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What is the ideal functional/technical skills for the SAP professional?

Recently I was reading Jon Reed’s blog “SAP Career Outlook 2010 – Lessons Learned (plus videos)”. In one of the videos, he is correctly questioning why there is a danger in claiming you can “do it all” in SAP. He would like to see SAP professionals having 80%-20% skill set. Based on what is going on now, he would prefer seeing professionals with 70%-30% rather than 90%-10% professionals. I didn’t review his white paper yet. Meanwhile I thought I will share what I have been working on in the last 3-4 days. The tasks I describe below are not something I do regularly. however the skills required to perform the tasks everyday are similar to the requirements for 3 tasks.  They all require strong technical skills.   *1)* “Install PBFBI 701. Note 1397155 is attached” I received this request from the functional team on Wednesday. Even though no sense of urgency was explicitly mentioned, I know from previous experience they were expecting to see it installed in a few days in our sandbox. I reviewed the note. Note mentioned two prerequisites:    *a)* ABAP stack should be at a certain level. See the screenshot below:(SPS level before upgrade: Netweaver 7 SPS 16)  image  *b)* The platform required for Java application:  image
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  • Hi Bala,
    you are completely right, I think this is a perfect example. We should all have good soft skills, in writing, moderating, leading and understanding customer business. But when it comes down to “doing things”, customers want 100% technical performance, not a maybe or 70/30 split. Especially when you are freelancer and are hired “for a reason”.(technical that is)
    • Hi Holger,

      Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree on the importance of developing/improving soft skills.


    • Bala and Holger, good comments on the skills mix…it’s neat to see others pick up this conversation and give their own takes. Whenever I make such advice, in terms of skills percentages, it is given with the disclaimer that this will vary by individual and work circumstance. I’m glad you’re taking it with a grain of salt and making your own assessments.

      Certainly, in some jobs the technical skills are still paramount. However, one thing I should probably clear up about my skills recommendations is that I am not limiting it to what one employer offers. If a particular employer has you in a more heads-down technical role, that’s all the more reason to be pursuing business process/management education, lean methodology, or whatever other so-called “soft skills” we might mention on our own time.

      I stand by my general prescription that the days of pure technical and pure functional SAP work are coming to a close, at least in terms of numerous on site roles. With the exception of a handful of gurus, most folks who are pigeonholed in too much of a technical role will also be most vulnerable to what I call “global sourcing,” which might not mean that a particular job is outsourced but it does mean competing on a global level on a skill that has become a commodity. How to avoid that scenario, inside and outside of SAP, may be the central preoccupation of my work.

      Thanks for this blog!

      – Jon

      • In 20 years of doing SAP projects, across all continents, in all roles from SAP project lead to SAP basis install, I learned one thing:
        You need to be a SAP subject matter expert first (technical, and this with depth) and then have the soft skills, as much and as social as possible.

        Everything else is too often an lame excuse for lack of SAP knowledge.

        Just my 2 cents out of some 100 SAP projects of all sizes.

  • I am enjoying this discussion because I’ve observed a disconcerting trend recently in job notices for SAP security positions. It seems that being “merely” a technical expert in SAP security and a functional expert in controls and compliance is inadequate. I’ve seen a number of postings where Basis experience including installation of support packs, ABAP developing, and additional functional expertise was also required, and sometimes even network administration on top of that!  It is no wonder that I keep hearing of SAP security professionals who are struggling to find work.


    • Hi Gretchen,
      the problem that you describe is not only on the security side. It is a trend everywhere – PI, Portal, basically all new technologies – you need to install, patch, configure, conceptualize, landscape architecting, running, operating – and write perfect documents in 3 languages – and this at best with a given time range like 1 day.
      I have seen some of these requests like a round robin going through the job boards.
      Just patience – SAP world will cool down and then hire realistically, after companys paid their dues.
      • Holger,

        Everything you said about “1 day deliverables” is completely true! I guess being patient is the right solution.

        I know with 30% (or whatever percentage it is) functional knowledge,  I would only be annoying the functional team.


  • I think that the perfect mix is neither 70/30 nor 80/20, it depends on the individual, their situation and their aspirations. Example: for a regular abap programmer I would say that learning as much as he can from the functional side will be very positive, it will make them do their job better: can do better testing, better analysis, propose alternative solutions, be more independent, etc.
    This aside, in today’s world, at least in some countries like mine, Spain, we find that there is more people looking for a job than companies looking for new hires; so companies are the lucky ones now, so as others have said they may ask you to have deep functional knowledge of n modules (where n>=3) alongside some abap knowledge, debugging skills… plus “soft” skills like project management, change management and whatnot.
    My view is that one must have goals and follow a path to meet them, be it to do what you like, to reach a certain position, etc.