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SAP PLM or XI?

My background has been in PP, APO and then I went headfirst into PS/IM modules. I worked in this area for 3 years...

and gained experience in ALE/EDI techs and integration of systems. I now have the choice of going into either PLM (program and project management) or XI. What area would you suggest based on market trends?

I really enjoy the integration aspects (I do not have a technical background), but in time I aspire to go into project management (without loosing touch with the nuts and bolts that I enjoy).

Your advice in this area is much appreciated.
First of all, I never make career recommendations based on market trends. I only make recommendations based on the skill set and aspirations of the individual job seeker. Chasing trends is a sure-fire way to send your career in a bunch of random directions. You need to be building on a set of core competencies, and each time you pursue a new technical area, I recommend asking yourself how it builds on your core skills. To apply this to your situation: in theory, I like NetWeaver XI as an emerging technical area, but you have said in your question that you do not have a deep technical background. And while I think it's nice that you picked up some ALE-EDI skills, the best ALE-EDI consultants I know have deep ABAP backgrounds. And, I would also note that the ALE-EDI job market peaked about three years ago. So, by process of elimination, I like the sound of pursuing PLM better. However, it's not totally clear to me how your skills are adding up. If I were you, I would look towards some type of specialization you can settle into and build on for the long term. I guess PLM could be such a niche, but keep in mind the best PLM people have deep backgrounds in product lifecycle management. Also remember that as an emerging area, there aren't a lot of PLM jobs to go around. Your competition will be steep there.

One option you may want to think about is to continue to build on the PS/FI area. I've been continually impressed by the innovative things SAP is doing pertaining to Project Systems and the integration of PS with FI and other modules. It may be that it makes sense for you to keep some type of PS skill as your bread and butter even as you pursue emerging areas of SAP. There's no one right answer for someone with skills as diverse as yours. Always be ready to discard your best-laid plans if you are given exciting hands-on project opportunities. In the end, it's all about hands-on work, so if you are given an interesting SAP project you didn't anticipate, keep an open mind. Just remember that in the long run, you want to build a core set of focused skills you can build on even after the SAP part of your career is over.

This was last published in July 2004

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