This may come as a shock to some, but most days I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount and complexity of the technology I am dealing with. ChevronTexaco’s Portal infrastructure has HP/Compaq hardware, Windows 2000, IIS, SAPJ2EE 6.20, ISAPI Filters, Portal Software, Sun-1 Directory Server, SQL Server, Active Directory Server, Java Apps, .Net Apps, ITS, ESS, SAPGUI, R/3, BW, SSL, SSO, ICE, WebDAV and the list goes on and on and on. Sometimes I step back and look at our systems, shake my head, and mutter “it’s a miracle that it all works together”. And we haven’t even gotten to any of the operational issues like: monitoring, alerting, backup, restore, and contingency/disaster recovery. Face it, these systems are so complex that no one person can hope to master it all.
So what do we do about it? How do we continue planning, building, and maintaining these systems? And do it “faster, better and cheaper”.
I believe one of the key answers to this question involves a strategic approach to networking and building relationships with SAP, vendors, and other companies. To help illustrate this I am going to highlight a number of recent questions we faced in our ESS implementation in which we were able to leverage our relationships.
Activation of SSL for the Portal:
Six weeks before Go-Live we discovered that we needed to implement SSL in the Enterprise Portal in order to have sessions properly terminated (the protocol of the portal must match the protocol used to access ITS). This was a potential show-stopper for us given that we were already live with the portal and we hadn’t done any testing with SSL at all. We were able to send a request out to our network and find 3 companies who had SSL installed and working in a productive environment. The good folks at Nike (thanks to Tracy, Bryan and all the other great folks on the call) were even willing to spend a few hours in a conference call going over their experiences with SSL and its installation. We also found some good documentation on the SAP Service Marketplace that provided a step-by-step roadmap for implementing SSL. Being able to quickly reach out and find someone who was already using this technology and a guide on implementing it really reduced our stress levels and gave us the confidence to move forward with this change.
Use of the WorkProtect Feature with ESS
During our testing of the Portal with ESS we stumbled upon a small problem. If someone started to fill out a time sheet and then navigated to another transaction (or elsewhere in the portal) they were not prompted to save their work and their entries were lost. While researching OSS we stumbled over OSS note 543274 which highlighted a new feature in SP4 called Work Protect. We tried it out and weren’t able to make it work for us at all. Our next steps were to log an OSS message highlighting the problem and to reach out to see if anyone had successfully implemented this technology with ESS or the WinGui. It turned out that lots of people had tried but no one had really made it work. So when SAP came back with requests for more information, for traces, and for access to the system we were able to point to all of the other customers who also had this problem and bypass a great deal of time consuming investigation. We were also able to leverage some excellent contacts we made in SAP’s TSA organization (we brought them out for part of our stress test to lay the foundation for a closer relationship) and were quickly able to discover that the note was incorrect and this feature only works with CRM (many thanks Jonathan).
Being able to quickly tap into a network of relationships and obtain timely and accurate information turned out to be vital to our projects success. But these relationships don’t happen overnight. They have to be built over time and that requires an investment of time, money, and energy and a commitment by individuals and their companies.
So, the next question is, “What are you doing to build your network of contacts?”
Are you active in the discussion forums on ASUG, Yahoo, or the new SDN?
Do you attend conferences like the BITI Forum, TechEd and seek out new contacts?
How about the ASUG Chapter meetings?
Have you offered to present at a conferences and share your ideas and lessons-learned?
Do you attend the ASUG Chapter meetings?
How about teleconferences?
I am hoping that each of you will join me and my colleagues at ChevronTexaco in making the SAP Developer’s Network a community full of life, ideas, and connections. Its been a long time coming but now the foundation is laid and its time for us to move in and make it home.