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My first encounters with SAP was about 10 years ago. It was R/2. It was ugly. But it worked.

Since then I have seen a lot in the SAP world and invested a huge amount of time into undestanding the system, watching some developments and also contributing to a few corrections.

But I recently realized that I made a big mistake… 

If you are familiar with the forums and / or have comparable project experiences (with consultants, end users, support folks…) then I hope you can relate to this… otherwise, I am the only normal person at SDN and will eat my hat 🙂

I developed an interest in ABAP as a hobby many years ago and tried to teach myself the “trade”. This complemented security (which is my focus area) quite well and I understand many of the nitty-gritty’s of the security aspects of ABAP. I also did some experimental stuff with the dirty tricks.

But what about all the rest? What is “the rest” which I don’t know? Like sustainability of the code? What about people who would need to support my work after I have moved on (touch wood ;-). I had hardly thought at all about performance, until I started having to moderate abuse reports from the ABAP Performance forum.

So I did myself a favour and invested in contacting SAP’s Education department and enrolled for courses in ABAP Development. I had never done that before.

Well… well.. well…had I only done that 10 years ago…!

Not only did I learn the fundamentals of Web Dynpro ABAP and ABAP OO to win a bit of a “bigger picture”, but I would have been much faster and knowledgable about other fundamentals which I had to put together by time consuming trial and error.

Patricularly the important stuff which is still applicable today left an impression on me, and learning about why certain changes and developments of ABAP happened, and not just taking it for granted that they did and that’s how it works. Looking back on the past 10 years… if I had known then what I know now, then I would now know a lot more.

Particularly of interest was that I now have a better understanding of the developers I work with – those who have done proper training and do keep their skills up-to-date; and those who don’t.

It is sporting and fun to teach yourself the hard way, but if you can take my word for it => invest in some training in the important fundamentals of your SAP areas of interest, then you will have much more fun in the forums asking & answering interesting questions, than repeating “soapy consultant” interview questions.

For really cutting-edge stuff… I can also recommend attending the Community Day sessions at the annual SAP TechEds. If I had done the trainings before the TechEd 2008, then I am sure I would also have benefited from it more than what I did anyway.

For example terminal debugging of application layers is much cooler and interesting than ALV or finding the last day of a month… 😉

Please join me in doing yourself and your systems a favour, by recognizing the importance of being trained.

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  1. Marilyn Pratt
    Happy to see this post.  As an ex-ABAP trainer and someone who trained formally back 10 years ago and really got a great deal out of the full 5-week ABAP curriculum, I can tell you that it is like learning a language.  It is essential to get a good grounding in grammar, structure and basics.  In fact, having learned a second language “on my own” without such deep fundamentals, I can attest that it severely hampers my “language maturity”.  Sure, I can gab and even sound reasonably articulate in my second language, but I am missing some really important pieces and I believe that without basic, structured training, learning is actually slower because it is random.  That being said, there are things that can never be taught in a classroom.  Yet I believe that formal training really does deserve a deeper look.  I loved watching students have aha moments when certain things were explained logically.  Teaching ABAP was one of the best experiences of my professional career and most rewarding.  I still meet students (at TechEds) who remember “stuff” and remember to say thanks…
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    1. Mathew Muthalaly
      I appreciate what Julius is saying: My take on it is to avail of SAP trainings if possible, but to not let lack of formal SAP training stop one from doing what one wants to do. I have tried to do that trying to tell myself that my learning on the job should not be at the cost of the Customer.  I am starting to sound like a sage …

      With a 10 year background in mechanical engineering projects, I happened to start on ABAP with some in-house and on-the-job training more than 10 years ago.  Couple of years down the road I had to get certified when I became an SAP Trainer for SAP through my then employer. I loved those days. 

      Now I am 3 years into working in BW/BI without any formal training.  I am planning to sit for direct certification this year to ensure that I will cover any gaps in my understanding of BI fundamentals.

