One of the areas of most confusion (and interest) involving Business ByDesign is the SDK. Up until this point, the ByDesign SDK has been restricted to a limited number of partners. So when I had a chance to talk to one of those partners, I made the Skype video taping happen. Based out of Bangalore, Vijayan Venkataraman of ERP Logic is an expert in the ByDesign SDK who has more experience in the product than most people in the world. (He got his first exposure while helping to develop the SDK with SAP Labs). During our twenty minute talk, I ask Vijayan about the use cases for the ByD SDK, how difficult it is to train, the skills needed, and what features he’s looking to see in future releases. Note: soon we should have an edited and produced version of this video on JD-OD.com. The audio is also posted on my JonERP.com iTunes feed, or you can download the audio ByD SDK discussion.
:50 Vijayan’s current role as General Manager of operations at ERP Logic. He’s also responsible for the ByD practice at ERP Logic India.
1:30 How Vijayan got started with the ByDesign SDK. He worked with SAP Labs from 2003-2011. In 2008, he got involved working on the adapter to generate the web services for ByD. For a partner to develop any add-ons, web services are a very important part, so he moved into SDK development with SAP in 2008.
2:40 What are the key skills needed to succeed with the scripting language? How much ABAP experience, if any, is needed? You may be surprised, but we don’t need an ABAP knowledge, you have to know object oriented concepts and .Net syntax, you don’t need to know any ABAP.
3:10 What kind of Microsoft background is useful? It’s nice to have .Net technology, but it’s a basic object-oriented program. OO knowledge and analytical thinking is the key. C# is also helpful, but not necessary. Object-oriented background is the key.
3:50 ByDesign is now officially on ByDesign 3.0 - what are the capabilities of the SDK as of this release? For the 3.0 SDK, SAP wasnted to target the last mile to enable the partners to work on ByDesign and add any functionality needed by the end customer. So they came up with new technology called “one off solutions.” That’s the biggest advantage to 3.0. There are also some new useability features in UI to help the partners develop better UIs.
6:28 What kinds of apps would be most appropriate for partners to work on building right now with the SDK? What apps would be viable to work on for a good value to customers now? (mashups versus heavier duty industry functionality, etc) It depends on the customer, it could be a simple mashup or a more complete app, but finding the gaps in the solution is the key. Last mile solutions might make the most sense to focus on right now. Each and every business has a different set of requirements. If the partner needs to get a deal done, they may need to do custom development for that customer. The one-off solution is very important in this model.
8:20 Is a one-off solution worthwhile for partners? It’s always possible to convert an add-on to a scaleable solution, so from a resource point of view, there isn’t much different between a one-off solution and an add-on.
9:10 Is the SDK robust enough for an industry solution? Vijayan: Yes it is possible, we haven’t tried that yet but we think it’s possible from 3.0 going forward.
9:40 What features is Vijayan looking ahead to in the future with the SDK that aren’t there now (multi-language support, etc)? Vijayan: As a partner, what I would like to have in the SDK is the debugging functionality. We also want the SDK to be not only a web service provider, but a web service consumer.
10:30 Why pulling in web services into future functionality can be valuable to developers, as opposed to relying on middleware. Vijayan’s example: a QuickBooks API into ByD via a web service could be valuable, there are workarounds now but direct integration would do the trick.
12:10 What kind of documentation is available now for the scripting language and for mobile development? Vijayan: the ByDesign documentation is fantastic. We have end to end documentation for all the SDK components. Mobile development isn’t part of the SDK, it’s part of the existing UI via Silverlight, and the documentation is there for that as well.
13:26 What type of training is needed on the SDK? How much did it cover the ByD standard functionality? I traveled to Palo Alto to train SDK developers. The key is to know the basic ByDesign functionality, what a business object is, what an analytics report means. They need to spend a couple of days understanding that. For a skilled domain expert with a good object oriented background and maybe some C #, two days for a week max might be sufficient.
14:50 What advice would you have for SAP developers who want to learn more about the SDK? Vijayan: If they are already ByDesign partners, go through the SDK documentation. Currently, the SDK is not rolled out to the public. It’s only available to some of the partners right now, some of the solution partners. It’s not available for everyone to try it out. But in the meantime, even if you don’t have access to the SDK, dig into the ByDesign functionality and architecture.
16:17 Where would you like to be in one/two years time with ERP Logic and the ByD SDK? Vijayan: With ERP Logic, we are trying to identify the functional gaps in ByDesign and develop an add-on solution. But in the meantime, we have gotten a lot of customer requests for one-off solutions which we are now evaluating.
17:10 Vijayan will be attending SAP TechEd Bangalore. Jon’s advice to SAP: get Vijayan an SAP TechEd Bangalore SDK session!
17:50 What advice would you have for SAP on getting more partners involved with the SDK and getting developers more excited about the SDK as we head into TechEd? Vijayan: SAP should continue in restricted mode for the next couple of releases it should be robust enough to handle industry verticals, one-off solutions, and add-ons, and when it’s robust enough for all those things, it should roll out it for all the solutions partners.
I’d like to thank Vijayan for his time for this interview. This was a good step forward in understanding the capabilities of the ByDesign SDK and sharing it publicly. Hopefully there is much more to come.