DJ Adams wryly refers to himself as "a dog's body." he says, "I do anything that needs doing, really."
A senior technical architect who maintains an SAP R3 installation for a large British DVD manufacturer, Adams has 17 years of experience working with SAP software -- and a candid perspective on how the software giant's products have evolved and what it's like to work in a software ghetto so poorly understood from the outside.
As a developer, Adams has what he calls a "love-love-hate" relationship with SAP's ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming) language. "I can't slag it off too much because I've grown up with it," he says, "and it has grown up with me. You learn to live with its quirkiness and its warts."
Adams observes that, today, there's everything but the kitchen sink in the ABAP language. "So in that respect, it's a fairly ugly language," he says. "I think anybody who has grown up with Java or with Perl or C++ and saw ABAP for the first time would throw their hands up in horror and say, 'What sort of language is this? This is a … Frankenstein of a language!' " Yet Adams has learned to appreciate ABAP's charms, particularly what he calls the "beautiful" object implementation in the new version for the NetWeaver platform.
NetWeaver, along with SAP's shift toward open standards, has earned Adams' admiration. But staying abreast of new SAP features and technologies is a full-time job. "What SAP does, in my opinion, is they have this machine gun, and they load it up with developers and fire that machine gun willy-nilly in a 180-degree arc, and whichever developers stick, they go in that direction," he proffers. "They have so many technologies and initiatives and directions that go in opposite directions and all of a sudden converge."
Although Adams claims he actually enjoys the challenge of keeping up, he's less enthusiastic about the verbose way SAP documents its technology. "I used to be an IBM mainframe hacker," he says. "I loved those days of going to an IBM documentation room, which had rows and rows of documentation 10 feet high. At the time, somebody said IBM was the biggest publisher in the world. I could believe it. But I think SAP is really going for the crown."
Nonetheless, Adams says, if there's a key to working with SAP's vast portfolio of enterprise software, it's "read, read, read, and then read some more. It does pay in the end. SAP is renowned for having a really bad Web site. It's hugely difficult to find anything. Well, persevere, because there are nuggets of information out there that make all the difference."