I’ve been working with SAP software since 2001 and started out with ABAP as my main skill set. After many implementations, software upgrade and custom development projects under my belt, it is crystal clear that the best people to work along side are those that have taken the effort to understand a little about the technical side of SAP.
SAP consultants come in all shapes and sizes from the extreme techie guys that can only communicate in binary code, to those smooth talking ‘gift of the gab’ salesman like functional consultants who run in fear at the thought of discussing anything technical. When a project gets on the way, functional consultants tend to drive the requirements gathering part of the project, then pull in the ABAP guys at the last minute when a requirement has been flushed out at a customer workshop.
As is often the case, the ABAP guy has to educate the functional consultant on how easy or difficult it will be to deliver what has been discussed in the workshop and at times, just flat out tell the functional guy to pull back the reins because of the complexity involved.
In other scenarios, the customer may want what on the surface looks like a simple change to a program and the functional consultant will often agree with a nod of the head (like a donkey) and write a quick functional specification for the development team to use to produce the necesary code change. When the development guys get a hold of the spec, they then end up spending time educating the functional consultant (again); explaining why the development can not be done or will take ‘X’ times the amount of effort originally estimated.
So what do I suggest will help the SAP Functional Consultant improve his or her Ability to estimate the ABAP work involved with custom development?
Dust of your learning receptors and start digging into the technical side of SAP such as ABAP, Backend BW, Work-Flow and possibly the Data Dictionary. Now, that last sentence has probably caused a few functional consultants to close this article and do something like update their twitter account with what they had for lunch, but for those still reading, let me highlight some of the benefits that learning some of the techie stuff will do for you, your colleagues and customers.
- First of all, learning a new skill can only be positive for your career. If you want to move into a new role within your company or move onto another organisation, adding to your skill set is always a great thing to do.
- When your customers want something new or change and existing process, you will be able to give a much more informed response and be able to challenge them from a slightly different angle.
- The techie guys will be more willing to discuss other possible solutions with you as they will see that you understand what they are saying. This will quite often result in a better solution that you can offer your customers.
- Don’t let the techie guys pull the wool over your eyes. We all know that some times the work estimates given for some development work can be exaggerated some what. Don’t let this happen at your expense; challenge the estimates by making it known you know what you are talking about and that you have a good idea just how much work should be involved for certain types of development work.
- Quite often, your customers invite their own techie guys to meetings. Being able to express possible solutions in a technical manner can help build their confidence in you and your company.
- By learning and having a good grasp of the underlying SAP technologies that are used throughout the SAP landscape, you will be in a much better positions to understand and get up to speed on new solutions SAP introduce further down the line.
Is learning ABAP and the likes so bad?
As the saying goes, “it is much easier said than done” and some effort on your part is needed. The work involved is often quite interesting and you be amazed at the number of light bulbs that will go off inside your head as you start to understand how SAP actually works, the odd things that go on behind the surface and how some solutions can be achieved with just a simple configuration change or just 5 additional lines of code.
To get started I would suggest getting a grounding in ABAP. Why? Because this is the number one skill that will open the doors to the rest of the SAP technology world. It is used in BW, Workflow and just about every single major piece of SAP software.
Now I will probably be frowned upon for saying this but do not head off and start trying to understand ABAP Objects. Instead, look at the older ‘Procedural’ coding methods first. They are much easier to understand to start off with and this is what you will see being used behind the scenes for much of the ERP suite of applications. Over time this will change I am sure, but don’t complicate things to start off with.
You will be able to pickup some of the older ABAP books over at Amazon.
Is learning ABAP or some other SAP technology something you are interested in? If so, leave a comment below.
UPDATE 3rd Oct 2011: Video presentation added.