Monthly Archives: April 2015

openSAP Experiences

(Please see the update from later the same day as I posted this, at the bottom.)

Don’t get me wrong, the openSAP initiative is excellent, free learning materials of high quality? Yes please and thank you! This instills a passion in me (and I’m sure many others) for (a) learning more and (b) trying to attain the highest achievement. In the case of openSAP, this means trying to attain high marks in the assignments.

Unfortunately, the question and answer sections of the weekly assignments sometimes get in the way of that, in that the questions and / or answers are ambiguous. The current openSAP course “Build Your Own SAP Fiori App in the Cloud“, has great content but the questions are dubious. Here are a couple of examples, that we’re discussing on Twitter right now:

In the assignment for Week 2, there is the following question, with the 4 possible answers thus:

Within the context of SAP HANA Cloud Platform, where do applications run?
(a) In the HANA Database
(b) Inside the cockpit
(c) In an SAP HANA Cloud Platform account
(d) On the SCN community page of SAP HANA Cloud Platform

The officially correct answer has been marked as (c). But an account is not somewhere where code can be run. It’s not an execution environment. It’s an accounting, configuration, billing artifact. It’s the credentials, the units of computing allocated and allowed, it’s the sets of permissions for access to features and subscriptions and so on. It’s not an execution environment. So there’s no way that anything can run in the SAP HCP account. The nearest correct answer as far as I could see is (a). But that’s not entirely accurate. However, the ambiguity of this question and the possible answers force me to choose “the nearest that makes sense” which is (a), as (c) can certainly not be correct.

Another example is in the assignment for Week 3, where there’s the following question and 4 possible answers:

Which end-to-end application development phases are currently supported by SAP Web IDE?
(a) Prototyping, developing, testing, deploying, and extending
(b) Requirements management, prototyping, developing, testing, deploying, and extending
(c) Prototyping, developing, functionality testing, A\B testing, deploying, and extending
(d) Developing, testing, deploying, and extending 

The officially correct answer has been marked as (d).

The official download materials for this week contain, as usual, a complete transcript of all the units, the slides, and the videos. This is great in itself. Unfortunately, the official transcript records exactly what the instructor said, which is (starting at 00:02:22, bold emphasis mine):

And we do so by covering the end-to-end application development lifecycle with one tool. And when we refer to the end-to-end application lifecycle development, we start from the prototyping of the application, then the development, the testing on the different devices of course, the packaging and the deployment into different application landscape and then later on after we released the application, also the extension of the application in order to customize it and make it suitable for the different scenarios and customers.

The slide related to this section looks like this:

Screenshot 2015-04-22 at 08.35.41

See that tiny couple of words in a footnote in the bottom left? They say “*future innovation”. The instructor didn’t mention this, so if you didn’t see the slide or were watching on your smartphone (which I was) where it was too small to see, but were nevertheless intensely listening to her, and then reading the transcript to double check the facts, you would not have noticed this.

Now call me old fashioned, but if the transcript says that prototyping is supported, then I take it that prototyping is supported. But I don’t just take the transcript’s word for it … I do prototyping in the SAP Web IDE. I don’t use the Powerpoint-based kit, I build simple views in XML either by hand in the coding editor, or sometimes with the layout editor. So practically speaking, the SAP Web IDE does support prototyping, regardless of what is or is not said.

The challenge is not the course itself, the content, as I said, is great. The challenge is setting clear questions with unambiguous answers. Here are two occasions (and there have been others, on other openSAP courses in the past) where this is not the case.

I’m passionate about learning and sharing knowledge, and being the best I can be. Something like this where incorrect answers are given as the officially correct answers, does make me somewhat sad.

But one thing’s for certain: If you’re reading this and not participating in the course, head on over there right now and catch up with these great learning opportunities!

Update 21:30 on the same day:

Now this is worth shouting about. Around 3 hours after I took part in the discussions on Twitter this morning and published this post, the regular weekly “Welcome to Week N” email arrived in my inbox as usual. But what was special was this section:

Weekly Assignments: Problematic Questions in Weeks 2 and 3
Week 2: Within the context of SAP HANA Cloud Platform, where do applications run?
Week 3: Which end-to-end application development phases are currently supported by SAP Web IDE?
In both these cases, we realized that the questions were slightly misleading. You can
find more information on the discussion forums for weeks 2 and 3. To ensure fairness toall our learners, we will assign full points for these questions to all learners who took the weekly assignments. Your scores will be adjusted at the end of the course.

