I own an Apple Newton. Ever heard of it? It was the tablet PDA that Apple produced back in the early 90’s. I got mine in 1993. It was great, it could recognize my hand writing, which is a feat since my Doctor can’t even read it, keep my calendar, address book, notes from lectures, etc. But, it never took off and the promised applications never were developed. Soon my Newton ended up being little more than a paperweight as I went back to my day planner. I was an early adopter of technology and it didn’t pay.
SAP, when they built their ESS/MSS functionality, did it using Web Dynpro for Java. The argument was that Java was a better language for web-based applications than ABAP was. The user community screamed since all their SAP work had been done using SAP’s native programming language, ABAP. Not only did they not have the resources to do Java programming, they didn’t want to. Their ABAP programmers largely weren’t interested in learning Java. But, sometimes, when you want to have functionality, you have to take it as you can get it. The choice was clear, do it SAP’s way, go with another 3rd party product or don’t do it at all.
SAP listened and they decided to do what the user community wanted and started developing new web functionality in ABAP. The problem was, all the existing functionality was still in Java, so now we are running two technologies in the Employee Portal. This wasn’t going to do, and SAP agreed to migrate all the existing Java to ABAP in future releases. That’s great, but anything that was implemented or customized would have to be redone.
With the release of Enhancement Pack 5, SAP has most of the HCM space portal offerings migrated to ABAP, and in my opinion, they have come a long way. I had a chance to play with the EhP5 version of ESS/MSS (now called Employee Portal and Manager Portal) at SAPPHIRE and I was very pleased and look to implement as soon as we can. However, I’m grateful we’ve not implemented any of the portal tools to date because being an early adopter here wouldn’t have paid.
This isn’t the only time SAP has done it. They have a great tool called Employee Interaction Center, which is essentially CRM for Employees. They rolled this out as part of HCM with a previous Enhancment Pack and now have decided that they are going to offer it as part of a Shared Services offering which requires that you own CRM. They won’t stop supporting EIC under EhP4, but they aren’t going to develop it anymore either. In other words, they lit it on fire with the change of direction and its a burning platform now. Why would we want to implement it when we know its doomed?
It’s great to have the latest and greatest in features, functionality and tools, but you have to consider the long-term implications and cost of being on the bleeding edge. You don’t want your employee portal to go the way of the Newton after all.