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mySAP Career Interview Classics

Starting in 2000, Jon created the online content for mySAPcareers.com. This was a time of great transition in the SAP market - the beginnings of the applications that are now called the SAP Business Suite, the emergence of the EAI market that is now heading in the web services/eSOA direction.

For mySAPcareers.com, Jon conducted a series of in-depth, landmark interviews with senior-level consultants across the SAP product line. Now, on JonERP.com, we're pleased to present the best of this content, which is available only on JonERP.com. Jon will be adding updated introductions to all the articles in this section to frame them further in today's market. Enjoy!
Jon Reed Interviews Naeem Hashmi, NetWeaver BI Expert Print E-mail
Article Index
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Reed:
That's an intriguing development.

Hashmi: Yes it is. The companies that took this route were global companies that had a lot of multi-currency and multi-language issues, and they also had Y2K issues to deal with. They were looking for a data warehouse solution, and BW was Y2K compliant. So they went with BW! They used third party tools to develop the end user reporting environment. But for the base infrastructure and the technology framework, they used BW. And they were all very successful. In fact, some of them are now going the SEM and R/3 route. One of these companies is actually now implementing an R/3 system, after already implementing BW.

Reed: So BW has reached the point where it can potentially be marketed as a stand-alone product to non-SAP customers

Hashmi: Yes, SAP does not currently do that, but the interest will be growing since Bill Inmon now changed his views in support of BW. Early on, SAP called BW an SAP reporting server and that perception has stuck with BW. In fact, when you look inside SAP and BW, when you look underneath, all the BW objects are pre-fixed by "RS," which stands for Reporting Server, which was the original project name that was then changed to BIW, and later to BW.

Reed: So for SAP BW consultants, or for those consultants who want to move into BW, it's a tricky situation, because there's not a ton of BW work out there right now, but there are interesting projects on the horizon. It seems like you can approach BW from a range of areas within R/3 and extend your skills.

Hashmi: True. You can address BW from several angles - from the R/3 reporting side, the CRM side, the SEM side, and from many other directions. The main thing is that you have to have a good understanding of what BW is - it's an infrastructure, just like the Basis technology. I tell SAP consultants who are trying to get into BW to think of it as Basis-type training. You can then apply the same lessons as you move into a business content development and reporting environment, or an APO environment, or any other area of SAP that is supported by BW.

Reed: So you can come into BW from the functional side, defining the business content that's going to be used, and you can also come into BW from the Basis side, setting up the infrastructure. What about ABAP skills and BW?

Hashmi: Well, there's some customization work in ABAP, but not a lot.

Reed: What about your own consulting work? Do you still work on BW projects in the field, along with your publishing and speaking engagements?

Hashmi: Yes. Right now, I'm the Chief Technology Officer for Information Frameworks, my own company. I still do some strategic consulting and higher-level product, information architectures and technology assessment. I also like to educate people on the BW project, and sometimes I'll take on a two or three week assignment to advise companies on their BW project.. Sometimes I help product vendors to integrate their e-business products with the BW framework.

Reed: Is SAP doing a good job with BW analytical tools, or do you need to turn to third party vendors if you want good BW analytics?

Hashmi: SAP is doing very well. They have covered just about all the bases. When you're talking about analytical applications, no vendor can provide a 100% solution. Each company is different, and you have to provide your own business patch. In SAP BW, there are business analytics for most business operations. When you need to do custom analytics, SAP provides templates that get you 50-60% there, and from there you can enhance them further for whatever purpose you have in mind. With analytics, it all depends on what your company is trying to use business intelligence. For example, in the case of e-analytics, if you're looking for click stream analysis, you can use BW click stream analytics. BW's click stream analysis is not really that robust, but if you want to see the click stream analysis along with the rest of your business processes, no one can give you as much useful data as SAP BW e-analytics.

So it all depends on the kind of click stream analysis you want to do. For point click stream analysis of your web site, you can buy click stream analysis services for as low as $25 a month right now. And you'll get all kinds of data analysis in terms of individual web site visitors - how long they stayed, which pages they visited, and when they returned to your site. But that data is not related to your overall business processes.

On the other hand, if you want the entire scheme - how often did this visitor select your product, which products did they look at, how often did they place an order, how long did it take to fulfill the order, how long did it take for the product to be delivered, was the customer happy with the order - then BW click stream analysis and e-analytics will be a big payoff for you. So you have to know that business value you want to get out of it. If you want to analyze data throughout the customer information lifecycle, BW e-analytics are pretty compelling.

Reed: Let's talk about your book, Business Information Warehouse for SAP. When did the book come out?

Hashmi: It came out in early September 2000.

Reed: The book is not just about SAP Business Information Warehouse, it also covers a lot of the issues we've discussed in this interview.

Hashmi: That's right, the book also covers the business intelligence, data warehouse, cultural, technical, and integration issues. On the second page of the introduction, there's a reader profile map that tells you how to take advantage of the book based on your background.

Reed: How did the book come about? Did you approach Prima Publishing or did they approach you?

Hashmi: They approached me. In April of 1999 in Atlanta, I was speaking at ERP World. After my talk, I saw two people sitting in the corner of the room and they didn't leave. So I went up to them and said, "Either you are completely confused by the presentation and you don't know how to get out of here, or you have a special question you don't want to ask in front of everyone else." And these people, who turned out to be from Prima, told me, "We want you to write a book on BW." It turns out that they liked how I was able to bring the business and technology issues together, and that's what they were looking for in the book. In July of 1999, I sent them a proposal and I got permission from SAP to do the book, but I had more trouble getting Compaq to sign off on the project.

