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Note - Below images and thoughts are purely just for sparking ideas and are a light-hearted look at getting into BTP as a customer with a light footprint in BTP.  It shouldn't be taken too seriously, but hopefully is entertaining and does spark some ideas at SAP 🙂.

FYI - Standard PowerPoint templates are getting pretty good nowadays!

Conferences - The Sparks of Inspiration

I’ve just been to the 2-day SAUG Summit in Sydney and even before the conference; I recognise BTP is coming for us all sooner or later - And while the Marketing message promises way too much, with way too little thought for the initial set-up, the BTP mindset, or more generically, an enterprise cloud-mindset is critical today.

So back to the conference. I’ve always noticed with good conferences (that I’ve sorely missed over COVID times and do hope for an equivalent 4-day international TechEd event in the future), that the real value of Conferences beyond the most important aspect of networking, is the spark(s) of inspiration that it inevitably leads to. In this conference’s case, it resulted in this blog post.

A Fairly Common Process - Build your first tailored BTP Solution

Now I don’t really work in Retail so all of these Sales examples totally kill me every time SAP show off their latest AI based, machine learning, RPA SAP Build iOS/Android Event based Sales Invoice solutions.  So I do wish SAP would start focusing on the boring processes like:

  • A BTP AI/Machine Learning/Fiori UX/design thinking/inbox integrated alternative to OpenText’s Vendor Invoice Management (to be nice - they should be partnering with OpenText here of course - Every time I see the AI Demo for Sales Invoices I think “Missed it by that much”),

  • A procurement process that makes Purchase requisitions/Purchase Orders/Invoice processing, or

  • A Contractor Hire Process for Purchase Order Based Contingent workforce.

So while kicking back after the conference at Sydney Airport, feeling like it was 2019 again and waiting to fly home, I was thinking about this last process (which I had quite a bit of experience pre-SuccessFactors with). 

Now I just happened to be sitting next to a SuccessFactors expert - Chris Paine - so I started to ask lots of questions. I came to understand that provided we weren’t doing contingent workforce (think Contractor when you hear contingent) with pre-training requirements; then SuccessFactors was readily available for a BTP and S/4HANA integrated provisioning solution (or something to that effect). 

This made me think - How hard could it be for SAP to put a generic set of steps with a starter SAP Build Apps/Workflow/Process Automation/API Hub (no-CAP or RAP as that loses the whole low-code/no-code aspect) in the SAP Build Content Catalog that would help most organizations take-on BTP aspects slowly plus also tailor a production solution to go from having an approved Purchase Requisition through to creating the PO, adding the Contractor to the Org Chart, getting them access via your choice of IdM and Access Control solution where the person has the right tools and training lined up on day one?

I started to break that all down and then maybe the lack of sleep or introvert overload of a conference led me to the idea to say this could be done almost like those Magazines from the past that give you something free in each edition and eventually lead you to building something incredible like a dinosaur after only 158 editions!

The whole point would be that if you follow the process (buy each issue), your company learns each critical* piece in an Enterprise implementation pattern that you can actually take live while being tailored to your processes, and get huge business benefits from. And best of all - you now have a BTP environment you understand that can grow with you. 

Note - As an architect & developer, I feel getting a complete solution dropped on you by a vendor puts you in a panic situation to figure out what might go wrong or be instant technical debt and this alleviates that.

* By Critical, I mean, something you will use across many solutions, want to be able to support and many partners will leverage for their products.

So buy edition #1 and let’s build a production process together…

So above is the first edition. Now I’m assuming this magazine is for people with a supported version of S/4HANA and SuccessFactors as a minimum that wants to delve into BTP. The first thing that stops you is probably the simplest to set-up but the most scary to configure (as you could lock yourself out, or somehow leave your network open to attack). This thing is Authentication and associated Authorization via IAS connected to your Identity Provider (IdP) which is likely Microsoft Entra ID (formally Azure ID apparently) or some other SAML2 IdP. 

Interestingly, this is probably also where a Cloud Mindset starts to hit your company, when you find your Basis team needs to be much closer to your Infrastructure and Cybersecurity team to avoid long delays and to get shared responsibilities going forward.

Personally, at this point I feel the GROW or RISE consultants (?) should just throw free skilled people like Amazon does for AWS to get you set-up professionally (hands-on role) and to meet all your corporate standards - so that’s what I proposed in this first issue. Until a customer is set-up properly here - you shouldn’t really proceed.  Good example - There may be the equivalent of Local Admin or API backdoor users on SuccessFactors (at least in older versions) that could be single factor logins if not protected by IAS (No idea what the status of that is now as I’m not proficient in SuccessFactors).

Side note - SAP Cloud Integration (or at least bits of this) and Cloud Connector should already be there from your SuccessFactors integration, so we can skip that luckily (though don’t skimp on maintaining a High Availability and well managed Cloud Connector.

So all the hard work of designing an overly simplified/generic workflow/forms/notifications should be built for you in BTP already - even with the right API’s being selected from API Hub in Cloud Integration - but the process flow, forms and automation needs your specifics - so time to bring everyone together and look at what additional information, notifications, template emails, etc; you need.  This will lead to learning how to tailor the process from a design perspective.

Issue #3 is all about actually getting “something” up and running in your environment, and answering questions like - Which Inbox? Does this work with My Inbox? - Does SAP Provide a BTP Workflow Inbox handler (hint - they should)? It might also be the introduction of learning how to monitor and debug the solution - Understand backups/restore of data - where files (if required) go - We’re still designing and unit testing in playpen possibly at this stage and anything we do change, should be relatively easy to redo once we get to Issue #6 and understand Landscapes.

Now I’ve whet your appetite, here are a few of the future issues to look forward to:  

Future issues:

Issue 4: “Where is my API? Oh - Here it is!”

Issue 5: "Empower Access: Amplifying User permissions centrally"

Issue 6: “Landscapes - It’s should always be greener on the other side”

Issue 7: “Cloud Transport Management - Exporting in Style”

Issue 8: “Email, Notifications and Day 1 - Who is on first?”

Issue 9: “Wrong Way - Go Back - But how?”

Issue 10: “Is this thing on? A Hitchhiker's guide to Everything (that might go wrong and how to identify it)”

Don't Stay Tuned

Actually this is the end, but it’s an interesting (and nostalgic) thought in my opinion. Also a good opportunity for a Partner to step into this space as I know there are more comprehensive solutions already in play but an intro business beneficial BTP cross-solution would benefit a lot of customers, especially if endorsed as a base architecture for BTP.
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