Eursap’s Ask-the-SAP-Expert: Daniel Graversen
Eursap’s “Ask the SAP Expert” is designed to give you up-to-date information on the latest SAP news, featuring key thought leaders in the SAP space, as well as regular interviews with the best SAP consultants in the business.
This month, we feature Daniel Graversen, who has worked with SAP integration technologies for 18 years and numerous different clients. In addition to consultancy work, Daniel has developed his own tools for automation of SAP integration as well as trained many SAP consultants in integration functionality.
Hi Daniel, thanks for taking the time out to chat. Let’s begin, if you don’t mind, by getting our readers familiar with you and your background.
Hi Jon. Thanks for inviting me. It is always nice to be able to share my journey.
I was introduced to SAP and the concept when working as a student at PwC. In my team there were numerous people who had been working as SAP consultants for many years and found it really cool. So I thought that was what I wanted to do, but there were no ways to get started with it.
When I graduated, SAP Integration XI 3.0 was just released and I was recruited for the role. Since then I have just worked with SAP Integration, except for a few detours to broaden my knowledge. Then after working with Integration for five years, I really loved it but needed a change. So I became a freelance developer. I did this so I could get some time to work on my own projects.
That is what the last 14 years have been like with consulting and working on different projects. The last six years Figaf has been created, the tool support SAP PI/Cloud Integration Testing and governance. It was building tools that was my aspiration, but it is challenging to get started.
You’ve been an advocate of automation of integration in SAP for many years now. What is it about this area which excites you?
I have seen a lot of places where process improvements were just ignored. It was easier to get developers to fill in Excel/Word templates that did not really do anything or increase governance. A lot of places in the integration team had just received the general SAP templates and then were told to just “fill it out”. To a large extent, the documentation here is just for documentation’s sake, but usually the documentation is inaccurate and not frequently updated. And it’s impossible to find the time going to the integration system to find what is wrong.
Developers are mostly creative people that enjoy creating new stuff and experimenting – not worrying about boring documents. That is the big challenge and I wonder why you should automate the steps. Granted it is not easy without a tool like Figaf’s Integration Automation Software, and that is the reason they have not found a better way.
The integration world in SAP has become more and more important recently with the growth of the “composable ERP” landscape – i.e. many smaller applications connected tightly together instead of a single monolithic ERP system. How have you managed to keep up to date with these changes in areas like the Integration Suite for SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP)?
There are very few integration developers that manage to focus on just the integration between two systems. For example, SuccessFactors and S/4HANA or ECC6. It is more of the focus on knowing how to perform an integration and then translate and align the two business owners’ requests into code and mapping.
So, for us it is not a big change. It is just that we may work on a whole host of other applications over time. SAP is providing some pre-delivered content to make some of the integrations easier, but developers will still need to be involved.
Do you find that SAP is focusing a lot on integrations as a part of the S/4 HANA journey?
Yes, it has been interesting to see the evolution of how much integration is mentioned at SAP Sapphire keynotes. It is clear to see that integration is an important topic. But I guess this comes with going from a central ERP system to distributed apps, that all need connected data.
There are a lot of interesting topics that SAP works on in this topic like the One Domain Model, and it will be interesting to see how that will simplify integrations.
The Figaf DevOps suite looks to be a really useful toolset for integration developers, freeing them up to work on the tasks they are paid to do. Can you tell us a little about this application?
We have an end-to-end tool that makes running SAP Integrations, both SAP PI/PO and SAP Cloud Integration. We help customers with performing regression tests and handling transport processes. So, your team can focus on developing quality integrations instead of building tools and documentation.
How does the Figaf toolset integrate with standard SAP tools, such as SAP BTP or SAP Solution Manager?
One of the challenges we encounter is with integrations that works differently from your standard ABAP or Fiori development. If you use the standard tools before, there is a lot of manual work to be performed afterwards. For instance, communication channels where you need to fill in host information, etc. Moreover, this is something you should write in a document to let someone else configure later. The process works but it is really inefficient.
We do integrate with CTS+/Charm or Jira/Service Now while we improve the documentations and simplify the process.
If our readers are keen to understand more about Figaf, where do you recommend they go?
Figaf.com is the best place to check it out. We do have a free trial of the tool too, so people can experience the tooling in a short period of time.
Many SAP customers will be undergoing or thinking about undergoing, an SAP PI to SAP Cloud Integration (CPI) migration. Any advice for them as they think about their journey?
Yes, it is also a trend we see and the Figaf DevOps Suite supports both with conversion and testing. However, you should not start looking at what a tool can do. I think the most important thing to do first is understand what your future landscape should look like. SAP has the ISA-M process that helps you decide how to create your integration and what patterns you want to follow. This will give you a direction for your future integration.
Then you can start exploring the migration with SAP’s tool or our tooling. It is not just going to be a copy you can perform, as there will be a lot of rework in the process and please do consider throwing away your bad practices.
You have also been an SAP Mentor for many years now (https://community.sap.com/influencers?program=sapmentors). As an SAP Mentor you have published many blog posts on the subject of SAP integration, and many of our readers will be aware of your content. Is sharing your knowledge an important part of your role as an SAP Mentor?
The SAP Mentor program has evolved over the years and now there is also the Community Champions where the goal is to share knowledge externally. The mentoring is about giving feedback to SAP. For me, it is difficult to not write about the things that matter to me. It is interesting to hear from people that have been consuming my blogs and I found them useful over the years.
You also run a few courses in SAP integration. Can you give us an overview of these courses? Who are they aimed at and how can we get more information if needed?
Yes. I like to teach people about how they can use SAP Integration for both SAP PI/PO and SAP Cloud Integration. It’s always interesting when people come and say they have learned something from me and now have a full career on that foundation. Since the courses turned out to be a small part of our business, we made both courses free (picourse.com and cpicourse.com) so everybody can learn.
A more generic question on SAP… if you look ten to fifteen years ahead, do you think the rise of SAP S/4HANA Cloud will continue at the expense of the more traditional on-premise systems, or do you see on-premise as here to stay?
There are a lot of factors in place. The cloud is here to stay and with people moving their integrations to cloud, it has become much easier to share.
Outside of work and SAP integration, do you engage in any hobbies or interests?
I spend a lot of time with my family and my six-year-old son. It is nice to work and be able to pick him up after school most days.
We have a caravan, so we go to it from time to time to get away a little from home and see something else.
Finally, a question we always ask our interviewees. What advice would you give to any new consultants just starting out in the industry? And the same question for existing SAP ECC6 consultants struggling to come to terms with SAP S/4HANA?
Getting into the SAP ecosystem seems much easier now than 5-10 years ago. You can get your hands dirty with the latest technology, so you will be able to see what it can do, and you can try setting up things yourself. This really makes it a lot easier to get started.
For existing consultants, then it also becomes easier to experiment because they have access to the tool, and they have understanding of what integration requires to work. And there are so many other areas that are adjacent to your current work.