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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How Did You Learn SAP Integration?

 

I was talking to my little brother yesterday. He is a medical doctor and he is currently finishing his higher education. In this phase, he is working as a general practitioner – but he has supervision. So every day he has 30 minutes to talk about some of the experiences he is going through in this important period. This is quite a privilege when trying to master a craft. I don’t think that I had that option when I started learning SAP XI, 10 years ago.

survey on clipboard shows very good 

I also went through a learning process. There were two standard SAP XI courses and some e-learning. I had to become an expert in my own field. That was a bit challenging. I was supposed to know how everything would work, and how to design and solve issues. I really learned a lot during that phase. One of my advantages was that I had a few colleagues I could call to discuss my strange questions. I had many questions, I did not know anything about design back then. Those conversations really helped me get started.

 

We all have our different learning paths that help us become who we want to be. There are a lot of things we must do to fully understand the concepts of SAP Integration.

 

I’m getting quite a lot of requests regarding new SAP PI/PO roles at the moment, from all over the globe. It must mean that there is a requirement for SAP Customers to get new PI developers. I can tell that customers aren’t keen on having novice SAP PI developers working for them. There are some concepts that you must understand before you can become an expert PI developer.

 

I’m looking into effective methods of improving various people’s skills in the area of PI/PO development, so they can get started faster. I would like to hear about your learning journey. What was important for you? What is the best path to follow in order to become an expert developer? By ensuring that new developers can receive this crucial information, we can make sure they speed up their learning process.

 

Another part of the survey is focused on how you currently work. Even though you have been working with SAP XI/PI/PO for many years, there are still new use cases and different ways to solve new issues. It is also possible that a new, improved feature has been introduced. Sharing your objectives with your colleagues and receiving feedback on your projects is always a good idea. I have also put some of this into the survey.

 

So if you have some free time, please spend a few minutes filling out this survey:

http://picourse.com/learningsurvey

 

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