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SAP, the market-leading enterprise software, recently became the first European technology company to create an AI ethics advisory panel where they announced seven guiding principles for AI development. These guidelines revolve around recognizing AI’s significant impact on people and society.

Also, last week, at the Microsoft Ignite conference, SAP, in collaboration with Microsoft and Adobe announced the Open Data Initiative. This initiative aims to help companies to better govern their data and support privacy and security initiatives. For SAP, this initiative will further bring advancements to its SAP C/4HANA and S/4HANA platforms. All of these actions emphasize SAP’s focus on transforming itself into a responsible data use company.

We recently interviewed Rehan Zaidi, a senior SAP ABAP consultant.

Rehan became one of the youngest authors on SAP worldwide when he was published in the prestigious SAP Professional Journal in the year 2001. He has written a number of books, and over 20 articles and professional papers for the SAP Professional Journal USA and HR Expert USA, part of the prestigious sapexperts.com library.

Following are some of his views on the SAP community and products and how the SAP suite can benefit people including budding professionals, developers, and business professionals.

Key takeaways

  • SAP HANA was introduced to accelerate jobs 200 times faster while maintaining the efficiency.
  • The introduction of SAP Leonardo brought in the next wave of AI, machine learning, and blockchain services via the SAP cloud platform and other standalone projects.
  • Experienced ABAP developers should look forward to getting certified in one of the newest technologies such as HANA, and Fiori.
  • SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) is the on-premises version of SAP, and it is usually implemented in medium and large-sized companies. For smaller companies, SAP offers its Business One ERP platform.
  • SAP Fiori is a line of SAP apps meant to address criticisms of SAP’s user experience and UI complexity.

Q.1. SAP is one of the most widely used ERP tools. How has it evolved over the past few years from the traditional on-premise model to keep up with the cloud-based trends?

Yes. Let me cover the main points.

SAP started in 1973 as a company and the first product SAP R/98 was launched.

In 1979, SAP launched the R/2 design. It had most of the typical processes such as accounting, manufacturing processes, supply chain logistics, and human resources.

Then came R/3  that brought the more efficient three-tier (Application server –  Database and the presentation (GUI)) architecture, with more new modules and functionalities added. It was a smart system fully configurable by functional consultants.

This was further enhanced with Netweaver capability that brought the integration of the internet and SOA capability.  SAP introduced the ECC 5 and subsequently the ECC 6 Release.

Mobility was later added that lets mobile applications running on devices to access the business processes in SAP and execute them. Both display and updation of SAP data was possible.

HANA system was then introduced. It is very fast and efficient – allows you to do 200 times faster jobs than before

Cloud systems then became available that let customers connect to SAP Cloud Platform via their on-premise systems and then get access to services such as Mobile Service for app protection, Mobile Service for SAP Fiori, among others.

SAP Leonardo was finally introduced, as a way of bringing in next-gen AI, machine learning and blockchain services via standalone projects and the SAP cloud platform.

Q.2. Being a Senior ABAP Programming Analyst, how does your typical day look like?

Ahh. Well, a typical day! No two days are the same for us. Each morning we find ourselves confronting a problem whose solution is to be devised. A different problem every day- followed by a unique solution. We spend hours and hours finding issues in custom developed programs. We learn about making custom programs run faster.

We get requirements of a wide variety of users. They may be in the Human Resource, Materials Management, Sales and Distribution or Finance, and so on. This requirement may be pertaining to an entirely new report or a dialog program having a set of screens. We even do Fiori ( using Javascript based library) applications that may be accessible from the PC or a mobile device.

I even get requirements of teaching junior or trainee SAP developers on a wide variety of technologies.

Q.3. Can you tell us about the learning curve for SAP? There are different job profiles related to SAP which range from executives to consultants and managers. How do each of them learn or update themselves on SAP?

Yes, this is a very important question. A simple answer to this question is that “there is no end to learning and at any stage, learning is never enough,” no matter to which field within SAP you belong to. Things are constantly changing. The more you read and the more you work, you feel that there is a lot to be done. You need to constantly update yourself and learn about new technologies.

There is plenty of material available on the internet. I usually refer to the Official SAP website for newer courses available. They even tell you for which background (managers, developers) the courses are relevant to. I also go to open.sap.com for new courses. Whether they are consultants (functional and technical), or managers, all of them need to keep themselves up-to-date. They must take new courses and learn about innovation in their technology. For example, HR must now study and try to learn about Successfactors. Even integration of SAP HANA with other software might be an interesting topic of today.

There are Fiori and HANA related courses for Basis consultants and the corresponding tracks for developers. Some knowhow of newer technologies is also important for managers and executives, since your decisions may need to be adapted based on the underlying technologies running in your systems. You should know the pros and cons of all technologies in order to make the correct move for your business.

Q.4. Many believe an SAP certification improves their chances of getting jobs at competitive salaries. How important are certifications? Which SAP certifications should a buddying developer look forward to obtain?

