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What is The One Tool Every SAP Consultant Should Master?

This is one of the hardest questions you could possibly ask me, because SAP is so vast that there is never one tool that will suit every SAP consultant. The best approach is to assess your current skill set, figure out where SAP is headed with its new eSOA architecture, and make sure you bridge that "skills gap" before you get left behind. But having said that, you asked the question and I’m going to try to give you a good answer.

To make matters more challenging, in the NetWeaver and eSOA era, there are all kinds of nifty SAP tools to add to your skill set. From Visual Composer to the NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE), from Enterprise Modeler (formerly Aris for NetWeaver) to Master Data Management (MDM), there’s all kinds of tools you could expand your skills for greater marketability. Of course, which tool you pursue next will depend on the opportunities on your project and the focus of your current skill set.

  But keeping in mind that one-size-never-fits-all in SAP, one tool stands out above the others: Solution Manager. What I can tell you after having attended dozens of workshops at SAPPHIRE and TechEd, as well as sitting through more SAP webcasts than a rational person would advise, is that Solution Manager gets mentioned more than any other tool. SAP certainly features Solution Manager prominently on its own web site.

I find that what SAP chooses to feature and promote is always a good thing to pay attention to. For example, trying finding the words "ABAP" or "Basis" on SAP’s Solutions pages. Now, this does NOT mean that ABAP and Basis are dying skill sets. It simply means that SAP is not emphasizing these areas. This choice in emphasis falls in line with SAP trying to hide the underlying complexity of the technology from the users, who simply want to get their work done anyhow without digging for loose wires.

My own car is a good analogy here: if I pop the hood of my car, I see the simplest and cleanest looking engine layout of any car I have ever owned. And yet the underlying complexity is far greater. But I do not need to see it or understand it to run my car. SAP wants its business users to feel the same way about SAP. So when we see Solution Manager featured so prominently on SAP’s web site, we know that it fits in with where SAP is headed next.

The reason I like Solution Manager so much is that it applies to many different SAP contexts. It’s a bridge between pre-NetWeaver SAP, NetWeaver SAP, and the eSOA and BI/analytics era also. You can use Solution Manager to manage your SAP upgrade, and then you can use it for performance management and optimization after the upgrade. Solution Manager even contains a comprehensive SAP change management program for handling the cultural and role changes involved in new SAP rollouts.

Of course, there are many different components within Solution Manager, which means there is a lot to learn. But that also means you can approach Solution Manager from many different directions, including technical change control management, testing, IT and application support, and even diagnostic "root cause analysis."

One nice thing about Solution Manager is that you can get access to some version of it on almost any version of SAP from 4.7 onward. And if you need exposure to it and don’t have project access, firms such as Michael Management are now offering Solution Manager training for very affordable prices.

Solution Manager also positions you to get involved with cutting edge eSOA projects. You can generate "process objects" with Solution Manager, allowing you to begin the road towards composite application development. You can also port data from Solution Manager into Master Data Management (MDM) for number-crunching and KPI analysis.

For what it’s worth, this is not just my opinion. In the last couple of months, most SAP "experts" I have talked with have brought up Solution Manager as a key part of SAP’s technical strategy and an important area for SAP consultants to get a handle on.

As SAP continues its push towards 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 like Solution Manager will be integral to this vision. So until I see something different, you can assume that I consider Solution Manager to be the best all-purpose tool you could possibly add to an SAP skill set.

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