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How ABAP programmers can survive outsourcing

Cranky ABAP programmers watching their jobs shipped overseas may want to jump on the radio frequency identification (RFID) bandwagon, or look toward new corporate compliance laws for employment opportunities.

"Think again," said Jon Reed, an SAP career expert with and director of online content for "Take a deep breath and think about a practical extension of your skill sets."

In an interview with, Reed discussed ways that frustrated programmers and job-seeking consultants can better market themselves to hiring managers.

What advice do you have for ABAP programmers? If you think you can put your head down for 10 hours a day and crank...

out code, then you're wrong. That's not going to cut it anymore. Offshore outsourcing ABAP has been so successful because you can cut out a specific component that you need, and you're not really giving up some core business process. Try to get skills on the cutting edge. SAP is doing more with Web development and portals technology, and if programmers move into this area they can better market themselves in their changing environment.


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Check out our featured topic Outsourcing: Are you next?.

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Do you have any suggestions for how to get that first one?
You can get certifications, which shows that you would be comfortable with a particular technology. Also, you should choose jobs where you have the best likelihood of going in the direction of an upgrade. If a person has two job offers, and one is offering a low rate, but also seems aggressive about their upgrade cycle, then go for the lower rate and try to get swept up in the upgrade. Invest in training and with persistence you will sooner or later be pulled along with a 4.7 upgrade. Should SAP job seekers still look toward upgrade projects for jobs?
I think it is easy to land a job with an upgrade project if you already have the experience. The hard part is landing your first upgrade job. If you don't have any upgrade experience and a company has a choice between you and another equally qualified consultant who has the experience they're going to go with the experience. For the most part people get on their first upgrade project because they were in the right place at the right time. It's hard to nail the first one. How can consultants respond to offshore outsourcing?
There are a lot of angry consultants out there. I think people feel like the rug got pulled out from under them. Outsourcing has impacted ABAP programmers more then anyone else. Functional stuff is a lot harder to outsource. For example, SAP CRM, mobile sales and Internet commerce jobs are not likely to be outsourced. Those kinds of functional things are harder to outsource because they tie into a company's critical data. System administration is also not getting hit very hard. What are the latest skill trends in the SAP job market right now?
SAP CRM is the hottest area -- followed by SAP SCM and SAP APO. The overall CRM market is on the rebound, and SAP's own CRM product is becoming progressively more sophisticated. Any area of supply chain management is on fire right now. Companies are trying to get their supply chain updated online in real-time updates from retailers about customer demand and SAP Advanced Planner and Optimizer will be part of that. Wireless connectivity is very strong. Portals is also taking off and there is plenty of work out there.
Any area of supply chain management is on fire right now.
Jon Reed
SAP careers expert
How can a professional looking to expand their skill set decide on a direction?
The key to breaking into new areas is connecting a hot area to a logical extension of your current skill set. If you're a financials guy, and you hear RFID is hot and you chase that -- that doesn't make much sense to me and it won't make much sense to a hiring manager. You're better off looking at compliance issues for example. People need to be a little bit more careful about connecting skills to the next big thing. We've been hearing a lot about radio frequency identification, and regulatory compliance issues. Are these the next big skill sets?
A consultant I was talking to about RFID recently was laughing about it.

For many years there's been this RF, functionality and no one made any fuss about it until recently. I don't see a lot of RFID job orders as of yet. We know RFID is going to happen. The question is 'When?' I don't think its going to explode the way people are implying.

Jon Reed

SAP does have a new component of its software called Compliance Management. A person would need a lot of technical knowledge of the SAP environment to get into this area. Someone who understands the new reporting rules, and how they affect a particular industry, will find the jobs here.

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