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Update: Technical NetWeaver consultant Chris Kernaghan has published a good response to this post that goes into how these trends My thoughts on the “Road ahead for SAP Consultant” from a technical point of view.

I don’t know about you, but every year I look forward to Vijay Vijayasankar‘s Road Ahead for SAP Consultants – 2011 blog post. This year, I thought it would be fun to get Vijay together on a podcast to talk about some of the trends in his blog post and justify some of his skills rankings and omissions. Even better, we pulled fellow SAP Mentor Leonardo De Araujo onto the call to share his take on the hot SAP skills of 2011 as well. The result was one of my favorite podcasts of the last couple of years.

The podcast runs a bit more than an hour in length, partially because while we were wrapping up, Vijay asked Leo and I for a “Certification Five” update. Once you hit the hour length, you might as well keep going! To make it a bit easier for you to navigate, I’ll include some text highlights with time stamps below. Key skill areas that we dug into in the podcast included: HANA/in-memory, Business Intelligence, Business ByDesign, as well as good old bread-and-butter ABAP development.

We also talked about some trends that didn’t live up to Vijay’s expectations from the Road Ahead for SAP Consultants – 2010, including SAP upgrades. Another controversial topic? Why Vijay left mobility off the 2011 hot skills list. As an incentive to make it to the end of the podcast, the last fifteen minutes include both the C5 update and some interesting discussion about how community recognition plays into SAP success, and how true accomplishment is more than points accumulation.

One more quick thing: if you want some more bonus content besides this podcast, you may want to check out Vijay’s classic “HANA versus Watson” interview with Vishal Sikka that we posted on JD-OD.com, the new on-demand video and commentary site launched with my partner-in-video-crime Dennis Howlett. More content: during an attempt to tape this three Mentor podcast that didn’t work out, Leo and I ended up taping an “Informal SAP SME chat” podcast, a 20 minute talk that included more ByD talk, as well as All-in-One and general SME trends. Without further ado, the “Road Ahead 2011” podcast:

(If for any reason the embedded player doesn’t work, you can download the podcast using the “download media” link on the right hand side).  

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it’s not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime, or on my JonERP iTunes feed).

Podcast Highlights

1:28 Vijay on the origins of the “Road Ahead for SAP Consultants” blog post series on SCN.

3:30 #1: “BusinessObjects tools will get significant traction in SAP shops.Vijay: This was the strongest theme I heard in 2010: A lot of BW shops held off on moving to BusinessObjects, but in Q3 in TechEd, I saw a lot of excitement about moving into TechEd. The one issue we continue to face is: what happens to BEx? But in 2011 we should see a lot of traction on the BusinessObjects side.

7:00 Leo’s take on #1: It belongs in number one – SAP has sold a lot of BusinessObjects licenses and it has a lot of traction. Many customers have BO licenses and have yet to install it. But: what about folks on the classical BW releases? How much of them are going to get involved with dashboards? How much should old school hands-on consultants get hands-on in these areas? Jon: BI is becoming a skills that all SAP consultants are going to need in their tool kit, but timing that is tricky if you’re a consultant.

10:26 Leo: I really believe all the functional consultants should understand BI and how it fits into the skill set. But I have a practical concern: how many of my teams should actually be trained in using dashboard? How many should I send to training?

12:00 Vijay: the technical roadmap is extremely important. But there’s a big problem with SAP customers, they will buy things for a better bill of materials or pricing and they get another item thrown in – there’s a lot of shelfware around BI that people don’t use, and they are paying maintenance for it, why not use it?

15:02 #2 “More clients will move from EC-CS and BPS/IP to BPC, GL migrations will keep consultants busy.” Vijay: to clarify, it’s 7.5 for BPC. NetWeaver numbering is not my favorite topic.

18:26 #4: Learn what is possible with HANA and what is not? Vijay: I have a HANA bias, which is why it ended up so high on this list. Almost all the clients I’ve spoken to in my current role, where I work on in-memory, they are all convinced HANA is the next big thing. By that I mean HANA in its final look and feel, not 1.0.

21:00 Jon: Assuming HANA gets traction, a couple years from now, how will consulting work change? Vijay: How did we start with BW a few years ago? In hindsight, BW was a compromise. You have to get data out of SAP and put it in different format to get something out of it. More servers, people, consulting, time delays to get information to business. If we could report straight out of the original OLTP system, a lot of this grief wouldn’t have been there in the first place, we’d have near real-time information. HANA totally revolutionizes that.
24:12 Leo: I see HANA changing things for customers a lot. BW cubes require a lot of work around extraction – all that goes away, that’s a significant chunk of work, creating InfoCubes, and with less data replication. Simpler and quicker BI reporting with access to live transactional data, this should be an explosion of BI and reporting work.

25:00 Leo: We can talk about all these amazing new technologies, but the Business Suite still runs on ABAP. Yes, things are moving fast, ABAP today looks very different than it was in the 90s, so today it’s a liablity if you don’t understand object oriented ABAP, Switch Frameworks, web services.

29:45 Jon: breezing through 6, 7, 8. Leo: one comment on virtualization: I really believe the moving beyond VM Ware and AWS and virtualizing SAP is going to have an impact. Vijay: Data federation is a big deal now, and I could have easily put that higher on the list.

#9: “Wait and watch for Business ByDesign.” Vijay: creating add-ons could be the opportunity. C# and ABAP both have entry points, but I put the advantage on the C#. Is it “wait and watch for 2010?” Leo: I agree…I believe this is a significant year for ByD, with customers running and a mature version and an SDK, as a result I think there will be a big number of customers signing on.

