SAP and Enterprise Trends Podcasts from Jon Reed (@jonerp) of diginomica.com
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SAP development is changing rapidly, and this technical evolution is impacting both technical and functional SAP professionals. To get an inside look at the future of SAP development, Jon interviewed Thomas Jung, NetWeaver Product Manager with SAP Labs and an influential blogger on the SAP Developer Network.

Jon asked Thomas about a number of "hot button" topics in the SAP development space, including the innovations of the CE environment and the modeling tools needed for eSOA-driven development, the impact of outsourcing and how to make your skills "outsourcing proof," why ABAP development is alive and well, and how's SAP's SDN and BPX communities are affecting how SAP professionals interact with SAP and enhance their skill sets.

In this thirty-three minute interview, hosted by Jon Franke of SearchSAP.com, "the two Jons" and Thomas cover the following topics:

- Thomas' role at SAP Labs and how his NetWeaver Product Management team is involved with the rollout of the NetWeaver product line and the interaction with SAP users at events and seminars.

- Why the online communities have had such an effect on SAP development and how knowledge about SAP products and skills trends is disseminated.

- Jon asks Thomas to explain why his presentation on "Updating Your ABAP Skills to NetWeaver 7.0" has been so well received at SAP conferences, and what the key adjustments a 4.6 SAP developer has to make to be effective in NetWeaver 7.x and eSOA environments. Thomas points out that one key aspect of the "SAP developer of the future" is simply mastering object-oriented programming and ABAP Objects - something you can get started on even while working on 4.x projects.

- Frequently, Jon his from readers who ask him "is ABAP dead?" Thomas puts these fears to rest once and for all by explaining that ABAP is still very much a part of the NetWeaver development environment. He describes some of the situations where ABAP is more useful and some where Java-based tools are more relevant. ABAP works best for powering high-volume, core transactions and Java is ideal for "edge programming" where SAP is extending its functionality via Enterprise Services. But ABAP can be "opened up" as well, and many new SAP components are built partially or fully in ABAP.

- The impact of offshoring - Thomas gives his take on which SAP projects are better suited for outsourcing and which development projects are more effective to have in-house. Thomas doesn't believe that it makes sense to outsource all SAP development projects, and he goes on to describe some of the ways that SAP programmers can make their skills "outsourcing proof": don't build a "wall" between you and the rest of the team, keep up on your knowledge, stay visible, and become known as the person who learns the latest SAP technical tools and shares them with others.

- Thomas shares the highlights of the SAP Composition Environment (CE), including the integration between CE and the Enterprise Services Repository (ESR), Visual Composer, Guided Procedures, and the other bells and whistles of this EE 5 environment.

- What is the makeup of the ideal SAP project team? Thomas puts on his CIO hat and talks about the kinds of people he would put on his SAP technical project team. More than anything, he'd be looking for self-starters who aggressively educate themselves through their involvement with SDN and other learning communities. He'd want to see a mixture of Internet, Java, and ABAP skills on the team, but more important than specific tools is an SAP technical team that can adapt to the pace of innovation.

- In terms of "soft" business skills, Thomas places a high value on those who get outside their cubicles and interact with the project team, making an effort to transfer knowledge to other team members. Thomas believes that you can't get away with being a "cubicle coder," anymore. If you aren't needed on site, then you run the risk of being outsourced. One way to differentiate yourself is to know enough about the business to be able to help business users define their requirements and what they want to accomplish technically.

- Thomas explains why the latest batch of modeling tools are catching on and why modeling is having such an impact on SAP development. There are two types of modeling tools: those that help business users model processes on a higher level without needing to program (Visual Programmers), and those that help programmers reduce repetitive programming tasks (Web Dynpro for Java being one example, and other modeling tools added to the NetWeaver Developer Studio and the ABAP Workbench being other examples).

- Jon asks Thomas about SAP's eSOA strategy and how it is impacting development. Thomas agrees that eSOA will allow companies to build Enterprise Services using the language and platform of their choice, but he also notes that SAP is building some of the best SOA development and consumption tools on the market.

- Jon Franke of SearchSAP asks Thomas about how business users can get more involved in these trends, and Thomas points out the BPX community, and how business users can get involved in a variety of ways, including through BPX's industry vertical communities.

- Jon points out that Thomas' "Update Your ABAP Skills to NetWeaver 7.0" seminar is available on the Virtual TechEd '07 track on SDN (for a fee), and Thomas shares the forward schedule for when this workshop will be held next.

- Thomas wraps the podcast with a compelling argument to avoid career panic in the face of new SAP technologies. He makes the point that SAP developers should follow their passions, and when you are the best at what you do, that's an excellent way "outsource-proof" your skills.
Direct download: pcast_0208_sap_reed_jung01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:57am EST
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In this podcast, Jon talks with Peter Scott of Traxion Consulting and gets his take on why the NetWeaver BI marketplace has picked up so much momentum. Jon asks Peter to explain how NetWeaver BI got so hot and the skills SAP BI professionals need to succeed in the BI field. Peter also shares the keys to staffing SAP BI projects and how SAP end users should approach their BI installs and upgrades.

