How to Succeed as an SAP ABAP Developer or Team Lead

Published: 06th October 2008
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Successful & Resourceful SAP ABAP Developer


ABAP / ABAP OO development are very crucial in addressing any solution gaps, RICEFs or custom development on any SAP project. I think it is very important to know a lot of different programming aspects during an SAP implementation project and follow certain guidelines that can make an SAP ABAP professional very successful in your career.





Steps for being an Efficient SAP ABAP Programmer or SAP Technical Team Lead





1. Review Business Requirements & Write Functional Specification


The first part of any ABAP development project begin with meeting the end users or business experts and understand the business requirements that need to be implemented in the SAP system during the realization phase. A best approach is to conduct workshops to gather all the business requirements. Make sure that if any SAP function consultants are involved than they are in the meetings as well. After all the business requirements are collected, either a SAP functional consultant or business expert will write a detailed functional specification. Review the functional specification until the document has all the details, different business scenarios and expected goals clearly defined. A well defined functional specification should contain UML diagrams and test case scenarios. It is important to have an official signoff on the functional specification before continuing with design and development.





2. Review ABAP Development Standards


In ideal case, your SAP Project Lead or ABAP Development Manager should have created a programming standards and guidelines document. Review this document so that you follow the naming conventions for function modules, classes, dictionary objects, software components, name spaces and proxies (if using SAP XI / PI), program input/output parameters, etc just to name a few. Following the guideline for the project helps maintain a consistent coding approach and also helps other functional and technical analysts to read and debug your code. ABAP objects naming should begin with Z if it will be migrated to SAP production system and Y if it will not be migrated into the production system.





3. Write and Review Test Cases


The test case documents are written by the business experts or functional SAP consultants in most SAP implementation projects. But on some SAP implementation projects a programmer may be required to write test cases. Before writing a test case review the functional specification document thoroughly and review the written test case with the business users or functional consultants. Get a sign-off as mentioned in most steps in this article. As an ABAP Development Manager for a variety of SAP implementation projects, my goal has been to keep my team motivated and always cover the team against any change of scope on the development tasks. Having a sign-off at each phase of a SAP custom development or enhancement tasks always helps the SAP implementation team and project management team keep in sync which is a vital to complete the SAP implementation in time and budget.





4. Write and Review Technical Design Specifications


Read the functional specification and list all the development objects that would be needed to implement the required functionality in the SAP system. First step is to draw a flowchart and review with technical and business experts. The technical design document should include a technical overview, list of new database objects, ABAP objects that can be reused, a data model and class diagram (if using ABAP OO classes). It is highly recommended to have a rough prototype in the sandbox system (Development system if no SAP sandbox system is available) if the development being done is complex or if the end deliverable is not well defined. You should then review your prototype with functional experts and business users. Make sure that the ABAP Development team lead or manager signs off on the prototype. If effort required to complete the ABAP programming task is not presented and approved by the senior project management then this would be a good time to get the development estimate and timeline approved.





5. Realization of the Specification - ABAP Development


During this step you will be creating development objects and implementing the code in the SAP development system. Before you begin, if prototype was done in the sandbox system then analyze the prototype and design specification. Remember that quality and reusability of existing ABAP objects are more important than strictly following the design specification. Determine which existing dictionary objects can be reused for this topic. If new dictionary objects or classes needs to be created then ensure that these objects can be extended and reused for other development tasks. It may require extra effort to develop objects that are reusable and flexible. This one time effort for building reusable ABAP objects during the course of a development project can potentially save a lot of work for programming similar objects that could otherwise utilize already built objects. Review your approach with an SAP technical team lead or a development manager on your project before deviating from the technical design specification and implementing your own ideas. If you are involved in SAP XI (now Process Integration) related tasks or creating enterprise services then this is the best area where you could reuse existing objects. Review the message types that already exist within your SAP business unit and see if any existing messages can be extended with new fields. Review with the team lead whether the communication should be synchronous or asynchronous before you generate proxies.







6. SAP Development Best Practices


SAP ABAP (or JAVA if working on SAP Netweaver) development best practices should be followed throughout the development lifecycle of the project. Although this aspect depends on your project technical manager, I personally have maintained a checklist for developers in my team on all projects and it has been a tremendous success in delivering high quality output on all development tasks. Here are a few best practices worth adapting in your project. Check whether you adhere to all naming conventions as described in the programming standards set for your implementation project. Include comments in your code to allow someone else to easily understand your programs. This is particularly helpful when you work in large teams and multiple people work with same objects. Ensure that you have check for user authorization if you are building transactions or web user-interfaces that will require human interaction. Check that you do not have ABAP code segments that could take a hit on performance like nested loops, nested select statements (use views if desired), excess database commits (persistent objects or buffering alternatives may be a good option), etc. Field symbols are a great asset when it comes to processing internal tables and also variables with unknown data types that are resolved at runtime. Field symbols are very similar to concept of using pointers in OO programming landscape. Check if all exceptions are handled and error messages are communicated accurately to the end users. As an ABAP programmer it should be well accepted by now that short dumps should not be OK to occur. All these do occur in unknown special case scenarios the short dumps should be fixed.





7. ABAP Code Reviews and Performance


As a ABAP programmer you should test your code upon completion for all possible scenarios. Verify that end results are same as that expected in the documented test cases. Perform ABAP runtime analysis to check for performance of your code. Seek suggestions from your technical team lead or manager on how to improve code performance if you notice any red flags during the runtime analysis. Schedule a formal code review with your mentor or a senior ABAP developer once the development is completed and tested by all responsible developers. Make any revisions and retest your code against the desired output as documented in the test scripts. Remember that code reviews is not to find flaws in your programming but it will only make you a better ABAP developer and maintain consistency.





8. Documentation


Make sure you write an end user documents with overview of the functionality or enhancement upon completion. Include screenshots where possible. Prepare documentation keeping in mind that an end user unfamiliar with your deliverable can read the document and test the functionality. Include contact information in this document for users to easily reach the SAP technical team for any questions.







9. User Acceptance Testing


Now that your ABAP coding is completed and reviewed by technical experts, it is time for the business users to perform a formal user acceptance testing. UAT testers will check whether the output meets business process requirements and suggest any improvements or modifications to the delivered functionality. After completion of these fixes or modifications you should request a formal sign-off on the functionality.





10. Migration to SAP Test System and Production System


Quality assurance engineers will test your functionality in the SAP QA environment to verify that everything is working in your delivered functionality as tested during user acceptance testing. Also any problems in transporting your ABAP objects across SAP systems will be identified and addressed during this step. If no problems are found then your transports will be approved to be migrated to SAP production system in the next transport cycle.







You have just learned how to be an efficient SAP ABAP Developer or per say a high quality Senior ABAP expert right from writing specifications until realizing your implementation in production system. Use this article as a guideline as there are many more aspects to improve yourself to be a good ABAP programmer which is not possible to cover in a brief article like this one. You can always contact me with any suggestions or ideas you may seek for your SAP implementation.









About Author


Deepak Mandrekar is an SAP Program Advisor providing leadership comprehensive oversight to large SAP implementations in the US. He has led several SAP ABAP Developers during 12 SAP implementation projects he has worked.He is a leader, industry expert and executive who has worked for several years with SAP America. He is now the CEO of SAP consulting & SAP Project Management company iii Technologies serving SAP customers across the US.


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