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Recently there was a post on the BI forums on what constituted functional and technical roles in BI.. on further discussions with colleagues in the same field .. I got to delve more deeply into the basis for such a What is difference between Technical & Functional skills of BW…. 

Traditional R/3 and other transactional systems like CRM etc have a strong demarcation between technical and functional , this is especially evident in R/3 where you will come across technical consultants across functions but will find function specific consultants like SD functional consultant etc…

  Is such a classification valid for BW as well ?

good question , but then one more reason why this has arisen is due to the fact that BI is seen as a front end system where a person may get away by just typing in descriptions and utilizing the three buttons of the mouse…!!! Weird but true…

Now coming to the crux of the discussion … are there technical and functional roles in BI and if so what are they expected to do ?

Attacking the issue from another angle .. some of the role that are typical of a end to end BW project would be :  BW Architect BW functional consultant BW Technical consultant…

This would lead people to ask .. is it for the sake of the project that we come across such roles or is there something that these people are specifically meant to do ??

From what I have seen .. correct me if I am wrong…

BW Architect : Similar roles – Data Architect / Data Modeler / Systems Architect  The BW architect understands high level design and would typically be involved right from blueprinting to end of the design stage… where the primary responsibilities could be :

1.     Crafting the EDW layer

2.     High level data model

3.     Designing the high level data flows

4.     Corporate data model

5.     Well versed with basic DW concepts relating to cubes / ODS / performance / DB

These would mean that : The architect owns the data model for the BW system Understands the system landscape of the client / source systems Understands and is conversant with the processes currently defined and knows in full the various data points captured at various intervals of the process Is aware as to how the current design fits into the larger scheme of things .  

What an architect is not expected to do :

Any coding of any sort Actual physicalization of the model Any development if required Debug / write any code..

BW Functional consultant

Synonyms : Data Modeler / Business Analyst / Systems Analyst  The BW functional consultant is one who can understand the high level design and break it into smaller functions and the functional consultant may be well versed in the processes of particular modules like PP / MM / SD so that h/she may look at :         1.Documentation        

2.Data sources

3.Data models ( detailed fully attributed ) ones             to suit the same        

4.Estimate the level of customization required

5.Convert the requirements into specifications            that someone else could develop / off shored…         

6.Understand modeling concepts like cubes / ODS etc…

What a Functional consultant is not expected to do :

Do any development of code / code snippets Data loading / monitoring Can be involved in physicalization of the EDW layer depending on available skill sets and comfort levels doing development  Here the line dividing the functional consultant and technical consultant starts to blur… and expectedly so….

BW Technical consultant

Synonyms : ABAP-BW Consultant / Systems Analyst … The BW technical consultant is essentially seen as a person who either leads the technical team or is part of the development team involved in converting the specifications into actual objects..  Basic expectations would be :

1.Understand the technical specifications

2.Physicalize the layers

3.Develop ABAP code if required ( Usually done by ABAP consultants )

4.Monitor the data model and support it into UAT

What a technical consultant is not expected to do :



3.Architecture  And now coming to the next facet …

What the above roles are not expected to do but would be great if they did!!!

1.In depth understanding of performance tuning

2.Look at an EDW as a storehouse of related data instead of a report bank

3.Look at how an EDW serves the business by way of providing business critical information

4.How the business benefits from the reports delivered  Technical aspects

1.Understand the coding being done – not essentially do the same but even basic understanding is good – the reason being that further down the line the reason for many of the modifications is lost by way of missing documentations etc…

2.Understand the data model from the perspective as to why it has been done this way and what is the particular requirement driving this particular design 3.Look at requirements from the perspective of effort versus simplicity and achieve a balance between the same and not to deliver a bare bones system or a completely complex system with all bells and whistles..

Most of these are observations from being a Business analyst / SAP BI consultant / SAP BI architect on various projects and often having to deal with multiple hats at the same time , along with having the task of analyzing what has been done already and evaluating others work and also constantly asking the question

“ This could be done in these ways .. supposing someone comes along a year later – are we leaving any option unturned which could be a lifesaver later on??”

Another role which would be very useful to have is  : Netweaver Architect : More than often customizations demanded are outside the purview of the BI system but could be done using the web application server like BSP Pages / Web Dynpros etc ..

which is given to the client – would give the view that there is a very good level understanding of the processes and consolidation of sources is also happening .. which would be very heartening for the client to see as well…interfaces that ease day to day business needs…

Till then have a nice day and a lot of food for thought….


