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Should an ABAP Programmer Move into SD or BW?

This question was posed to me by an ABAP programmer who has four years of experience and some functional knowledge in finance, heading towards a CPA degree. Like many ABAP programmers, he is fighting the urge to run for the hills and trying to make a good strategic decision. One thing I like about this guy: he’s not just bailing on ABAP. He wants to combine the best of all of his skills.

I’m always disappointed when I run into folks who are simply abandoning their current skills because they are sure there is something hotter around the corner. The best way to proceed in the SAP market is to take what you’re good at and add something hot and compelling to that. Don’t abandon, expand. End of sermon.

So, with that in mind, what do we make of this fellow’s thinking? My first question was, "Why SD?" SD is not a bad area to focus in right now, being part of the enterprise core, but when you have knowledge of a range of modules, and when you are heading towards CPA-level financial knowledge, why not look at the finance areas in SAP? Why not SAP Financials? Connecting your knowledge base to your SAP specialty is the key.

I don’t honestly know how technical this person wants to remain in the next phase of his SAP career. One thing I did like was his suggestion to get involved in BW. In fact, I would say that if he is going to "stay technical," then BW/BI is where it’s at. Why is that? Because BW has now swallowed up SEM in the most recent versions of SAP. So, an ABAP/BW/SEM toolkit would be a great skill set for a techno-functional consultant with CPA-type know-how.

So, that’s what I would do if I were staying on the technical side. If I were looking functional, I’d probably focus on SAP Financials. Obviously, Financials is a broad focus. Since upgrades are about core functionality, I’d want to get some experience with the new and improved GL for sure. After that, who knows? Some kind of combination of core FI know-how and some strategic knowledge, whether it involves compliance, legal consolidation, or treasury and cash management - some kind of combination of "emerging FI" and "core FI" is ideal.

So if this person moves in a functional direction, does that mean they are just throwing out their ABAP experience like yesterday’s trash? Not necessarily. I find that there is still room on many projects for a functional resource who understands how to speak the language of code and can relay specifications to the technical team without making them think you don’t know what the heck you are talking about.

Even if this person eventually becomes a full-fledged SAP Financials consultant, I’m sure his ABAP skills will continue to serve him well. If nothing else, he will know to warn his clients before they indulge in costly ABAP customizations, because he has been the one who had to stay late on weekends and do those customizations in the past. Becoming a great SAP consultant is all about integrating the best parts of your background into one focused skill set.

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