Learning from Big Mistakes

Everyone is human – you will make mistakes. This fact shouldn’t come as a surprise even if you are used to excelling in your field. Surprising though, it is a fact that often surprises bosses about their workers. Sometimes, people can go a very long time without one, which can be beneficial to both them and the company they work for. It can often seem that these folks are charmed. Unfortunately, when the mistake does come, it is often fairly large, and the people standing tallest often have the longest way to fall.

Uncle Sam Calm Down

Mistakes happen. Calm down and deal with it.

It’s unfortunate, then, that we as a society are not as forgiving of mistakes as we should be, given their frequency. Mistakes often result in some form of backlash or consequences, and usually come with a reprimand, whether deserved or not. The problem is that a fear of mistakes can also lead to a crippling paralysis that makes productivity all but impossible. As an analogy, consider people in the performing arts. If actors and singers refused to perform because they were afraid of mistakes, the scene would become utterly barren. If writers refused to release new books due to fear of typos, grammatical errors, and negative reviews, we’d soon all run out of reading material.

In addition to stagnating workflow, fear of mistakes has another surprising consequence: in an organization where people are too afraid of making mistakes, people are also not learning. It may seem like a business’ dream when everything is humming along for years without a hitch; but the problem is, when a mistake finally happens, and problems do arise, the organization and the people involved are often too thrown off to know how to effectively deal with it and recover. No one has learned how to cope with it, and so no one steps forward to take the helm and guide the organization out of the treacherous waters.

In IT, the fear of mistakes has the potential to be crippling for a company. It can delay for years the implementation of systems and processes that might greatly increase productivity and profitability. For example, SAP is a system that is likely appropriate for several different large companies. But many may choose to refuse it or any other software system in favor of what is comforting and familiar. Why? Because reliance on a computer system may create efficiency, but what happens if it fails one day? Then, the entire organization becomes inoperative until the problem gets fixed. Many organizations just don’t want to take that chance.

These are the types of objections you often have to overcome as an SAP consultant. And, unfortunately, those objections may be “confirmed” when you go through the implementation process and you hit snags and make mistakes. What, payroll might be delayed because the accounting functions weren’t implemented perfectly the first time? We knew this would happen, this just confirms it… and so on.

The first step towards dealing with these problems is to accept that they will happen. Someday, something is going to go wrong, and it is going to have a negative effect on someone else’s business. What determines your success, then, is not your ability to avoid mistakes, but your ability to deal with them when they arise.

Do you launch into a frenzied panic and inefficiently start bailing water? Do you fall over yourself apologizing? These are ways to only exacerbate the situation. While an apology might occasionally be warranted, and the gravity of the situation should not be downplayed, it is still important to remember: you are only human, and mistakes are part of the job description. Taking responsibility for them is one thing, but needless groveling is another. Instead, the right response is to calmly assess the situation, determine a step-by-step process for resolving it, and get to work. By providing guidance through a stressful crisis, you can often help a company come out even better on the other side – more profitable, and more prepared to deal with any errors that occur in the future.

This approach does not advocate becoming sloppy – your attitude shouldn’t simply become, “Oh, well, it’s okay if I make a mistake, because I can just fix it later” (at least not all the time). But it should help you to understand that it is okay to proceed and to make progress, because if a mistake does arise, you can handle it, and your organization and your career will benefit from your ability to keep a level head and do what needs to be done.

*Image courtesy of 21sacraments via Creative Commons

Is ABAP Near The End Of Its Life?

20140201-082310.jpgI receive quite a few emails from students asking for advice on what area of SAP is the most lucrative, what is the best module of SAP to learn and so on. They are all good questions and I always give my point of view.

Today I received an email from a student, let’s call him Bob., that went like this. Bob asked:

I am one of your most devoted students. I have bought many of your courses through UDEMY and SaptrainingHQ and recently obtained your ABAP book. Studying goes pretty well because I found certain similarity between ABAP and Cobol that I studied a while ago.
But today I questioned the longevity of ABAP as a dominant language for SAP.
The reason is simple, the situation reminds me the 1998 when there were plenty of jobs for COBOL but they all disappeared after 2000.
I have already noticed NetWeaver Java stack. Does it mean that SAP is moving towards the Java platform?
Can you give me advice from your experience?
Should I continue digging in ABAP or lean towards BW/BI or maybe HANA? Or try to learn all of this. But I guess I can’t specialize in everything.
Where do you see a future in SAP?

First of all, Bob you are AWESOME for taking some of my courses and purchasing one of my books. You have helped put food on my table 🙂

Here is how I replied…

Something to keep in mind when looking at the future of SAP technologies is what would it take to move to a new language or new platform. If SAP decided to move away from ABAP they would have to rewrite ALL of the business logic in their systems.

ABAP is the core of their systems. They did introduce the JAVA stack many years ago but it has not taken off and remains as a small part of their platform.

In my opinion ABAP is here to stay for a long time to come. I don’t base that just on my own thoughts; I have spoken with developers inside and outside of SAP and they say the same.

Does this mean we shouldn’t learn new technologies? No, we must always keep learning. Our profession is one of the fastest moving professions there is. You said it yourself, the demand for COBOL dropped and demand in other areas increased.

Regarding learning other specific SAP skills, I would definitely advise doing this. We work in a field where we have to learn so we don’t get left behind. I think within 5 years the majority of ABAP jobs will require some knowledge of HANA because of how ABAP code has to change when working with HANA.

The old style of reading data from the database and processing it in ABAP programs will not be very efficient in a HANA based system. You need to learn how to select data within HANA and filter/aggregate the data etc.. on the HANA server before bringing it back inside the ABAP program for further processing.

Regarding BW/BI it depends what job you want to do. By all means learn as much as you can but learning other modules of SAP means you expect to work in these areas. If you don’t intend to move from ABAP then ask what benefit learning the other module will bring.

If learning new tech will benefit you then yes, go for it. If you enjoy learning new tech but have no desire to put it into practice in the work place, then heck, still learn it if that’s what you like doing. If you are considering learning something just in case you are forced into a situation where that’s what your employer requires at the time, I would say find a new employer so you can do something you enjoy.

What do you think you should do Bob?

So that’s what I thought on the subject. I have given my view on subjects like this many times over and no doubt I will be asked my opinion many times more.

What do you think? Do you think ABAP is on the way out? Do you feel as though your skills are becoming out dated?

Leave a comment below!