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What Do You Think About xMII as an SAP Consulting Focus?

This question was posed to me by a senior ABAP programmer with some Java skills. xMII is one of SAP?’s most popular new xApps. Billed as "the world’s first manufacturing intelligence portal," this "SAP xApp for Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence?" has a host of nifty functions, including the web-enabling of a company’s manufacturing and information systems to provide a standard interface for all users. The question of the day is: what does xMII look like as a consulting focus?

The problem with predicting the future of an xApp is that the whole game is so new, it’s hard to see how it might end and who the winners will be. So far, the reception for xApps has been enthusiastic, and why not? xApps allow companies to build and re-use functional applications than run on top of the NetWeaver platform — and you can run xApps without integration headaches since they plug right into the NetWeaver architecture, at least in theory.

I recently heard from an SAP developer on an xMII project, and what impressed me was that he was really beefing up his development background. He’s no longer just an ABAP programmer. He’s got Java skills, web services/SOA skills, and since the core data representation of xMII is XML-based, he’s picked up quite a bit of XML expertise as well.

What I like about his skills is that whether or not xMII is hugely successful, his overall web-based skills are doing to serve him well. He fits the profile of that hotshot "SAP developer of the future" as much as anyone.

Here’s the thing with xApps: I don’t know if you can confidently focus on just one at this point. But there’s no doubt that the skills that go from one xApp to another are transferable. So as you master one, you should be able to move to another.

Even if your current xApps runs dry in the market, there will be other xApps to work on to advance your skills. For this reason, I like xApps as a consulting focus more than I do a mad pursuit of a career in just one particular xApp like xMII.

One thing we have to remember: you can only run xApps once you have your NetWeaver system humming underneath it. And many companies are not exactly humming on NetWeaver yet, despite SAP’s impressive marketing efforts.

Eventually, the upgrade push will get more companies in a position where they can consider xApps, but for now, we have to be wary of counting too much on an area where there isn’t as much consulting demand. You can’t have huge consulting demand until you have a large amount of customers running live on the latest platform and hollering for consulting help. When the demand is a trickle, SAP scoops up that business before it even gets to most of us.

So I like the xApp area, but you have to be careful not to get too far ahead of the market. The good thing is that the xApp skill set is so transferable inside and outside of SAP that you should be able to put on a new hat even if the market is a little unkind to the xApp you are currently focused on.

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