The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter #11: Signavio, CDS, Integration, Loom, Industry Cloud

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Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul
Hi there,
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-Jelena and Paul

Wherefore Art Thou, Signavio?
The Signavio WHEEL OF DOOM
The Signavio WHEEL OF DOOM
I’m simultaneously underwhelmed and confused by product descriptions in enterprise technology. I remember when SAP announced the Signavio acquisition last year, I hunted around a little bit to try to learn exactly what they were buying. I think this video got me closest to understanding, with some visuals and screen captures along the way. About a week ago SAP announced a new piece available: experience-driven journey to process analytics
I was going to try to explain succinctly my interpretation of Signavio’s capabilities, but I keep running into phrases like the following:
  • “Understand, improve, and transform your business processes - fast and at scale - with a cloud-based process management platform”
  • “SAP Signavio supports organizations to transform with the ability to understand operations instantly and holistically and then react and improve immediately”
  • The “experience-driven journey to process analytics” allows you to “correlate experience data from user surveys (whether customer, supplier, or employee) with underlying IT systems”
Those phrases and other material about Signavio feels like this: grammatically correct and even smart-sounding words, not carrying much actual meaning. Compare the assertions above with the case studies available - the high-minded words don’t seem quite in line with the results delivered. Is my confusion about this due to my lack of MBA-level business acumen? Is this a case where a tool delivers great information but companies need more time to understand the value they get? The wheel of doom above looks incredibly powerful, so someone tell me an amazing story about using that wheel to save billions or transform business. PM
A Room With A CDS View
ABAP Developer working on a virtual data model
ABAP Developer working on a virtual data model
It’s been over 3 years since Thorsten Franz passionately proclaimed CDS views “the next ABAP Objects”. I hope no more convincing is needed that learning both is vital for the SAP developers. (And if all the tutorials, blog posts, and videos are too much, here is a handy-dandy CDS cheat sheet.)
Compared to the code-based OData development in SEGW, CDS views are the bees’ knees. Their newer variety, view entity, is even better since they no longer require a designated database view. View entities still have some limitations, such as not being able to handle UNION and SELECT DISTINCT, but SAP will get there. Hopefully.
For the experienced ABAP developers CDS views don’t always bring tears of joy. Sometimes it’s the tears of the other kind when we realize that what few ABAP code lines can do CDS views can’t do better. And you seem to always need TONS of them. CDS views can also be rather obtuse when it comes to understanding our grand data model design. For example, the key designation or association cardinality, as Captain Barbossa said, “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules”.
CDS views are a great tool but not the only one in the toolshed. Sometimes table functions need to do the heavy lifting of business logic and even the good old SEGW still has some use. Understanding when to use which and not confusing those situations is what matters most. JP
Total Eclipse of The Heart
Even though I still indulge in an occasional trip to SAP GUI, most of ABAP development these days is happening in other IDEs, such as Eclipse.
Switching to the new IDE can feel like a confused Travolta meme. When we use something for a while, we create our own pathways, workflows, and take time to learn helpful tools and shortcuts. With new IDE, all of those little productivity boosts seem lost. It doesn’t have to be that way.
When moving from SE80 to ABAP Development Tools (ADT) in Eclipse, this FAQ document was very helpful to me. And most recently, I’ve discovered that even more tools, add-ons, gadgets and gizmos are available on Eclipse Marketplace. For example, these clipboard tools can help to keep track of several recently copy-pasted values. This is very helpful when running test with specific key values, for example. And with more general, non-SAP tips from the websites like Eclipse Can Do That you will be using Eclipse like a boss! JP
My Head's In The Industry Clouds
The days of SAP Leonardo woke me up to the concept of industry cloud solutions. I think VentureBeat has a nice, succinct definition: “Industry clouds are collections of cloud services, tools, and applications optimized for the most important use cases in a specific industry.” Leonardo might be dead (OK, yes, it is dead), but the industry cloud train keeps rolling along - at least if AWS, Google, Microsoft, and SAP have anything to say about it. Expect to hear a lot more products and services with titles like “Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing” or “Google Cloud for gaming”. 