In this twenty-seven minute podcast, Jon and Peter cover a range of NetWeaver BI topics, including:

- The role of Traxion consulting in the BI market and their focus on BI knowledge transfer.

- The changing terminology of BW and BI and the transition from BW 3.5 to BI 7.0.

- Jon asks Peter why the NetWeaver BI market is so hot right now. Peter explains that in a recent survey, 40 percent of all CIOs cited BI projects as their number one priority. Part of the issue is the explosion of data for all SAP customers, and they want to stay on top of this data to improve decision making based on facts. Also, because of Sarbanes-Oxley, companies installed BW and now they are looking for more ways of leveraging the data.

- Part of the growth of BI is about the transition between ERP as a transaction-based system and the new role of ERP has a decision-making platform to extend reporting and business intelligence to users and executives. How to pull the ERP data out and use it has become a top corporate priority.
- Peter explains the keys to BI training and bringing an internal team up to speed, to leave them in a better position after external consultants have left. Peter talks about the importance of custom SAP training with heavy hands-on involvement, and why it can be so much more effective than a standard "out of the box" training.

- Jon asks Peter how SAP teams can overcome user resistance to job changes brought on by BI and how to get them excited about the new technology. Peter talks about the importance of getting management on board to improve buy-in of the system, and to recognize that there will be user resistance if SAP users are not brought into the loop with the changes that are pending.

- Jon's theory is that BI is not just for specialists anymore. BI is a skill that all consultants can and should incorporate into their SAP skill set. Peter agrees, and talks about the how all R/3 and ECC consultants can add value to their clients by understanding the NetWeaver stack, and BI specifically, and how the ECC environment connects to the OLAP environment, in SAP Financials and many other areas. And you can also get a great niche in BI by including a functional focus with those skills.

- Peter gives his take on the kinds of skills you want to have on a well-rounded BI team. A solid understanding of data modeling and data warehousing is key. ABAP is still important, and ABAP for BI is valuable also for writing user exits and function modules for BI. Even in the age of Web Reporting and the Java stack, ABAP is still relevant. HTML and Javascript are also useful for advanced programming and inserting code into the Web Application Designer. Peter also recommends Visual Composer skills, and Web Dynpro skills, as well as Object-Oriented programming skills.

- Peter comments about some of the tools that are emerging in the BI space, including Visual Composer and Web Dynpro, as well as other tools that are extending the out-of-the-box functionality, including customized reports and better presentation options that also increase user buy-in through a better interface. Peter says that with the latest WebDynpro and Visual Composer presentation options, you can almost trick users into not realizing they are using SAP because it's so intuitive.

- Jon asks Peter about BI implementation scenarios and common mistakes to avoid. Peter talks about companies spending insufficient time on design, planning, and user buy-in during the initial project stages. Understanding the company's user requirements is important to be able to identify the limitations of the system and plan accordingly.
- Peter talks about the real ROI takeaways from a successful NetWeaver BI project. Peter shares the example of a project where they were able to identify 7 million dollars in unbilled revenue as a result of the BI tools. Peter also finds that a good BI project helps an SAP customer develop much clearer benchmarks and metrics for everyone understanding the keys to business success in their industry.

- In terms of a real-life example of a KPI, Peter describes previous clients who did not know who their most profitable customers were, and how the BI implementation helped them to identify who those customers were. Or, alternately, a company that figured out that some of their products were too expensive based on the analysis of the raw materials through BI reports.

- Jon asks Peter to talk about upgrade lessons to NetWeaver BI 7.0. Peter talks about the importance, once again, of pre-project planning, and what bugs you might run into during the conversion. Internal knowledge, training, and change management all play a role.
Direct download: pcast_0108_sap_reed_scott01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:50am EST
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Jon Reed speaks with Steve Strout, CEO of ASUG, Americas' SAP Users' Group, about the key issues SAP customers are facing in the NetWeaver and eSOA era. Jon asks Steve about the different perspectives SAP customers have concerning upgrades and how ASUG can make an impact on SAP project team education and support during the upgrade cycle.

Steve also talks about how ASUG is impacting SAP's product evolution and he shares his vision for ASUG in 2008 and beyond.

During this thirty-five minute podcast, Jon and Steve touch on key topics such as:

- How Jon first met Steve at SAPPHIRE/ASUG 2007, and right after they met, someone spilled a drink on Steve. Jon begins the podcast by telling Steve he hopes that this initial spill is not permanently associated with talking with Jon. Jon talks about how ASUG has evolved from a "small thorn in SAP's side" to a "true collaborative" partner, and one of the most powerful software users groups in the world.

- Steve talks about how he initially got involved in ASUG with his first event he attended in 2002, why he is so impressed by the passion of the SAP community, and how his role at ASUG evolved until the opportunity to become ASUG's first CEO emerged this fall.

