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The greenest grass in the SAP pasture

I have over 5 years of SAP Basis administration experience. I have experience on all the R/3 releases from 3.x to 4.6c, installation and upgrade experience with APO, BW and CRM. I also have lots of experience with Workplace and ITS. However, I am finding that most companies now want heavy BW experience or someone that has worked with Enterprise Portals, WAS, EBP, and security. Because of this, I am looking to get some training in one of these areas, but not sure which to choose for long-term potential or where exactly to go for training. Any ideas on which area(s) (APO, BW, EBP, EP, Security, or something else) should be strong over the next several years?
Be careful not to get caught up in a "grass is greener" mentality. For example, I wouldn't say that EBP is a more popular skill than APO, which you already have. The fact is that there is no "slam dunk" SAP skill - just strong niches that are mostly dominated by a select group of subject matter experts. It's the SAP experts who have a focused niche built on a broad base of relevant SAP skills that are getting the work right now. But what if you chase the wrong specialty? I'd rather be an Enterprise Portals specialist right now than a Plant Maintenance guru. But either one of these would be preferable to being a consultant who "has a little bit of this and a little bit of that." And those are the kind of skills you'll develop if you constantly chase what seems to be hot. A better idea is to study each of your target areas carefully to see how they relate to your current skills. Learn how each product is implemented, and figure out which skills are involved. The more relevant skills you bring to the table, the more effective you're going to be in your new role. Make sure to choose a marketable area.

Let's apply this methodology: first, you have a strong core Basis background. Obviously, learn as much about Enterprise 4.7 as you can. Forget about mySAP apps like APO and EBP for a minute, and consider that Enterprise 4.7 has a very different technical architecture than 4.6. If you can become one of the "first wave" of Basis folks to obtain 4.7 project experience, you will have upgraded all of your skills, because you'll have a much better understanding of Web Application Server (which 4.7 runs on), and you'll have a cutting edge understanding of the "web services friendly" 4.7 architecture and how all the mySAP apps fit into it. So when you talk about Web Application Server (WAS) training, clearly, that would be a top priority for you, because any knowledge you can obtain about WAS will be directly related to 4.7 and your overall skills transition.

Beyond that, I think you are right that BW continues to be a factor. When you look at BW from a Basis perspective, there are a lot of jobs out there that involve BW and Basis skills - especially if you have DBA and/or data warehousing background. The more DBA and data warehousing skills you have, the more it makes sense to concentrate on BW. Certainly, BW could be a hot area for you. With skills like yours, it would be a much better area of focus than, for example, APO. The reason? Less companies are running APO than BW because BW is tied into so many different mySAP applications. As for EBP, EBP seems an odd choice for a Basis person to focus on. When you look at EBP from a Basis perspective, what skills are needed besides installation? I'd rather see an EBP focus from a functional consultant, especially one with deep procurement/MM knowledge.

The goal is to leverage your current skills base to make your target niche stronger. Listing mySAP products and guessing which is hot isn't going to work; but once you compare each one to your background, it starts to make more sense. For example, I see very few APO-Basis job orders, so that's not promising. From that vantage point, Portals is interesting; you do see some Portals consultants coming from a Basis background, and it would be a great skill to have in your toolkit if nothing else. Security is also appealing; we see a fairly regular stream of Security jobs. Whether it would become a specialization for you is something to explore over the long haul.

Although there are a number of different directions for you, it seems to me that for a Basis person in particular, the 4.7/WAS experience is the clear priority over the rest of the areas you mentioned. You also want to continue with BW, and the Portals skills would be next on the list you've provided. Choose projects with challenging roles and try to find companies that seem to be aggressive with their upgrades and overall SAP agenda.
This was last published in April 2003

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