Monday, January 16, 2012

Interview with Tamás Holics

Tamás Holics is manager at Hovitaga, a company in Budapest specialized in SAP development that is also bringing to market some SAP add-ons and applications. I asked Tamás if he could share his experience in a short interview, as I think this kind of experience is interesting for many of us running consulting companies or working as freelancers and also trying to market SAP applications or enhancements.

[PL] Hi Tamás, can you tell us more about you, how you started with SAP and what areas of SAP you currently focus?

[TH] I joined SAP Labs Budapest in 2006 as a junior ABAP developer. There I was working on IS-Oil projects for about one and a half years. Since then I've gained experience in the insurance industry, especially with the FS-CD module. Currently I work for a manufacturing company where I do ABAP development within core ERP modules like warehouse management, logistics, sales and distribution etc.

[PL] In parallel with consulting your company is developing SAP applications. What fraction of the time do you invest in app development versus consulting work?

[TH] That changes very often. There were some months when I could spend 10-12 days on the development of my apps, but lately only a few hours per day in my free time. This is also due to the fact that the activities have shifted from development to marketing.

[PL] Can you tell us more about the products you are bringing to the market?

[TH] Our first product was the Hovitaga OpenSQL Editor, a tool which can execute SQL commands on the fly. The results of SQL queries are displayed immediately by an ALV grid or a hierarchical ALV tree. We've packed a lot of features that help developers to create Select statements quickly. The second product is based on the first one, it is called Hovitaga Report Generator. The great feature of it is that it can generate standard SAP reports based on an SQL query. Depending on generation settings, 200-1000+ lines of code can be generated. You can imagine how much time you can spare with this. These tools can cut SAP IT costs by significantly reducing ABAP development, testing and maintenance time.

Our current development is a radically new kind of business intelligence tool called Hovitaga Data Visualizer. It is unique because it is based on Microsoft Silverligt, but it actually runs in the traditional SAP Gui. It can visualize data coming from SQL statements, ALV reports, SAP Queries (SQ01) or tables and views. The added business value comes from the way how data is presented: instead of a simple ALV list, you can analyze business data with interactive charts, maps, pivot grids, treemaps etc. This product is still in development, we currently seek a pilot customer and/or a development company who would join the development. We have just uploaded the first video to youtube.

[PL] How did you come up with the idea of building those applications?

[TH] The SQL editor was missing from the ABAP workbench:) I decided to write one. Again from a personal experience I wanted to reduce the amount of repetitive coding so we came up with the Report Generator. As for the Data Visualizer, I was on the opinion that SAP and SAP customers have put so much effort in developing highly complex business logic to extract data from the database (in forms of reports, queries) that it's a shame that the results of them are analyzed with a simple ALV list. Actually none of these products were suggested by any customer. That would have been much easier if a company would have sponsored the development.

[PL] Do you think the SAP platform is a good foundation for building a company that develops applications? What major strengths and weaknesses did you find?

[TH] In general it is all right. However if you want to gain exposure, you have to invest a lot of money. Presenting at TechEd or SAPPHIRE Now costs a tens of thousands (USD), advertising in SAP related magazines and websites is also expensive.

[PL] How do you distribute your applications? Do you use transports, saplink or something else?

[TH] This depends on what we want to deliver. I think we are the first company in the world (of course I can't be sure) who offer a totally free trial version of their SAP software. Anybody can download a free version of the OpenSQL Editor and Report Generator tools. In order to make the installation even more simple, we have made them "self installing", which means that all you have to do is to copy and paste the downloaded sourcecode into a new report with SE38, activate and execute. It will create the necessary screens, GUI status, messages etc automatically. We consider making a SapLink version also available for download. As for the full version of the products, my experience shows that customers are fine with transport files.

[PL] Are you planning to use WebDynpro for new developments?

[TH] No, not at all. I believe not so many customers use it, and it's already an out-of-date technology.

[PL] That's interesting. How do you see the future of GUI in SAP? Do you think classic Dynpro will be improved or do you think something else will become the SAP GUI of the future?

[TH] I think the UI will not be unified in the short or middle-term future. The traditional SAP GUI will stay for a very long time, and SAP will continue coming up with new technologies. However I'm not sure if those will get the desired popularity. Maybe if they do something with HTML5. But anyway, new technology is only accepted if it adds something to the business.

[PL] Are there some new SAP technologies do you think can be particularly interesting to independent developers?

[TH] Yes, the Netweaver Gateway and mobile applications in general, for example. Nowadays everybody has a smartphone and tablets are very popular these days.

[PL] What has been your experience with selling the applications to the customers? Do you think companies are open to evaluate applications from independent developers?

[TH] Our free products have been downloaded more than 500 times since mid of September 2011. This makes me optimistic. Around 20% of website visitors end up downloading a trial product.

[PL] Can you tell us more about your marketing channels? Do you get many inquiries from the website?

[TH] Since we've made the free trials available we have received around ten quotes from the website, but I know the purchasing departments of big companies (big enough to run SAP) usually work slowly. If there is a download in January, I expect a quote no sooner than February and an actual purchase not before April. We are considering to place our products in online webshops, but I'm not sure how many visitors and quotes would that add. Naturally this again would cost thousands of Euros per year per product.

[PL] I know many networks of companies focused on SAP consulting but so far I did not find any network of companies working on SAP applications. Do you know such networks?

[TH] No, please tell me if you know one :)

I will keep looking and let you know if I find one :-). Thanks, Tamás for this interview, I think it will be very interesting to many people and it is a great first post of 2012 for apolemia. I hope to have more post related to independent SAP developers during this year.

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