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SAP Career Outlook 2010 - Special Feature

A Two-Part White Paper for the Career Center on SCN
By Jon Reed of JonERP.com

Jon Reed notes: In the spring of 2010, I was involved in a major collaboration with the Career Center on SAP Community Network. I'm now happy to announce the official release of my two-part white paper series on SAP career and skills trends in 2010, written exclusively for SAP. I'll look forward to your feedback, which can be incorporated into follow up blogs, podcasts, and videos. Both articles are also available to download as a PDF. Also check out: Jon's new piece on "Avoiding SAP Skills Commoditization." 

Career Outlook 2010: “Hot Skills” Roundup Print E-mail
Now that I have covered SAP skills strategy (see part one of this paper, published separately) and social networking, it's time for the sizzle: the hot skills roundup for 2010. Pursuing hot skills is about finding the areas of SAP that are most relevant to your particular focus. It goes without saying that current version experience is usually crucial for the pursuit of these skills.

Hot skills in 2010 will be driven by the following assumption:

The economy will improve somewhat, and investments in IT projects will happen, but on a selective basis, to support a company's business drivers. These drivers could mean acquisitions, cost cutting, consolidation, or tapping into new markets. Projects will be small and contained, with a tight ROI focus. Consultants who can solve business problems rather than simply perform technical tasks will be at a huge advantage.

The following trends will impact hot skills:

  1. Increased "mobilization" of the workforce and the diversification of UI interfaces, inspired by "Web 2.0"/consumer web sites that have raised the bar on ease of use.
  2. "Smart" SAP upgrades - no "blank check" upgrades, but smart upgrades driven by careful plans, such as technically-focused upgrades and selective functional product extensions.
  3. Cost-cutting meets "green": corporate efforts to reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption will be driven as much by cost savings as PR or "good cause" intentions. Instance virtualization and other proven tactics for reducing "server burn" will be pursued aggressively.
  4. From "transactional" to "intelligent" ERP - this means a focus on business intelligence, dashboarding, master data management, and leveraging transactional information for better line manager reporting and executive decision making.
  5. "Borderless enterprise" - extending the enterprise to customers and suppliers via service-oriented approaches and web-based interfaces. Open standards on top of secure ERP platforms.
  6. "EcoHub and beyond" - getting value out of SAP means not just using SAP well but using partner solutions, both from EcoHub and beyond. Those SAP professionals who are well versed in the third-party tools pertaining to their area of specialization will offer more to their projects.

Last but not least, think "post-implementation skills." Getting more value out of existing SAP installs is going to be a major theme in 2010 and beyond. In the past, post-go live meant the dreaded "maintenance mode" that no SAP professional in their right mind wanted to be stuck on. That's changing: selective use of advanced features, from BI extensions to online vendor management, presents new opportunities for the savvy SAP professional.

Those who want to get a head start on this area may want to study up on SAP's post go-live methodology, called Run SAP. If you want more background, Michael's Doane's new SAP Green Book: Thrive After Go-Live does a nice job of discussing post-go live SAP. And yes, Solution Manager comes into play here, both in terms of managing SAP upgrades and in terms of managing the Run SAP approaches that are built into Solution Manager. Yes, the tool itself is still moving to maturity, but Solution Manager's place in SAP's forward strategy is important to note.

On an SAP skills level, we will continue to see companies favoring the "consultant" over the "contractor." Those who can "advise" as well as "implement" will have the edge. Think of it this way: many SAP areas have evolving roadmaps. Technical projects have a vast array of language and methodology options. Systems don't just need to be administered - they need to be integrated, pulling in outside web services and third-party applications, sometimes cloud-based.

This means changes to the three traditional SAP hands-on SAP skill sets:

• Developers will still develop, but with an object and service-oriented "Enterprise Architecture" mindset. Web services methods like REST and new languages like Flex will come into play. Agile development techniques will be a factor.

• Basis types will still do systems admin, but with a "NetWeaver Engineer" approach, advising their companies on best ways to integrate disparate platforms, get the most out of NetWeaver, and extend role-based security into BI systems and/or the cloud.

• Functional types will still "configure," but the most sought after will have "Solution Architect" skills and the ability to anticipate the best functional design for a particular industry given SAP's roadmap. Knowledge of "lean" process metholodologies will start to come into play.

Panic is not called for. As we can see, these three traditional roles are not being replaced, simply expanded. With that in mind, what skills should SAP professionals aspire to in 2010?

Here are some skills areas that have been coming up frequently in my research:

• SAP BusinessObjects and BI/BW skills
• ERP 6.0 upgrade skills
• GRC, security and Identity Management skills
• SAP virtualization and "cloud management" skills
• NetWeaver Developer Studio and Web Services Skills
• Web Dynpro, RIA, and UI design skills
• Enterprise architecture (technical SAP landscape planning)
• Solution architecture (SAP functional business design)
• Enhancement Pack know-how (both NetWeaver and ERP 6.0 Enhancement Packs)

I recently made a list of some of the SAP skills I thought would be hottest in 2010 and put them on a poll on JonERP.com. Here were the results as of December 6, 2009:

Current results: Which SAP Skill Will Be Hottest in 2010?
Business Intelligence and BO 42.9%
SAP Upgrade Skills 17.6%
Enterprise Architecture/Integration 13.2%
Security and IDM 11%
Rich Internet Apps (UIs) 6.6%
Cloud-Based SAP Add-Ons 4.4%
SAP Virtualization Skills 4.4%

I think that's a pretty accurate view of the level of emphasis these skills will have in 2010. However, even those that got a low result in this poll are skills I would keep an eye on.

Other emerging areas we can derive from this paper:

• "Green"/Sustainability skills (for all types)
• Solution Manager skills (for Basis types in particular, but to some extent for all)
• Web Dynpro, RIA (Rich Internet Applications), and UI design skills (for developers)

SAP Mentor Vijay Vijayasankar recently put together his own skills list called "Road Ahead for SAP Consultants-2010" which you may want to check out. Vijay's hot skill areas dovetail nicely with my own, and there's a good comment thread on his blog post to read also.

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