The general shape of the solutions have three key parts:
  • The core technology pieces that a cloud provider offers that comprise infrastructure and platform-level services. Base-level storage, compute, and platform software like databases that hyperscalers are especially capable of delivering. Think Google Cloud Spanner, AWS EC2, and so on.
  • Solutions that the providers have worked on specifically to enhance their industry offerings. AWS IoT FleetWise is a great example of this - built specifically for industries that make use of vehicles. 
  • Partners, partners, partners. Anyone in the industry cloud game is desperately seeking partners who know core slices of the industries at play. Look at any industry cloud page from the vendors in this piece, and it’s incredibly easy to find a “Partners” section. 
Contrasted to my skepticism of Signavio elsewhere in this issue, I am pretty sure that industry cloud as a buzzword is incredibly valuable and here to stay. Even just re-packaging existing core cloud services into roughly-shaped industry solutions will have advantages, as many companies’ IT departments don’t yet have their heads in the clouds and will appreciate guidance for choosing the right services.
The cloud is still the wild west, and for those on the tech side of the house your safest bet remains skilling up in cloud fundamentals. PM
An Integration Recommendation Sensation
I mean, how hard could it be?
I mean, how hard could it be?
I deal with integration and integration-related issues a lot in my day-to-day nerd activities. This piece from Brandon Byars popped up in my feed a few months ago, but I only just found the time to read it. I WISH I’D READ IT SOONER! It is packed with helpful thoughts. 
Here’s the driving insight, and helpfully the attention-grabbing title: “You Can’t Buy Integration”. This convinced me of the truth: “When you buy an integration product, you are agreeing to build the integration itself in a commercial programming language”. Instantly my mind flashed to all the times I’d been part of a team helping to make two (or usually more) applications talk to each other. The application integration team members always had an incredible hodge-podge of tools, bouncing from connector to connector and protocol to protocol. 
Byars also makes a point that I hadn’t thought of: “integration tools are almost always low-code platforms”. I’ve been on a real kick of pushing low-code where possible as application development solutions - but this is a place where the paradigm can’t work. You need pro-code level access to all the data as it flows between systems, and crucially need to account for problems that require more flexibility than a low-code system can provide. Thus, the recommended approach: use a general-purpose programming language to manage evolving interfaces. 
This might seem like an expensive proposition, but Byars provides solid rationale. Consider that integration is truly strategic to a business. Organizational agility depends on being able to quickly adapt complex systems to changing tasks, and having the full control a programming language can provide on top of clean interfaces is vital. I think this captures the heart of the argument: “reframing the integration conversation away from wiring systems together and towards exposing self-service interfaces between business capabilities can lead to significant business value.” PM
Build Your Corporate TikTok With Loom
Sometimes you stumble upon an application and feel like yes, this has exactly the features I’ve been looking for! This was the case for me with Loom, the neat “asynchronous video tool” that can be used to create short videos and share them with coworkers on the fly. For example, instead of typing a long Slack message to your teammate in another time zone, you could simply use Loom to record both camera and screen (or just one of them) and convey your point much faster.
As an experiment, I’ve used Loom to create this short clip showcasing my mad SAP GUI knowledge. This was take number 15 or so and I spent a good amount of time with the app. Here are my findings.
Pros:
  • Loom is stupid easy to use (pick what you want to record and click the big red button).
  • Video editing tools are simple but effective. There is a variety of filters and special effects, as well as a neat drawing tool.
  • Loom can be easily integrated with Slack and other messaging platforms.
Con:
  • When choosing to share just one application, Loom could not correctly pick multiple windows associated with that application. I had to resort to full screen sharing, which weirdly also recorded Loom’s own controls.
Loom “test drive” was fun and I definitely recommend checking it out for your personal and enterprise needs. JP
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Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul @BoringNerds

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-Jelena and Paul

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