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Should I make a move to NetWeaver?

I have 8+ years of experience, 2.5 years of which are in functional experience and the rest in Java, J2EE mostly, web technologies and web services etc. with various application servers like WebLogic, web sphere and oracle application server. I have worked on Java adapter development and integration for some time in my career. I have also done various technical certifications like Sun Java certification and project management certifications like PMP. Currently I am working in capacity of project leader. In the initial part of my career I worked in manufacturing and worked on Baan (for 2.5 years).

I have an opportunity to work on SAP NetWeaver platform. Considering my background and experience, will it be a good idea to work on NetWeaver? Will there be any use of my earlier experience? Is it a worthwhile move? I am pretty excited to work in SAP, but the real question is, is it going to boost my growth path? Also, what is your anticipation of NetWeaver growth and market share and demand in market?

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I don't know enough about your non-SAP options to say whether NetWeaver is better than whatever else is on your plate. I do get a lot of questions, however, from Java and web programmers who want to know if SAP's NetWeaver platform might be a good option for them. Obviously, one of the reasons for this is that if you read the NetWeaver literature, you see a lot of references to Java and web-related technologies. One thing that is very important to understand is that the term "NetWeaver" really refers to a range of products as well as a very complex new information architecture.

In reality, NetWeaver supports multiple development environments, and there is debate amongst SAP technical folks as to which development approaches work the best. There even seems to be some confusion as to whether SAP is going to commit even more fully to Java and web-based development or continue to support "advanced ABAP." These questions aren't easy to resolve, but I do think there is a place for Java and web-based programmers in NetWeaver, and of course, project managers like yourself that understand these kinds of development environments are good to have around too.

I guess what I would say about Java is that if you're looking to maximize your professional challenges and your rate, you want to find a way to work in the large enterprise settings where the performance issues in Java are pushed to their limits. You want to be on the cutting edge, and whether you are working within a large SAP environment or a large Oracle environment, I'm not sure it matters all that much. Having said that, SAP does seem to be the "thought leader" in terms of what is possible in cutting edge ERP development, so maybe SAP is the best home for your skills. I do think that demand for NetWeaver-related skills will continue to increase as more and more companies upgrade to the latest versions of SAP. But it seems like your question is asking for some assurances as to where the market is going to go, and the truth is that no one has a crystal ball and there are no guarantees. I'd like to see you focus a bit less on "what is trendy" and focus a bit more on chasing technical challenges. Have a passion for being the best technical manager you can be, and whether or not you end up working in SAP or not, you'll always have work on the technical side -- no matter what the market does.

This was first published in March 2005

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