Let me introduce my guest
My today’s interlocutor has almost 10 years of experience in the SAP industry and leads a 5-person development team. He is on friendly terms with such areas as SAP BRIM and CRM development. As he says about himself, as time goes by, he becomes more and more… a hybrid.
About the new technologies in the SAP, his notion concerning the future of the ERP systems, matters which could be improved in the whole SAP ecosystem, and finally about the tips for rookies ? David Heis is interviewed by Jarosław JZ Ziółkowski.
Reading time: 6 minutes
1. You work as a Senior Solution Architect. Thus, tell me, what’s your favourite thing about being a solutions architect?
The problem solving for sure. To have a problem that initially leaves you completely baffled, working on it and finally finding a great solution is an amazing feeling. That is what makes this job so satisfying. And it does not stop there. The solution then gets implemented and put in production. You end up with a product that you helped to create, that adds value for the customer and makes the life of the users easier. Knowing that all these products that I helped to create are out there, and they are used every day and additionally they are billing hundreds of millions of Euros each month makes me proud of my work.
2. It may sound like a cliche but let’s cut to it. What technical skills are needed to be outstanding in this kind of work?
It’s not really any specific set of skills, but a more broad knowledge of a wide variety of topics. To design a great solution, you need to be aware of all the possible approaches that are available for you. Also, you need to know the advantages and of course the limitations of each idea. There is rarely the perfect solution; every one of them has its pros and cons. To find the best one, you need to know what is available to you.
3. I am bursting with the following question (maybe because my recent guests are incredibly talented and educated programmers). Is it possible to be great in this work without programming skills?
In my current position, it is not possible since I am thankfully still doing quite a bit of programming. On the pure solution design side of things, I think it is possible, but in my opinion, that is the hard way of doing it. When it comes to creating IT solutions, it helps a lot if you have gotten your hands dirty with some ABAP code. You get the experience of how the system behaves, what it can and can’t do. Being able to visualize your approach during the design phase all the way to the actual implementation helps greatly. That way, you end up with a lot fewer gaps in your design and prevent larger changes down the road.
4. Thus, please explain, what major challenges do you encounter during your daily work, and how do you try to address them?
In this line of work, you face different challenges each day, that can range from organizational, technical to business-related. The best way I found to tackle them is to talk to people. At vysion we have a great team of very knowledgeable experts, so whenever I face something major, I get their support. That is the good thing about being a part of such a team because as a group, you can conquer these challenges a lot more easily.
5. As you were saying during our first conversation, years ago, you have started as a pure developer, but over the years, you grew more and more into a hybrid role. Now I’m curious, what do you mean by that?
In the beginning, as a developer, my focus was almost exclusively on the technical side of things. But as the years went by, the scope of my professional activities broadened as I started to learn more about the business processes behind the technical solutions. I moved from being an expert in a narrow field to having more of a generalist role where I am at home in the world of business processes as well as in the field of solutions implementation. That’s what I mean when it comes to the hybrid role.
6. Let’s segue a bit. How do you see new technologies when it comes to the SAP world? Is the SAP crew) doing a good job? Have you noticed any areas needing improvement?
Given the huge scope of the SAP world, it is easy to find some detail that doesn’t quite fit your current requirements and complain about that. But in general, I have to say I am happy with what SAP is providing. SAP HANA was great for us since we tend to handle large amounts of data and SAP UI5 is, in my opinion, their best approach for a web-based UI yet. I am really looking forward to the things to come in the next few years.
7. Continuing, how does David Heis imagine the future of ERP systems? I am curious to see what you think this world could look like in the next 10 years. Will the changes be significant, or we shouldn’t expect an earthquake?
I don’t expect anything sudden or radical. Changes tend to be incremental, especially when it comes to ERP systems. These systems are the heart of business, and therefore you want concepts and technologies that have proven their reliability. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t see any significant innovations. The two main drivers for these, in my opinion, will be the following:
- The amount of data that is generated. With product-as-a-service, subscription models, IoT and others still in their early stages, this will increase significantly. That also underlines the importance of SAP Hana for us.
- The time to market for new products decreases all the time and becomes more and more relevant for businesses. Future systems have to be flexible enough to handle this.
Of course, you can never rule out a new game-changing technology, but even without that, there will be many improvements over the next few years.
8. Let’s talk about “projects”. During your career, you used to work on many, often international, projects in different roles. I am curious what tasks were a pure pleasure for you and which were nightmares? Why?
As a solution architect, I really enjoy being confronted with something new that I have never seen before and where I must find a new approach. This is always a chance to improve and learn something new.
As a developer, one of my favourite things is performance optimization. Given the large amounts of data we often work with, it is often important to get the software to run as smoothly as possible. I enjoy digging deep into the code and getting the last bits of performance out of it.
Thankfully I haven’t had many nightmare tasks during my career. But I still remember back when I was a Junior Developer, I once spent a few days searching for data elements in the system and changing their texts because the name of a product had changed and all the texts had to be changed to reflect that. That was frustrating.
9.Today, you are responsible for a team of 5 developers now. Let’s try to imagine that together with your crew, you can improve just one thing in the whole SAP ecosystem. What exactly would you like to improve and why?
I guess the thing I would like to improve together with my developers is the integration between SAP and Eclipse. While Eclipse is a great tool and makes certain tasks a lot easier (for example refactoring of code) in some areas, I find it quite cumbersome to work with. So, improving this tool to make the flow of working with it more natural would be great. Given that developers tend to have strong opinions on IDEs I think we could get many ideas going. How easy they would be to implement is a different story.
10. Much of your professional career is related to programming. What would you do in life if not programming?
That’s a hard question. I was using my father’s DOS base 286 before I learned to read and I knew that I wanted to be a programmer since I was 12 years old when my cousin showed me a program he made. I guess maybe I would be a chef as I love cooking and the creative process behind it. But from what I know from the friends of mine that are chefs, I have a less stressful job.
11. Last but not least. Where do you think rookies who would like to follow your path should learn from? Can you recommend any useful places to check?
I think the best advice I can give is to start building stuff, as simple as that. I am a big proponent of learning by doing. So, it seems to me that if you want to be a solution architect, you should design solutions. Pick a project that interests you and get going. Maybe a chatbot, that’s something I recently built and enjoyed quite a bit. You don’t know a programming language yet? Learn one. If you are thinking about going into SAP, of course, you should look at ABAP. A colleague of mine recently did a series on starting with ABAP that I can highly recommend.
1. Programming logic can reveal the shortcomings of data
2. The “big ideas” of today really are mostly very late realisations of the ideas from half a century ago