Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is the future of SAP consultants/project managers?

Jon ReedWhat's your take on the future market demand for SAP consultants/project managers?
Based on my past 10+ years Oracle experience, I have two lucrative opportunities:
1. Project cum delivery manager of (BO + Java + Oracle products)
2. SAP consultant

While the first option offers a head start to a senior-level position, for the second I would require to work as team member for at least a one-year implementation cycle, before moving to a senior / PM level position.
My personal inclination is towards becoming a functional consultant for a particular domain and less for keeping up-to-date with upcoming technology. However, uncertainty about SAP consulting demand in the market makes me ask you this question. Would this investment in time and compromise in pay finally benefit me in the long run, or would it be risky to commit myself to something (SAP) where demand fluctuates based on market?

You ask a good question, but I think you are over-thinking this one. No one can truly anticipate all aspects of the market. I would not be comfortable with you taking my word that the SAP consulting option is the better one and choosing that. You just don't know what is going to be the most marketable area going forward. I think both of your career choices are appealing, and you need to make that decision based on where your passion and talent lies.

There's a big difference between the day-to-day job role of an SAP consultant versus being a project and delivery manager. I really think that you need to think about which type of responsibilities you would be more interested in mastering since they are so different. But stepping back from that, as a rule, it's always a risk to move from a managerial role back to a hands-on role. I don't think SAP is hot enough to accelerate you right back into management again.
If you move to hands-on, it may be a long time before you are back into a management capacity again. If you are truly torn between the two and like them both equally, I would vote for you to stay with the project management role. However, it sounds to me like your heart is more in this career change to SAP consultant. Just remember that being an SAP consultant is a very competitive undertaking, and as a new consultant you'll be up against many senior consultants.
To answer your question, I do believe that the SAP consulting will remain hot through the upgrade wave of the next three years, but as a relatively inexperienced consultant, you may find it more challenging to capitalize on that market than a more senior consultant would. There's no one right answer to your question, but I hope this discussion of the factors in your decision was helpful to you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Differences between LSMW and BDC

Differences between LSMW and BDC

Batch Data Communication (BDC) is the oldest batch interfacing technique that SAP provided since the early versions of R/3. BDC is not a
typical integration tool, in the sense that, it can be only be used for uploading data into R/3 and so it is not bi-directional.
BDC works on the principle of simulating user input for transactional screen, via an ABAP program. Typically the input comes in the form
of a flat file. The ABAP program reads this file and formats the input data screen by screen into an internal table (BDCDATA). The
transaction is then started using this internal table as the input and executed in the background.

In Call Transaction, the transactions are triggered at the time of processing itself and so the ABAP program must do the error handling.
It can also be used for real-time interfaces and custom error handling & logging features. Whereas in Batch Input Sessions, the ABAP
program creates a session with all the transactional data, and this session can be viewed, scheduled and processed (using
Transaction SM35) at a later time. The latter technique has a built-in error processing mechanism too.

Batch Input (BI) programs still use the classical BDC approach but doesnt require an ABAP program to be written to format the
BDCDATA. The user has to format the data using predefined structures and store it in a flat file. The BI program then reads this and
invokes the transaction mentioned in the header record of the file.

Direct Input (DI) programs work exactly similar to BI programs. But the only difference is, instead of processing screens they validate
fields and directly load the data into tables using standard function modules. For this reason, DI programs are much faster (RMDATIND - Material Master DI program works at least 5 times faster) than the BDC counterpart and so ideally suited for loading large volume data. DI programs are
not available for all application areas.

LSMW is an encapsulated data transfer tool. It can provide the same functionality as BDC infact much more but when coming to techinical perspective most the parameters are encapulated. To listout some of the differences :

  • LSMW is basicaly designed for a fuctional consultant who do not do much coding but need to explore the fuctionality while BDC is designed for a technical consultant.
  • LSMW offers different techinque for migrating data: Direct input ,BAPI,Idoc,Batch input recording. While bdc basically uses recording.
  • LSMW mapping is done by SAP while in BDC we have to do it explicitly .
  • LSMW is basically for standard SAP application while bdc basically for customized application.
  • Coding can be done flexibly in BDC when compared to LSMW

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why are SAPscripts client-dependent and Smart Forms client-independent?

Mark SmithsonEXPERT RESPONSE FROM: Mark Smithson

Why are SAPscripts client-dependent and Smart Forms client-independent?

SAPscript technology is based on a mainframe product from the 1980s, while Smart Forms have only been around since (roughly) 2001. With that sort of time gap, there are bound to be significant differences between the two tools. As you have noted correctly, client dependence is a fundamental one.