This is the openSAP team directly and pretty much immediately addressing our concerns and worries, within a few hours. I cannot commend the openSAP team enough for this. Not primarily for addressing the issue (issues arise in all manner of contexts, that’s normal), but for being ultra responsive and in touch with the participants of the course directly.

Other MOOCs, heck, other educational institutions in general, please take note. The openSAP team shows how it’s done.

This Week in Fiori (2015-16)

Ariba UXGreetings! It’s time yet again to share a few newsworthy items that caught my eye this week in the world of Fiori. Let’s get to it!

Ariba Total User Experience by Ariba
We start out with something from earlier this month that just came to my attention via an article in SearchSAP – “Ariba unveils major overhaul of user interface“. At this month’s Ariba Live conference Ariba revealed their new “Total User Experience” approach to improving the user experience for their products. And it comes as no great surprise to see that it is — as SAP have been saying it would be — aligned with the SAP Fiori UX approach. Here’s a tweet from Tridip Chakraborthy:

You can clearly see the huge similarities in UX design and approach even from this one photo. The SearchSAP article states that “the Ariba UI does not share code with Fiori, but uses the same stylesheets, giving it a similar look and feel”. In a post based on my keynote at Mastering SAP Technologies conference earlier this year, titled “Can I build a Fiori app? Yes you can!“, I’d written:

If you think about it, that abstraction, that distinction between philosophy and practicality, is the one way SAP can continue to forge ahead with some sort of (eventually) unifying user experience strategy while at the same time dealing with the reality of products from differing sources, with differing frontends – Concur, Ariba, Lumira, and more.

That abstraction is clearly in evidence here. I’d be really interested to see more details of how Ariba’s SAP Fiori UX “Total User Experience” looks under the hood, to discover how it ticks. It certainly looks great on the surface!

SAP Fiori Practitioners Forum by Katie Moser
Katie announced this back in January but I’ve only recently joined and I’m looking forward to getting involved and sharing best pratices with the other members. According to the post, this monthly forum is “designed to help you drive the successful deployment of SAP Fiori in your organisation”.

I understand that the sessions so far have been very useful. As we have all discovered already, Fiori is a multi faceted thing, and a place to discuss practicalities from design & configuration through rollout and beyond, with like minded individuals is a great idea. (Note that it’s sensibly only open to those that have installed Fiori).

SAP Fiori Theme for Kendo UI by Telerik
Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.18.16Well not only do we have Ariba now embracing Fiori, but also a JavaScript UI framework by the name of Kendo UI. This framework is jQuery based, with AngularJS integration and support for Bootstrap and more. Unlike OpenUI5, which is the version of SAPUI5 (that powers SAP Fiori UX) that SAP open sourced, Kendo UI is software that comes in the form of a 30-day free trial, with a purchase required after that.

I watched the short video demo and it’s an interesting prospect. It’s not exactly the same, but pretty close. If you’re like me, one who has pored over the controls in UI5 for a long time, things are not quite the same, although from a distance you could almost be forgiven for mistaking it for “the real thing” (how that is defined is another story).

It’s worth bearing in mind that no amount of styling of controls will make an app into a Fiori app; while the styling is incredibly important and goes along way to helping the developer build Fiori apps, it’s just one pillar that supports the whole Fiori UX approach. The other pillars are responsiveness, design patterns and the other constraints and that are well described in the SAP Fiori Design Guidelines.

Well that’s just about it for this week. Until next time, share and enjoy!

This Week in Fiori (2015-15)

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 09.13.55Well hello there folks. This week sees the start (for me) of a week off on holiday, but not before I put out this latest episode of TWIF for a quick roundup of things that caught my eye in the world of Fiori. If you have any stories to share, let me know!

