Monday, November 10, 2008

SAP TechEd 2008 recap

This years SAP TechEd was held in Berlin, the ICC. Nice complex, originally build in the late fifties. A challenging experience if you look at the logistics of the event. The building’s nickname was Starship Enterprise (however if you look at the scale model, the building resembled the Battlestar Galactica more). Anyway all the floors and staircases fed the feeling that the building’s basis was a very interesting architecture but was never meant to host an event like the TechEd where attendees switch from location to location all the time. Not once I walked in one line to the location where the session was held. Fortunately I was never late and I didn’t miss a session as well.
Catering was very well organized, especially the possibility to grab a prefab sandwich in between sessions. Saves you a lot of time compared to standing in line for the buffet.

Community day
I started off with the BPX community day. A change to meet with the SDN/BPX soul mates. The sessions prepared me for the next three days. Difference was that there was more room for discussion during the sessions. Personally I feel that a community day should offer a lot of discussion on current project issues and future developments in stead of sessions that are on the TechEd agenda as well. I immediately realize that this must be hard to realize when you build the agenda for the community day especially when attendees take a seat and wait until what is being presented. Hard one. Throw in a facilitated game / competition and present the results during the keynote – How about that?

Day 1, Tuesday October 14th.
Keynote
This years keynote was far more interesting than last years. Great presentation on Business Objects and BPM, the topics for this years TechEd. Watch the replay to see for yourself.

UP220, Best of both worlds, Open source portal/CMS on SAP NetWeaver.
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Of course I attended our first session hosted by Peter and Ronald. Just in time the technology was ready to show the online demo on our demo server.

BPM160, Building Your Own Composite Business Processes From Scratch With SAP NetWeaver BPM
The best hands-on workshop that I attended. The scenario that was used during the keynote had to be rebuild in these two hours. Fortunately we succeeded! Next challenge is to try this at home. With a clean install of SAP NetWeaver BPM on my laptop I hope not to encounter prefab SAP components only available at the TechEd. Keep you posted.

BPM260, The ABC's of Modeling and Using Business Rules in SAP NetWeaver CE
A traditional example of an SAP specialist with not too much presentation skills. He ran through the workshop scenario in 10 minutes and than gave us the remaining time to go through the steps. I felt like a monkey only doing what was described in the handout without any explanation or background on what I was doing. So this is homework for later this year. Fortunately the handout is of excellent quality. All steps are described in detail, that is promising when you want to try this at home.

DemoJam
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Watch the complete replay or just Ronald and Peters replay.
Well it will be no surprise that I felt proud on Ronald and Peter performing their act on stage. We even got recognized by Craig as he spotted and mentioned the ‘guys in the purple shirts’ in front. They ended up second best, right after SAP with a hot and sexy development tool. Hey if you show a development tool that cool to a crowd of 5000 technonerds you are very happy with the second place.

Day 2, Wednesday October 15th.
BPM262, How to Use Business Rules With Business Process Management
Oh no, not again. The same well-spoken guy as in BPM260. So again 10 minutes for the scenario and 110 to act like a monkey. I surely missed the explanation and background.
It was a good session as I ended up next to Jan-Willem Kaagman so that we could catch up with what happened last year.

COMP206, Architecture guidelines for Composite Applications
Good to see that so many people were interested in Composite Applications and its architecture. I personally felt that the presentation was a bit too academic to be of practical use. But that for sure can be due to my lack in architecture skills.

GAP??
Well, and now, for the first time in 6 years of attending TechEd, I had a gap in my agenda. I could not find any presentation or workshop of my interest. Fortunately they served the coffee in the community clubhouse, so that is were we hang out and met with new and old friends.

Evening Event
Steve Winwood is a very capable guitar player and singer. But with a difficult technocrowd that was glued to their chairs (no free dancing/ partying area available) it is very hard to make a party. I think we attended about 20 minutes until we decided to pay a visit to Berlin. Outside we met Jan, Theo and Pieter where we had a great time of sharing memories on the TechEd and on our joint past.

Day 3, Thursday October 16th.
SOA246, Is Your Organization Ready For SOA?
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Niels kicked off on the last day with a huge crowd that was interested whether their organization was ready for SOA.

UP260, Model Applications For Mobile Always Connected Clients
Not too much mobile sessions on this years TechEd. Not hot anymore? I can hardly believe that. Anyway I attended this one with Ronald Kleijn and we ended up in a Web Dynpro training for dummies. Too bad. Again an example that not all presenters are best suited for the TechEd job.