      Given the need, I am prepared to have a go at whatever SAP throws at me, armed with the ubiquitous SAP Help.

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  2. Bhavesh Kantilal
    As someone who loves attending trainings and seminars; I always learn something new even when I don’t know a word on the topic; but I find SAP Education trainings to be highly priced; atleast in India.
    Is it because most of the trainings here are corporate sponsored and they have or atleast used to have deeper pockets; I am not very sure. I have never been the one who has expected my employer to fund all my training needs but unfortunately I find them to be too expensive for my liking.Is that a common rant worldwide?
    I got to agree with the main message of your blog here : You can always learn coding; but learning to write a optimized code is something you learn from someone who is been there and done that and in most of the cases; only when you attend a formal training!

    Regards
    Bhavesh

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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      Hi Bhavesh,

      As I already mentioned, the training was not cheap and with more effort and time from my side I could have found a cheaper training – but my whole point was it is more economical, and I should have done it earlier, even if it does cost a handsom price. It was worth it.

      Having said that, what I found a bit rediculous to pay for was that the lunch vouchers for the SAP canteen are limited to a maximum value which is usually enough to cover a meal. The food was very tasty with a large selection as well. But, if you added a dessert to the meal and chose the seafood platter, then this exceeded the limit of the voucher by 45 rappen (~ 30 cents), which I then had to pay in cash myself. Least of my problems, but still a bit “penny wise and pound foolish” if you ask me.

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  3. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
    Julius:

    Nice post -:) I believe in self training, which have been a constant in my developer life…When I first reach SAP (7 Years ago)…I get trained for 1 month (Can’t say that I learned too much), so after that I start to read blogs, forum post, books and keep growing as an ABAPER…Same thing with Scripting Languages…I have teach myself PHP, Ruby, Flex…

    While getting training in a classroom is good for people with no previous programming experience, I truly believe that self training is the best way to go -:)

    Greetings,
    Blag.

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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      Hi Blag,

      I hear you and confess that I even once tried to fix a light bulb with a broken element, so believe me that I also enjoy the Do-It-Yourself way.

      Also, I don’t use the indicators when I’m driving, because I know where I am going and that counts most. 🙂

      But in this case, I would have made my life easier if I had done the training to start with, and then had (hopefully) more time for the fun stuff and experimenting on my own afterwards.

      That is the lesson which I learnt from it.

      What I think is too adventurous… is when you take a look at some of the posts in the Netweaver forums, where people with little or no training are doing experiemental stuff on customer’s production systems. That is obviously not a good idea and will be costly in the longer run (or tomorrow already, without any backups…).

      Cheers,
      Julius

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      1. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
        “What I think is too adventurous… is when you take a look at some of the posts in the Netweaver forums, where people with little or no training are doing experiemental stuff on customer’s production systems.”

        That why we have “NSP” -;) Sadly, I don’t think everyone downloads it -:(

        Greetings,
        Blag.

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        1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
          I taught myself Arabic a few years ago. I started off by paying a taxi driver an hourly rate to teach me the basics and the importants words to know on the street, and by reading Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics in arabic – because they are easy, include basic scenarios and have pictures to help along when you are stuck.

          Later I moved onto the daily newspapers (the ones with the big pictures at first).

          Eventually, I could even hold a discussion with the lawyers and accountants – but they often wondered about my “quacky” expressions, “taxi jive” vocabularly and detailed knowledge about isolated domestic problems in downtown Cairo… 🙂

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            1. Mark Finnern
              Michael Nicholls wrote: Looking at some of the posts in the ABAP forums, it looks like some people learnt ABAP the same way!

              You mean they learned ABAP by talking to a Taxi driver for an hour a day 😉

              Excellent picture. Thanks, Mark.

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  4. Kenneth Murray
    Unfortunately the training is way too expensive.  Also the documentation throughout the system is very poor.  Leaving only trial by fire methods of experience.  Not a good path (painful and expensive) to lead your customers down.
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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      I’ll agree that it wasn’t cheap, and possibly there are ways of obtaining cheaper SAP training than the courses which SAP Edutcation offers… but in my case I made the investment in it and it was worth it.
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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      As you can see, there are some different opinion based on different experiences and ability.

