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SAP administrators -- meeting today's SAP knowledge demand

SAP administrators are discovering they're required to know a lot about everything in SAP. Jon Reed describes how a seasoned SAP administrator can meet today's demands.

I have been doing SAP administration for a long time. It seems like the market for the SAP administrator is getting tougher and tougher since today's client asks for too many concentrations -- e.g., SEM, CRM, BW (with latest versions) as well as a Basis R/3 background.

I am getting old and to be honest I was asked so many times about personal questions like family and kids in interviews....

I am currently having hard time upgrading my skills for SAP administration due to high cost and feelings of uncertainty. I am not sure if I would be able to find an SAP administrator position after getting myself trained on some component of SAP -- e.g., BW, SEM, ECC 5.0, XI or Portal -- since the client always asks for something that is missing on my resume and is looking for an all-in-one kind deal in candidates.

What should I do? How can I get into other areas like FI/CO functional area? Which would be the best area to get into where I can use my SAP administration background?
Please advise.

It's true that companies are asking for more SAP skills than ever before. Sometimes it feels like there's no one in the world who can have all the SAP skills that you see on the job orders. I'm not sure that your solution of "going functional" will help you. SAP functional jobs can be pretty darn specific also. I've seen functional jobs on paper where I thought to myself, "there's no way they can find someone with all those skills." So, I don't think moving from Basis to FI/CO should be done because you think it will go easier for you as an SAP financials person. A better reason to move to SAP financials would be because you have a strong interest in FI/CO and business consulting in general.

I don't think it's possible for a Basis person to master all the new NetWeaver components. What I would suggest is to hone in a couple of core Basis-related areas that lots of companies are using, and then pick a couple more "advanced" areas as well. For example, adding BW or Security to your skills would be a good way of adding more technical skills to the core that are commonly needed. Then you could mix in a bit of XI or Portals and you'd have a good combo of core Basis-related skills. But keep in mind that the ultimate key to SAP success is a good level of focus and specialization. True, your specialization may prevent you from landing jobs outside of that area, but in the end, expertise developed over multiple projects is what will put you in the best position to land good projects. You won't be the right person for every project, but then again, you can only work one project at a time anyhow.

As for fielding interview questions about your age and family, obviously those kinds of questions are not supposed to be asked. If you find yourself being asked too many personal questions, you may want to explore independent consulting, where age and family considerations don't tend to be asked.

This was last published in September 2006

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