Vijay: The one ByD question I have is: is 1,000 customers worth someone trying to write apps and add-ons for? What’s the long term plan for? Salesforce probably has more than 50,000 customers, so that kind of volume I can see people spending time on add-ons, but with a smaller base, I doubt it. Getting people out of QuickBooks into ByD, I can see some value but is that a big deal? I’m still not too sure about the future of this product and how much it will scale.

Leo: I would add that the traction will happen, but it will be a lot about deploying the standard without much add-ons from the SDK. But it is important to keep in mind this is a completely different ball game, you can’t share the same resources from ByD to SAP ERP – it’s very different skills. Jon: Another big change: a ByD consultant might have 6-10 assignments simultaneously. Vijay: the question is timing: when do you catch up with your competition? If you take a lot of time to hit 10,000 users, the world will have moved a lot farther by then.

39:50 #10: SAP job growth in other parts of the world. Vijay: This is in response to a lot of my friends who lost their jobs. What some of them did, and others did not do – they actually left the US market and went and capitalized on the booming SAP markets elsewhere in the world. There are opportunities there if you really want to work in SAP. Go where the opportunity is.

41:05 Jon to Leo: Any thoughts on the SME space? You’re watching that market closely. Leo: for SAP to work in SME, you have to have a smart “All in One” implementation plan. You can’t approach it in a large company consulting model. Another topic: for functional folks, one thing to capitalize on is that there is a need to understand what is going on with Enhancement Packs and SAP technology.

45:30 Discussion of the comment thread to the post: leaving out mobility was the most controversial decision. NetWeaver BPM? Haven’t seen the adoption yet.

50:50 Discussion of Vijay’s last year’s “Road Ahead” blog post. Jon to Vijay: #2 on last year’s was upgrade projects will pick up? Vijay: I didn’t actually see a lot of people in a hurry to upgrade towards the end of last year…there was no visible trend unlike the previous year.

54:40 Vijay on not listing community participation on this year’s list. I got a lot out of it personally, I seem to get a lot of unsolicited job offers. I think that’s a good sign of community participation, and these job offers aren’t based on a close look at my resume. It’s based on community participation. Vijay: I’m dead opposed to points. IBM has four Mentors, and I can think of two cases, we did get some recognition within IBM for being a Mentor. So community work can impact our employers as well.

1:00 Vijay to Jon and Leo: Give us a quick update on SAP Certification. Jon: Executive reorg at SAP has impacted our project, because some advocates of our certification work moved on. The new executives may be even more enthusiastic but it’s made things pretty slow, and SAP wasn’t moving fast to begin with. There should be the first meeting of the Certification Influence Council (CIC) this spring. But, the slow pace is a concern. Leo: I agree completely. I’m betting the first CIC meeting will happen in May at Sapphire.

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  1. Witalij Rudnicki
    >Jon: BI is becoming a skills that all SAP consultants are going to need in their tool kit, but timing that is tricky if you’re a consultant.
    VR: That’s very important observation: to separate BI discipline from Data Warehousing one. More and more of SBO BI is embedded directly into core SAP Business Suite and SMB applications.

    >Vijay: …[customers] are all convinced HANA is the next big thing. By that I mean HANA in its final look and feel, not 1.0.
    VR: Not sure anyone really knows what “final HANA” would be 😉

    >Leo: I see HANA changing things for customers a lot. BW cubes require a lot of work around extraction – all that goes away, that’s a significant chunk of work, creating InfoCubes, and with less data replication.
    VR: I think there is still a bit of misunderstanding when it comes to business benefits and IT benefits of HANA. The change of IT tools does not necesserily means the change of work content: with SAP in-memory database you still need to design your reporting schema and data views: https://twitter.com/Sygyzmundovych/status/48058694071615489. Than for data transformation – even if non-materialized – you need to write Calculation Views, which are coded in new SQLScript language i/o ABAP.

    All in all, great discussion. It’s always pleasure to read and listen to you, fellas.

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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar
      VR: Not sure anyone really knows what “final HANA” would be 😉
      VJ>> emphasis was on “NOT 1.0 version” 🙂

      VR:…SAP in-memory database you still need to design your reporting schema and data views
      VJ >>Yes of course, but hopefully you can rip them apart and do something else with much less pain than the BW world. But of course there always needs to be an architected layer – not everything is going to be agile

      Glad you listened, and took time to post, Vitaliy. Much appreciated

      Cheers
      Vijay

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    2. Leonardo De Araujo
      Thanks for your comments Vitaliy.

      Here some responses from my side:

      VR: I think there is still a bit of misunderstanding when it comes to business benefits and IT benefits of HANA. The change of IT tools does not necesserily means the change of work content: with SAP in-memory database you still need to design your reporting schema and data views: https://twitter.com/Sygyzmundovych/status/48058694071615489. Than for data transformation – even if non-materialized – you need to write Calculation Views, which are coded in new SQLScript language i/o ABAP.
      LEO: Sure, we are on the same page on this. My point is around the business benefit of online data (currently transactional data is not available in BW online, you typically send it at night…)
      Another point was about the fact that the concepts of OLTP and OLAP merge in some ways (in the far future, for sure, not HANA 1.0) so the IT effort of data extraction is gone, no longer needed. The BW effort will continue in the data modeling and reporting areas, that is completely true.

      Leo

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