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Does your new purchase require extra resources

I want to share an observation that I’ve had while working with some of my customers. Whenever a business gets a new type of product, it often involves integrating a different component into their IT system. In the SAP integration world, there are a lot of new tools that you may want to add, which will need to be mixed in with your existing applications. Until recently, you have probably had only one ERP system, but now we’re starting to see a lot more systems — both cloud-based and integration tools, that need to be dealt with. And the question is, who is supposed to be maintaining these systems?

In my experience with customers, I’m not being called in because their in-house developers don’t have enough to do, I’m being hired because they have enough work already, and now the organizations are trying to figure out how to integrate new tools into their system while maintaining the current workload. Most of the time, there is a new tool that needs to be implemented, and people think that their developers should be able to continue doing what they’ve always done, plus magically deal with this new shiny object! But that’s not always how it works.

If you’ve been in this situation, and your organization has worked to implement new tools on top of the regular workload, please feel free to post about it in the comments.

Most of the time, organizations call in consultants to help figure out how to use a new tool, although it seems a bit strange to me that they would bring in someone from the outside to help, when it is the internal developers who know how the system works and who need to be able to maintain it.

About five years ago, one of my clients had only one developer maintaining all their integration work; but today, they have a team of four or more developers working full time to maintain their system, keeping the tasks up to date, etc. There are always challenges with more complex tools and new needs from the business that need to be considered and integrated. For example, if you’re getting API Management from SAP, you might logically think this is integration work, and would be aligned with the Integration Department. However, API Management is a different tool with a different skillset and a different kind of expertise required to make it work right. Consequently, departments need to carefully consider how this new component will work with existing components, and who is best suited to do the development and integration work of the new tool. Careful planning is needed to understand how you can best tie all the pieces together.

I have to put in a plug here: my company, Figaf, has a product called the IRT which we have created for testing PI systems. It is a new tool built to work with tools you already have. IRT is used in testing to help you figure out where new tools will best fit in and work together with your existing systems, and hopefully save you time and effort.

So, if you’re considering buying a new tool, please take the time to consider whether you need more people involved than the normal integration team so that the tool can be integrated into your current system in the best way possible

SAP Cloud Platform Integration Day 2017 (aka third annual HCI Day )

I attended the SAP Cloud Platform Integration(HCI) day this week.

I created a video around the topic where I’m going deeper into the content that I can describe here.

 

There is a problem with the name of the product. There is no official abbreviation of it so during the presentation it was mentioned as HCI, SCP Integration and CPI. CPI is the most logical but is used by another product. The lack will mean it becomes more difficult to find people with the correct skillsets because there is so many different solutions. So until somebody find an official abbreviation I’ll be using HCI.

There was a section with the news highlights of HCI where Udo Paltzer was presenting some new.

·        Self service key store

·        JMS Queues internally to decouple async message. It is on the enterprise version.

·        99.99% uptime on a monthly basis. Somebody was mentioning that contract giving SAP access to hours of service window if it was planned.

·        Web UI was the way forward, Eclipse would be depreciated.

·        A customer regression testing solution. Since it is something I’m quite interested in with my tool for doing the same on SAP PI/PO. Check out http://figaf.com/irt to learn about the generic solution to test SAP PI/PO.

Customer regression testing is a service SAP provides where a customer can submit an iFlow together with in and out test messages. SAP would then make a test mock of the service and run the tests on it.

SAP will then run those mock iFlows in their own system before the code is released for customers and if there are any errors they would ensure that they do not break any functionality. This is a service you need to buy at SAP and will only cover your most critical or complex scenarios. And if your iFlow changes you will need to submit new tests. It will be a service you will see on the price list.

SAP was also presenting some of their services that used the HCI. There was a Ariba Connector hub something which enabled you to onboard vendors or suppliers fairly easy. Here the user was guided thru a wizard about the integration. There was some confusion where it fitted in but they were just creating iflow based on the configuration. There was also a Farma net demo where they also created iFlows in the background using some internal APIs for HCI. The API will be public this fall.

I was at a workshop last summer in Waldorf where we were looking for better ways to improve the integration experience. One of the ideas was this one click or wizard approach to create integrations.

There was also a Successfactor and eDocuments presentations. From them it was clear to see that these services gave companies an approach to SAP HCI and then they would get to know the product. And hopefully start moving more integrations to it. The hot example is the Spanish SII document that will start 1 july 2017. Last weeks there was 80 productive instances running now there was 280. So it was a big driver for getting HCI to customers.

There was 9 partner presentations of different levels of depth and relevance to HCI.

Some of the takeways I got from Morten Wittrock from KMD was that it would be beneficial to learn about the Camel framework and groovy scripts because it enabled you to leverage the full platform.

ProXcellence was talking about if customers was really ready for the cloud. It was something to buy HCI but not all organizations was able to leverage it together with the changed capabilities of the cloud infrastructure. HCI was quite simple but you sometimes needed to get some more experienced developers onboard because there were limitations to what business uses knew about certificates and the integration.

Do check out video attached to this post.

 

Always use PI/PRO for exposing web services

I recently had a long walk at the park trying to get my young son to sleep in his stroller. While I walked, I was thinking about a question I had this week from a potential client, and wondering about SAP integration, and whether or not we need PI/PRO, or if we might be able to use ECC for webshops instead.