Although SAPscript has had some incremental improvements over time, its forms have always been -- under the hood -- relatively passive objects, with minimal embedded logic. These forms were designed to be driven and controlled by ABAP programs, much in the way ABAP programs read in database tables to produce reports; if you ever download a SAPscript form (e.g., via utility program RSTXSCRP), and look at the portable text file it produces you'll see what I mean. Many text objects (e.g., invoice header texts) are bound directly to documents which are client-dependent, so it makes sense for these text objects to also be client-dependent. From a complexity standpoint, SAPscript forms are close enough to these text objects where I can see how it made sense at the time to make them client-dependent too.
Conversely, a Smart Form is significantly more robust and complex. For instance, it can contain program nodes and nested tables with patterns. When a Smart Form is compiled, it generates an ABAP function module – and these are always client-independent. This is appropriate, given that this form has more in common with an ABAP program than its predecessor. For instance, when a print program calls a Smart Form, the form itself takes over to produce output, without any further direction from the print program. In fact, the join is so seamless that I often find myself using a Smart Form's Initialization section for logic to handle any data gathering not handled by the print program. I would never even think to attempt this with SAPscript.
I suspect several factors figured into SAP's decision to make Smart Forms client-independent, including customer feedback. There are significant advantages to client-independence. For instance, a change made in one development client happens immediately across all development clients. Among other things, this means we don't have to waste time figuring which client contains the most recent version -- they all do! In addition, transporting Smart Forms is easier, since we can safely bundle them together in the same transport as their client-independent print programs (no worry about mixing client-dependent and independent objects).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Can an Oracle DBA break into SAP Basis?



I am currently working as an SQL Server/Oracle DBA with five years experience in this domain, working for a database consultancy. I want to switch over to the SAP domain. However, I am unsure which area of SAP to focus on.

I have seen many ads for SAP Basis administrators, which requires core DBA skills within SQL Server or Oracle. I have that, but there are other SAP-specific skills required for the SAP Basis admin side that I do not have (e.g. system copies, data migration, upgrades etc) .
My questions are:
1) How easy do you think it would be for a DBA like me to break into the SAP Basis admin arena, without having the SAP Basis specific skills?
2) Would SAP Basis administration be the only area of SAP I could break into with my current skill set, or do you think I might have a shot at getting into the functional side?
3) Is SAP Basis going to be around for the next 5-10 years?
4) Is SAP Basis the most financially rewarding SAP discipline?
5) Do you think I should take any SAP Basis admin specific courses?

Thanks for the thoughtful questions. You have given a lot of thought to how you might map your skills into SAP. Let me go through each of your questions:

1. I don't necessarily think it's easy for a DBA to break into Basis, but I agree with you that this is the most natural entry point into SAP from your current skills. Remember that some Basis roles are much more DBA-focused than others. Most Basis folks I know these days generally work with a DBA who specializes in that area, but it's still valuable to have DBA know-how if you're a Basis person and that is the most logical entry point into SAP for a DBA.
2. Yes, I think Basis is the best place for you to try to enter the SAP world. I think the functional role would be too much of a leap for you at this point. But, once you break into SAP, you could then look to move into a functional role down the line.
3. I don't think Basis will be around much five years from now as a core skill, but the natural evolution of the Basis administrator, the NetWeaver administrator, should be alive and well. It's not the easiest area of SAP to succeed in, but companies certainly need these kinds of folks and will continue to. The only risk you run is that if more and more companies go the way of hosted applications, then on-site system administrators won't be under the same level of demand. But while I do expected hosted applications to be more of a factor five years from now, I don't think it will take away from the need for on-site system admins.
4. No, Basis isn't the most financially rewarding area of SAP, there are many niche functional areas that pay better, but Basis can be one of the highest paying contract roles on the technical side of SAP, with the possible exception of BW, XI, and Portals - and keep in mind that good Basis people can touch on those three areas also.
5. Sure, if you can afford to take courses, go for it. If you go through my SearchSAP archives, you'll see that I am pretty skeptical of the power of certification when it comes to landing your first SAP job. But it's still valuable knowledge. I would recommend you use your course and training budget to learn forward-thinking technologies. So instead of taking a Basis admin course, take some kind of NetWeaver-related course instead. The biggest challenge you need to address right now is to spend more time learning where SAP is going. Basis is rapidly becoming yesterday's technology, so be careful, it's harder to catch a train from behind.

Which has better prospects -- ABAP or SAP BI?

Jay NarayananEXPERT RESPONSE FROM: Jay Narayanan

I have been certified in ABAP and now I will be working in SAP BI. Do you consider ABAP and BI complementary? Which has better prospects?

Knowing ABAP is definitely an advantage if you work on SAP, regardless of any module, including BI. But having experience in just ABAP may not be helpful in the long run.

BI has better prospects and experienced BI professionals are going to be more in demand since BI is gaining more traction as IT industries gear towards SOA.

Breaking into a functional SAP career without the technical side (ABAP/Basis)?


I have been a mainframe programmer for about six years now. I am tired of programming and want to break into the functional side of SAP. I am just beginning to learn about SAP and still in the research phase.

Since I have been working on the technical side (non-SAP), would it be possible for me to break into a functional SAP career, without crossing the technical SAP bridge (ABAP/Basis)? Also, my domain expertise is in customer support for Telecom Operations (Verizon/AT&T being the clients). Which module of SAP would be the best for me?