- Jon asks Steve about his progress on developing an ASUG strategy for the coming year, and Steve shares his vision of redefining what a software user group can be. Steve's goal is to reach the point where ASUG is at the center of the SAP ecosystem. Steve talks about how the 50,000 plus ASUG members have had a major impact on SAP's product development through ASUG's expanding group of Influence Councils.

- Jon tells Steve that at TechEd, he ran into a number of SAP customers who were still confused about NetWeaver, eSOA, and how to leverage to eSOA technology to get a true return on investment. He asks Steve to explain how ASUG can help customers sort through their eSOA confusion and come up with a solid roadmap. Steve talks about the way that SOA technology has evolved, and the power of the eSOA architecture due to the loose coupling and the potential to involve customers and suppliers through exposed services. Steve talks about two of ASUG's new SIGs (Special Interest Groups) dedicated to eSOA: one focused on Enterprise Architects, and one on eSOA, and how those SIGs allow ASUG to gather and relay key feedback and influence SAP's approach to eSOA.

- Steve asks JonERP.com readers for feedback on whether it would be helpful to offer regional workshops on getting started with eSOA and developing an eSOA roadmap, and if so, what regions and cities would be best for the sessions.
- ASUG regularly conducts "Voice of the Customer" surveys to identify the key "pain points" SAP users are facing in both functional and technical areas. Steve tells us that the key pain points SAP customers are facing are: 1. upgrades, 2. eSOA and 3. how to get the most out of their existing SAP investment. Steve talks about the upcoming "SAP upgrade symposiums" that will help ASUG members network with other members who are in the same situation or are further along.

- Jon tells Steve that these three pain points correspond well with the results of his own informal survey at TechEd, where he grouped SAP customers into three separate mindsets: the early eSOA adopters, those who were looking seriously at eSOA, and those customers who were much more focused on getting the most out of their existing SAP R/3 systems and distrusted the hype around the new eSOA functionality. Jon asked Steve how ASUG can meet the needs of members with such different agendas, and Steve talked about the different roles ASUG can play depending on the version numbers the member is running on, and that ASUG can do something for all of its members no matter what version of SAP they are on. However, Steve acknowledges that it can be hard to get SAP to make changes to releases that are a number of years old.

- As an example of another way that ASUG can help SAP users, Steve talks about ASUG's new "Best Practices in HCM" report, which gathers HR-related data from SAP customers and puts it into an "actionable" form that ASUG members can utilize, knowing that the data in the report was based on the "best practices" of companies with deep experience managing SAP HCM projects.

- Jon talks about how at TechEd 2007, he ran into a number of SAP customers who were frustrated by the challenge of finding the right consultants for their projects at the right price. As a result, they were focused more than ever on building a good internal team. Jon asked Steve what the training options might for companies looking to recruit and retain their own SAP talent, and how ASUG could help. Steve responded by saying that while formal training is important, that there is sometimes even more value in the simple process of networking at ASUG events and online. Being able to interact with customers in the same situation as you, or perhaps further along enough to share "best practices," is one of the biggest benefits of ASUG. Steve explains that ASUG's goal is to help provide its members with more resources so they are not as dependent on consultants who take the expertise with them when they leave, or cost a pretty penny to keep around.

- Unable to stump Steve with any hard questions, Jon has one more curve ball ready: Jon asks Steve about the new Business By Design (BBD) customers, and how ASUG plans to support this type of smaller customer, one that might have a very different kind of training need. Steve explained that ASUG will soon be running on BBD, and that ASUG is working with SAP to define the kind of support and member services the BBD customer will need. He envisions a combination of virtual support and in-person seminars and conferences.

- Steve closes the podcast by sharing his goals for ASUG for 2008, including improved ASUG.com web functionality and ease of use, increasing involvement of ASUG Associate Members (vendors, suppliers, etc), and the continued goal of bringing ASUG into the center of the SAP Ecosystem.

- Jon and Steve confirm that the way to get more details on items such as the ASUG HCM report, or to learn more about becoming an ASUG member, is to visit ASUG.com.
Direct download: pcast_1107_sap_reed_strout01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:54pm EST
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The SAP market is changing, but one thing remains a constant: the need for quality SAP professionals with the right skills combinations. In his latest podcast, Jon sat down with Kent Sanders, a 15 year SAP professional who is knee-deep on a cutting edge eSOA project for a major SAP Retail customer.

Sit in with Jon and Kent as they discuss Kent's keys to attracting and retaining SAP talent, how SAP developers can stay relevant on projects and reduce the risk of being outsourced, and how Kent's project team has developed a different way of obtaining "buy in" for eSOA projects, building support "from the bottom up." Kent also talks about the tools SAP professionals need to master to stay relevant, and how his project finds the right mix between outside consultants and internal training.

During this thirty five minute podcast, Jon and Kent cover topics such as:

- How Kent's fifteen year SAP career has evolved into his current role as an Enterprise Architect, and how he has pursued the TOGAF certification and other components of his skill set.