Interview CE
Together with 3 more attendees I participated in a Composition Environment survey, lead by Greg Chase. I explained what we had realized at SPE. I am still proud of that, the way we used CAF is still very progressive. I wish that I could find the time to do it over again (or at least a small part of the project) in the new CE 7.1 release. Just to see what the differences/ improvements are.

UP223, iPhone development, Putting SAP at your fingertips
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Leo, our iPhone king, closed the TopForce presentations at the TechEd. Unfortunately the presentation hardware decided to take a break so he had to start 15 minutes late. Nevertheless a good presentation with enough attendees even though is was the last timeslot and the room was really hard to find (for me at least).

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The TopForce goal on being visible on the TechEd is successfully reached with 3 lectures and one DemoJam. Thank you Ronald, Peter, Leo and Niels! And besides that, our dress code, the ‘Purple Squad’ also helps, thank you Harry.

Conclusion
The keynote made clear that SAP’s focus is on information and processes. Knowledge workers use information in their daily jobs to make decisions. This information must be accurate, on time and easy accessible to facilitate the knowledge worker in his decision making. It will be no surprise that with Business Objects SAP now has all the possibilities to provide in this.
Next to that is the knowledge worker running through business processes day by day, he is not interested in the underlying technology. With SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management it is now finally possible to model a process with drag and drop functionality in a language that Business Process Experts understand, BPMN. The implementation within SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio surprised me, I expected that BPM would be implemented in Visual Composer, as announced in 2006. I am afraid that the developer studio frightens BPX’s. No reason to, Galaxy (hey, the codename of 2006 is back) is facilitating BPX’s and developers in the workflow to deliver a process with the correct implementation to end users as soon as possible.

SAP TechEd 2008 didn’t bring much more news than Business Objects and BPM. SAP is consolidating the innovations that have been brought to us in the past years. That is of course good news. The more mature solutions are, the better they can be used in real life scenarios.
In the end SAP TechEd is still the event to attend when you approach your SAP NetWeaver job professionally.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Real life composites

Some time ago I wrote: Composite Applications: Hype or Real? Conclusion was - of course - REAL. During the SAP TechEd in Berlin there were 12 out of 309 sessions about Composites. And as we all know, at TechEd we learn what is/will be real. So again, composites are real ;-)

Despite these signals, reality is that sometimes it is hard to explain to customers what Composites are and why they want to implement them. "Mashups, composites, Web2.0 is something for the internet not for my enterprise environment."

Let me help you with this blog about two real life composites that we have developed for a utility customer. Real life as these applications are live since early 2008 and in use by the end customers and the call center of this company.

Read more on my SDN blog on Real Life Composites.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

DemoJam 2008

First night event was the DemoJam, yesterday evening. Ronald and Peter participated with
SAP Enterprise Portal meets Web 2.0.
It was all about this trophy:

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Peter was the manager who wanted a Web2.0 Workplace and Ronald realized that with Open Source and the SAP EP.

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3:41 Minutes left - heading in the right direction.

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See the relief on their faces, what a big smile :-D

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The result: 2nd place, right after a submission from SAP. GREAT result for Peter and Ronald, I am very proud on you guys!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Live broadcast of DemoJam

Peter and Ronald can be followed live at SDN TV. DemoJam will start at 19:00.

SAP EP meets Web 2.0.

Replay of the DemoJam available on SDN.
Their session starts around 0:24.

Ronald and Peter @ TechEd08

Quick update now, only the picture. Story later or check my microblog at Twitter.

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More pictures on Flickr.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Words unnecessarily

Words are unnecessarily, have a look at my agenda:

Well, there seems to be a small gap in the agenda of this years TechEd on Wednesday between 12:00 and 14:30. But no worries - it will be busy anyway ;-)
Tuesday is a difficult day, I added only the sessions that I really want to attend - but unfortunately there are a lot of parallel sessions. At 11:00 four sessions start that are all interesting. What to choose:
  • COMP278, Service Composition with ES Repository and Composite Application Framework
  • UP109, : SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 – A Powerful Architecture and What You Can Do With It
  • BPM100, Business Process Management with SAP NetWeaver CE: Overview and Outlook
  • IM200, Joint Roadmap SAP NetWeaver BI and Business Objects
Today I downloaded all sessions that I am interested in (71 out of 309) and tomorrow I have plenty of time on my trip to Berlin to study this material. Another big plus of traveling by train.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

First publication

Wow, I have my first publication in SAP NetWeaver Magazine:

The Next Wave of Mashups: Real-World Lessons of Building a Portal with Composite Applications and Enterprise SOA.


