Inexperienced programmers cause SAP customisation problems

Businesses outsourcing SAP customisation often receive an end product that does not meet quality standards, an extensive benchmarking exercise reveals

An extensive benchmarking exercise has revealed that businesses outsourcing SAP customisation often receive an end product that does not meet quality standards, partly because programmers doing the work lack the required expertise.

The research from Cast Software, which looked at almost 50 million lines of Advanced Business Application Programming (Abap) code used in SAP customisations, showed that the vast majority of work was carried out by outsourced service providers.

The research covered eight different industry sectors, with the majority of lines of code analysed in manufacturing, government and retail. It measured code based on five areas: security; reliability; performance over time; changeability; and how easily it can be transferred to different teams.

According to the research, “the number and density of violations is high in every health factor, and this should be of concern for many applications”.

Cast Software chief scientist Bill Curtis said most of the lines of code analysed had been outsourced to suppliers, with the mistakes made suggesting inexperienced staff are completing the work.

“We looked at some of the code and we think that some is written by junior people who did not understand good practice,” he said.

“Almost all the work was outsourced and this is a risk if you do not manage what you get back."

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According to the report, applications are often developed through outsourced relationships and managed by business units without the involvement of IT departments.

"In some cases the developers are business staff that have learned to write Abap code. Yet with little background in the disciplines of software engineering, they often do not have the knowledge or experience to write or ensure the acquisitions of high-quality software," the report said.

"Even worse, since modern business applications are often composed from stacks of technologies, many mistakes emerge from failing to understand how different parts of the application system will interact.”

Curtis said it is important for businesses to manage this outsourced work and manage the quality of the work coming in through a “software-quality gate”.

“Businesses should write some standards and have them in the contract as part of a service-level agreement,” he added.

Cast Software said it will be completing similar benchmarking reports on Java, .Net and customisations for Oracle.

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