- The importance of the TOGAF SOA architecture and how it applies to the SAP world, in terms of architectural solutions that solve SAP business problems. Kent explains how the TOGAF framework was incorporated into SAP's Enterprise Architecture Framework, and how he was involved in the earlier stages of this process while working for SAP.

- Why ABAP Developers and SAP Java Programmers need to think about becoming SAP Software Engineers, and why SAP Basis Experts should focus on becoming SAP Enterprise Architects.

- The current NetWeaver product suite, including NetWeaver Portals, and how eSOA skills fit into a broader NetWeaver competency.

- How the line is blurring between technical and functional approaches, and the role "offshoring" can play in this process of staffing projects. Kent also notes the communication issues involved in outsourcing that can impact which projects are appropriate for offshoring and which are better handled in house.

- Fresh back from a conference session on attracting and retaining SAP talent, Kent talks about the three keys to building (and keeping) a great project team: provide a well-thought career path for your team members; 2. don't hold back on training your people with the latest SAP skills even if it means you might lose some of them to the SAP job market; 3. adopt a mentality of continuous training.

- Kent also reports that the hardest skills to find, according to the SAP customers at the conference, were: 1. NetWeaver Administrators, and 2. Enterprise Architects. Java developers and ABAP programmers were easier to hire on the open market. Kent mentioned that the consulting firms don't even have many folks that know NetWeaver and Enterprise SOA well. Kent said that many of these firms turn to outsourcing to fill their project needs.

- Jon asks Kent to elaborate on the role outsourcing plays on SAP projects, and asked him to talk about how SAP professionals can make themselves less vulnerable to outsourcing. Kent explains that mastering data modeling and business modeling tools, and emphasizing strategy and architecture was the key to becoming more outsourcing-proof.

- Kent talks about his current SAP project, and how his team has developed a unique approach to building momentum for eSOA projects by working on projects from the "bottom up." Kent talked about how there is natural resistance to eSOA from both high level IT executives and business executives. He explained how his team is gaining support one project at a time by focusing on projects that have a "wow factor" and a tangible business benefit.

- Kent provides an overview of his current SAP environment, and how they are working on eSOA with plans to involve NetWeaver CE, ESR, and NetWeaver PI. He talked about how his team can get projects done within a $50,000 budget and having composite apps up and running in a six week to two month period. Kent's team is using this approach to solve business "pain points" and to develop their own eSOA roadmap.

- Jon asks Kent to explain to listeners how he identifies which areas are the best candidates for early eSOA projects. He lists the main factors that are ideal for eSOA projects: simplification, consolidation, and building new services and composites. Kent talks about which projects can have a "wow" type of impact, such as service-enabling inventory lookups, getting data to customers more effectively, and making user-friendly interfaces for in store employees for quick training and ramp up.

- Jon and Kent go more in-depth into a discussion of the future of SAP development and the future of SAP technical skill sets. Kent talks about the importance of mastering new process modeling tools like Aris for NetWeaver, which is now tied into the ESR. He tells us that it's not yet possible for business process experts to model all their own code without the help of a developer, but this kind of model-driven programming is becoming closer to reality. Kent mentions other hot tools that SAP professionals should know, such as Web Dynpro, Adobe Forms, Solution Manager, and Aris
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- Kent highlights the keys his project has used to build a quality internal team and strike a good balance with outside consulting support. He talks about the importance of hiring manager-level folks who are "SAP rock stars," which in turn allows for a more savvy use of SAP implementation partners. Kent says that for the next phase of his project, they are looking to bring in less consultants and train more people internally.

- In closing, Kent talks about how the successful SAP professional understands that technology changes all the time, and that if you view paradigm changes as a threat, you should get out of this particular field, because there is always change. The point is to apply the right forward-thinking mindset towards skills acquisition. In terms of adding real value to SAP customers and keeping your skills in demand, Kent says that the key is to develop a deep understanding of NetWeaver and the ability to help SAP customers harness that technology and break through their NetWeaver confusion. If you can do that, says Kent, you can "write your own check."
Direct download: pcast_1107_sap_reed_sanders01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:31pm EST
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As part of his ongoing podcast series with SearchSAP, Jon Reed interviews Ori Inbar, Senior Vice President of SAP NetWeaver, for a groundbreaking interview on the SAP skills needed for success in the NetWeaver and eSOA era.

In this frank discussion, Ori acknowledges that SAP faces a significant skills gap that needs to be addressed for NetWeaver to realize its promise.

Ori then analyzes the skills gap, explains how SAP plans to address it, and most importantly, highlights the skills needed for NetWeaver and SAP eSOA project success.

This is the first podcast we know of where a high-ranking SAP executive goes beyond talk of the skills gap and the "NetWeaver jobs of the future" to detail the specific "next phase" skills and roles that SAP professionals can pursue, not in the future, but right now.

Ori also announces a new plan for SAP certification that will be unveiled at TechEd '07 in Las Vegas.