      In my case, I found that an investment in some solid training in fundamentals upfront is (to be more precise: would have been) the best route to take.

      Perhaps I should also have included that I come from a mathematics and accounting background, and not computer science like many others.

      But if you take my advice, then I think that you cannot go wrong either.

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  5. Olivier CHRETIEN
    The problem from SAP training (system in my case) is that it is a lottery. I have attended quite a lot of classes in a 12 years period and these classes rated from excellent to very very bad.
    The teacher makes a world of a difference. Some should really change their jobs : I hate to, some times, teach the teacher !

    One other problem is that the best teachers are from consulting firms and very often they tend to keep valuable information on their own to be able to sell their consulting on the projects…

    IMHO, SAP Training is very useful to start with a new subject: then you have to self study a lot.

    Olivier

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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      I have also been audited a number of times, and I think the charge for it should have been at their expense.

      In this case, it was worth it to pay for.

      But perhaps I was just lucky – although being a bit selective about the provider of the training can influence chances of luck, as opposed to just “feeling lucky” (like when playing Roulette 🙂

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  6. Nathan Genez
    Yes, SAP training is pricey especially for a independent consultant who has to factor in the loss of revenue and the travel expenses.  But everyone in this industry enjoys greater job security and higher compensation levels relative to other IT areas.  This is true for consultants or customer staff.  To me this is a classic case of investing in your career…  and if you take your career seriously then it is an easy decision to make.  How can you say to your customer or your boss that you are committed to the ‘craft’ of SAP if you haven’t been trained in it? 

    I fondly remember my days working at SAP America in the ’90s when we were actually required to attend 20 days of training a year.  Whereas the Big 6 consultants had to fight tooth and nail to go to an official SAP course.  It was a significant advantage for me back then.

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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      Exactly my thoughts as well: If you depreciate the costs as intangible assets over the period of the skills’s expected usefull life where you are able to use them, then the “daily rate” difference might make up for it very easily!

      Nice to hear from you again and happy new year as well!

      Cheers,
      Julius

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      1. Matthew Billingham
        I’ve done some training courses occassionally.  Last time was back in 2007 – BI Extraction.  The amount of formal training required varies from individual.  I’ve found it useful to attend courses AFTER I’ve been tinkering around for a while. 

        I can’t think of a course that I’ve taken, that’s been a total waste of money.  I did some speculative stuff with Broadvision back in 2000.  Never used it, but it got me going in web concepts – so when I had to do some javascript (with zero prior knowledge), I didn’t have problems.

        The best course I ever did was, however, non-technical.  It was run by the London Chamber fo Commerce, and was 3 days on developing your presentation skills. 

        matt

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        1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
          “I’ve found it useful to attend courses AFTER I’ve been tinkering around for a while.”

          I agree with that completely. I have done many vendor evaluations. You really don’t know what you are talking about after having seen the presentations and read the manuals and even taken the trainings, until you start using the thing.

          I think the gap also differenciates between good software and not-as-good software.

          Unfortunately, that does not always shine through when decisions are made.

          Cheers,
          Julius

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  7. Mike Pokraka
    …with a very useful message, I couldn’t agree more.
    The forums also attest to this, we often see ‘regulars’ that have been using the forums for quite some time and still ask questions that are covered in a beginners course.
    Forum quality aside, it can be demotivating for the person and certainly is also expensive in salary terms. The employer could have saved significant manpower costs by investing in a course, yet I still see the same people asking the same level of questions over and over again for months – sometimes even years.
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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      “… yet I still see the same people asking the same level of questions over and over again for months – sometimes even years.”

