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The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter - gCTS, AlphaCode, Acumatica, Calendly

Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul
Hey there!
We’ve got some stories that’ll knock your socks off! Please prepare your footwear situation accordingly before proceeding.
This is the first February edition of the Boring Enterprise Nerdletter. What better way to surprise your Valentine than with a completely free subscription to a niche technology newsletter? Forward this email to a special someone, and watch the sparks fly.
-Jelena and Paul

Everything Is BORING
I came across the Boring Technology Checklist and just had to comment. I mean - it’s boring, we’re boring, everything’s just BORING. (No, not really.)
Brian Leroux jumps off from an earlier piece on boring technology, Choose Boring Technology by Dan McKinley. The premise is this: don’t run around after new technology just for its own sake; instead, to move forward to pragmatic solutions, choose battle-tested and proven technology.
Leroux goes further from that to develop the following thesis:
…Boring Technology is absolutely interesting; familiarity empowers the software developer to focus on unique problems instead of furiously iterating against previously unknown trade-offs. Working on challenging uniquely new problems is never dull or monotonous!
I think he’s spot on, and it applies to enterprise solutions. Spend your time solving the problem you want your technology to solve, not solving the problems that the technology presents by being so bleeding-edge.
The piece presents two interesting ways to tackle the balance between “we should only do reliable things” and “if we only ever did old-school reliable things we’d still be writing COBOL” - innovation tokens (another hat tip to McKinley), and a neat checklist at the bottom of the piece that should help techies make sane, balanced choices about the tools they go into battle with. I think it’s worth a read as you continue with your evil plans for world domination. PM
SAP gCTS: Blockchain of ABAP?
Git-enabled Change and Transport System (gCTS) sounds like the keyword combination that IT managers hear and go “I don’t know what it is but I want one!”. 
It does sound cool but what specific problem does SAP gCTS solve? In the on-premise world, we have abapGit, which is great, and regular SAP transport system (TMS) which works perfectly fine. This FAQ blog post and other similar ones suggest that gCTS can bring pipelines to the ABAP world, as well as help manage deployment of ABAP and non-ABAP code together. I’m not sure what percentage of SAP customers actually need it and, even then, the ROI on setting up and maintaining gCTS vs already operational and stable systems doesn’t seem to be a positive number. Whom are we kidding? Recent article by Lars Hvam puts it simply: “Use git for development, not deployment”. Amen.
Perhaps the upcoming openSAP course will offer more insight on this, but so far gCTS looks suspiciously like a blockchain of ABAP: fancy tech without a real benefit or business case, other than some fringe scenarios. JP
AlphaCode Is Totally Not Skynet
DeepMind's AlphaCode Explained
DeepMind's AlphaCode Explained
I’ve gone on ad nauseam about AI systems in previous issues. So here’s another one
DeepMind, who famously created the Alpha series of AI programs that defeated world Go champions, just released a report about a new capability they’ve worked on: AIs generating computer code from human-language descriptions. This system is called AlphaCode, and it works specifically on competitive programming problems, where (normally) humans compete against each other to produce the best code to solve specific problems in a competitive environment. AlphaCode can produce code that would place it approximately in the top half of human competitors.
The BBC story calls out that “its abilities could not immediately be applied to other forms of coding”. While that’s true, it’s still very much a further encroachment on language and computing skill that was once solely human. I think there’s a sea change happening: low-code/no-code, amazing programming assistants like GitHub CoPilot and Microsoft PowerFx, further research into natural language tools like GPT-3, and AlphaCode. These tools and demos point to a fast-developing future where the effort to create an app that does something useful for yourself doesn’t include years of deep training. 
I don’t know what developer job descriptions will look like in 5 years. I’m sure there will still be a need for professional code-writing work that is not covered by these new tools. But if your work involves producing apps, I think the way you create those apps will change drastically. And if your work doesn’t currently involve creating apps, in 5 years it just might. PM
Acumatica Could Eat SAP’s and Oracle’s Lunch
Acumatica Cloud ERP Overview Video
Acumatica Cloud ERP Overview Video
When SAP made public their plans for Cloud ERP, many analysts and casual observers warned that once outside the walled on-premise garden, SAP products will meet much fiercer competition. And while some vendors have already been nibbling at the edges of SAP’s pie, there haven’t been serious contenders for the whole ERP. I believe Acumatica is one.
The “world’s fastest-growing cloud ERP company” got many things right already, such as partnership with Autodesk for their modeling capabilities and with Adobe for PDF. 
I was also blown away by the fact that Acumatica gives away awards to their customers. While a lot has changed since this blog post, SAP or Oracle are not exactly known for their customer appreciation. 10 points for Gryffindor.
To boot, Acumatica has an excellent video showcasing their ERP in 10 minutes. Oracle’s similar clip, set in post-apocalyptic landscape where everyone looks like their liver is about to fail, forgets to show the actual ERP system. And SAP has no such clip to be found. 
Software vendors like Acumatica have no legacy baggage, big appetite, good plan, and value their customers. While SAP is like “gee golly, we need to bring ABAP to the Cloud”, Acumatica will not only eat their lunch but, eventually, dinner. JP
The Meeting Scheduling Solutions of Our Lives
Calendly etiquette” is the thing these days and some people take issue with it. If you’re blissfully out of the loop on the recent enterprise scheduling solution drama on social media, here is your TV Guide scoop. 
Calendly is a nifty website / app where you can share information about available times and allow others to self-schedule meetings with you. I use it myself and it’s the bee’s knees. It cuts down on the typical “how is next Tuesday for you?” email chains with people who are not in the same corporate directory. Instead, simply send them a link to your Calendly page where they can find time convenient for them. (There is also a similar website / app Doodle that helps to figure out availability for a larger group of people.) 
But turns out some people take offense in receiving such a link and feel as if you are throwing their calendar in your face. An easy solution is to say something like “Hey, let me know what works for you or, if more convenient, use <link>”. This is where I feel the best way would be to take human egos out of the equation. Hopefully, in near future scheduling a meeting will be as simple as saying “have your Calendly call my Calendly” :). JP
Tell Them
Our first day on the job was the same weird day. We sat in a conference room with other new employees, going over the standard orientation process, and when the round-the-table introductions came to me, he chimed in with “I think I’m your manager.” The company was in disarray, so for about a week we couldn’t even figure out whether that was true. It was.
That strange state of affairs permeated our year together as colleagues. I’d never had a manager so honestly share his own confusion and frustration with me, as we fought together to complete half-done projects and confusing organizational challenges. He trusted me enough to take me with him into situations where we couldn’t see a winning angle. I grew as a professional approximately ten years, condensed into one.
About 5 years after I left his team, I co-wrote a book and thanked him in the foreword. My then-current workplace hosted an event that I knew he’d attend, so I prepared a thank you note and a copy of that book especially for him. Giving it to him was the last time I saw him, since he passed away about a year later during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
I’m going to absurd lengths to tell this story because I’m reflecting on his life from the perspective of our professional relationship. The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter feels like an appropriate place to share some of those reflections.
If someone has positively influenced you in your professional journey, tell them. Tell them as soon as it occurs to you. 
  • They deserve to hear it. If they’ve had a positive impact, it is likely because they are actively trying to do so.
  • Expressing gratitude is its own reward. 
  • You don’t always get the chance. I nearly missed my chance with my former manager, and I know I’d regret it if I had.
Just tell them. PM
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Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul @BoringNerds

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-Jelena and Paul

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