In this twenty-five minute interview, Jon and Ori cover a series of critical topics, including:

- How Ori broke into SAP and how his SAP career has evolved into his current NetWeaver leadership role.

- The significance of SAP Enterprise SOA (eSOA) and why it impacts every SAP product.

- The estimated "SAP skills gap" of 20,000 SAP professionals and how SAP intends to fill it. Ori explains the importance of "the SAP ecosystem" to filling these gaps and how consultants can anticpiate where SAP is going next.

- Ori's take on the four new SAP roles that are emerging on project sites, and his assessment of the skills required for each of the four: NetWeaver Systems Admin, Enterprise Architect, and Business Process Expert and NetWeaver Developer (Enterprise Services Developer).

- Ori explains why the NetWeaver era means the "end of the functional silos" and why SAP skills will be business process driven from here on out.
Direct download: pcast_0907_sap_reed_inbar01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:45am EST
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Continuing his ongoing podcast series with SearchSAP, Jon Reed interviews Marco ten Vaanholt, Global Director of the SAP BPX Community, for a compelling look at the changing SAP skill set and what it takes to become a "Business Process Expert."

During the podcast, Marco describes his work with the SAP BPX community, and how BPX is working collectively to help define the skill set that SAP professionals will need to stay relevant on both the functional and technical side.

Jon asked Marco to be on this podcast because during TechEd 2007, Marco's presentation on becoming an SAP Business Process Expert (BPE) provided the most practical "next steps" for how an SAP consultant can evolve their skills that Jon had yet seen.

Marco came through on this podcast with an excellent overview of how the SAP market is changing, how BPX is supporting the SAP skills transition, and what consultants can do to keep their skills in line with the market.

By the time the podcast is over, there is a clearer sense of how the SAP professional of today can involve themselves in the BPX community, honing their own skills while also contributing to SAP's product evolution.

In this thirty-one minute interview, hosted by Jon Franke of SearchSAP, Jon and Marco talk about the following points:

- How Marco got involved with SAP and how he wound up in his current role as the Global Director of the BPX community.

- The origins of the SAP BPX community in 2006, and how it has achieved phenomenal growth (200,000 + members) through a grassroots approach to community building. Marco also shares the vision of BPX, the emergence of the industry forums, and the "horizontal and vertical" areas of BPX built around SAP's Business Suite, core ERP, and GRC products.

- Marco explains why the BPX community has been so compelling to SAP professionals, by tapping into their desire to evolve into BPE (Business Process Expert) consultants and be better prepared for the eSOA era.

- Marco also describes how the collaborative BPX community has also helped SAP partners reduce the "cost of ownership" around educating their consultants about eSOA. SAP customers have also turned to SAP BPX to help support their employees working on the SAP "Business Process Platform."

- The SAP BPX community also influences SAP through its product management cycle. Marco explains how the SAP BPX world can serve as a feedback channel to SAP and also support the launch of new product initiatives going forward.

- Jon asks Marco about the importance of the Business Process Expert (BPE), and why this person is going to be so important to the SAP implementations of the future. Marco shares the BPX community definition of the BPE: "This business process expert has both the business knowledge and IT savvy to make business process innovation happen in real time, by adapting, composing and executing business processes, using best practices, composition software, and enterprise services."

- Marco explains that while there are many different definitions of BPEs, they most commonly describe themselves as having "one foot in IT, and one foot in business." Marco highlights the range of job roles that fit in under the Business Process Expert "umbrella role."

- Jon brings up one of the most riveting aspects of Marco's TechEd presentation on becoming a BPE: the argument that both ABAP jobs and core functional configuration jobs are going to go away. Marco clarifies this point, and reframes the discussion to step back from the "shock value" of Jon's statement. Marco explains that ABAP and configuration jobs are not going to go away, but that it's important for all SAP professionals to acquire composition skills, especially technical consultants.

- Marco talks about the evolving SAP Composition Environment (CE) and why both technical and functional SAP professionals will want to get experience with the CE going forward. He also hones in on the importance of "soft skills" and provides concrete examples of the types of "soft skills" that will be crucial, including industry expertise.

- Marco emphasizes the importance of process modeling skills, and he mentions some of the modeling tools of today (Visio, Visual Composer, ARIS for NetWeaver) and tomorrow that both technical and functional SAP folks will want to get a handle on.

- Jon and Marco agree that the "alarmist" view that the current SAP job roles are going away is not the right mindset. The right attitude is to make a commitment to transforming your skill set along with SAP.

- Marco talks about other key skills of the "BPXer," including Business Process Management (BPM) methodology know-how and BPM tools like Six Sigma. He tells us why Web 2.0 and community-building skills are so important for the BPE, using blogging, wikis, and collaborative forums to "evangelize" your solutions throughout a global project.

- Jon and Marco talk about how SAP professionals now have access to free resources to self-education. Since cost for training is not a barrier, it's more of a mindset shift: (1) getting access to new SAP technical information, and (2) joining communities like BPX to share "best practices" and lessons learned.