When I did my Certification in October 2000, I used to think that Certifications are not important.

But now I have realized, yes, it makes a difference.  Well, certifications are definitely a plus point. They enhance your CV and allow you to have an edge over those who are not certified.  I found some jobs adverts that specifically mention that certification will be required or will be advantageous. However, they are only useful when you have at least 4 years of experience.

For a fresh graduate, a certification might not be very useful. A useful SAP consultant/developer is a combination of solid base/foundation of knowledge along with a touch of experience. I suggest all my juniors to go for Certifications in order to strengthen concepts, which include:

  • C_C4C30_1711 – SAP Certified Development Associate – SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer
  • C_CP_11 – SAP Certified Development Associate – SAP Cloud Platform
  • C_FIORDEV_20 – SAP Certified Development Associate – SAP Fiori Application Developer
  • C_HANADEV_13 – SAP Certified Development Associate – SAP HANA
  • C_SMPNHB_30 – SAP Certified Development Associate – SAP Mobile Platform Application Development (SMP 3.0)
  • C_TAW12_750 – SAP Certified Development Associate – ABAP with SAP NetWeaver 7.50
  • E_HANAAW_12 – SAP Certified Development Specialist – ABAP for SAP HANA

For experienced ABAP developers, I suggest getting certified on the newest technologies such as HANA, and Fiori. They may help you get a project quicker and/or at a better rate than others.

Q.5. The present buzz is around AI, machine learning, IoT, Big data, and many other emerging technologies. SAP Leonardo works on making it easy to create frameworks for harnessing the latest tech. What are your thoughts on SAP Leonardo?

Leonardo is SAP’s response to an AI platform. It should be an important part of SAP’s offerings, mostly built on the SAP cloud platform. SAP has relaunched Leonardo as a digital innovation system. As I understand it, Leonardo allows customers to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, advanced analytics and blockchain on their company’s data. SAP gives customers an efficient way of using these technologies to solve business issues. It allows you to build a system which, in conjunction with machine learning, searches for results that can be combined with SAP transactions.

The benefit with SAP Leonardo is that all the company’s data is available right in the SAP system. Using Leonardo, you have access to all human resources data and any other module data residing in the ERP system.

Any company from any industry can make use of Leonardo; it works equally well for retailers, food and beverage companies and medical industries, for organizations working in retail, manufacturing and automotive. An approach that works for one company in a given industry can be applied to other companies in that industry.

Suppose a company operates sensors. They can link the sensor data with the data in their SAP systems and even link that with other data, and they can then use the Leonardo capabilities to solve problems or optimize performance. When a problem for one company in an industry is solved, a similar solution may be applied to the entire industry. Yes, in my opinion, Leonardo has a bright future and should be successful.

For more information about Leonardo success stories, I encourage readers to check out SAP Leonardo Internet of Things Portfolio & Success Stories.

Q. 6. You are currently writing a book on ABAP Objects and Design Patterns expected to be published by the end of 2018. What was your motivation behind writing it? Can you tell us more about ABAP objects? What should readers expect from this book?

ABAP and ABAP Objects has gone tremendous changes since some time both on the features (and capability) as well as the syntax. It is the most unsung topic of today. It has been there for quite long but most developers are not aware of it or are not comfortable enough to use them in their day to day work. ABAP is a vast community with developers working in a variety of functional areas. The concepts covered in the book will be generic, allowing the learner to apply them to his or her particular area.

This book will cover ABAP objects (the object-oriented extension of the SAP language ABAP) in the latest release of SAP NetWeaver 7.5 and explain the newest advancements. It will start with the programming of objects in general and the basics of ABAP language the developer needs to know to get started. The book will cover the most important topics needed on everyday support jobs and for succeeding in projects.

The book will be goal-directed, not a collection of theoretical topics. It won’t just touch on the surface of ABAP objects, but will go in depth from building the basic foundation (e.g., classes and objects created locally and globally) to the intermediary areas (e.g., ALV programming, method chaining, polymorphism, simple and nested interfaces), and then finally into the advanced topics (e.g., shared memory, persistent Objects). The best practices for making better programs via ABAP objects will be shown at the end.

No long stories, no boring theory, only pure technical concepts followed by simple examples using coding pertaining to football players. Everything will be presented in a clear, interesting manner, and readers will learn tips and tricks they can apply immediately. Learners, students, new SAP programmers and SAP developers with some experience can use this as an alternative to expensive training books. The book will also save reader’s time searching the internet for help writing new programs.

Knowing ABAP objects is key for ABAP developers these days to move forward. Starting from simple ALV reporting requirements, or defining and catching exceptional situations that may occur in a program or even the enhancement technology of BAdIs that lets you enhance standard SAP applications require sound ABAP Objects understanding. In addition, Web Dynpro application development, the Business Object Processing Framework, and even OData service creation to expose data that can be used by Fiori apps all demand solid knowledge of ABAP objects.

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