Completing a team of ABAP-ers is not easy. An ABAP programmer is a software engineer, but they also need the business curiosity that business consultants have. After all, programming in SAP is not only technology but also learning about business modules. Only the mixture of a great software engineer and the basics of modular knowledge creates the best ABAP consultants. As you can see, creating such a team is an engaging and difficult task, and at the same time… our Hicron specialty.
Consultants to take off!
How does our work begin? Functional consultants collect clients’ business requirements and model processes within the company. The SAP Technology Team supports them when the requirements go beyond the SAP standard and technological knowledge is needed… which happens very often.
If we are dealing with a rare case of a customer who is satisfied with the capabilities of the standard offered by SAP, ABAP consultants are not needed. In this case, it is enough to configure SAP for a specific process without adding any extensions. But the truth is that every business is unique in some way and very rarely the SAP standard is enough. Sometimes the system lacks all specific functionalities necessary for the smooth operation of the organization. That is where the ABAPs come in.
Standard + unlimited possibilities
A business consultant deals with process design, while an experienced ABAP consultant designs a technical solution for a given process. SAP does not limit what can be changed with ABAP – it provides open-source code that can be changed with modification objects. But, this has inevitable consequences. SAP introduces updates to its standard solutions, but the system owner must take care of the updates of the modified objects.
As an example, we can use changes in tax regulations. After their introduction (by the government), SAP prepared an update of the system functionality. Yet, if the code in the standard object has been changed before, the update must be done manually. SAP will not adapt the updates to changes introduced externally, so we recommend to our customers as few changes to the standard as possible. By keeping the standard, the system is easier and cheaper to maintain.
It is completely different when it comes to adding functionality “next to” the standard. Then their maintenance and updates are assigned to the owner from the beginning, but they do not threaten new versions (updates) of the standard.
A recipe for the perfect team
At Hicron, we usually focus on teams that have diverse experience. Thanks to this, we give younger ABAP-ers a chance to work on interesting projects under the supervision of great experts. In turn, experienced specialists can focus on the most difficult tasks. Additionally, this is how we educate new programmers. You have to remember that learning the ABAP language is not popular and is not in the standard curriculum of technical universities. Our system has been successful for many years. Its continuation and extension is the Hicron Academy project, during which we train our interns, usually fresh IT graduates or recent students.
Stream Lead – a link between business and code
Currently, our team consists of several dozen people with various levels of experience. When completing the project team, we make sure that the group includes experts who have modular knowledge. But, the strength of a good SAP consultant lies not only in the ability to write ABAP code but also in the knowledge of business processes. And this is also a skill that we pass on to our interns and juniors: the need to understand written code, not just sticking to specifications.
I am glad to have technology consultants on the team whose level of knowledge about processes is comparable to that represented by business consultants. That facilitates the transfer of information and requirements for creating your solutions. With such commitment and initiation, you can skip a few levels and long explanations. Such a person combining ABAP programming skills and knowledge about business in large projects takes the role known as Stream Lead. Their tasks include checking the code and adjusting it to business requirements and helping less experienced team members.
Ready, test, go!
The SAP environment is usually divided into three parts: the development system on which the code is written, the testing system on which the tests take place, and the production system, i.e. the final one, on which the business is already running. Developers most often work on the first one. After the developer writes the codes, executes unit tests, and checks the code, the objects are transferred to the test system. In this system, the client’s production environment is mapped. You can check whether the work results are in line with expectations. The client also verifies whether the delivered solutions meet their requirements. If everything is correct – we set the start date and transfer the codes to the production system.
The client’s business is constantly evolving, so ABAP-er support is also necessary after the implementation. For this reason, we are working closely with the teams involved in system maintenance and development. Business does not stand still, and thus its needs change.
Remotely or on-site?
As an IT company, Hicron has long been prepared to provide its services remotely. But even ABAP consultants are sometimes put in situations where they have to do their work on the client’s site. That most often happens when there are exceptional data security laws at stake. For example, when the client is a military organization. Or an industry company with specific requirements and a hermetic system that you cannot access from outside. Physical presence facilitates communication between the programmer, consultant, and client at the start of the project (especially for clients who prefer waterfall projects). But, in the new COVID-19 reality, such contacts are limited to a minimum, and most often eliminated.
ABAP-er is not a stereotypical programmer locked in his box, focused on coding. They are close to the client’s business and – what is important and quite exciting at the same time – they see the effects of their work relatively quickly, actively participating in the improvement of business processes.
Author: Michał Matyjaszczyk, SAP Technology Manager