- Marco makes some distinctions between sharing processes at "process level zero" versus "process level three," and why there is a difference between collaborating on "commoditized processes" versus working on more "disruptive" or strategic (level three) areas. This latter type of collaboration would likely take place in a closed area and shared with the broader community as appropriate.

- Jon asks Marco about how today's "SAP functional configuration expert" and "SAP application consultant" of the present needs to evolve to become a BPE. Marco explains how the CE and other Business Process Platform modeling tools will change the relationship between functional and technical teams. He also talks about eSOA, and how, alongside the Enterprise Architect, the functional specialist will be working with SAP eSOA resources like the Enterprise Services Repository.  

- Jon Franke asks Marco about how to improve your soft skills, and Marco gives a "big picture" response that starts with how you carry yourself on client sites and work with executives and project teams, and goes on to include various areas of formal and informal education such as organizational change management, process modeling tools, Web 2.0 technologies, and Enterprise SOA.

- Jon tries to put Marco on the spot by asking him to explain how the "disruptive innovation" he is advocating can exist alongside of SAP's customer message of "innovation without disruption." Marco explains that there is not a contradiction because the kind of innovation he is advocating takes place in a closed environment that does not involve disrupting the transactional system.

- Marco also explains that the distinction between commodity processes and strategic processes comes into play when understanding the cycle of disruptive innovation. He uses the example of Nike's product rollouts and the cycle of innovation in the mobile technology space to describe the difference.

- Marco issues a formal invitation for all listeners to get involved with the SAP BPX community. There is a robust "getting started" area to get new members involved quickly with the issues and projects that the BPX community is tackling. Marco also highlights the SAP upgrades area within SAP BPX as a great resource for project teams.

- Jon wraps the podcast by talking about the shifting trends in SAP employment, and how it's easy to end this podcast because the next step is to sign up with SAP BPX and get further involved in your SAP skills transformation.
Direct download: pcast_1007_sap_reed_vaanholt01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:12am EST
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To get an inside look at the key developments from SAP TechEd 2007, Jon Reed sat down with Krishna Kumar of Enterprise Horizons. Krishna was a presenter at TechEd 2007, and he is becoming a thought leader in the SAP community in terms of how to get a real return on investment from eSOA and Enterprise Services.

As a technical visionary who has watched SAP's product line evolve for many years, Krishna has a knack for breaking down SAP technology in simple and precise terms. Jon turned to Krishna to help sort through what was real and what was hype at TechEd 2007.

The goal of the podcast was to place the events of TechEd 2007 in the context of SAP's "Enterprise SOA" technology stack. SAP is clearly staking its future on eSOA, but what does that mean to the SAP project team and the SAP consultant?

Is eSOA just hype and if it's for real, what consulting skills will be needed to succeed in the "eSOA era"? And how will SAP's Business Objects acquisition, which occurred immediately following Tech Ed, affect these trends and the future of SAP overall?
In this thirty-six minute interview, Jon and Krishna cover these issues and more, including:

- The focus of Enterprise Horizons and the specifics of Krishna's SAP background.

- Krishna's take on the main themes of Tech Ed 2007, such as: the emphasis on BI and analytics, the surprising level of emphasis on eSOA over SAP's core business functionality, and the obvious absence of Shai Agassi.

- Why SAP has shifted its focus from emphasizing exposing its core apps as eSOA services as opposed to looking at the core business processes such as order fulfillment, financials, and supply chain management. Krishna explains that was what missing was a clear demonstration by SAP on the business value and return on investment of eSOA.

- The Business Objects acquisition, which took place after TechEd and which to some degree dwarfed all of the TechEd news announcements. Krishna shares his thoughts on the BO purchase, including the challenge of integrating the BO code base into SAP, and why the BO acquisition is of "monumental importance" to eSOA. Krishna explains that this will accelerate the trend of exposing analytics as services and leveraging connections to outside partners.

- The SAP BBD (Business By Design) announcement, and why Krishna has a cautious take on Software as a Service (SaaS). Krishna also explains why this current evolution of SaaS may be more successful than the previous ASP models due to the impact of the "Internet Cloud." Krishna also describes how a BBD customer might be able to expose a service through an "on demand" platform, and why eSOA is integral to an on-demand solution.

- Krishna gives his perspective on why the evolution to a "Business Process Consultant" is important to SAP, and why he thinks that the distinction between functional and technical SAP professionals was always a false dichotomy. Krishna tells us why the ideal SAP consultant has always had a functional and technical skills combination.

- Krishna then details what skills functional and technical consultants need to pursue in order to remain relevant to the SAP software of the future. Krishna talks about the end of the silo functional consultant, and why functional consultants need to understand the Internet touch points of service enablement. Krishna also talks about how Business Intelligence and NetWeaver fit into the technical skills picture. Soon, the technical consultant will have to learn to talk business or "become a dinosaur." There is time to act, however, as Krishna believes this will be a "slow metamorphosis."