Like mashups, composite applications bring together Web-based functionality in new ways. Follow one company’s implementation effort using composite applications in a portal environment. This process offers some insight into how these innovative applications can drive more responsive processes and improve online services for employees and customers.


The article describes our work at Luminus and is based on an earlier posting: Real Life Composites. It is the result of a first draft (hmm well it was my final 1.0 version ;-) that I have sent to SAP NetWeaver Magazine last April. After some questioning and editing you can now read the result, both on the web and in the real magazine. Never done before, but is sure feels nice when the hard copy arrives on your doormat. That happened last week and now even my mom wants a hard copy ;-)

Feel free to comment on the content ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SAP TechEd Top 10

With only 13 days to go I need to finalize my TechEd schedule soon. But so many sessions to choose from, 309 in total and only 3 days to plan them in. I know it is a kind of luxury problem, it must be the same feeling as my kids have in the toy shop ;-) Remind me building a business case to attend TechEd USA next year. Then I have 5 days to plan sessions ;-)

Past two years I focused on Composite Applications and the Visual Composer. This year it is time for the next level, the next big thing in SAP land: Business Process Management. I am signing up (reserving a seat) for:
  • BPM160, Building Your Own Composite Business Processes From Scratch With SAP NetWeaver BPM
  • BPM262, How to Use Business Rules With Business Process Management
And I will get in line for
  • COMP278, Service Composition with ES Repository and Composite Application Framework
  • BPM260, The ABC's of Modeling and Using Business Rules in SAP NetWeaver CE
  • IM264, Embedded SAP NetWeaver BI with SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer 7.1.1
  • SOA260, Build an End-to-End SOA Scenario Using the SAP Discovery System for SOA
  • SOA267, SOA and B2B

And of course I will support my colleagues Ronald, Peter, Leo and Niels.

TechEd2008 Subjects Top 10
  1. SAP NetWeaver (121 sessions)
  2. SOA (35)
  3. Java (18)
  4. BPM (16)
  5. BI (16)
  6. ABAP (16)
  7. Enterprise services (13)
  8. Composites (12)
  9. Web Dynpro (12)
  10. Business Objects (8)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

VC versus Xcelsius challenge

This week I had the change to ‘play’ with the Visual Composer again. Goal was to show a KPI dashboard on top of a BI query. With a gauge and a color (red or green) the status of the KPI had to be clear in one view. Besides that it had to be possible to change the ‘norm’ line online and to add comment on base of the results.
It was quite fun to build. Challenges? Only a few:
  • Find out what BI query on our Discovery Server returned results that could be presented: Trial and error.
  • Coloring the status bar: found in TechEd 2006 session CD151.
  • Slider with the Norm and plotting this line in the graph: Also in CD151.
Here is the result:


Next to my playing around, two colleagues (Pieter and Xavier) created almost the same demo in Xcelsius.

Their result:


The customer was impressed by the Business Objects demo. They are interested and currently investigating project possibilities. Great news for the other team! Unfortunately not for me with my Visual Composer. But hey, I already have enough project activities – so no worries ;-)

Conclusion:
  • Both are able to perform real time analysis with trends and jump to detail screens.
  • “Development” time or better said modelling time is comparable.
  • Visual Composer is a free add-on to your portal environment.
  • Additional costs for Xcelsius: a server is required and license costs.
  • Learning curve for heavy Excel users is very short for Xcelsius.
  • Visual Composer can easily integrate (web services) with different systems, even non-SAP.
  • Xcelsius is able to read from Excel as data source.
  • Authorization concept is probably easier to integrate in the VC.
  • Both are flexible in layout design.
  • Both tools generate Flash applications. (I know VC is also able to generate Web Dynpro, but for this demo Flash was more ‘sexy’).
  • Xcelsius is more suitable for reports that also have to be printed.

Hungry for more? On SDN there is a presentation available that explains how Visual Composer 7.1.1 can be used to embed BI into business processes and gives an outlook on future development plans. Also the relation with Xcelsius is described.