SAP Fiori Application Development in the Cloud by Monika Kaiser & Karl Kessler
The subtitle of this article in SAPinsider magazine is “Building, Deploying and Mobilizing Applications for Today’s Enterprises”. And as a great introduction, it certainly delivers on that. Not surprising given Karl’s pedigree in knowing about and writing about SAP technologies :-)

This is very much a getting started article, but where it scores is in the detailed and annotated set of screenshots that are useful for introducing folks to the whole process of building a Fiori app. Not generally, but specifically using SAP’s HANA Cloud tools, including the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, the SAP Web IDE and SAP Mobile Secure.

The article does remind me of the conversation I have with many developers at customers and partners as well as with individuals. It usually starts like this: “Q: Should I use SAP Web IDE as my main editor?” closely followed by “A: Well, it depends …”. There’s a mentality, or a mindset, amongst SAP developers that is hard to shake, because of decades of the same experience. As ABAP developers, we’ve been used to having to use SE38, SE80, SE24 and the like. Having the tool question pre-answered for us. And many of us have waited on SAP’s every word, even in the dark days when Eclipse was recommended as the development platform**. Now we have a choice, but many are looking to SAP for recommendations. And it makes some sense – SAP need to invest in building tools for the army of SAP programmers out there for many reasons. With the SAP Web IDE, they’ve landed with both feet on the ground, in that it’s not unpleasant to use and it comes with great productivity features that Just Work(tm). What’s more, no-one is saying that SAP Web IDE should be your only editor.

**yes, I know that SAP Web IDE is based upon Orion, but you’re not going to convince me that it’s the same thing

I use SAP Web IDE to start some projects off; I’ve even dabbled with the great plugin and templating system (see “SAP Fiori Rapid Prototyping: SAP Web IDE and Google Docs“), and the test offline version (see “SAP Web IDE Local Install – Up and Running“). But I don’t religiously stay with that as my main development environment … for that, I prefer a combination of a local NodeJS based server and the Atom editor right now. Mostly because a lot of the time I’m developing, I’m on the move, with little or no Internet access.

Today we’re in a very nice situation where there are tools from SAP available, and we can choose to use them as much or as little as we see fit. For me that’s a great improvement on earlier periods. Take a look at this article if you haven’t seen the SAP Web IDE yet, and you can make your own mind up.

SAP Web IDE: The Simple Way to Build and Extend SAPUI5 Applications by Yaad Oren
While we’re on the subject of the SAP Web IDE, here’s an opportunity to learn more about it specifically from one of the many great folks involved in its development and nurturing.

It’s an hour long video, and includes a presentation from an SAP Web IDE user, PepsiCo.

(I wish SAP would make these videos available on YouTube too – I manage 95% of my viewing activities there, with playlists and “watch later”, and can sit down in front of the TV to catch up. Please, SAP?)

User Experience sessions at SAPPHIRE NOW 2015 by Peter Spielvogel
I don’t normally talk much about Sapphire Now, I’m much more interested in SAP’s main annual event – SAP TechEd && d-code :-) But of course, without the business, SAP, primarily a software and platform company that just happens to write business applications**, would struggle to survive.

**yes, of course that was a troll, but I make no apologies for saying it

With huge emphasis on the User Experience (UX) you can expect plenty of sessions covering this topic and related topics too. The subtitle to Peter’s blog post is “SAP Screen Personas, Fiori UX, Design Services”. As you can imagine, being a conference focused on the business rather than the technology, on the surface rather than on the mechanics underneath the surface, you’re not going to find much in the way of the toolkit that *powers* Fiori – UI5. There are a total of 8 sessions that I could find, via the agenda builder, that mentioned SAPUI5. But that’s sort of the point. Much more important are the myriad sessions that Peter lists in his post, covering personalised user experiences with S/4HANA, SAP Screen Personas, SAP Fiori LaunchPad and more.

The UX topic is wide and varied, and while I will continue to loosely categorise SAP Fiori as a strategic approach and SAP Screen Personas as a tactical approach to UX, the fact is that with the LaunchPad becoming the new portal, and with businesses wanting access to more than what the current collection of SAP Fiori apps covers, there will be, for a long time, a hybrid solution to the overall user access and user experience to business data and processes.

What’s important is that we understand where SAP Screen Personas fits in, and with HTML5-based version 3 of the product (with JavaScript scripting support and more), just around the corner for all comers, we can easily imagine a cross-technology approach to all the tools required for a business user to carry out their responsibilities. With judicious use of theming and styling, we could move one step closer to that nirvana of a unified UX.


