In life, there's a fine line between sounding cool and sounding out of date. In the SAP universe, we can go to a conference talking one way, only to realize the terms we are using have already been tossed onto the SAP junk heap. When you hear someone say "New Dimension" these days, you figure they don't get out much.
Of course, there's a more important reason to monitor SAP terms than sounding cool. Terminology defines trends, and trends create demand for the skills we should be chasing. Over the years, I have noticed one common characteristic of the most successful SAP consultants: They are always one step ahead with the latest releases and the skills associated with them.
During my SAP interviews executives at TechEd 2007 in Las Vegas, I had a chance to turn my terminology confusion into product wisdom, and did my best to come back with some hip new terms to toss around the water cooler. Granted, some of these terms are not easy to work into a sentence, and let's face it, no matter how many times we say "switch framework," we're still going to feel a little geeky about it.
Part 1 of this TechEd terminology primer provides some insight into where SAP is headed by looking at some terms that are being sent to the graveyard. Part 2 will examine SAP terms that are becoming more common -- terms that could signify the beginning of trends that drive demand for SAP skills.
SAP terms that aren't going to be cool for much longer
You might be able to get away with using some of these terms for a while longer, but pretty soon it will be time to take them out of everyday use.
A1S -- SAP's placeholder name for its on-demand software for the lower mid-market, now called BBD (Business ByDesign). We barely had time to use A1S before it was replaced.
Business Warehouse (BW) -- The functions that BW performs for SAP are becoming more important, not less. But it's been decided that "intelligence" is more appealing than a "warehouse," so BW shifts to BI. Part of this shift is surely due to the way that SAP is embedding analytic and reporting functions into all aspects of its software. Therefore, the "Warehouse" term isn't really a good reflection of a product that is increasingly integrated with all aspects of operational SAP, as opposed to being used and perceived as a standalone warehouse.
Configuration -- "Configuration" within the SAP world typically refers to the key task performed by functional consultants: configuring SAP's tables. More precisely, "configuration" refers to the adjustments functional experts make to whatever pre-shipped configuration has been activated.
As SAP becomes more and more pre-configured according to industry best practices, and easier to complement via add-on enterprise services, we can expect the role of the "silo functional specialist" who configures tables in one particular area to be reduced. Right now, of course, there is plenty of this type of configuration work out there, but even though the term still appears on a lot of job orders, "configuration" is not a term that is emphasized by SAP itself.
NetWeaver XI -- XI (Exchange Interface), we hardly knew ye. PI takes over from here, with apologies to all those who were accustomed to using it to describe Process Industry functionality. From here on out, the prime use of PI will be for NetWeaver Process Integration.
Programming -- This is on the list as a joke, but there's no question that SAP is more than ever emphasizing modeling tools over hands-on coding. Speculation is that modeling tools that generate automated code could eventually replace up to 70% of today's hands-on development work. I expect that this change is a bit over-hyped -- there will always be room on a project for an ace developer -- but the emphasis on the automation of development work, as well as on reusable "composite" applications, should not go unnoticed.
Jon Reed is an independent SAP analyst who writes on SAP consulting trends. He is the President of JonERP.com, an interactive web site which features take on SAP career trends. Jon is also the author of the SAP Consultant Handbook, and he serves as the career expert for SearchSAP's "Ask the Expert" panel.
Part 2 of Jon Reed's series on TechEd 2007 terminology will focus on terms that are becoming more important for SAP consultants to have in their vocabulary.