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Does Cobol knowledge help learning ABAP?

I have a history in General IM work in a Sales Order Processing/Logistics environment i.e. Business Analyst, Application Support, Programmer. I am now involved in a project to replace all these legacy systems with SAP. I am getting involved in interfacing SAP with 3PL, WAS, Rosettanet, IDocs etc. I have also had a look/debugged some ABAP code and remarked on how much like Cobol it looked. So does a Cobol background help much with getting to speed with ABAP?

I've never heard someone compare Cobol and ABAP before, but the comparison doesn't surprise me, as ABAP has its roots in the R/2 legacy version of SAP. SAP was a legacy product long before client/server came along. Mastering any programming language generally helps you to understand another, so it would not surprise me if Cobol experts find that ABAP comes easily to them. On the other hand, if you study the evolution of SAP's product line, you will realize that ABAP knowledge does not put you in the "sweet spot" of the SAP market. Take this challenge: go to the home page, look through all of the descriptions of the current mySAP solutions, and see if you see ABAP mentioned one time. I just went through a number of solutions and didn't see any sign of ABAP. If I were you, that would raise a red flag or two about equating mastery of ABAP with a secure position in the SAP universe (I know a number of ABAP programmers who would agree with me on this one).

I have written on the future of ABAP extensively before in previous columns; my recommendation to anyone in your situation is to worry less about SAP's proprietary coding language, and focus more on mastering object-oriented and Web-based programming. It looks to me like you're in a "best of both worlds" situation on your current project. You're getting a bit of ABAP exposure, but you're also getting some SAP-EAI skills and some Web-related skills. If you can add some ABAP to a nice skills mix of EAI and Java-related tools, you'll put yourself in a decent position for future SAP development gigs.

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