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I have been doing this year-end blog to record my learning, insights gained during the year in my professional SAP career. I did this last year and once more in 2009 in response to Craig Cmehil's challenge. Normally end of year TechEd as the major SAP event means a lot to digest, learn in short time but there are other learning throughout the year from SAP, Community events and even at daily work.

So here are the takeaways for me in 2013 minus TechEd that I have blogged separately here.

Advanced Note Search Functionality (commonly known as ANST)

I would classify this as a hidden gem - a very useful utility from SAP that can be accessed through transaction ANST_SEARCH_TOOL.Any SAP functional consultant would find it useful and it's a significant departure from class SNOTE functionality. After showing it to my client Architect, he got so enthused that we moved the BASIS SP to get the tool in all our SCM and ECC system.

More details of the tool is provided in SAP Knowledge Base article 1818192 and some useful blogs from SCN.

ANST Announcement
ANST Version 2.0

Another powerful and useful capability highlighted by kavindra.joshi in his session at SAP Inside Track Bangalore this year. Great example of learning from Community event. More on the capability in this Basic blog and Advanced Blog. I have to admit not using this much but introduced my ABAP team to it and hope to use it further in 2014 for deep debugging requirements.

Suite on HANA

Early this year SAP announced in a Press Conference that Business Suite can run with HANA as primary database. This was kind of a last frontier for HANA as DB to break-through with enterprise applications (ERP, SCM, CRM and later SRM) be run on it. This was a major milestone for HANA and to prove to clients that SAP finally has a database that can power its flagship OLTP applications. During the year I had the opportunity to test it out at SAP Labs Bangalore as part of SCM 7 EhP 3 / ECC 6 EhP 7 testing. Also got to understand difference between performance improvement just due to database migration and then separate optmisation through code "push-down" from application to database layer. This capability set the stage for two major capabilities outlined below.

Operational Analytics -  HANA Live & Supply Chain Info Center

Operational Analytics was (re)-introduced with HANA merging OLAP and OLTP capabilities. It is expected to make a paradigm shift in how business operates providing "Insight to Action" capabilities. So much so was the buzz and expectation that long-timer like thorstenster has bet on it and left his job to start a new company "Operatics". You can read more in his Blog.

True to its style SAP rechristened SAP HANA Analytic Foundation (SHAF) to HANA Live which serves as the foundation layer for Operational Analytic capability for Business Suite. For SCM-APO application, Supply Chain Info Center (SCIC) as an add-on provides off the shelf operational analytic capability using APO Demand Planning and Supply Network Planning data from liveCache in 4 dashboards as of now. The same HANA Live foundation layer is also the backbone for much touted Fiori Apps as can be seen from the technical specs here.

HANA based applications

With Business Suite now enabled to run on HANA as a DB the quest for innovative, never before enterprise class applications has started. Surely there are development teams within SAP Labs working on it (not just speculation). Tomorrow's enhanced enterprise application will run . A glimpse of this is SOP on HANA which fundamentally has undergone overhaul of the old xSOP with the guts replaced by HANA (can be run On Premise or on Cloud) having integrated analytic (remember Operational Analytics) and collaboration (SAP Jam) capabilities. While the core of the application is HANA, the other beauty of it is a 2 layer architecture with a client browser (no separate GUI) communicating with server side where HANA system provides persistence, business logic processing as well as webserver capability through XS engine. This is a classic example of how application extension and innovation with HANA is going to take place.

I shared my learning from all this exploration at a Networking Session at TechEd Bangalore.

Learning new technologies through MOOC

Finally this year I plunged into world of MOOCs with, and couple of others like (from IBM) and Coursera. While is focused on new SAP technologies like HANA, HANA Cloud, BI 4, openHPI is more towards concepts and bit more theoretical. I completed 3 MOOCs in last quarter of 2013 starting with In Memory DataBase Technology 2013 course instructed by none other than Dr. Hasso Plattner himself. Next HANA Cloud Platform in to understand the basic concepts and also get a hands-on experience of the technology. Finally Business Process Modelling in openHPI to get formal understanding and knowledge of BPM not technology but theory behind the subject.

The whole idea of MOOCs is not to be an expert or get a job (maybe possible if you invest further time to dig deep) but get good understanding of the subject that helps in cross-skilling and up-skilling. A great way to test the waters (in 6 weeks guided course) before taking the plunge.

Now for some of the areas that I got introduced to later part of 2013 that will be focus for exploration in 2014.

Solution Manager

Got a great insight attending a customer presentation (ITM143) at TechEd Bangalore about end-to-end Solution Manager usage in real-life large global enterprise.TechEd also showcased some newer capabilities around Process Chain / Unified Job & Interface Monitoring and enhanced BPMon. I still remember way back in 2002 during my first SAP project, Solution Manager 4.0 was used to keep track of the configurations being done and so on. Never paid much attention, but the application has transformed a lot since then.

Operational Process Intelligence

Another relatively new tool that uses HANA at the core and other technologies that I had exposure to in last year or so like Gateway and SAPUI5. Conceptually quite powerful, need to explored and understood in context with SCM business processes that I work on for global clients. Here is blog by Owen Pettiford explaining how it complements BPM and another blog by Peter McNulty announcing it.

HANA XS Engine & Web-based IDE

Though not my cup of tea (I prefer coffee) being a functional consultant, there is no question but to pay attention to this capability of HANA. For past 3 years we had heard HANA as the ultimate in-memory performance machine (correct terminology is appliance). But this year at TechEd HANA messaging is recast - to focus now extends beyond performance to the Extended Services (XS not extra small though that was the internal name for integrated webserver) capabilities in HANA. With SP 07 there is a web-based IDE, ALM functionality and with the announcement of River Definition Language even a non-developer is expected to explore HANA for rapid application development and deployment like never before.

I dare not to make a prophecy of 2014 as SAP technology space is rapidly changing, but couple of areas I would watch out / work on building skills on will be the above. Some may think why "Analytics" is not there - I say to them it is there everywhere now. Interestingly last Sunday I sat in a great talk by one of my professors from business school aptly titled "From Boring Statistics to Fun Analytics" that reiterated it. And for really futuristic areas to explore think of Augmented Reality and Internet of Things.

Wish you HAPPY NEW YEAR and very best for 2014.