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Hands-on consultant looking for the "winning horse" in SAP

I have been following your answers/suggestions you provide and I am very impressed. I am a SAP ABAP consultant and have been doing it for the past 6+ years, most of it in Australia. Now I am in India doing support work for an end client. I wish to upgrade my skills and move into new dimension products. There are so many to choose from. Don't know which horse to bet on? BW, BI, Netweaver, Java, Xapps, SEM, APO,Portals, Smartforms, Enterprise upgrades, workflow, web applications? I have worked extensively on core ABAP, data conversions using all methods, SAP scripts, BAPIs, ALV Grid control. I have been hands-on but eventually had to budge to the outsourcing trends as the contract market was drying up. Prior to SAP I worked on Oracle for almost 4 years on MRPII applications and have a degree in Computer science. Please advise though it may sound like a repeating question.
Well, you're right. This is a repeating question. I think I field more questions on ABAP than any other topic, so make sure you go through the archives. As an aside, those who post questions here should know that you have a better chance of getting your question answered if: you pose a question that is different than those asked before, and/or you provide enough background on your SAP skills in order for me to offer more targeted insights. If you have researched the SAP product line and taken the time to read my previous answers, and if you've incorporated that research into your question, your chances go way up! This reader has not asked a new question, but I appreciate the level of detail and the effort to stay up on SAP technologies. It can be exhausting to keep up on all of SAP's product innovations, but the effort is well worth your while!

As for your specific question, yes, there are a number of possible skills to add to your core ABAP know-how. And yes, it's hard to pick one winning option from all of these. If you've read my previous answers, you'll know that my major recommendation is a simple one: go with the projects you are given. If you get the chance to work in a NetWeaver development environment, you go for it. If you get a chance to work in an ABAP-Java-Portals environment, you go for it. If you get the chance to work on an APO-CIF-ABAP team, then... Well, you get the idea. So, some of your confusion about where to go will be narrowed down simply by the projects and technologies you have access to. Hands-on experience in "technology A" is always better than training in "technology B" - at least in the SAP world. But, there are a couple more guiding principles I would recommend to you. First, do your best to get exposure to the latest versions of SAP possible. Once you start working in 4.7 development environments, you are already working your way into the Web Application Server/NetWeaver technical environment and getting that cutting edge exposure. Sometimes, just making sure you get experience on the most current SAP release possible is the key to getting the technical exposure you need. Another good principle is to balance the acquisition of proprietary and non-proprietary skills. So, in addition to acquiring SAP-specific experience using technology like BAPIs, iViews, Web Application Server, etc., you also want to get comfortable with overall Web Services tools and protocols. Gaining experience in XML, Java, EJB, SOAP, etc., allows you to work within SAP but also lay the groundwork for options in non-SAP environments down the road.

There isn't one right way forward. If you feel the learning curve is steep, that's because the difference between ABAP programming and web-based programming/development is significant - as significant as the shift from Legacy environments to client-server settings. Sure, the overall programming know-how carries over, but there are many shifts required, such as the shift between IT-driven development to customer/market driven development. Today's development projects must be aligned with the right business processes in order to be effective. The reason there's a lot to learn is not just because of SAP - it's because there's a whole emerging world of "web services" technologies to master. This can seem overwhelming sometimes, but it's also an excellent professional challenge. And your reward for meeting the challenge should be enhancing your marketability inside and outside of SAP.
This was last published in November 2003

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