You can find this same article on SDN.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ronald and Peter at Demo Jam Berlin

Great news, not only do we have three sessions on this years SAP TechEd, we also have one Demo Jam Session. Peter Mayringer and Ronald Kleijn will perform live on stage a demo on “SAP EP meets web 2.0, floating iViews”, one of the technologies behind the HPP.
This will happen Tuesday evening October 14th and will be broadcasted live via SDN TV. I will keep you posted on the URL to watch Peter and Ronald live on stage.

What is the Demo Jam? As said, live on stage with an audience formed by all TechEd participants. About 8 demo’s are to be given, each no longer than 6 minutes. Golden rule: NO PowerPoint, only LIVE demo’s. After each presentation the audience makes a lot of noise and the presentation that receives the most … is the winner. Make sure that you support Ronald and Peter, they can use it.

During the summer, SAP customers, partners, and employees submitted proposals to demo their new, electrifying technologies or applications at Demo Jam. SAP TechEd is the place where the finalists will shine. Join SAP executives and thousands of cheering techies to watch the most impressive live demos hit the stage in Las Vegas. See them compete for the ultimate glory — to earn the audience’s vote of best demo of the night.


You can watch the replay of last weeks Demo Jam, from the Las Vegas TechEd.
The Demo Jam starts around 0:25:00.

A nice demo to watch starts at 1:20:00, it is a iPhone demo from XactSoft. A who is who application running on the iPhone. Hey where did I hear about this before? You are right – on our previous Learning Day, there Leo did the exact same demo scenario. But the application Leo built looks nicer (iPhone desgin) than the one from XactSoft. A real pitty that Leo didn’t make it to stage. See for yourself in the replay.
Apple itself also did a Demo Jam Session, starting at 1:05:00. It is about Workflow, XML, Web services and the iPhone.

Keep you posted, make sure that you study the agenda this week. Friday September 19th the sign-up for the Hands-on workshops starts. You definitely want to reserve a seat in your favorite workshop!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

SAP TechEd 2008, TopForce infiltration

On July 7th the Call For Proposals started for SAP's TechEd in Berlin, a major opportunity for us Technonerds to host a session on the TechEd. Tell me, who doesn’t want to host a session on the SAP Tech Event of the year, the SAP TechEd.

So with 9 colleagues we prepared 7 sessions and sent them to SAP.

  • High Performance Portal: An Open Source Portal/CMS on SAP NetWeaver, Peter Mayringer and Ronald Kleijn
  • Putting SAP at your fingertips – Integrating SAP with the iPhone, Leo van Hengel and Frodo Jansen
  • Composites in the real world, Twan van den Broek
  • Is your organization really ready for E/SOA? Niels Doeleman
  • Composition of SAP and GIS, Peter Mayringer
  • Ensuring traceability with Principal Propagation in PI / BPM, André Stuy
  • How to use the power of BAM, Paul van Os

Different than last year there was no voting round on SDN but a selection committee studied all proposals and picked out 15 sessions. 10 SDN related and 5 BPX related session for the TechEd in Berlin.

Guess what …

WE GOT 3 OF THEM!!

This is great news of course as there is no other SAP partner that won 3 sessions, even not at TechEd Las Vegas, but TopForce did! No surprise that I am very proud with this result.

So please mark your calendar and visit us at SAP’s TechEd in Berlin.

PS. This is not everything yet, we also applied for the Demo Jam session with the iPhone integration and the Open Source Portal. We do not have an answer yet from SAP for the TechEd in Berlin – patience …

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TopForce Learning Day

As announced in a previous posting, I am now finally finished with editing, back from 45 minutes to 6 minutes.

On YouTube you can have a video impression on our Learning Day, hope you enjoy it. At least I did while editing ;-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Real life composites

In addition to my SDN article: Composite Applications: Hype or Real, this time a real life story of our work at Luminus.

The challenge
Create flexible and easy to adjust applications that re-use SAP CRM, SAP ISU and custom Java functionality. As very often in our IT world, these applications had to be delivered quickly in order to be used by the customers and partners of Luminus.

What we did
We implemented the SAP Enterprise Portal for the external website http://www.luminus.be/. Customers can access this site to get up to date information on Luminus products and services. Web content management is handled with a third-party solution: easyWCM from BTEXX.

In the registered part of the portal (customers only section) several applications are provided:

  • MyConsumption: To enter meter readings and monitor your consumption
  • BudgetMonitor: To monitor and adjust your budget billing amount
  • CalculationTools: To calculate your optimal product on base of your consumption
Partners (In- and Outbound Call centers) can access their own environment to run the offer and contract registration process.

