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The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter #19: Bears, MTV, SAPUI5, SAP AI Core, DeepMind

Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul
Hi there,
We’re sad to report that only one of our images is a meme this issue. Please accept our humblest apologies.
We can offer, however, Paul shamelessly plugging his books. So if you’re into that sort of self-promotional narcissism, have we got a newsletter for you!
-Jelena and Paul

Of Bulls And Bears
The article Of Bulls And Bears (Von Bullen und Bären) by Peter Hill is written with German precision, brutal honesty, and trademark humor (so subtle that you don’t recognize a joke until it suddenly hits you 3 sentences later). This expose talks about the different types of SAP customers:
  • the “powerful and well organized” bulls, large global corporations that run a tight ship;
  • the bears that “roar - and lose sight of the project”.
Peter’s description of the bears is chillingly accurate:
[…]those corporations that - out of sheer company politics and preoccupation with themselves - often lose sight of the real work on the necessary changes. Huge sums of money are sometimes spent just to end up with fewer functions and automations than before.
I bet every seasoned SAP consultant has encountered those projects where whoever screams the loudest gets their way, even if it adds no value for the business at large. Yikes.
Peter also offers solid advice for the consultants. The bull “can be tamed with a lot of patience and brain power” and the bear, “requires a thick skin and a lot of caution”. Power up your trusted translator and read the article in its entirety to avoid getting mauled on your next SAP project! JP
I Want My ERP
This is actually a really cool graphic. No snark here.
This is actually a really cool graphic. No snark here.
SAP turns 50 this year. Stuart Browne over at ERP Today has a great piece on what’s changed over the years, and why - dissimilar to MTV - SAP’s aging has been not-so-graceful in some areas.
In the past, solutions that offered great integration got the most attention from businesses. This was SAP’s kingmaking feature from the start - bundle business processes together and integrate them. Just like MTV with artists aiming for music videos as key to their image, consulting companies put SAP at the front of their partnership plays, creating an entire ecosystem.
But time marches on. MTV adapted from solely focused on music videos to creating other forms of viewer content. Browne rightly points out the best example of this: Beavis and Butt-Head. And then he (convincingly) argues that SAP hasn’t been able to reinvent itself similarly. Monolithic ERP has meant sacrificing the agility of some parts for the sake of moving things “at the pace of the slowest functions”.
Lots to chew on in this piece. I am also in agreement with two things: companies seem less apt to choose huge monoliths and instead want to break things up into best-of-breed, and the skills shortage in SAP consultants doesn’t help. I’ll add that orgs who take hyperscaler capabilities seriously and architect their networks of solutions around elastic platform resources will be best enabled to overcome challenges quickly. PM
Best Of UI5
It’s always great to see open-source projects popping up in the SAP ecosystem. And the projects that promote other projects? That’s a double win.
Meet Best of UI5, sort of a hub for the best (hence the name) open-source UI5 projects. Currently it showcases some umpteen projects for custom controls, middleware, tooling, etc. I hope that the list expands and there is a button to add your own project.
Our own humble contribution to the cause is this handy Twitter list of the Best of UI5 contributor accounts. Follow them to learn more about UI5 and other good stuff.
And for those thinking “what did I just read?” or “is UI5 the same as Fiori?”, there is a great vintage SAP Community blog post that explains it all. JP
[Editor’s note: If you want some OTHER best of UI5, why not try Paul’s book on it?]
SAP AI Core - That's A Thing, Right?
It's an older meme, sir, but it checks out.
It's an older meme, sir, but it checks out.
I came across a blog highlighting “What’s New in SAP AI Core & SAP AI Launchpad in Q2 2022” and my first thought was “there’s such a thing as SAP AI Core and SAP AI Launchpad?” I am not Mr. Paulie-on-the-spot here.
SAP AI Core is a BTP service that is “designed to handle the execution and operations of your AI assets in a standardized, scalable, and hyperscaler-agnostic way”. SAP AI Launchpad is a BTP service that customers “can use to manage AI use cases (scenarios) across multiple instances of AI runtimes (such as SAP AI Core).”
I am curious to see if there are real-world customers making use of these products. My sense is that the parts of a company that have deep AI capability are not the same parts that have deep SAP/BTP capability, and thus aren’t married to SAP’s approach. I am not sure why you’d choose SAP to help you manage AI services when the under-the-covers horsepower is more than likely to be one or more of the hyperscalers’ services.
This is a time when, like in the past, I am hungry for real-world examples. Right now the only thing I can find is a mention in an SAP Innovation Award that says AI Core is “planned for next phase of solution release”. Stories are the base unit of human knowledge, and I need some to fill me up here. PM
The Art Of Development For Humans
Sun Tzu would be proud
Sun Tzu would be proud
Even though software design is not the same as, say, print or fashion design, software developers can learn a lot from art and design in general. For example, I’ve done several presentations for SAP developers around MAYA principle of renowned designer Raymond Loewy (author of the iconic Coca Cola bottle design, among many other things).
SAP Design Talks are the sessions presented by international design experts but, sadly, they seem to be internal to SAP and full recordings are not publicly available. But even the short “teaser” videos have powerful messages, such as this quote from design expert Barry Katz.
Somewhere along the line, a human being will be experiencing your product. And you should be thinking about that person and not simply yourself, and not simply the process you are responsible for. A great design […] is now a condition of entry into the market, it’s a competitive difference and a competitive advantage that functionally similar products will have.
It’s important to note that this is not just about UX. Or rather UX is not just about visual presentation. Good UX also needs good data. So even if you are an ABAP developer of the deepest and darkest back-end services, you play a significant role in how that person will experience your work. JP 
DeepMind's Fanboyest Fanboy
DeepMind: The Quest to Solve Intelligence
DeepMind: The Quest to Solve Intelligence
I’ve been an avid follower of DeepMind since I heard of its acquisition by Google in 2014. Since then, an amazing set of things have come out of it:
  • AlphaGo, which defeated the #1-ranked Go player in the world - an AI feat many thought was decades away
  • AlphaGo Zero and AlphaZero, further enhancements of AlphaGo that both increased its power and generalized its capabilities to more games than just Go
  • MuZero, which generalized even further to board games and Atari video games - without needing to be told the rules!
  • Reducing Google data center cooling costs by 40% (!)
  • Accelerating biological research through AlphaFold
So watch that video above and be amazed.
I cannot get enough of this. A great deal of my favorite sci-fi has AI components, philosophical quandaries abound, and I even wrote a book on the shallow end of this pool. Just like cloud computing, we are still on the very outside edge, looking inward at a future that will be utterly revolutionized by this technology. PM
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Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul @BoringNerds

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-Jelena and Paul

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