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Keeping ABAP skills fresh

Career expert Jon Reed says turn your attention to NetWeaver in order to keep your ABAP skills fresh.

I have 7 years of SAP ABAP experience and wish to remain technical. What are the latest areas that I should be thinking about to keep my skills up to date?

If I were you, I would be thinking primarily about the NetWeaver/WebAs development platform that is going to be the centerpiece of SAP's technical architecture going forward. If you can figure out how your current skills fit into that environment, and identify the training and knowledge you need to acquire to fill in the gaps, you can stay on the cutting edge and avoid being simply a general ABAP programmer - a background that is more vulnerable to outsourcing. Other things to think about: obviously SAP is increasingly emphasizing (and using) web development standards, as well as its own customized web and B2B products, like the SAP Business Connector. Mastering these web standards, as well as SAP's own toolkits and expanding middleware offerings, is another aspect of your skills to think about going forward. You should also consider iView and Portals work. We are seeing the increasing integration of Enterprise Portals into all the functional areas of SAP. Some of these Portals are pretty straightforward and involve no ABAP or customization of any kind. But some companies are going to want to customize their Portals and integrate non-SAP data sources. I definitely see some custom ABAP development roles that play into those scenarios.

In general, learning how much ABAP (and how much Java) is needed to implement and customize various mySAP products is very useful. Many of these mySAP products have unique roles for ABAP developers who have product-specific know-how in that particular area of SAP. For example, think of the ABAP-APO programmers who have solid Core Interface (CIF) skills (at this point, CIF is really an APO-specific tool). Finally, any serious ABAP developer needs to think about Business Warehouse. Of course, some ABAP programmers choose to specialize in BW projects, but even if you don't end up specializing in BW, the wide acceptance of BW amongst the SAP user base signals that adding BW to the developer's toolkit is a worthwhile consideration. Among other things, BW continues to impact customized reporting. A few years from now, it will be surprising to find an SAP customer that isn't doing all of its reporting in BW. This means that those ABAP programmers who specialize in custom reporting from within R/3 are going to need to learn the BW environment if they want to continue to leverage their reporting skills. Well, you wanted some things to think about, now you have them. :) I hope that this lengthy list of possible topics doesn't seem excessive. Obviously, no programmer specializes in all of them. I think the best SAP developers are aware of the "big picture" but find a focused niche within it.

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