I am ready to leave for Paris, where I will be participating in the Enterprise Architects Council meeting, one of the many, many sessions at Sapphire 2006. Must be a new audience to SAP, these enterprise architects. Ever since NetWeaver and Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) became the pillars of SAP’s innovation strategy, unidentified objects from all over the IT profession have begun to swarm the skies around Walldorf.
And mind you, they are here to stay. The SAP universe is simply not what it used to be any longer and nobody knows what to rely on. Modules for example, they seemed to be a rock-solid fundament. I know consultants that were more intimate with SAP FICO than with their own spouse (reportedly, wives of SAP consultants have been deadly jealous with a software package). Now, modules are gradually being replaced by fine-grained services and through composite applications and orchestration, SAP implementations can take any form and change every day too. In the past, we thought we knew what a typical SAP screen looked like and we could blindly reproduce all the keystrokes we needed to navigate the application. Now, through technologies such as Duet, we find ourselves in Outlook or Excel, and yet we are inputting data into SAP at the same time. If we wanted to create customized logic, we used the ABAP 4GL. Nothing fancy there. Until Java and J2EE became the new development platform, introducing concepts from deep space, such as object-orientation, inheritance, polymorphism, late binding and stereotypes. And with the growing popularity of Business Warehousing, we now see data mining experts and data structure designers strolling around in the SAP community too. Quite a different species, we might add.
They’re just examples, if we realize that SAP nowadays is also an integration broker, an Enterprise Service Bus, a web server, a content management system, a portal platform and a data management tool. What will it be next? It’s probably written somewhere in the stars.
You can’t rely on anything any longer. Before you know it, you are at SAPPHIRE and you find yourself discussing with a real-life Enterprise Architect. For some, it will feel like making contact to an alien life form (on the other hand, most people go through these emotions when meeting an Enterprise Architect for the first time). It’s all a matter of a natural evolution in IT in which more and more parts of the profession begin to overlap and to converge. It’s said to be a next spiritual stage if one leaves the idea of ‘self’ and ‘ego’ and becomes one with everything around. I guess that’s exactly what now is happening to the SAP community: SAP comes from Venus and all the other IT people come from Mars. Closely watch it. Should be interesting and fun.