For your first question, the answer is, I don't know. Unfortunately while I might have some decent advice from time to time, I don't have the kind of crystal ball that would offer you an assurance. If you are truly sick of programming and want to "go functional," what I recommend in this case is to go for the functional side of SAP first. If it doesn't work out, then you can go to "plan b," which is to find a technical role in SAP, and then move into the functional side of SAP over time.

It's good to remember that usually you can only make one major shift per job change. Switching from technical non-SAP to technical SAP is one shift, and from technical SAP to functional SAP is another. I know it's hard to stick with something when you're ready to move on to a new skill set, but if you have trouble making two jumps in one job search you may have to take it one step at a time. But if you are patient and determined, you have a good chance of pulling it off. As for the second question, based on your customer support and call center background, I'd target SAP CRM as your entry point. Even landing a role on the technical side of an SAP CRM project would be a great first step for you. Good luck!

SAP ABAP certification


Currently I hold a bachelor's degree in information technology. Should I get certified in SAP ABAP from Siemens Informations Systems LTD? Keep in mind that Siemens is very expensive and holds a lot of weight in the final decision.

If you do not think I should pursue a career in ABAP, which technical field should I choose in SAP?

ABAP is not a bad area of technical fundamentals for you in SAP, but remember that the programming side of SAP generally has lower rates and a higher level of competition from project offshoring. You might find that getting a NetWeaver type of certification, or even a BW/BI certification, is ultimately more marketable. I don't know a lot about the Siemens SAP certification, but Siemens is very well respected in the SAP field so it might add some credibility to your resume. Having said that, I will tell you that I rarely encourage SAP certification for those who are tight on costs. I feel that in many ways, a better use of time is to focus on marketing your existing skills to customers running on SAP and break into SAP from the inside. Remember that SAP consulting is really not a certification driven market the way that some other software and hardware markets are.

Project experience is the key, and investing time in books and research into companies running SAP in your field could be a better option. I'm not saying don't get certified in SAP, just be realistic that it may not be the key to landing an SAP position. I think knowing how to make your current skills appealing to SAP customers and their IT departments may be more important. One good exercise is to review current SAP jobs on sites like and see what kinds of skills are required. See how often certification is listed as required or preferred, and what other skills are needed. This will not only give you a better idea of what skills are truly hot, it will also help you to see how important certification really is (or isn't). I think you'll be surprised at how few SAP jobs actually require certification in order to apply.
The key to breaking into SAP remains hard work, good overall technical and business skills, and savvy self-marketing. Certification can help too, but the other areas I just listed are more important in most cases.

Is SAP ABAP a career sand trap?


I'm a recent graduate with a BSCS. My areas of interest include C++, Java, C# and systems type programming. I've had one job offer so far. They want an SAP BW ABAP programmer. They provide 4 weeks training.
How hard would it be for an SAP BW ABAP person to change careers and do systems programming using C++ after 2 or 3 years? I don't want to necessarily get stuck in SAP. I'm concerned that in 3 years, my resume will be all business/SAP and no systems/C++.
After reading many posts on, I'm getting the feeling that once you're an SAP person, you stay there for life. Is SAP ABAP a sand trap?

This is a terrific question. You have hit on two of the most important things people ask me about. One is: should you take a job in an area of SAP you might not prefer because that is where the opportunity is? The other is: can you get "trapped" in ABAP?

Let's look at the first part of the question: ordinarily, when you can find a company to train you in SAP, that is a pretty good deal. Even for promising young college grads, it can be hard to find a job that trains in SAP. In these kinds of situations, it all depends on what other job offers you have in your hand. In your case, so far, you only have one. What I would do is to postpone accepting this first job offer as long as you reasonably can without losing the opportunity. In the meantime, apply for some other kinds of SAP positions and also some non-SAP positions in Java and C++. See what kinds of job offers you get, and then choose the best one. Let's assume just for the sake of your question that you only end up with this one offer: is it smart to take an ABAP job, or are you really "trapped in ABAP?"
I don't believe you are trapped in ABAP, and here's why: SAP has built support for ABAP into its NetWeaver architecture (consider the NetWeaver Application Server with ABAP, for example. SAP even has it own version of Web Dynpro for ABAP. But most NetWeaver components are "wrapped" in layers of open standard languages such as Java and XML. So this means that an ABAP person on a NetWeaver project should also be able to get exposure to web-based languages and integration tools. As long as you can find your way into these kinds of forward-thinking projects, you shouldn't get "trapped" in ABAP. On the other hand, I do think that ABAP is subject to more pressure from global offshoring than other areas of SAP. This means more competition for openings and lower rates.
On the other hand, many Java and C++ programmers are in the same boat. I think you could say that all kinds of programmers face similar challenges from offshoring, so those issues are not unique to ABAP. ABAP is not the most marketable area in SAP, but there are definitely some ABAP programmers doing very well right now while maintaining exposure to Java-related technologies. I write a lot about the challenges facing ABAP programmers in this column, so keep reading.

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