong line of business? Ed Tittel, a contributor to the IT Knowledge Exchange, began his career as an anthropologist and later became an IT person specializing in writing books. IT in general, and SAP in particular, isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t enjoying your career and find yourself deeply frustrated by the feast-or-famine conditions of some kinds of IT, you might be temperamentally suited for a more stable job, such as teaching.

4. Am I networking? Some job leads don’t come from recruiters — they come from friends or acquaintances. IT can be an asocial profession, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to expand the number and quality of your contacts. They could give you your next job.

5. Am I properly utilizing negative emotions? When Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, his reaction wasn’t to issue his coach a death threat. It was to use his failure as motivation to work harder. Later, Jordan actually thanked his high school coach for providing that motivation, without which Jordan may have remained a mediocre player rather than become an all-time great. Joblessness and underemployment can wreak havoc with your morale but, taking Jordan’s example, you should do something positive with those emotions.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

September 4, 2008  10:29 AM

SAP introduces BPX certification: Bridging IT and business

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

SAP’s upcoming TechEd event in Las Vegas will see the debut of an official BPX certification. BPX, SAP’s shorthand for Business Process Expert, will officially take its place alongside SAP’s technical certifications in areas such as NetWeaver, ERP and SOA.

What does this mean for working SAP consultants and for those interested in breaking into SAP? If you’re a technical SAP expert with extensive background in a specific industry or module — such as HR or manufacturing — then getting the BPX certification will be a way to let SAP hiring managers know that you pack a double punch: All-important industry expertise as well as IT chops. Meanwhile, if you’re trying to break into SAP with a strong background in a specific industry’s business processes, your certification may open the door to future SAP consulting opportunities (although it won’t replace solid IT education or experience.

SearchSAP expert Jon Reed recently conducted a podcast (listen to it here) with SAP’s Mario Herger, who has an extensive wiki defining business process skills in the SAP context. Jon learned that, in SAP’s estimation, “Certified BPXers can be the ‘marriage counselors’ between IT and business users and help to ensure the success of IT projects.” Given the high rate of failure of IT projects, BPXers are very much needed to ensure that SAP projects go well.

For those of you who are particularly interested in business processes and SAP, be sure to look through this master list of business process workshops at TechEd, and don’t be shy about asking SAP how the BPX role can help to build out your career as an SAP consultant.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

August 29, 2008  2:18 PM

Who’s majoring in SAP this semester?

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

My car and I moved at a slow crawl along the Massachusetts Turnpike on my commute home the other day, much of the road clogged by students heading through Newton, Mass. back to the many Boston colleges.

Between marveling at how much a college kid can fit into a Civic and punching the radio station buttons in an effort to keep my mind off the gridlock, I thought about, of all things, the SAP skills shortage.

The shortage made its way back into the news this week with a new AMR Research report .The report raised the idea that the shortage could present a competitive edge for Oracle and Microsoft. Small and mid-market AMR Research clients have been rating “availability of resources,” higher and higher on their ERP selection criteria, and, because SAP skills are in short supply, SAP’s losing out, the author reasons.

One of SAP’s plans to solve this shortage is its University Alliances program. SAP is training college professors so that they can teach computer science, engineering and business students to use, run and develop SAP software.

I wondered if any of these University Alliances programs were in place here – in college-rich Massachusetts, home to prestigious MIT, and a $1 billion project of Gov. Deval Patrick’s aimed at making Massachusetts the country’s leading biotechnology state. There are currently 573 open SAP jobs here, at least according to

Turns out, there’s three SAP partnerships at three good schools here –Suffolk University in Boston, Western New England College in Springfield and Bentley College in Waltham.

To be honest, I’d hoped for more. But three isn’t a bad start out of the 900 SAP has worldwide. SAP plans to increase this count by 200 over the next few years, and I for one hope that it chooses to form more partnerships here in the Bay State, and in other states like Michigan and Illinois, where the shortage is so severe.

Courtney Bjorlin, News Editor

August 26, 2008  10:33 AM

SAP implementation/upgrade tips

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

Implementing or upgrading SAP can make or break not only a CIO’s career but also impact the financial position of a company. This is a major issue going into TechEd 2008, where plenty of discussion will be devoted to the finer points of ensuring a successful SAP implementation or upgrade. We looked back through the SearchSAP archive to find five particularly helpful pointers on this topic. Whether you’re a CIO, an SAP consultant, or a member of an SAP project team, studying this content will give you a leg up on understanding — and avoiding — the pitfalls while executing on the best practices.

Important points for planning an R/3 upgrade project: These 10 tips, ranging from the big picture (understanding your system landscape) to important details (dealing obsolete ABAP statements) offer a conceptual foundation for SAP R/3 upgrades.

