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The number of years experience makes a big difference in performing Basis Administration job. Unfortunately a lot of customers consider only how long it takes to resolve an issue after identifying the cause. They don’t consider who identified the cause, what his/her background is, what skill set was needed to identify the cause etc. Fixing that issue could be as simple as checking or unchecking a button. And it might take less than a few minutes regardless of who fixes it. You may not-in most cases – need an experienced person to fix it. As a result, the customer-Technical Team lead in some cases-would focus on documenting the issue/resolution assuming the similar error message in future would require the same resolution. They may be correct in most cases; however someone would still need to identify the cause and make sure the cause is the same.

Let us discuss who could be considered an Ideal Basis Administrator. See the diagram below:

A person with no experience begins her career as Basis Administrator. At this point, her contribution to the community is negative meaning she relies a lot on SAP forums, Notes, SAP Support, Google, other teams/team members, Education/Training etc to perform her job. As years go-by, her knowledge grows and she starts becoming more and more confident, her reliance on community becomes less and less, she even may start contributing to it. 

At some point, she would have to learn ABAP/Programming/Scripting, DB, OS, SAN etc to become an expert. Without this knowledge, she wouldn’t be able to address performance or upgrade/install issues in a timely manner. Even in those organizations where DB is administrated by separate groups, DB knowledge is critical to communicate DB related issues to DBA group. As an example, recently I worked on UDConnect(Oracle/Solaris) issue for DATACOM DB on z/OS. I’m not familiar with DATACOM (weak in z/OS) so that issue took more than 3-4 months to identify the cause. The primary delay contributor was: I didn’t understand DATACOM; DATACOM DBAs didn’t understand SAP-BW/UDCONNECT. Had I known DATACOM, it wouldn’t have taken more than a few days.

Due to Separation of Duties, I don’t believe it is going to be easy for anyone starting as SAP Basis Administrator to work on other layers. This is why I believe anyone new to IT should not consider beginning their career as SAP Basis Administrators; rather focus on gaining knowledge on other layers first and then move to Basis area.

A few comments on the diagram above:

1) When a person begins her career, she relies a lot on Community. Her practical knowledge is ~0. 

2) Personally I wouldn’t recommend someone beginning her career in Basis unless she makes sure that she could learn other layers by “performing the tasks”. This is almost impossible requirement to meet due to separation of duties. IMO, theoretical knowledge is not same as practical experience. However theoretical knowledge would definitely speed up gaining practical experience. 

3) The sequence(SAP->DB->OS->SAN) shown above is for illustrative purposes only. Anyone with DB or OS or SAN knowledge is a good candidate to begin Basis career provided she would have an aptitude and opportunity to learn other layers by practicing.  

4) Application means “knowledge of applications such as BW, CRM, PI etc.”.

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18 Comments

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  1. Chris Kernaghan
    Working with many people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries – I have to say the best Basis people I have come across have been Basis administrators by accident. They have been O/S specialists or DBAs, this has exposed them to many other technologies that are complimentary to SAP and often requirements of SAP. It also exposes them to a world outside of SAP, which is especially useful when troubleshooting – because SDN or SAP Notes does not have all the answers.

    I have found that people beginning as Basis administrators have a very blinkered view on the world and think only of SAP – they do not see the magic that SAP built into their applications, how they enabled an entire software stack based on the simplest of principles which allow a great deal of freedom of implementation and conversely a great of freedom of mistakes 🙂

    The graph intrigues me as I think you have the (Time to Resolution) axis the wrong way round – surely as experience increases, TtR gets shorter?

    Chris

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    1. Bala Prabahar Post author
      Well said.
      On graph, you’ve a valid point. I was looking at it from a different angle which is probably not logical and not easy to explain. Since TTR thing(as experience increases, TtR gets shorter) is obvious, I don’t need a graph to explain so I deleted it.
      Thanks for your feedback.

      Bala

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  2. Tom Cenens
    Hello Bala

    Great to see administration content flurishing on SCN; keep going 🙂

    For me the graph is too simplistic really. Consider the following, system administrator A sitting at customer B and performing SAP transports for five years. He wouldn’t be going up on the graph. For me there should be an axis called opportunity and it would be an important axis.

    Even then the ideal administrator has to have more qualities than administration knowledge of the layers. Being able to see things from the business perspective is as important as the rest for example.

    Since I started in Basis I don’t agree on the need to first do other things either. I don’t see any significant difference in capabilities compared to colleagues who have more experience on other layers compared to me.