The potential clients were doing web service, or a portal, and they wanted to know if they could connect with an ECC backend. I told them that’s fine; the conventional wisdom in PI communities has been that we want to make sure everything is governed through the PI, so we’ve used SOS services. This has been the mantra since I started with PI/XI, it’s been the standard approach.

Recently, however, I see that this standard has loosened up a little, and developers are exposing things in different ways. The first thing that comes to mind is Gateway, which is almost the same thing as using the PI, but enables you to access the ECC data directly using the OData and other similar operations. So Gateway is probably one of the more capable technologies.

We’ve also got solutions like API management, which usually goes through Gateway, or in some instances through PI/PRO. This is a bit of a change, which makes me think again about what the benefits are of using a PI. Obviously, you’ve got the element of governance — you know who’s calling the server – and you’ve got a way of exposing all kinds of different services to the outside world. In this case, the developers just need to worry about web services, and not about RFCs, proxies, or whatever you are calling on the back end. Other benefits include security and scalability, which allow you ensure that that the web service/front end, would not bog down the ECC system with too many requests all at one time. The PI allows you to configure that in different ways. Those are some of the good capabilities of the PI.

On the other hand, the PI is adding some latency to the web service calls, and the development process takes a little bit longer because it is more complicated to call through different layers.

So, ultimately, I guess people need to figure out what a project’s integration strategy is, and whether they have a PI or an HCI, and especially how they all fit in together. For example, if you want an HCI and are calling the ECC back-end, things can become a little complicated! With that in mind, in a lot of instances, it may even be possible to call ECC directly, and let the web guys worry about that part. Sure, as a PI developer, I would prefer to get this extra work, but if it’s not adding a lot of value for my client and it’s just me logging hours, I don’t know if I can justify using it.

What are your thoughts? Please share your input, so I can share with my clients.

How the Seeburger Migration Tool Works

 

I can understand that there is a bit of confusion about how our Seeburger Migration Tool works for converting from Seebuger BIC to the B2B Add-on.

I hope this post will make things clearer.

The big problem is that Seeburger’s XML representation of the EDIFACT/XML formats is different from the ones that form the SAP B2B Add-on. The root node is different, and there is a difference in how Groups and some fields names are made. It is therefore a bit of a challenge to move from one format to the other. Below you can see what the SOT tool does.

I have tried to illustrate the process in the following diagram:
How SOT functions

SOT is a small, self-contained web application that runs locally on your own PC. Once installed, you are able to configure which PI system it should use.

The process is the following:

  1. The user selects a Message Mapping from a drop-down list and which External Definition to use for the mapping.
  2. User Presses Fetch and Update.
    1. This will download the Metadata from the mapping.
    2. Find the Seeburger XSD contained in the mapping.
    3. Compare the existing Seeburger format with the B2B Add-on format. It will then know that it needs to convert from /LIST/S_UNB/S_UNH/G_SSG25/S_LIN/D_1082 to /INVOIC96A/M_INVOIC/G_SG25/S_LIN/D_1082. It is using an algorithm for the comparison, so nothing special is required for the different message types and versions.
    4. Go through the mapping metadata and convert all occurrences of the first Xpath to the second.
    5. Alert if there is a difference in the structure that is not accounted for, or if there are other errors.
  3. The user can then select Update. This will upload the new message data to the server, and the mapping will use the new definition.
  4. You will have to open the mapping and save it to make sure it compiles the mapping files.

You will still be able to use the same original mapping; it will just work on the B2B format.

The functions that you use will still be in the mapping, since we are only changing the use of XSD.

If you want to see more, I suggest that you check out the tool page for SOT.

 

Announcing Short-Term Consulting and Easy Booking Services!

I wish to announce an innovative addition to my services, which is short-term booking. This new service will allow you to book me for one or two-hour sessions, during which I will help you solve any issues.

 

The idea came to me quite recently. I was trying to book a hotel room, but I couldn’t figure out which hotels had available rooms (not unless I inquired by phone or e-mail, wasting time I didn’t have). That was the moment when it hit me: my customers cannot book me really easily, either. While I cannot change tourism practices, I can make a positive change in my own business, therefore I am determined to make it easier for customers to book me for a number of small projects.

 

The improvement to the service is pretty simple. In order to book me, you just need to follow the link provided via e-mail and select the desired package. After clicking on your preferred option (‘1 hour’, ‘2 hours’ or ‘24/7, 2 hours’), you will be able to see my calendar and choose the right time for our appointment. After selecting the time of the appointment from the available working hours listed on my calendar, you will have to pay for the services using your credit card. As soon as the payment is processed, you will receive an invitation to an online meeting. The meeting will take place at the time you selected. You will be able to share your desktop via GoToMeeting and I will help you solve the issue at hand.

The first 30 minutes of our collaboration are crucial: if you feel that I haven’t provided enough value for your money within the first 30 minutes – if you are able to objectively state that you haven’t got any closer to the right solution – you are entitled to request a refund. Bear in mind that if I am unable to deliver the help you need, your payment will be reimbursed.

 

The service can be used for problem solving, mapping, feedback or design-related issues. That being said, if you want someone to help you figure out how to do a specific integration, then this is the right service for you.

With the introduction of the new booking function comes a special offer too: I am offering a 50% discount on standard services. The offer lasts until the end of April.

http://figaf.com/products/sap-pipo-assistance/

I am also offering a 24/7 support service – you call me, and I start solving your problem within 2 hours. If I am unable to make it, you can ask for a reimbursement or a rescheduled appointment.


You can read more about my services and their comparison on this website.