Basically, in the midst of all the changes and downsizing activities in Compaq, a BW book was not something that was a direct benefit to the company. I left Compaq in December of 1999 and started to write the book. At first, I wanted to make the book very technical, but Prima really wanted the first BW book to be broader, addressing the wide range of issues involved, and that was fine with me.

Leaving Compaq opened up some great opportunities for me. I had already been working with SAP on BW 2.0A architecture work, and I was advising SAP to architect ODS. Since I was now available for consulting, HP asked for advice on their BW 2.0A and 2.0B pilots. I spent a few more months doing BW consulting work for a few big companies, and then I took time off to write the book. In late August of 2000, the book came out. Since then, it has been doing very well.

Reed: So do readers find that your book is still relevant, even though BW has changed a lot since last August?

Hashmi: Yes. I still do get email from readers almost every other day on how the book has helped them in understanding BW. I also get feedback on updating screen shots for BW 2.0 as well. This book does provide a good understanding of challenges facing the data warehousing industry and how SAP BW addresses such challenges. Then this book gives a good BW walkthrough from installation to defining BW objects, data loads, third party product integrations, BW 2.0 ODS, and data access and reporting. This is the only book where you will find every thing you wanted to know about BW in one place in an organized fashion. There are enough technical and non-technical notes in the book to keep starter and seasoned BW consultants interested. The CD carries good information on DW sources and BW Lotus ScreenCam movies to provide you visual BW walkthroughs. I hope you will find this book interesting as well!

Reed: I do! :) And it's still the only BW book on the market.

Hashmi: Recently SAP Simplicity Group in Palo Alto published a guide on "BW Reporting." This book is a simply an extension of Chapter 11 of my book. I'm considering doing some specialized data warehouse and data management books for specific vertical markets.

Reed: It seems like you have really thrived by moving on from a large company and working as an independent voice in the BW market.

Hashmi: Yes, when you're an independent practitioner, you don't have to abide by a company's policies. It's not that companies don't want to speak openly, they do, but they have alliances with many vendors, and they don't want to come across as favoring one way over another until they go through legal clearances. As an independent practitioner, I also get the chance to talk about technologies from other vendors as well. However, I do not write or speak about the products, technologies and vendors until I do %91hands-on-work' on their technologies and solutions first.

Reed: All in all, it seems like you're better cut out for an independent thinker and analyst role.

Hashmi: Actually, I don't really think of myself as an analyst. I'm mostly a practitioner and an architect. I try to differentiate myself from a traditional role as an analyst, even though I'm sometimes referred to as an "analyst." An IT analyst's (traditional) role is really in terms of a research and information compiler, and I'm really more of a practitioner - a hands-on "doer" from architecture to deployment. When the industry calls me an analyst, I say "no I'm not." (laughs). I tell them, "Call me a practitioner, because that is much more what I am."

An In-Depth Interview with Naeem Hashmi, BW Author and Expert
Part Seven
August 6, 2001

In the concluding part of our interview, Hashmi has some suggestions for BW product development that SAP should focus on. We wrap up our interview with a few final thoughts from Hashmi on skill areas that consultants might want to focus on as we wait for the BW market to unfold.

Jon Reed: Do you have any vision for the future of BW that we haven't talked about?

Naeem Hashmi: I think the next phase in e-business is mobile integration. When you talk about mobile integration, you're talking about making your solutions reliable, easier, thinner, and lighter. In the beginning, when you develop a product, you bring along a lot of baggage. Right now, in the BW infrastructure, there is too much baggage coming from the R/3 side that needs to be thinned out to capitalize on the possibilities for mobile integration. BW has a mobile agent that simply spits out the HTML document, but it's not really very useful yet. SAP's mobile functionality is okay for salespeople, but even salespeople need to get down to the document level. Once you get into the proposal development stage, you can't do it all on the cell phone navigating tiny devices window by window. Mobile devices are also still lacking in functionality. You need better mobile devices; mobile technology is still evolving.

The other thing SAP needs to do is to improve document management, what people call "unstructured information." Recently I read somewhere that more than 70% of information is document-based information. SAP has a Knowledge Warehouse, but it's not ready for primetime yet. I'd like to see a very solid, unstructured information management system from SAP, where you could do a lot of good, content-based searching as part of your information management search engine.

What happens is that when you come in from the business side, a lot of documents need to be shared within the company. SAP does not really have an outstanding document management system. They have IDOCs, but that's really for transactional documents, not really for documents with unstructured information. And you really need to be able to search and index non-structured information.

Reed: You want to turn that unstructured information into real intellectual capital the organization can use.

Hashmi: Right. I feel that SAP still needs to spend some energy in these areas.

Reed: Any last comments on BW?

Hashmi: If you're working on an R/3 side and they start to implement BW, you'll need to wear slightly different hats. BW is a hybrid between a traditional data warehouse environment and an ERP business application. It (BW) is also a hub of your e-business information flow strategy. One way or the other, BW is here to stay. Most SAP customers will end up using BW, if not today, than six months or a year down the road. So for people looking to brush up on their skills, this is a good time to brush up on the BW technology and infrastructure, as well as basic data warehousing concepts. In fact, when BW first came out, I wanted to do some courses in BW for data warehouse consultants, and also some data warehouse courses for SAP consultants, so this way people could understand both sides. At that time, we couldn't go forward, but I will be offering such seminars in upcoming Data Warehouse Institute conferences and other forums.

Reed: Naeem, thanks very much for the time and energy you have devoted to this interview. I'm sure everyone who has read this article has taken something new away from it in terms of their understanding of BW and how they might be able to get involved.

Hashmi: Thank you, I look forward to hearing what readers have to say.



 

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