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I've covered this ground before, so be sure to read previous month's columns. You have already acquired a lot of the skills that the "SAP programmer of the future" is going to need. I think the next wave of SAP will be fueled by SAP's new NetWeaver technology platform, which enables users to roll out Web services in an SAP environment. The heart of NetWeaver is the Web Application Server, so that would be a great place for you to begin your studies. I would follow a two-tiered path: continue to learn everything you can about the non-proprietary technologies (Java, SOAP, XML, etc) that make Web services possible. And, try to learn as much as you can about SAP's own flavors of these products, so that you understand how SAP's world relates to the emerging world of "open Web services standards." The best thing about this dual learning path: even if the SAP market doesn't open up for you right away, you have still learned about enterprise-level technologies that the world's largest companies hope will cut costs and make true online business a reality. As you pursue your skills training, do your best to understand the business process methodology that Web services technology supports. In the next few years, I expect technology to be modeled around the automation of clearly-defined business processes, involving the Internet-based exchange of structured and unstructured data. At first, this kind of automation will mostly take place within the enterprise, but as security improves and standards solidify, we will see more inter-company collaborations as well. The technologists who understand both the technical issues and the business process methodologies will be the most in demand. And, there's an added bonus: the more expertise you have in the business process area, the less vulnerable you are to outsourcing. It's a lot easier to outsource a programmer than a "techie" with deep, industry-specific business process knowledge.
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