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Update yourself -- add some sizzle to seemingly "out of fashion" skill sets

An SAP user of 7 years asks: which career path is in demand, SD or Basis? Jon Reed delves deeper in his response and offers lifelong career advice that everyone can benefit from.

I have been working in a Jr. Basis Administrator/SAP computer operations role for 7 years. I am trying to decide if I should pursue a career in the SD Functional/Production Support role or continue up the SAP Basis ladder. I have taken an SD configuration class and gained a good understanding of the SD module. Also I have an opportunity for some on-the-job training within my company's SD team. Which position is in more demand today and will be in the next 5 years?
This is a classic and important question that I get from many SAP technical pros. As a general rule, functional consulting has a more promising future than technical consulting, but that's just a generality. You have to take into account the background and interests of each person in order to make the right assessment.

If you do move from technical to functional, one key criteria is: will I get the project exposure to make my new...

skills stick? In your case, it looks like your company is going to give you that all-important first project experience on the SD side.

Now, I don't know what version of SAP your company is running on, and that's become very important at this juncture. For example, if you're running on the latest (ECC 6.0/mySAP ERP 2005), I would definitely recommend you making the move to SD as you will be part of the second wave of consultants to get that 6.0 experience, running well ahead of the pack. Even 5.0 SD exposure would be pretty appealing. On the other hand, if your company is still running on 4.6, then that's a tougher call. As a 4.6 SD professional, you will be competing for openings with more senior SD people, all of whom have deep experience in that particular release. Also, Basis skills are not all the same either. The more current your Basis skills are, the better your chances are on the Basis side. Also, the types of technical tools that you have experience in impacts your marketability. Standard system admin is a lot less compelling than web-based EAI skills or BW security experience.

We also have to take into account your own greatest interests. I find that when consultants worry too much about which area is most marketable, they can lose track of where their own interests lie. In the long run, that may be more important. When you think about it, the most important key to marketability is becoming an expert. Aren't you more likely to become an expert in an area you have a real passion for? Passionate dedication leads to expertise, so if you are passionate about a particular area of SAP, don't jump ship too quickly - often with some skills updating you can add some sizzle to seemingly "out of fashion" skill sets - and that includes ABAP and Basis.

The bottom line is that SD should be more marketable than Basis in five years' time, but as I noted, there are many other aspects to consider.

This was last published in May 2007

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