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  1. Former Member Post author
    I do agree with you that ECC Knowledge is required but then IMHO it has to be approached like this :
    Standard content – Install the same – Load and evaluate and find gaps in requirement and accordingly change the same wherever required.
    Custom content – Data Model – I would still go by this :
    Extract design – know your extract and fields in the extract – does the extract give the necessary fields or not
    Once the extract is defined and the fields known and the extract logic confirmed – then build the data model.
    Ultimately ECC is also a transactional system – I am not sure if point 2 is required – since the very word standard content sorts of does away with all the design
    Point 1. The person should know how the business is modeled – not essentially from an ECC standpoint but then should understand the processes that make up the business / processes that are relevant.
    Point 3. As you mentioned in most cases Business COntent needs modifications to fit requirements
    Point 4. An Architect should ideally scale up from a technical – functional – Architect – if the person does not have the experience then not many people would be ready to have the person as an architect. However in some cases a person who has architected EDWs outside of SAP BI can also fit in since the Architecture part is governed by rules of thumb most of which are common across Data Warehousing platforms.
    My 0.02,
    Arun Varadarajan
  2. Former Member
    A very nice article. You should also read Jon Reed’s blog
    Will BI (and BO) Be Relevant to all SAP Functional Consultants? (and post TechEd updates)
    which runs into a similar direction. Yet there are some details I cannot really confirm.
    First of all I would not differentiate between the architect and the functional consultant. I guess both roles can and should be filled out by one person. Otherwise the functional consultant turns into a mere documentation writer who needs to negotiate between the technical consultant and the architect without the chance to do a useful input.
    Next you totally neglected the query design. Query design can be an art by itself if you have complex query requirements. And there you need to tune the data model to fit the requirements, not the other way round. Ideally you have one consultant that can handle all roles by himself. But at least the architect/functional consultant must know the details of the implementation to design the optimal solution and the technical consultant must understand the business requirements well enough to implement the data model accordingly. Part of building a great BI solution is the understanding that you need to have a holistic view on business requirements, data model and query design to build a coherent solution.
    1. Former Member Post author
      I do agree on the functional consultant / Architect part. In many cases there is an Architect who acts as a coach and a functional consultant who sort of tags along and then the functional consultant becomes the architect and the roles are merged.

      As for the one role who knows it all – in almost all cases it exists but the potential downfalls of the same are :
      1. Becomes very skill dependant – on the skills of the person who is the know it all – have seen projects suffering due to this and also in some cases – people staying on projects for time immemorial due to resourcing reasons.
      2. IMHO you need a team to build a great BI solution – otherwise it mainly is the vision of the initial architect / functional consultant who thought things through and the team generally inherits a legacy which they have to support!!!
      when you have a couple of them – in many cases the client also plays the functional consultant ( process definition etc ) and accordingly the architecture becomes that sound. In a particular case I know of a client who was certified in SAP BI and know the processes and this resulted in a well fleshed out architecture.
      As for query design – I guess you can split it into 2 parts – one for basic query design – the ad-hoc queries etc and one person / role who looks into performance tuning / dashboards / complicated queries etc etc.
      I was more like looking at a client requirement perspective where a lot of things go unsaid….

      My 0.02
      but definitely Jon reeds Blog hits home on the topic of discussion – Where does a BO consultant come in ? and where does a BI consultant go from here…!!!


  3. Former Member
    Hi Arun,

    Many Thanks for the article you have provided here. I’m looking for a similar article from many days to clear all my confusions about different BI job roles.
    I worked as a End user ERP manager for a Retail chain in Ireland for 3 years. Let me tell you this I do not have any technical expertise through out my academic education apart from Business IT. I have finished my Masters in International Business couple of years ago. I left my job and came to India to get expertized in SAP. I have started my training with SD and later on i have decided that i should go for SAP BI as recommend by a SAP lecturer. In order to learn BI i have undergone ABAP training and right now I’m about to start BI. Hope i’m not confusing you here.

    My goal is to become a SAP BI Architect, I would sincerely appreciate if you answer the following questions for me:

    1. Which courses do i need to complete before i start looking for any BI jobs ?
    2. What sort of job do i need to search as a SAP BI fresher with the domain experience in end user ERP Management.
    3. What would be the job roles i need to get in experience in order to get selected as a BI Architect.

    It would be great if you answer me the above questions to plan my career path.


    1. Former Member Post author
      I would suggest that you raise this question in the career forum and that way others can also reply to your questions and you would get a rounded perspective as opposed to just mine…

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