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Which SAP Skill is More in Demand, BW/BI or ABAP?

This is not even a close question at this point. BW/BI is much more in demand than ABAP. In this comparision, BW/BI is the DVD player, and ABAP is the VHS video tape.
That may not be totally fair, I guess, because SAP is including full support for ABAP in the NetWeaver 2004s technology platform. Essentially SAP has figured out how to "wrap" ABAP in web-based integration protocols, and that has extended ABAP’s lifespan dramatically while keeping ABAP more in the spotlight than it would have been.

So if that’s true, then where do I get off saying that BW/BI is in much more demand than ABAP? To understand the consulting market, we have to look at every source of supply for a particular skill set. Yes, there are a lot of ABAP projects out there, but remember, ABAP is the most commonly outsourced SAP project area.

The thing about offshoring is that it increases the overall supply of consultants, since the pool for consultants is effectively globalized. Demand for ABAP then goes down. It may be unfair to say that ABAP is "dead." A better way of putting it is that ABAP is globalized. That’s what’s hurting ABAP rates the most. Yes, there is room on project sites for top notch ABAP-Java "hybrid" programmers who can really make the latest SAP tools hum. But for the most part, ABAP demand is flat and so are rates.

BI, on the other hand, is one of the hottest areas of SAP. What are the reasons for this? First, the usage of BW is more and more common across SAP projects, so the demand is high. When we consider that as of NetWeaver 2004s, SAP BI (the new name for BW) ships with the core NetWeaver platform, usage of BI is just going to increase. So, the demand for BI is high and looks to remain so as the upgrade waves continue.

And here’s the other thing: the supply of Business Intelligence (BI) consultants is not what it needs to be. As consultants have learned the hard way, most companies won’t hire you unless you have worked in the latest releases. And there aren’t that many consultants who have been through a BI 7.0 implementation yet. So anyone who can get the BI 7.0 skills first should have an edge - especially if they have a deep BW background.

The ideal way to succeed in SAP is always to combine a deeper expertise with relevant, project-proven skills in something hot and new (such as BI). I’m not as skeptical on the future of ABAP as some, but when ABAP goes head-to-head with BI, there’s no competition at all. BI is without question the better career path.

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