- Jon asks Krishna about how the SAP customer base should perceive eSOA, given that SAP often hypes its new solutions to the point that customers can become jaded. Krishna has a provocative viewpoint on this: he believe that when it comes to transactional ERP systems, service enablement and SOA is indeed overhyped, almost to the degree of the dotcom hype. Then, Krishna explains why the real payoff for eSOA is through analytics, and that this is where the real eSOA payoff will be.

- Krishna tells us how best-of-breed Internet content "mashups" are the real "killer app" of the eSOA era, and how they can be tied back into ERP-based analytical applications.

- Jon asks Krishna if you truly have to invest in the latest SAP releases and all the expenses and organizational change involved in moving to eSOA, or if you can get started on earlier releases. Krishna explains that SAP customers can dabble in eSOA at almost any point, because it's really just "RFC on steroids," but that to truly build an effective eSOA landscape and consume and publish a range of services, you will eventually need to be running NetWeaver and ERP 5.0/6.0 and beyond.

- In the final segment of the podcast, Jon asks Krishna to use his company's product to illustrate a very important point: how companies can tie in best-of-breed Internet content providers into their BW/BI analytics engine in order to get a powerful visual grasp of key business planning and ROI functions. Jon tells Krishna that Home Depot, one of the most advanced SAP eSOA customers, has used a similar "mashup solution" to take advantage of BI/BW data and content from third parties that would be cost-prohibitive to develop internally.

- Jon asks Krishna about the minimum requirements needed to use a product like his company offers, and we learn that the minimum requirements are simply BW 3.x onward, in a nutshell. This is an example of how there might be a different enterprise services roadmap, that would focus on Business Intelligence, and then leverage that data and mash it up - without worrying about the cost and challenge of service-enabling core ERP transactions.

- Krishna provides a "market demographics" example of how an eSOA service could be "mashed up" for real business value.

- Jon asks Krishna to illustrate why these visually oriented "spatial analytics" can provide a much more powerful business case for eSOA that executives can understand and grasp much more quickly than a detailed white paper. He asks Krishna about the example of using demographic mashups to analyze which neighborhoods are viable for a retail store expansion. As Krishna says, this is the "true power of eSOA," beyond the hype.
Direct download: pcast_1007_sap_reed_kumar01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:08am EST
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 4. Get Jon's unscripted reactions to the last full day of TechEd '07, including key info on SAP skills trends, becoming a Business Process Expert, and Jon's conference wrap.

In this podcast, Jon ties together the themes he covered throughout SAP TechEd '07. Recorded right on the spot in conference rooms and hotel lobbies, Jon's TechEd podcast series puts the technology trends of TechEd '07 in the context of the skills SAP professionals will need to succeed.

For the Day 4 podcast, Jon breaks down his "instant reactions" to technical themes such as eSOA, mashups, Web 2.0, BI, and becoming a Business Process Expert, and he comments on the SAP skills gap in these areas and how they will be filled.

Topics in this part of the podcast include:

- Which SAP skills sets are becoming commoditized and what the skills growth areas are.

- A view of the "SAP skills of the future" but also a consideration of the skills needs of the present, and how SAP consultants should balance the two.

- Why Jon is changing his stance from consultants needing to have an 80/20 technical-functional mix (one way or the other) to a 50/50 skills mix, which Jon thinks might be the ideal in the future.

- Jon's reflections on the workshop on "Becoming a Business Process Expert" (BPE) and the tools that technical and functional consultants can pursue to becoming a BPE.

- Jon explains why he divides SAP customers into three distinct groups and what he sees as the project priorities of each group

- The different versions of NetWeaver that are coming out, and the conflicting information that SAP representatives gave Jon at TechEd about when certain releases and features were becoming available. Jon talks about the pending release of NetWeaver 7.1, and the questions about when SAP PI (Process Integration), Enterprise Services Repository (ESR), and NetWeaver CE (Composition Environment).

- Jon covers why ABAP is not dead, and talks about the different conversations he had with folks from SAP Labs about how ABAP fits into SAP's NetWeaver plans. Jon gives his take on why ABAP is still part of SAP's plans, based on facts such as: the ABAP Workbench is still part of NetWeaver, that the PI component is partially built on ABAP, and that while the CE does not have ABAP, there are many ABAP-related tools still supported in NetWeaver, such as WebDynpro for ABAP and MDM for ABAP.

- Jon talks about the different SAP modeling tools that are going to change the nature of SAP development and give business users a greater opportunity to get involved in development using visual modeling tools like Visual Composer, Aris for NetWeaver, and the upcoming SAP Eclipse Development tool. Jon talks about why he thinks this new generation of modeling tools is a big deal, and finally gives some teeth to the "extend the enterprise" ERP movement which actually began in the late '90s, but did not have the technical capabilities to really support it.

- Jon wraps his four part podcast series on TechEd with a review of the conference as a whole and the bottom line implications for SAP professionals.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed04.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:52am EST
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 3. Follow Jon as he tries to get some straight answers on the upcoming NetWeaver releases and looks more closely at the Business Process Expert skill set of the future.

