Being someone who thrives on problem solving and providing solutions, what direction would you suggest for me? What does SAP offer in terms of career advancement and growth for ABAP developers like myself who enjoy the SAP environment?
In terms of your question, let me specifically address if ABAP work is going to go away due to NetWeaver. It's true that SAP is hoping to reduce the amount and expense of custom development for its customers. However, I don't view XI as the key to this. I think the key is the modeling environments they are rolling out to allow functional folks to design programs at a higher level. SAP Visual Composer is one such tool.
I do, however, believe that SAP customers will continue to do custom programming -- not across the board -- but in mission-critical areas that are crucial to their competitive advantage. Now, there's no question that this kind of programming will be different than classic ABAP. Surely ABAP Objects will be used heavily, and perhaps different Web-based programming tools also. In some cases, the Portals Development Kit (PDK) could come into play.
Certainly the NetWeaver Development Studio will play a role, but I believe that you will need to have pretty strong technical skills to really utilize that. Here's how it shakes out: I think the career prospects are not good for the "average" ABAP programmer. But for the exceptional SAP programmer, the one who knows ABAP but also knows their way around all the NetWeaver development tools, I think there is still a good future.
This was first published in September 2006