Ten critical steps when undertaking an SAP upgrade: This high-level overview of the SAP upgrade process gives you tips on everything from how to prepare your organization to how to handle the SAP graphical user interface front-end.

SAP consulting versus SAP support for upgrades: Partners are one of the most important success factors in an SAP upgrade or implementation. This article will clue you in to the distinct services you can expect from SAP consulting and SAP support.

SAP implementation challenges, potential pitfalls: SAP end user Rosenthal USA achieved a successful SAP implementation by avoiding common pitfalls and adopting best practices. As a smaller company, Rosenthal USA offers helpful tips for negotiating with VARs and other strategies for driving down the price of an SAP implementation or upgrade.

Podcast: Run SAP and Solution Manager. Implementing or upgrading SAP is only half the battle. In order to keep your business running, and to optimize your SAP ROI, you have to learn how to run your SAP solutions in the most efficient possible. Fortunately, SAP can help you do this with the Run SAP methodology and the Solution Manager tool.

If you have follow-up questions generated by this content, don’t hesitate to leave your comments below.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

August 21, 2008  10:15 AM

Learn SAP without spending all your money

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

Editor’s Note: Last month, SearchSAP Expert Axel Angeli offered his take on how to get into SAP Basis. A reader responded by asking Axel how, when SAP prices for individual Basis access start at 2,000 euros, aspiring SAP functional consultants and technology consultants in Central and Eastern Europe could afford to get into Basis. This blog post is Axel’s response, which contains valuable information for anyone who wants to learn SAP without spending too much money.

Axel Angeli: In my earlier response, I just pointed out what the official SAP price is to get the software in your hands. Of course, there are many commercial training offers out there in the market, delivered by companies who have SAP licenses and can set prices at their own discretion. [Online SAP training is also available–Editor]

Regarding pricing, you have to understand that even the consultants from Eastern countries (such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania) stream into Western Europe (mainly Germany) and work there for rates that are between 500-800 euros per day. Educated Basis consultants do not really compete with low-wage workers in Poland but offer themselves as cheaper alternatives to the local German, French and British consultants. Even in Poland, an SAP consultant gets paid 400 euros per day and more, so we have to think in price ranges of a week’s freelance tariff.

Remember that you are free to share the SAP training investment with other students. In Germany, for example, there is the DSAK (Deutsche SAP Arbeitskreis), in which over 100 members share a single SAP instance. So the individual cost for acquiring SAP licenses is negligible. Your logical path here is to find as many peers as possible, start a union that wants to learn SAP — like an “Association of Polish SAP Consultants” — and share the costs of the SAP license, hardware and administration of the system.

For a low-budget quick start, you can also try out the essentials of Basis admin by using the SAP Miniwas ABAP Trial. This is free to download and use on a single PC by a single user. It has all Basis components installed, but lacks configuration features such as choosing a database and defining your own variations of creating an instance. But, generally, it has all features built in. Check out SAP SDN‘s download section to find it.

Axel Angeli, SearchSAP Expert

August 20, 2008  2:25 PM

Enterprise Support reveals a continental divide among SAP user groups

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

When a warranty runs out on a car, you don’t typically opt for a more expensive warranty, or even extend it. You undergo the obligatory maintenance and when the car starts running really badly and breaks down, you put a lot of thought, and money, into outright replacing it. You then purchase a new warranty to cover maintenance on the new car.

SAP users attending a webinar Tuesday seem to be equating  SAP’s new, more expensive Enterprise Support with paying for a warranty on a 2009 model when you’re driving a 1999.

During Tuesday’s webcast, the first of a four-part series, two SAP executives gave an overview of the Enterprise Support features, and promised that using the tools and strategies would help a customer lower their total cost of ownership.

ASUG’s response to SAP’s new maintenance plan is remarkably different from the rally cry heard from other against this new support model. While ASUG is inviting members onto calls to convince them of the value of Enterprise Support, other user groups, specifically in the Ireland and the UK, are encouraging customers to tell SAP to reconsider this mandate. SAP customers paying 17% of net licensing fees for maintenance and support will move to a 22% structure over the next four years.

There’s little doubt Enterprise Support is an enhanced offering. Analysts have said it could in fact lower the total cost of ownership for larger customers. SAP said repeatedly that using the tools correctly, specifically the enhanced version of solution manager, would lead to quicker response time when problems arose and therefore, smoother operation.

But, as Forrester Research analyst Ray Wang often brings up, most customers aren’t using their current maintenance and support that often. One caller posed that quandary particularly well.

“We’re a smaller business with little technological complexity, how will this benefit us?,” the participant  asked.

Which leads to a very good question asked via a live chat room during the call, but not answered, “What release do I have to be on to get the most value from Enterprise Support?”

