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Is Portals/SEM/BW a good field to enter?

I have 3 years of BW experience with 2 years of ABAP experience and 6 years of functional experience in logistics....

Presently, I am working in an SEM-BCS project, but working on BW. I am planning to attend a course for enhancing my skills. I am looking at Portals/SEM/BW. Is this a good step? Or would you suggest I rather take some advanced course in Data warehousing? I have personal interest in BI. But I would like to tread cautiously. Do you think there is bright future for BW guys for next couple of years? How will the rates be? Is it a good idea to work in SEM? I have very little background in FI and I do not have FI implementation experience. With this in mind, is it a good idea to go for SEM-BCS? What is the prerequisites needed for this area? Also, I would like to know what are the background skills needed to excel in Portals areas. Is this too technical of an area, and do I need to learn Java for this?


Actually, I think you have a pretty decent career path. You don't need to change your whole career around, you just need to refine your goals. One thing you do need to do, however, is make a commitment to be either mostly technical or mostly functional. Yes, I still see some 50/50 "techno-functional" consultants out there, so I welcome a debate on this subject, but most SAP openings I see emphasize either functional or technical backgrounds. This makes sense; there's only so much ground one person can cover in the vast landscape of SAP implementation skills. So I think you need to commit to one side or the other - an 80/20 percentage skills mix one way or the other is what I recommend. This way you have your technical or functional focus, but you know enough about the other side of the fence to interface with the other teams.

You've posed a lot of questions above, and not all of them have easy answers. Forecasting future rates for SAP skills is very difficult; the market is just too unpredictable. I'd like to see you focus less on questions like "Is SEM hot? What about Portals?" and think more about where you true interests lie. Life is too short to gamble solely on market trends. Fundamentally, we excel in areas that fascinate us. It's our job to make our fascinations marketable. It sounds to me like you have a genuine interest in business intelligence, which in the SAP world starts with BW. SEM, of course, has a tight relationship with BW. So it seems to me that you're exactly where you want to be. Since SEM essentially sits on top of R/3, and uses BW as its main data source, there is all kind of technical work involved in BW-SEM that should be right up your alley. And while SEM is not exclusively financial data, you are right that FI consultants would have an edge in some areas in SEM, especially BCS, which is the evolution of the legal consolidation framework within R/3. You don't want to be competing with senior FI guys for SEM-BCS functional openings, that's not the strength of your background. If you want to stay functional within SAP, I would advise pursuing supply chain planning and APO. These are the cutting edge areas within SAP that play to your functional strengths.

But since you have a strong interest in Business Intelligence, and since you're currently working in a technical capacity in BW, why not just keep going doing what you're doing? BW plays into so many areas within R/3, and to make SEM run smoothly you're using all kind of interesting skills. It sounds like your SEM system is running on a BW instance, and if you're pulling in data from third party systems, you're likely getting experience with messaging systems and EAI technologies as well. It's unclear to me whether you want to be a programmer or not. If you really like the programming aspects - and only if - you might be better off pushing towards SAP Portals work. I'll write more about the skills involved in SAP Portals work in future columns, but the bottom line is that there's lots of room for Java/web programming on a Portals implementation. By why push to learn Java to break into Portals when you're already tied into BW and SEM? SEM is an interesting niche with many technical challenges, and technical BW experience allows you to move around within SAP, into all the different areas that BW draws on and supports. I like your determination to "poke up out of the foxhole" and assess your chances in the market, but for now, keep on keeping on. As for which training you should pursue, all the areas of training you list would enhance your current skills. So take the training that you find most compelling. And forget about "caution" when it comes to training - the more training, the better! Yes, you should be cautious before moving out of your current niche, but don't be cautious about taking a range of training courses and learning how they tie into your current skills.


This was last published in October 2002

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