As always, Jon tries to not only identify the key technical trends, but to move the conversation into the question of skills - who will fill these new SAP roles, and what types of backgrounds will they need?

Jon asked SAP executives these questions. Listen to the podcast series to find out the answers he was given and what he thought of those answers.

Day 3 of the podcast series is Jon's review of his attempts to get SAP product reps on the same page with the exact release dates of NetWeaver 7.1 and what functionality will be included in each incarnation.

Jon found more mixed messages than agreement, but he was able to learn some information about the upcoming NetWeaver 7.1 components (PI, ESR, CE) and what their release dates are likely to be. He also asked a lot of questions about the future of ABAP, and found out the ABAP is indeed included in a number of NetWeaver components, and so is far from dead.

Jon talks about the innovations he encountered on Day 3 in the NetWeaver BI space, including the integration of Web 2.0 mashups using SAP BI and best-of-breed content providers. Jon shares some of the tools needed to do this work that might be worth adding to the skill set including MDX and the BI XMLA connector. He also talks about the power of Visual Composer as proven in the hands-on demonstrations he attended in this area.

Fresh off an evening at a hosted bar event where the best conversations always happen, Jon shares what he learned from the SAP customers at the event about where they were at with their implementations and whether they viewed eSOA as real or hype. Jon talked about the kinds of skills these companies are hiring, how much they train internally and the challenges they face hiring consultants on the open market.

Towards the end of the Day 3 wrap, Jon explains his new belief that there are really three types of SAP customers right now: eSOA leaders, eSOA followers, and those who could care less. Jon talks about the challenges a market faces when customers have such different needs.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed03.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:48am EST
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 2. Follow John through his frank reactions to the keynotes and press conferences, and get his quick reactions to the closed interview sessions Jon conducted, such as his group interview with SAP CTO Vishal Sikka.

As always, Jon tries to not only identify the key technical trends, but to move the conversation into the question of skills - who will fill these new SAP roles, and what types of backgrounds will they need?

Jon asked SAP executives these questions. Listen to the podcast series to find out the answers he was given and what he thought of those answers.

For the Day 2 podcast, the longest day of TechEd and the longest podcast in the series, Jon reacts to the executive keynotes and closed interview sessions he attended.

Editor's note: In the Day 2 podcast, Jon expresses some confusion that some attendees had about SAP Business By Design (BBD) and whether it was replacing A1S or was a separate product. It was later confirmed that BBD is in fact the same product as A1S, which is known as BBD going forward.

Reactions to Day 2 include:

- Responses to the keynote by Peter Zencke and friends, including the surprising emphasis on BBD as a big news item of the day.

- Jon talks about how this whole idea of "business network transformation" is really the same "extending the enterprise" talk SAP vendors have been pushing since the '90s, but that eSOA may finally give some technical teeth to the vision.

- Jon covers the latest SAP product innovations pushed during the keynote, including the SAP switch framework, the ES Workplace on SDN, and the ESR (Enterprise Services Repository). He also talks about the modeling tools that were demonstrated and the potential impact of the new Visual Composer, the new CE (Composition Environment), and the Eclipse development environment. Jon also notes the surprising lack of BI talk during the keynote, except for the BI Accelerator.

- Jon shares his reaction to the press conference after the keynote, where he posed the question of how the skills gap acknowledged by Peter Zencke was going to be filled. The executives on the panel noted an immediate demand for SAP Enterprise Architects and Business Process Experts. Jon gives his take on what he thought of these answers.

- Peter Zencke talked about how SAP customers are using SDN for training, and Jon notes the emphasis SAP is giving on training that goes beyond the classroom.

- Fresh back from his interview session with SAP CTO Vishal Sikka, Jon shares Vishal's take on SAP as a development platform, and whether he thinks ABAP is dead. Jon explains why Vishal thinks core functional and technical SAP skills will become commoditized. He shares Vishal's memorable quote on eSOA: "eSOA is a way to explain to management what APIs are." (Vishal was basically noting the eSOA simplifies the integration discussion in a way that management can understand and appreciate as a business case.

-Jon also talks about Vishal's point that "service-enabling" the entire SAP product line is a complex undertaking. For example, the Financials area of SAP is a high-stakes area that can get an executive in a jail cell if the right regulatory and compliance procedures (SAP GRC) are not followed. Jon explains why Vishal still believes in the power of eSOA despite these security challenges.

- Jon wraps the Day 2 podcast with reflections on a presentation from Cardinal Health on hands-on SAP eSOA lessons. Jon notes that the speaker, Brent Stutz of Cardinal Health, makes a good summary of "lessons learned" from eSOA, including doing the work of defining who owns the data. Jon also notes the point made during the session that SAP developed its Enterprise Services roadmap by taking the TOGAF industry standard SOA roadmap and adding some business processes to it.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed02.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:42am EST
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