The head of the rebelling UK and Ireland user group told ZDNet’s Dennis Howlett, that there is more value in Enterprise Support for companies running the latest version of SAP. During yesterday’s call, SAP stressed its enhancement package strategy –downloadable upgrades and new functionality for customers on the NetWeaver platform — as part of the value in Enterprise Support.

Do you think Enterprise Support is another push toward an upgrade? Is its advent another thing pushing your company toward one?

Courtney Bjorlin, News Editor

August 18, 2008  3:49 PM

How to get started in SAP

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

The demand for SAP technology and functional consultants is near an all-time high. However, if you don’t already have an SAP job, building an SAP career remains a difficult undertaking.

SAP certification and training is one way to prepare yourself for an SAP job, but recently readers are asking us how to choose between the various options available. One way to begin is by taking two classes directly from SAP:

SAP NetWeaver is SAP’s technological foundation and the core of all SAP foundations. As such, it’s a good investment to take SAPNW and SAPTEC classes directly from SAP. SAPNW is a three-day course, offered in dozens of countries, that will introduce you not only to the NetWeaver interface and fundamentals, but also to SAP’s service-oriented architecture, exchange infrastructure (XI), portal infrastructure (PI), enterprise portal, application server, Run SAP and business intelligence (BI). Aspiring SAP consultants who take this course might find that their classmates are actual SAP end users, so there is an opportunity to network.

After taking SAPNW, sign up for SAPTEC, a three-day course that digs more deeply into the SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaverAS). Perhaps the most valuable part of this course is it overview of the SAP development process, an indispensable skill in the SAP world.

Together, these courses are comparable in cost to the money third-party SAP certification providers are charging for certificates in countries such as India, and add more value to an SAP job seeker’s resume.

Once you’ve caught up on NetWeaver, whether on the basis of SAP training or self-study, don’t forget to ask us your more targeted questions about developing an SAP NetWeaver career in particular or an SAP career in general.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

August 14, 2008  11:13 AM

Solving IDoc problems

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

IDoc is the SAP format in which data pertaining to business transactions gets exchanged.  SAP end users and consultants specializing in supplier relationship management (SRM), procurement, and even application development are frequently exposed to IDocs, which can pose all kinds of technical problems for end users.Recently, we’ve received a lot of expert tips that can help you solve IDoc problems.

For example, here’s a way to send advanced vendor details using IDoc that can help you when you need to go beyond sending address details to a trading partner. If that tip isn’t enough, ask our resident SRM expert, Sachin Sethi, follow-up questions.

Some of you have been wondering how to generate an IDoc after you delete a purchase order. There is a way to do this, but it may well be illegal because of regulatory and compliance laws, so proceed with caution. By the way, this tip illustrates why business managers should carefully train SAP end users on the risk management implications of altering business documents.

Another common query is how to find user exits in idoc_input_orders. Resident SAP NetWeaver expert Axel Angeli explains how to do this, and also addresses the issue of user exits in IDoc with a detailed code sample.

Finally, the issue of data error tables is foundational for IDoc users. Axel explains how to populate error tables automatically from IDoc.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

August 14, 2008  11:12 AM

Are your business intelligence users smarter than a high schooler?

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

Having a tough time getting business executives to do their own business intelligence?

Well, at The Thacher School, a 119-year-old boarding high school in California, students and parents are conducting analysis on their own, using Xcelsius Present, a new application that converts Excel spreadsheets into BI tools, to calculate and plan for the cost of college, executive Marge Breya said at the Business Objects Influencer Summit in Boston this week.

The scenario was meant to serve as an example of SAP’s goal to bring BI to a desk near you, and how easy the tools are to use. As Business Objects executive Sanjay Poonen put it, “from the boardroom to every single clerk.”

“Unlike some of our competitors, we have seen Business Objects as a way of moving into business-users,” Poonen said.

Actually, BI vendors have been pitching the BI for the masses line for years — Hyperion/Oracle, Microsoft, and others, including Business Objects prior to being purchased by SAP in October of 2007 have all trumpeted the value of extending BI from the “power users” to the “casual users.”

But some questions remain. Five years later, we’re still hearing the same message. What will it take to get casual users to actually use BI and is it really worth the expense in the first place?

Business Objects is offering one answer. Down the road, executives said they see BI being sold like SAP’s ERP Business Suite — BI for manufacturing, BI for retail. The vision is of a tool that’s “not about feature and function, but about industry-specific scenarios,” Poonen said.

“I think, three to five years from now, this entire space will have a flavor that’s…industry specific,” Poonen said. “It’s a natural evolution. I think that’s where this is headed.”

Why not BI for college financial planning? Do you like the sound of that?

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