SAP and Enterprise Trends Podcasts from Jon Reed (@jonerp) of diginomica.com
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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 EDT
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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 EDT
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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 EDT
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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 EDT
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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 EDT
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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 EDT
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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 EDT
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 1. Start out with Jon on Community Day and follow him through the   "eSOA in Action" workshop and guest keynote from Tim O'Reilly on Web 2.0 and its impact on SAP.

For the Day 1 podcast, Jon gives his take on "Community Day" as well as his reaction to the guest keynote by Web 2.0 superhero Tim O' Reilly.

Topics in the day one podcast include:

- Jon's reaction to the Community Day session on "eSOA in Action." Jon talks about the different groups of SAP customers and their different reactions to the eSOA material. He also notes the new eSOA skills certifications SAP will be providing in the areas of Business Expert, Technical Expert, Developer, and Enterprise Architect.

- The general reaction to O'Reilly's keynote and the impact of Web 2.0 on the SAP world. Jon talks about how SAP has responded to Web 2.0 by creating "communities of innovation." He also explains O'Reilly's view that companies who don't get on board with Web 2.0 are going to be left behind. The importance of business intelligence and data as an asset and a "barrier to entry" are also covered.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:40am EDT
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To get a closer look at the ERP 6.0 upgrade process, Jon conducted a wide-ranging podcast interview with Rohana Gunawardena, SAP Practice Director of Exium, Inc. Rohana is an SAP Financials expert and a respected speaker on topics such as SAP Global Rollouts.

During the podcast, Rohana gives us the inside take on the ERP 6.0 upgrade cycle, lessons learned from global rollouts, the new GL, and many other vital topics to SAP consultants.

Rohana has an opinionated and well-formed take on the SAP market, and his different takes on the future of SAP outsourcing and the impact of NetWeaver are worth hearing. Rohana also touches on the keys to being a successful SAP consultant, and he provides a memorable look at why cultural issues are so important to address on global SAP projects.

In this thirty minute interview, Jon and Rohana touch on many key topics, including:

- Rohana's upcoming talks on "Successful SAP Global Rollouts: Jump Start" and "Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most Out of SAPNet" that he will be presenting at the co-hosted Managing Your SAP Projects 2007 and Global SAP Environments 2007 conferences from October 22-24 at the Miami Beach convention center.

- How Rohana made his move into SAP and how his consulting role has evolved into his current position.

- Why Rohana made the unusual choice of committing himself to multi-year projects and what he sees as the advantages to working on projects over multiple years. Rohana talks about the way that he has become a more well-rounded consultant through long-term projects, and he explains one of the biggest benefits of a long-term consulting role: being nominated to handle more complex and "mission critical" projects.

- Lessons Rohana has learned from global SAP rollouts, and why the "human side of SAP implementations" is crucial to project success. Rohana shares an example of a cultural issue that flared up on his project and how his team resolved the problem and got a diverse, multi-country team on the SAP page.

- Rohana's experiences upgrading to ERP 6.0, and why he thinks that the overall upgrade process to ERP 6.0 is not as difficult as some make it out to be. Rohana compares the 6.0 upgrade to other SAP moves of the past, including from 3.x to 4.x and from 4.x to 4.7.  

- The impact of SAP's New GL and why it is a significant functional enhancement.

- The significance of grasping the overall business processes that SAP addresses, and why understanding the integration points between SAP modules is so important to SAP consulting.

- How Rohana defines the ideal SAP consulting skill set, and why he thinks an 80/20 mix between technical and functional skills is more marketable than a 50/50 SAP "techno-functional" skills mix.

- Why ABAP programming know-how is important - even to SAP functional consultants.

- Jon asks Rohana why he thinks there could be an outsourcing backlash, and Rohana provides an overview of economic and labor supply issues in India that could make outsourcing more expensive and less appealing than in-house options.

- Rohana explains why he thinks NetWeaver is a bit overhyped in today's market and why many software companies, including SAP, push new functionality for marketing purposes while the real work remains focused on existing releases, and in SAP's case, in core functional processes rather than hot new eSOA technology.
Direct download: pcast_0907_sap_reed_rohana01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:15am EDT
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To get an inside view of the evolution of SAP Business Intelligence, Jon tracked down senior SAP BI consultant and ProKarma SAP Solutions Director Pat Pesa.

Pat has one of the most compelling takes on the potential of BI to transform the enterprise. Listen in as Jon and Pat go through the evolution of the BW product from the earliest releases to NetWeaver BI.

Along the way, Pat shares the reasons that BW projects fail and the tactics needed to make them a success. Pat goes into detail regarding the skills consultants need to be successful in the SAP BI market and how they might break into BI from a range of technical backgrounds.

In this forty minute look at BI consulting trends, Jon and Pat cover key topics such as:

- How Pat broke into SAP and found his way into BW consulting roles.

- How SAP managed to move beyond the criticism from data warehouse experts, who initially viewed BW as a "joke." How SAP made BW a quality product with a proven value to SAP customers.

- Pat highlights how the work companies had to do with early releases of BW, building ETL, Extractors, and InfoCubes, has changed. Now BW is a fully-loaded product with plenty of business content.

- The current applications of BI 7.0, from web reporting to faster analytical environments, from Integrated Planning to Enterprise Data Management.

- Why BI was important to SAP's push to move beyond a transactional system to an "intelligent" program that allowed companies to leverage their ERP data for better reporting and decision-making.

- The keys to a successful BI implementation, which include: assessing your information requirements, understanding where the data needs fall within your organization, smart use of blueprinting, and quality documentation.

- Why the "siloed" BW implementation approach didn't work, and why the BI "enterprise-wide" data management approach is much more effective.

- Pat's take on why most successful BW consultants come from technical backgrounds, and how functional consultants can be effective in their work dealing with the BI team.

- Pat explains why he thinks the convergence of functional and technical SAP skills sets is not the ideal skill set for BI work, and why technical folks are generally better suited to BW project roles.

- How data warehousing experts can fit into BW/BI projects, and the range of SAP technical skills that are applicable to BI projects. Pat also describes the kind of ABAP knowledge needed to be effective in BW. Jon gives his take on the ideal technical/functional skills mix for SAP consultants.

- How the SAP ecosystem makes products like BI easier to implement than SAP projects used to be.

- The impact of NetWeaver on BI, and how BI have moved beyond basic BEx reporting to web-based reporting. How Portals, iViews and SAP MDM tie together to improve the user experience in BI.

- Why eSOA is an "enabling technology" that will allow SAP customers to innovate in ways that will help SAP customers to think in terms of business strategy and not in terms of their technical releases (R/3, BW, etc.)

- Whether BI is effective in more diverse environments where non-SAP data is a key part of a company's data management challenge. How companies can structure their BI data integration around the SAP Financials functionality when SAP Financials serves as the system of record.

- The future of information management in SAP, and why the underlying "source system" that a company's data is on will no longer be the defining factor. Pat explains why this shift allows NetWeaver to flip the "source system" approach on its head and allows business users to define their processes without worrying about which systems their data resides in.

- How Pat balances his own career between practice lead functions and hands-on work, and why it's important to him to remain involved on the technical side of SAP.
Direct download: pcast_0807_sap_reed_pesa01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:08am EDT
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