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Avoid layoffs: new SAP job skills to learn now

Where will Basis people go in the new NetWeaver world? Is there room for classic ABAP developers? What consulting skills will be in demand in the years ahead? We interviewed career expert Jon Reed to get his take on where the new sweet spots will be.

Where will Basis people go in the new NetWeaver world? Is there room for classic ABAP developers? What consulting...

skills will be in demand in the years ahead? We interviewed career expert Jon Reed to get his take on where the new sweet spots will be.

Those who attended TechEd this year will remember that SAP executive Shai Agassi talked about four new distinct SAP jobs in his keynote. Meanwhile, developers are pinched between offshore outsouring and model-driven development tools, Basis professionals see the familiar SAP framework getting fuzzy as everything becomes Web-enabled, and consultants face a pit of uncertainty about what'll put food on the table down the road.

Pulling your hair out isn't the solution, Reed said. Instead, see it as an opportunity. Look at your current skills and map them to future demands. Be the first to master the new technologies in your field, and your odds of making a good living in the new SAP world increases exponentially.

Consolidators
Basis people should take a close look at the role of the consolidator. Consolidators look at the entire landscape of all the applications and technologies a company has and map it to core (what helps drive differentiation with the company) and context (what you do to support existing commitments.) Once there, they start looking for ways to consolidate everything.

"Classic Basis system admin people are well-positioned to evolve into this field," said Reed. "Basis folks are often used to straddling the fence with architecture elements, and you can't really identify redundancies without a good grasp of the current processes in use."

Just like having security skills boosts the value of that person, the consolidation skills may become a vital edge for SAP professionals looking to move up the ranks in coming years.

"It never ends; it's an ongoing project," said Ori Inbar, Sr. vice president, solution marketing, SAP NetWeaver. "Every time there's a new acquisition, there's a slew of new systems entering the ecosystem. Somebody has to be there to keep things streamlined."
Read more about how to get into the consolidator role here.

Repository keepers
MDM/BW workers, some developers and people already involved in the creation and management of Web services are well-positioned to capitalize on the growing need for master data and metadata management.

"SAP is really emphasizing master data and metadata as a way to make sure data is structured consistently in the company," Reed said. "That idea is a core aspect of NetWeaver."

A good repository keeper must have very deep understanding of the meta data and must also have a firm grip on exactly how the applications are being used across multiple departments throughout the company. Simply put, you need to be intimately familiar with both the business processes and the technology architecture to excel in this role. That's a tricky balancing act, but those who can pull it off will be very valuable players on the IT team.
Read more about repository keepers here.

Composers
The confusion between "developer" and "composer" as an SAP role is understandable. The developer is your classic ABAP/Java programmer with varying business skills; the composer is a business process expert first and techie second. Their main function is to make business process innovation happen in real-time.

Needless to say, this trend has caused some concern in developer circles. So what can today's ABAP developer do to avoid getting pinched between outsourcing on one hand and model-driven, do-it-yourself business people on the other?

"You can't do everything with models," Inbar said. "There's going to be plenty of room for skilled programmers for areas like Java and creation of new services."

Inbar suggests familiarizing oneself with the model-driven tools, tapping into the BPX-community and looking for ways to leverage superior technical skills to "move up the stack." For those who work closer to the User Interface, embrace the modeling tools and start building the next generation of UI building blocks -- dedicated, highly interactive components that require advanced technical skills.

"Still, the key question for many is: will these tools decrease the opportunities for classic ABAPers? The honest answer is probably yes," Reed said. "Having said that, I think many developers can and should get on board with the modeling movement. SAP wants it to seem like a functional expert in a particular area can come in and just design all this stuff. It's not that easy; they can do a lot, but they'll still need considerable support from technical people."
Learn more about how to acquire the right composition skills here.

Disruptive innovators
The disruptive innovator is something of a maverick, looking across the entire company for areas with opportunities for disruptive innovation. It can be a new product, a new business process, or whatever it takes to move the company to the next level.

"The disruptive innovator has to be a hunter," Inbar said. "While consolidators have the luxury of tending to their niche of expertise, the disruptive innovator must be constantly on the move, looking for the next big thing."

A Project Manager with good overall knowledge of how the technology supports the business side would make a good candidate. But all things considered, it doesn't really matter whether that person came from a technical or functional career path prior to shouldering this new role; all that really matters is the current understanding of both sides of the fence, Reed said.

"The other new roles seem to be more hands-on, but I see the disruptive innovator as a manager or Team Lead," Reed said. "You need a broader view as well as organizational leverage, ie. decent corporate status, in order to make things happen."
Get more information about disruptive innovation here.

Of course, there are plenty of niche-opportunities that remain or will be created as the new technologies are rolled out. Be sure to check into the SAP Jobs Info Center for the latest articles, tips and expert advice on how to get ahead in the SAP world.

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