This Week in Fiori (2015-14)

Well hello again, this episode is brought to you from my woodstore at the bottom of the garden, where it’s actually warm enough to sit outside for the first time. The birdsong is prominent, I guess their user experience is improving with the ground softening and the worms and grubs becoming more accessible. Let’s go!

FIORI Notes 1 : One UX to Rule them All by Wilbert Sison
This week saw a simple post by Wilbert summarising a few of the key places to visit on one’s journey to Fiori enlightenment: The Fiori Cloud Edition Trial, the Fiori Apps Library and the UI5 Explored app within the SAPUI5 SDK (the more I ponder the name and the purpose and what it’s becoming, perhaps we should rename it from Explored to Explorer). What caught my eye with this post is that it was published in the ABAP Development section of the SAP Community Network, and it also gave rise to a short discussion on UI access to HANA.

First, the place the post was published. Fiori, and by direct inference UI5, is a cornerstone technology for SAP’s product landscape. What this means in practical terms is that we as SAP technicians need to embrace UI5 as much as we embraced dynpro technologies in the past. It’s that big. Having given a 3 day course on Fiori, UI5 and Gateway/OData last week, with my co-presenter Lindsay Stanger, to a collection of Web and ABAP developers (their own self-descriptions), it’s worth re-iterating the reality for many of us out there; many of us so-called ABAP developers. For me, the concept of an “ABAP developer” is somewhere between “meaningless” and “unneccessarily restricting”. Yes, there are developers out there that call themselves “<language> developers” or “<platform> developers”, and that is their perogative, but it’s an artificial constraint that is not helpful, and reminds me of “COBOL developer”. There will always be (in the forseeable future) demand for some COBOL skills, but is that the entirety of your outlook? If a mainframe dinosaur and ABAP developer like me can embrace UI5, so can you.

Then, there’s the question of UI, that came up in the comments to Wilbert’s post. It reminded me of a great Twitter thread initiated by John Moy where the frontend future for S/4 was discussed. I’ll leave it to you to enjoy reading that thread, but the takeaway for me was that people do understand that while wall-to-wall Fiori might be the vision, the reality will be different, particularly in the transition period while the Fiori app suites are constructed and made available. And for those of you pondering the earlier point about ABAP, and this one where SAPGUI and therefore dynpro is not going to disappear any time soon, think of COBOL again ;-)

April New App Distribution via SAP Fiori Apps Library
The SAP Fiori Apps Library is lots of things rolled into one. It’s a nice talking point and focus for the Fiori pundits, an example of a publically accessible Fiori App (where, being Web native, the frontend source code is available for perusing and learning from), and a good source of information on current Fiori apps. And I don’t mean just human readable information, but machine readable data too. I’d exhorted SAP back in August last year (in TWIF episode 2014-35) to make the data available, to supply “a machine readable dataset”. And that they have done, as of course the backend data source to the SAP Fiori Apps Library tool.

This of course is an OData source, from a HANA backend, and rich in information. Not only is it useful for powering the Fiori Apps Library app itself, but also for our own data-based analysis. You might have seen my post from earlier this year, where I showed you how to pull data from this very OData source into a spreadsheet:

Fiori App Data into a Spreadsheet? Challenge Accepted!

Thing is, while this data is valuable in and of itself, if you add a further dimension, time, it becomes perhaps even more valuable. What are the apps that are appearing over time, over the different waves? Are there any that are disappearing? Current total app count as of today is 541. Last month (an unscientifically and deliberately vague point in time, for now) it was 495. So that’s 46 new apps that have appeared (none disappeared, I also checked).

Screenshot 2015-04-05 at 13.46.17

I think it might be a worthwhile exercise to pull this app data on a regular basis, for comparisons over time. So as a starter, I have an experimental spreadsheet, Fiori Apps Data, with two snapshots, March and early April. I’ve added a few analysis tabs and one of the products is this breakdown of new apps by area, that I’ve titled “New Apps Distribution”.

Do you think this is useful? What other information can we work out with this new time dimension? How often do you think we should or could take a snapshot? Weekly? Daily? Could this be a community curated data set?

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments) please!