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Note to readers: This narrative began as a 10 page document, then I attempted to format it in the spirit of a blog. As such, I have currently divided the narrative up into 11 sections, with the goal of posting a new section approximately every week. Throughout the narrative the word “I” is used majority of the time. This is not to be taken as though I alone accomplished everything. At any one time there were up to six different interns working on the project at Grand Valley State University, and without the help, and dedication of all of them, my portion of the project would have been infinitely more challenging.

Part 1: The Origins

Global Bike Inc (GBI). With those three words, those sixteen letters, the experience of a lifetime packed into little over a year’s time, comes rushing back in a myriad of images. A glazed over look in intern eyes from too much caffeine and skittles, books and printed articles strewn across the desk, eight sessions of SAP open across two different monitors, documentation for a single business process running to over fifty pages, and the ever present red exclamation point on the current SAP session with the error message “Customizing incorrectly maintained.” This is the story of the interns at Grand Valley State University and the research and development of GBI.

“I am part of a steering committee, in partnership with SAP’s University Alliances. We are developing a new training environment to be used in all SAP UA schools. It is going to be a bicycle company called GBI,” my supervisor at Grand Valleys’ ERP Initiative program, Dr. Simha Magal was telling me. He continued, “You are going to be doing most of the research concerning GBI, and the development and configuration in SAP.”  Say what? Development and configuration? I’ve never heard of configuration before. “Here is the base story behind GBI and a list of the materials the company will have. Compose a spreadsheet and do some research behind the needed materials,” he finished.

This was October 2009. I had experienced the wonders of SAP in two classes and through my recent SAP TERP10 certification that I had managed to pass. In a word, I still hated SAP, and I was in this internship because it was the only one I had managed to snag so far. Why was I putting myself through this seemingly torture? I had realized business was rife with technology and SAP was the big player; if I wanted to get anywhere I had better at least understand it.

So there I was as an intern for just over two weeks, nervous that smoke might begin billowing from the server every time I logged into SAP and with two full pages of notes on what to do.  I began to read…