      That, and of course the many urban legends which survive in the answers… 😉

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  8. Anonymous
    well I agree that training is an important and most prevalent form of learning. But in my case i had ABAP training from my company still after which i was zero in abap as i never concentrated in the class ( theory makes  me sleepy ) but after i got into project and got some challenging objects which involved lot of R&D so now in just 8 months into abap i feel very much confident in abap specially in areas i got chance to work as part of my project, such as smartforms, though still long way to go.
    So self learning can be handy tool (for those who cant afford training from sap education) but self learning should involve more practical work then studying material about abap, for it to be more effective.
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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      Hi Kartik,

      You mentioned practical work, so what you are refering to is more developing detailed knowledge (there are millions of programs in SAP in addition to SFLIGHT) and keeping up to speed, as well as of course fading memory (if you don’t use a skill, it becomes rusty).

      I agree that good ABAP training from any source is important – it does not have to be from SAP. In my case I went to SAP locally, because Vijay is too far away, and Matt is too busy 😉

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  9. Bernhard Spanyar
    Agree with you in principle, Julius. One can never get enough training and education. Although, I am not a big fan of formalized training courses. In terms of practical learning, for me, they were mostly an exhausting waste of time (hotel stays an all the rest). What I did get though, were new leads and ideas, which I later flashed out on my own. But Blogs and Forum posts do can do this as well. These days I get a lot from those sources.

    In the end, its what you make of all the input you get, how creative and ventursome you are.

    Talking about leads and new ideas. Never heard of terminal debugging. Would you mind sharing some information and links?

    Cheers
    Bernhard

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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      As already mentioned before by others, it does depend on inclination and which method of learning suites the person best.

      A parrot reading out .ppt bullet-points is not attractive to anyone (unless they have a really bad hang-over and need to take some time out 🙂

      I also like the more adventurous ways, but the lesson I learnt from this was that in the long run some classroom stuff to get going in the right direction helps in many ways.

      Sure, the coffee breaks were a treat as well, and I took some food-for-thought with from them as well.

      Regarding terminal debugging, I’m not sure about links but if I find one I will remember you.

      Basically, instead of setting the external break-point for a user (which you would need to know) through out the chain of systems being accessed, there is a check-box for “Terminal Debugger”. The debugger will stop at all break-points for your terminal, regardless of the user context.

      You can also debug application layers (for example, only your own implementations), which is great news for the F5 key 🙂

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  10. Somnath Manna
    Having read through the blog but more importantly all the comments, I could not step myself from putting in a comment. I have not beowsed Coffee Corner forum for many days but this one (with comments) surely made for it.
    Julius good to see you blog taking time out from your task of weeding out forum gamers.
    On my part I never managed to go for SAP Training and not even got a Certification. A formal training definitely helps otherwise we need not have even gone to college but beyond that its self-exploration that matters. Some time back I blogged Where & How to start!.
    BR,
    Somnath
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    1. Julius von dem Bussche Post author
      Hi Somnath,

      I read your blog link and several others as well which you have written. Again an example of not having to pay for valuable information – although I have little to do with APO except the security aspects…

      Regarding certifification, I have also thought about that, but training and gaining experience comes first in my opinion.

      I am a certified Rescue Scuba Diver and Professional Game(r) Hunter 😉

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  11. Otto Gold
    Hello Julius,
    I am surprised you don´t blog much. Ok, not a fan of blogs. I am not a fan of wikis. But when you drop something “on the paper”, it is worth reading.
    This blog reminds me of many others who didn´t know “how things work” at the beginning, reminds me of those who though they knew but their employer didn´t have the budget (and still don´t have one)… I can see faces and stories behind the failures, errors and troubles caused by the lack of training.
    Seems like I will have to put even more into the learning process than I put now, but luckilly it is fun and one has friends to do the hard part with.
    Nice piece, looking forward to read some more,
    cheers Otto
    p.s.: I have heard so many useful thoughts from your side, but most of them are spread around the forum threads described in your humorous way… and I am afraid people don´t understand the message and worse – sometimes they don´t even notice how much one could read in the messages, inbetween the lines and inbetween the lines-inbetween:))
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