SAP Podcast: Jon Reed Interviews Kent Sanders of CSC on NetWeaver Skills Trends

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"The End of the Line for the R/3 Basis Consultant -
and the Basis-to-NetWeaver Skills Transition"
Podcast Interview Date, July 25, 2008
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In this landmark podcast, Jon speaks with Kent Sanders, Senior Technology Architect for CSC Consulting, about the beginning of the end for the traditional R/3 Basis Consultant, and how to make the skills transition to "NetWeaver Engineer." Kent explains why mastering NetWeaver is essential for getting involved with eSOA, and why eSOA has moved from hype to reality. Loaded with practical skills tips for consultants and project teams, Kent SAP professionals an inside view on how they can round out their skills, avoid being outsourced, and stay marketable in the NetWeaver era.

During the interview, Kent talks about the differences between the classic Basis skill set and the emerging "NetWeaver Engineer" skill set. He goes into the specifics of the tools that SAP technical professionals need to master in order to remain marketable instead of becoming obsolete. Drawing on his own experience, Kent explains how project teams should approach building NetWeaver and eSOA skills sets internally. Kent also talks about how the business process orientation of SAP is impacting all SAP skill sets, and most importantly, how SAP professionals can educate themselves for these transitions - in particular by leverage the SDN and BPX communities.

Other topics covered during this forty-two minute podcast include:

- Why Enterprise SOA is no longer just hype, but is now a practical reality in use on project sites. Kent explains that when Shai Agassi left SAP, there was a misconception that NetWeaver momentum left with him. But in fact, a great deal of the new SAP functionality involves the SAP Java stack.

- Kent makes the case that just as ABAP development is giving way to web-based programming standards, traditional Basis skills are changing into NetWeaver-related skills.

- Jon asks Kent if he uses the terms "Basis Administrator" and "NetWeaver Administrator" interchangeably. Kent says that at CSC, he is working to standardize the term "NetWeaver Engineer" for the new skill set and that he views "Basis" as a term that is tied to the older R/3 technology.

- Kent talks about the key to the new NetWeaver Engineer skill set that SAP consultants should pursue: a combination of core NetWeaver skills, including Solution Manager, with some type of additional specialization, such as NetWeaver PI, NetWeaver BI (including OLAP and database management), NetWeaver Portals, and also Security - but not just role-based management. Security now means broader Identity Management. 

- Kent goes into detail about Solution Manager and why this tool is touching on a broad range of SAP consulting roles, including functional roles that include BPM (Business Process Management).

- Jon and Kent go into a discussion about the compatibility of SAP version releases between NetWeaer and SAP ERP, and Kent clarifies the relationship between the NetWeaver releases and the SAP ERP applications. Kent explains that the NetWeaver 7.1 with PI 7.1 has added more decision points for customers, as well as the inclusion of enhancement packages 7.0.1 for the NetWeaver 7.0 release.

- The guys get into another skills transition that is going on, from internal Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) to external, customer-driven SOA and web-driven integration. Kent talks more about the SAP products that have come out to help realize these new web-based integration goals. Products like PI 7.1 and the Composition Environment (CE) 7.1 have created a true Enterprise Service Bus and made web-based SOA a reality for SAP customers.  

- Kent talks about his "MASS" approach to SOA (Management, Availability, Scalability, Security).

- Jon asks Kent to clarify if eSOA has moved beyond hype. Kent says that in his work with CSC, he is finding that SAP customers are undergoing an "tactical tipping point." No longer is eSOA just a paradigm shift, it's now a practical collection of tools that SAP managers can use to get more value from their implementations.

- The interview shifts to Kent's keys to avoiding being outsourced. Kent talks about how skills such as MDM (Master Data Management), business process know-how and "soft" consulting skills are all part of the key to remaining marketable on project sites. He looks at how ABAP programmers have evolved to writing both functional and technical specs, and how NetWeaver needs to be seen as more than just a technology, but a business platform. The more you understand the how to tie business processes into the right technical solutions, the more valuable you become.  

- Since Kent has noted that the "days of the R/3 Basis consultant are numbered," Jon asks Kent about the various options for self-education and also project team education. Kent cites a number of SOA courses from SAP that are valuable for companies, and he also talks about the value of SAP's online communities, in particular the ability to either download a trial version of the Composition Environment (CE) or subscribe to a full SAP developer's license via SDN Software Subscriptions. Jon mentions that he recently delivered a webinar on SAP consulting best practices for SDN Subscriptions that goes into more detail on these themes.

 A main theme of the presentation is how the free online resources of  can help further consulting success. Jon also explains how  can provide a great value for those consultants who are serious about self-education and software development.

- The podcast ends with Kent's own career transitions and how he envisions his skills mix going forward in terms of leadership skills versus hands-on work. He talks about his goals for building the CSC NetWeaver practice and how that fits in with his vision of fostering the best SAP skills in others, in essence, duplicating himself. Jon wishes Kent luck in his efforts at self-duplication, and the podcast closes.

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