Which Enterprise software is easy to learn but also has the complexity?

For my tool to SAP PI/PO testing system, I was asked how much training you need. My thought was one hour, a client said 4 hours. That is a big difference than learning SAP PI/PO that will take days/months.

With all tools, there is the trade-off to make something simple that can do one thing VS something that can do everything. The simple is a Stopwatch app. A complex is a Java framework like Spring that allows you to do everything. And then you have everything in between.

But it got me thinking about how we learn software. You can view the video here

Please share below if you have found any good tools that we can learn from. 

So a good example of a software that is good to use from the gaming world is the simulation games. Here you get information that now clicks this icon, then do this and now you can build a farm. It is a bit frustrating because you cannot explore the application. If they do not have this guide it will be difficult to have users figuring out how to use the system.

I have not seen that strong guides for anything in the Enterprise world. Our installation is taking longer than installing an App from your favorite app store. And probably there are too many steps involved to just discard a project the moment you first run into a problem.

In the SAP world it is also difficult you have SAP ERP and creating a Purchase Order takes some time to learn. I know there are Screen Personas ( or what current name may be) and Fiori that may simplify some of the normal POs created. But it still a different approach and will allow a limited functionality. If users should do something more or create a more complicated PO it cannot be done without a lot of custom development.

Our current approaches to simplify the user experience is:

  • Add a free video course that covers the different scenarios that you would have. So a way to get the user started.
  • We are also working on embedding the documentation tighter into the application.
  • We have tried to make it as simple as possible to set up the test case with the tool.

I’m not sure if we could make some guides that helped people selecting a good interface to start testing with. But there could be some pointers what people should be looking at and for.

Please share if any good ideas to look for ways to get people using complex enterprise software. 

 

How to ensure quality from your SAP consultants

I was talking about the talking about the future of consulting/freelancing at my disruption training. One thing that we got to talk about was recommendations like as on TripAdvisor.

If you are going to hire a consultant or employee (for that matter), you just have to hope that your skills as judging the person are correct. And also their CV is accurate and has the skills to solve your problems. I’m sure there are some are terrific interviewer, but it may be challenging to find the best person for a job.

If you were going to hire me you would make obvious like to see that somebody has said something nice about me. I’m charging a premium rate compared to what is typically requested via requiters.

I have only been hired once where the recruiter asked for references from two previous clients. I’m not sure what is the normal way to be checking what is going on. The way this normally has happened is. I have asked “Hey John, I have a new project going on will you give a reference for me.”
He will then write few words of recommendation. Like “Daniel has been really helpful in our SAP PI project. He has been taking the lead and ensured our systems is update. ”

The problem with such a review is that my clients may like me for the person that I’m and how I’m helping them. The solutions that I’m providing may not be optimal and not live up to the promise that I gave or is telling them. In some cases where I’m helping with skills that are outside their expertise, they will not be able to tell if I did a good job.

There is the third party review as a second approach. Here either I or future clients need to pay another consultant to review the work that I did. He would need same skills as I have to be able to verify what I have done. It would probably to be the most reliable sources of review because it is judging the work.

Though it may have some challenges. How am I suppose to give third party access to what I have done and shown it the best way? In most contracts, I’m not allowed to share confidential data with outsiders. I have made some solutions that are not optimal if you look at them from an end perspective, but there may have been changes during the development that meant we ended up with some crap data.

A solution: Another way could we agree on two rates a normal and one for good work. For the first period, I’m at the standard rate. Then after two-three months, my client get a third party reviewer to go thru the content that I have made. And if it is okay I got the premium rate (paid back for the 3 months) otherwise we go for the normal rate. And the contact may end.
With this latter approach, I’m giving the client some risk reversal to ensure they only pay the premium if I’m really good. And most consultants would be able to wait for it.
The only price for this would be the third party review, which anyway would be an excellent way to ensure that you are making good quality.

I guess the topic of judging Quality will be in a separate post later. Be sure to connect or follow to hear about it.

SAP Integration Landscape and Emerging Complexity

The field of process integration is changing quickly, setting new challenges for Integration professionals, and I think a good understanding of the available tools is key.

When we talk about paradigms in process integration, there have been 3 major phases:

  • Mainframes: Back in the day, most companies had one mainframe or two. The good thing about the mainframe was that it was fairly simple to integrate what were essentially internal programs – even if you had to work across mainframe platforms.
  • Client-server: With the emergence of client-servers and SAP R/3, the number of application servers was growing quickly. Suddenly, as an Integration Department, you had to figure out how to integrate the applications in your landscape so that you could create a new interface. In SAP terms, it may have been a Business Connector or eXchange Infrastructure (XI). You only had one tool to use.
  • The Cloud: Today, cloud integration is the norm, and the goal is to be able to quickly and easily leverage new cloud capabilities from existing development. A couple of examples of existing cloud capabilities are Hybris Cloud for Customer (e-commerce solutions) and SuccessFactor (human capital management).  There are also a number of non-SAP cloud applications. In fact, you most likely have some of them in your landscape already. As the integration expert, your job requires you to make them all play together seamlessly. Some come with prebuild content others you have to create for yourself.

As I said earlier, it used to be that you had integration consolidation that mostly worked in XI/PI. Now, Integration departments are faced with a very different landscape, driven by the need for new integration capabilities, and need to be looking outside of their space at the tools that are already available in other areas of process development. If we understand what’s out there, we can choose the right tool for the job.

