SAP R/3 and other SAP products such as BW, APO, CRM are very comprehensive and complex, both in terms of the IT and the business dimension. A typical ‘SAP-expert’ has very good business knowledge and SAP-skills in either one to two functional modules of SAP R/3 (e.g. FI/CO and SD) or in one of the ‘new dimension solutions’ (e.g. BW). In addition, he or she will have a basic understanding of all other modules and products (Note: Understanding the new dimension products always requires a basic understanding of SAP R/3).
Becoming an ‘SAP-expert’ requires, above all, good knowledge of business processes and a substantial amount of SAP-training. In addition to that, becoming an ‘SAP-consultant’ requires good communication skills, project management skills, and problem solving capacity. These three aspects are usually gained through and evidenced by job experience in general and (SAP) project experience in particular.
From all the above-mentioned it is clear that you will not be an SAP-consultant once you have finished some or even all of the subjects mentioned above. The subjects will, however, be of great value for you, if you pursue one of the following options:
Feb 3, 2008
Jan 19, 2008
BUSINESS PROCESS EXPERTS
- 1. End-to-end business process know-how will be more important than "silo" functional knowledge in just one area.
- 2. BPM tool expertise
- 3. "Soft Skills" -- the ability to be a customer-facing SAP professional who understands business strategy, rather than a "cubicle coder." Soft skills are about having the savvy to be a "marriage counselor" between IT and the business user community, according to ten Vaanholt.
- 4. Industry knowledge -- SAP professionals need to cultivate more industry focus, rather than jumping around from project to project across many industries.
- 5. Web 2.0 skills
- 6. SAP product knowledge -- traditional SAP product knowledge, with a good understanding of the NetWeaver architecture and the delivery of future upgrades via "enhancement packages."
We're entering the eSOA and NetWeaver era of SAP. But what does that mean for SAP professionals?
eSOA (enterprise service-oriented architecture) is a vast umbrella of emerging technologies, and NetWeaver is a broad technical landscape with a number of different components.
Today's SAP professional faces a much more immediate challenge: How do you make the right project choices and obtain the skills you need to stay marketable?
One goal in creating this list was to avoid generalities. For example, we know that it's important to get SAP upgrade experience, so it's useless to list that. But are there tools commonly used in upgrades we can get exposure to? That's where this list can help.
2008 and beyond
Solution Manager -- It's one of the few bridges between pre-NetWeaver SAP, NetWeaver SAP, and the eSOA and analytics era -- you don't have to be on the latest version of SAP to get access to this tool.
You can use Solution Manager to manage your SAP upgrade, and then for performance management and optimization afterward. Solution Manager even contains a comprehensive change management program for handling the cultural and role changes involved in new SAP rollouts.
Solution Manager also positions you to get involved with cutting-edge eSOA projects. You can generate "process objects" with Solution Manager, allowing you to start down the road toward composite application development. You can also port data from Solution Manager into Master Data Management (MDM) for number-crunching. As SAP continues its push toward a "business process platform," it is also making an effort to automate routine processes and provide a central spot for managing system performance and business processes. More and more, it looks as if Solution Manager will be integral to this vision.
BI/BW MDX (Multi-Dimensional Expression Language) -- We can all agree that the core ERP functional areas are hot, because core upgrades are driving demand for those skills. We also know that BI/BW (Business Intelligence/Business Warehouse) is a major area of consulting growth -- all the reader polls put BI/BW skills well ahead of xApps or eSOA.
A lot of SAP folks haven't heard of BW MDX, but it's a key to creating SOA-driven "mashups" that leverage the BW environment. And the best thing? You don't have to be running on BI 7.0 to use MDX. Any BW application from 3.x onward that runs on some flavor on NetWeaver can "express an MDX."
There is a general trend toward using BI-driven mashups, and MDX allows you to take advantage of third-party best-of-breed content and "mash" it with your internal data. This might be the easiest way to get involved in SOA and generate instant value that can be used to build momentum for more eSOA projects.
If you can't get access to MDX right away and you're an SAP technical type, you can still gear up for eventual MDX work by getting more involved with XML and XML/A, an XML for Analysis tool.
NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE) -- The NetWeaver CE is SAP's versatile Java-based environment that now ships with NetWeaver 7.1. Just because CE is a Java EE 5 platform doesn't mean that SAP is abandoning ABAP, but skills in the CE toolkit are going to be valuable.
Why include a product as vast as CE? Because unlike most SAP products, you can test drive CE on your own, right from the SAP Developer Network.
CE has many different components. Its strongly recommend spending time with the Enterprise Service Repository, the NetWeaver Application Studio, and of course Web Dynpro. Also make sure to check out the SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio, which is now based on Eclipse 3.3. I would suggest that even functional types spend a bit of time with the modeling environments within CE, especially Visual Composer.
Visual Composer -- Visual Composer has gotten a bit lost in the skills shuffle due to the emphasis on more glamorous BPM (business process management) tools. But make no mistake, it is very powerful for both functional and technical consultants.
Visual Composer is not just for building slick GUIs, it's great for taking advantage of the mashup power of SAP Analytics. A technical expert may be needed to drive these model designs home, but there is a lot that a functional (or technical) person can do within the Visual Composer environment.
Admittedly, Visual Composer is not as easy to get your hands on as some SAP tools. There are currently two versions: Visual Composer 6.0 was made available as part of NetWeaver 7.0, and with NetWeaver 7.1, Visual Composer ships as part of the NetWeaver Composition Environment.
Oracle's $8.5 billion acquisition of BEA Systems Inc. is likely to rekindle the battle for middleware supremacy, according to one IT industry analyst. But it's tough to predict who will come out on top.
Oracle's Fusion and SAP's NetWeaver middleware platforms both have their strengths, according to Dennis Callaghan, an analyst with New York's 451 Group. But the acquisition of San Jose, Calif.-based BEA gives Oracle an edge, in that it proves the company is a viable middleware vendor that is committed to openness.
Oracle's purchases of major software players like PeopleSoft, Hyperion and Siebel Systems have forced the company to become more open than SAP in recent years, Callaghan said, and BEA gives Oracle some serious middleware street credit.
The answer to the question of whether SAP is a stronger middleware player than Oracle really comes down to who is being asked and where that person's application investments lie, Callaghan said.
At their cores, he continued, Fusion and NetWeaver middleware are integration and business process management software layers built for the application environments of Oracle and SAP, respectively.
"Both will connect their own applications with other applications fairly well. But you're not going to buy NetWeaver if you don't have, or plan to have, an investment in SAP business applications," he said. "Similarly, you won't buy Fusion Middleware if you don't have, or plan to [make], an investment in Oracle applications."
Oracle could, however, have an edge in mixed applications environments, Callaghan explained.
"NetWeaver is great in an SAP-centric environment," he said. "If you're a bit more [prone to] best-of-breed/heterogeneous/open standards on the applications side, you're better off with third-party middleware, and Oracle will clearly have that now."
For example, he said, thanks to the BEA acquisition, Infor or Lawson business applications users might consider Oracle middleware for the first time without fear of having to migrate wholesale to Oracle applications in the future.
"Oracle will now be able to make the case that they're better equipped to handle mixed environments, that they're less likely to lock you into using their applications," he said. "The WebLogic application server is a better and more widely used product than anything Oracle or SAP had offered before."
Java-based NetWeaver is currently more open than it has been in the past, but Callaghan suggested that SAP might benefit from a similar acquisition designed to make the platform even more open.
"SAP would need to acquire Tibco to effectively counter this move," he said. "That would be a pretty significant strategic shift for them; but it's a possibility."
According to Callaghan, SAP and NetWeaver have distinct advantages when it comes to business process management technology, an area that hasn't been a strong point for Oracle.
"Oracle will get [the BPM technology] BEA got when it bought Fuego, which isn't bad, but that of course will require some integration with the Oracle applications family," he said. "I'd say SAP is ahead there."
Also, if Oracle is not careful, its many acquisitions could lead to confusion among customers, Callaghan said.
"I think we counted about four different portal products Oracle's going to have after this acquisition, which is just confusing," he said. "So I'd give SAP an edge there, at least in the short term."
The bottom line is that it's tough to say which platform is superior, Fusion or NetWeaver, Callaghan said."Consolidation always creates opportunities to look at new vendors," Callaghan said. "So it never hurts to consider alternatives when there is any uncertainty about future product development plans."