  • Create/Change Offers
  • Create/Change Contracts
  • Follow-up on marketing Campaigns
  • Create/Update customer master data
Solution Architecture
The flexibility in our solution is guaranteed with an implementation guided by the 5 Layer Architecture. Changes to one layer will not, or only very minimal, impact the other layers. Example: If you want to change the presentation layer, you only need to develop a new User Interface. The integration and application part is not affected. This is how we prepare for E-SOA.

The solution architecture plotted into the 5 Layers:

In this picture you can find the applications and their relation to the backend systems:

  • e-services MyConsumption and BudgetMonitor are the green colored boxes
  • CalculationTools are colored blue
  • In yellow you can find the application for the call center agents

Application Architecture
The applications are built within the Composition Environment, previously known as the Composite Application Framework. The Web Dynpro for Java (WDJ) applications only contain presentation logic. Integration is managed in the CAF Service Layer and via this Integration Layer the WDJ apps can access backend functionality that is made available as web services.
SAP PI was not in scope (yet), in the future the CAF Service Layer can easily be replaced by SAP PI.

Advantages

  • Very short time to market. Applications were delivered quickly as a lot of backend functionality was already available.
  • Modeling in the Composition Environment. The framework provides a lot of models to realize the Web Dynpro presentation logic and wizards to create web services for backend functionality.
  • The solution is built to be adapted. Functionality can be added easily or re-used for different user groups. In the past applications were built to last. Quite often that resulted in rebuilding the application when new requirements popped up.

Downsides

  • Re-using backend functionality is only possible when it is available. OK that is a huge open door. What I mean is when custom made functionality is not built in order to be re-used you will encounter issues. For example application logic that is integrated with presentation logic. Hard to be re-used in a service oriented environment.
  • The Composition Environment is not mature yet. We experienced a serious performance issue that could only be resolved with a CAF patch from SAP.

What’s next?
The Process Layer is not used yet. As more functionality is to be added, especially for the call center agents, Business Process Management will be implemented within the Process Layer. Calls and customer requests can be followed up upon process wise in stead of agent wise.
In the described solution a lot of custom made backend functionality is used. With the Enterprise Service Repository growing day-by-day, it might be interesting to start using enterprise services. Maintenance costs will surely decrease.

We experienced a very interesting project and the applications were delivered to customer satisfaction. Our pioneering work with the Composition Environment resulted in a world wide SAP E-SOA showcase. No need to say that the project team is very proud on that.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

iPhone innovation

Currently on the frontpage of SDN, the developer challenge. Initially an SAP internal event but now, as Mark Finnern describes, open to customers and partners. The three focus topics for 2008:

  • Green IT
  • Social Computing
  • Mobilizing SAP

Especially this last topic is very interesting:

A platform for users to create iPhone applications by pulling data from SAP systems.

An innovation that TopForce has realized last month with the PeopleFinder application.

Unfortunately the event is only open for:

coders from SAP customer and partner companies in North America

And until now we are not (yet) located in North America :-(


By the way, you can find a demo movie on the PeopleFinder application on YouTube.

Monday, April 21, 2008

TopForce Learning Day

Last Friday it was our TopForce Learning Day “Towards Professional Excellence”. Again a good one, especially the innovation hour with demo’s on:

  • the High Performance Portal, by Ronald and Peter
  • the iPhone PeopleFinder application, by Frodo and Leo
  • the e-HRM solution for a Dutch customer, by Ingrid

This time I decided to capture the day on my camcorder in order to catch the energy and fun that we experience on such a day. Good idea … but it leaves me now with 45 minutes of film and I want to reduce that to a maximum movie length of 5 minutes. When can I find the time to do that…

Fortunately André made some (148 ;-) pictures on Flickr.

Preparing the demo

Do not give me too much credits, I am just installing the webcam for the iPhone demo ;-)

Monday, April 07, 2008

iPhone app with SAP on TechEd?

On SAP’s TechEd this year there will probably be sessions available for non SAP techies that present their vision and knowledge. Well at TopForce we have one of the possible candidate sessions. Leo, Frodo, Koen and Peter are working on an application for Apple’s iPhone. PeopleFinder is the name of the app that connects SAP data to phone possibilities, a multi purpose who-is-who so to say. You can read more about it on computable.nl (in Dutch).

If voting opens, I will let you know, of course ;-)



On the picture you can see Leo giving a demo of the application (after some nights of hard work). The others are watching jealously. Is it because the application or the iPhone ...