I’m talking about tools like the HANA Cloud Platform – integration services (HCP-IS)/HCI, Process Orchestration (PRO), API Management, and Data Services to do bigger data ETL. We’ve also got the Application Integration Framework Overview (AIF), for when you want to do any integration with backend services. There are also SAP Gateway solutions available for exposing OData. Those are the SAP integration technologies that I can think of off the top of my head, other vendors have similar offerings that may be relevant.

I did this exercise with a customer and we spend 6 hours on the different topics and when it did fit into their architecture.

The big problem for the integration manager/architect is that you need to know the tools, and know when it makes sense to use one and how to select one over another. You also need to be able to train your team to use them. As you learn more, you’ll find a lot of overlap between the capabilities of the various tools, and knowing what each one can do will allow you to streamline your process when you have complex situations.

The challenge with all these tools is that it is both labor-intensive and potentially expensive to try them out. Say you have a situation where you want to expose some data to the user. First, you will have to figure out the logic and the capabilities of the various tools to find the best one to combine the elements so your API management will call  PRO or Gateway — to get or expose some data. Then you’ll need to acquire the tools and start using them, in order to really understand where they fit and what you can do with them. Once you get that down, you will need to work out how to leverage the technology internally. So, a lot of work is involved whenever you introduce new technology like this. You also have to keep in mind that you will be paying for licensing to use the tool, even if you don’t end up implementing it.

So as integration experts and enterprise architects, working in a rapidly changing field, we want to do our homework and really understand any tool and how we can leverage it before we place it in our systems.

What is your strategy for landscape integration? How do you cope with training problems?

SAP PI/PO Learning survey is out

The responses to the survey were finally compiled into a comprehensive report. Reading and interpreting people’s answers were enjoyable activities.SAP PI PO learning survey

I am glad that I can announce the availability of this survey – and the availability of its results. The report can be found at this link: http://picourse.com/learningsurvey/

The survey took place in March 2015. The 139 respondents answered questions related to their career in the field of SAP XI/PI/PO development. They let us take a peek into the beginnings of their careers. These professionals were ready to share the details of their SAP learning experiences. Their answers have clearly shown that a true professional never stops evolving.

There are several methods of learning SAP XI/PI/PO. Most people turn to a course in order to receive the basic information they need, and to understand the platform’s characteristics. Of course, these courses can vary greatly. Some choose standard classroom SAP courses, while others opt for online courses. On the other hand, consulting companies prefer organizing in-house courses.

Another method involves a professional collaboration with a mentor. The guidance of a more experienced developer can make a huge difference in the SAP XI/PI/PO learning process. One of the priorities of the survey was establishing whether sharing ideas with fellow developers can greatly influence the learning process.

Another key aspect that was approached by the survey is the amount of time required by a developer to become completely independent as an SAP professional. The survey has shown that most developers feel confident only after a period of 1-2 years. An SAP course might not be enough by itself – there’s always room for improvement and mentorship is a very good approach to acquiring SAP skills.

Another topic was the issue of continuous learning. I found out that ⅔ of developers review their work, one way or another. That’s quite a large number, and it also correlates with the size of the developer’s organization. The bigger your organization, the more likely it is that you review your solutions.

You can get the report on how people have learned SAP PI here:

http://picourse.com/learningsurvey/

 

SAP PI/PO Developers Have a Lot of Experience

I’m currently doing a survey on how SAP XI/PI/PO developers started. The survey is still in progress, but I would like to share one interesting result with you.

 
There are currently 89 responses, collected in one week. I will evaluate the survey next week, so please help out by responding to the questions. I can see most people spend around 5 minutes completing the survey.skill on dartboard showing expertise

http://picourse.com/learningsurvey

One question that I have asked is how many years of experience you have with  SAP XI/PI/PO. And the responses were diverse, as shown below.

This question received 59 responses. Of those 59 responses 7 or 11.9% indicated less than one year of experience. Most respondents had between four and eight years of experience.

 
This means that the product is quite mature, and the developers have a lot of experience with these tools.

Years of SAP PI/XI/PO Experiance

Obviously, there might be some issues regarding those who had completed the survey. Most of the people on the server are persons from one of my email lists or followers of their community. It is possible that the responses were not given only by new followers of the SCN community.

I do find it interesting that people stick with their SAP PI/PO skill. Normally for a developer a few years is enough before moving on to other areas. But for SAP PI we have a lot of people with more than five years of experience. This is great because customers can expect to receive the services of experienced consultants and developers.
For us developers it’s also interesting that it makes sense to stay in the community, because we can still learn. Obviously, there are jobs for us as well – this must mean that the tool is good and it’s being widely used by customers.

 

To all those working with SAP PI/PO: I hope you could help me out with the survey. That way we can get even more responses on how people learn SAP PI/PO.

 
Currently there are 85 responses, in just one week. The responses are anonymous and I will only be posting general information and feedback from the survey, therefore I will not disclose your level of engagement with SAP PI.
http://picourse.com/learningsurvey 

The full table is here:

Question Options Number of answers Percent
Summary: 59  
1 7 11.9%
2 2 3.4%
3 5 8.5%
4 6 10.2%
5 10 16.9%
6 5 8.5%
7 9 15.3%
8 8 13.6%
9 4 6.8%
10+ 3 5.1%

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