    Knowledge is widely spread and can be found online and if you can’t find it online you can learn by collaborating with your colleagues.

    What I did for example was team up with a Oracle DBA and support him doing SAP tasks while he supported me doing Oracle tasks, works fine.

    Creating opportunity is an important factor for me to gain knowledge. I want to learn and I like to do lots of different and new things.

    All you need is the capabilities to interpret and some logical thinking to get started on gaining knowledge. Also other layers or areas have their own communities (Oracle for example) where you can gain knowledge.

    Do you think my point of view makes sense?

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Bala Prabahar Post author
      Tom,

      First of all, you’re doing a great job in having a dialog/discussion. I really enjoy reading your blogs and your viewpoints. Thanks for doing that.
      “I don’t see any significant difference in capabilities compared to colleagues who have more experience on other layers compared to me.” – This is an interesting statement. As I stated, this is one of the challenges I face everyday. What can a skilled Basis Administrator(when I say skilled, I include other layers) do to communicate to other Basis team members that he/she knew more so he/she doesn’t need to work on fixing a broken system all the time. I know environments where Basis team lead and other team members feel exactly like you, start a task, break it and then ask other Basis Admin-who they initially thought no better than them- to fix the broken system. This is not one time deal; this happens over and again. Frankly as I get older, as I get a chance to work with more brilliant people, I don’t get a feeling I knew more. The key is to work with people who really know more.

      The graph covers only hard skills, not soft skills. Opportunity axis – I’m smiling because if you ask any successful person, he/she probably would tell you that there is always opportunity. The question is: does someone want to make use of that opportunity or come up with an excuse as to why that is not an opportunity? Is the glass half empty or half full?
      I probably didn’t make it clear but the graph states what must happen. Here is what I had in my mind:
      a) A person starts as Basis admin today
      b) A few years later-assuming that person made use of opportunity to learn SAP even while performing transports-he/she must try to learn other layers. In some environments, that person may learn other layers in parallel. The point I’m trying to make is what skills one would need to become Ideal Basis Administrator. This blog is not about becoming a successful Basis Administrator.
      Personally-since s/w is not science- I would try to avoid relying on another person for knowledge. Once again, if your idea is to be successful, then collaboration will work.

      Thanks again,
      Bala

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Bala

        Thanks for your kind words. I fix what I break. Most of the times when I break something it’s because I want to unravel it. Besides that everyone fails sometimes, failing at something isn’t neccesarily bad. It can be a great learning process.

        I have seen a lot of those so called expert basis administrators break more than I could ever imagine or compare system A against system B using the wrong RFC destination and ending up comparing system A against system A.

        Indeed opportunity is all around us but a lot of people are to afraid to take those opportunities.

        Ideal sounds like perfect and being perfect requires one to be perfect all the time. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet.

        SAP is too wide to have an ideal basis administrator, add in all of the available layers including functional area knowledge and development skills and you will find ideal to be impossible.

        Is it a good idea to try and be the ideal basis administrator or is one better of to either be an expert and focus on a single area (or perhaps even a very small part) or to be a linchpin and be able to create art and deliver added value?

        I would create a problem team if an issue isn’t solved within reasonable time. If you cannot resolve it through collaboration with the persons from the different layers than you call in help from outside of the organization if needed.

        Diving into every possible layer and trying to learn everything can have as a result that someone knows something about everything and nothing about anything.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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        1. Bala Prabahar Post author
          Tom,

          “Diving into every possible layer and trying to learn everything can have as a result that someone knows something about everything and nothing about anything”.
          Pretty strong opinion I guess.

          I like what Chris Kernaghan said:
             “Basis administrators by accident…”. What does this mean? They were working in other layers several years ago and the customers/employers they were working for decided to implement SAP. And customers/employers assigned them to do Basis work. They didn’t dive into every possible layer for the sake of getting experience/knowledge but they worked in those layers to get the job done before SAP was implemented just like how Basis Administrators work to get the job done. Some of them probably worked/still working long hours, weekends for 20+ years. They have passion, desire, listening skills etc to learn new technologies for 20+ years and still they do.
          Ideal/Perfection is impossible to achieve I agree. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to define what an ideal condition/skill set should be.

          Thanks,
          Bala

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          1. Tom Cenens
            Hello Bala

            Yes I have a strong opinion 🙂 I like discussing things, it’s fun to do.

            I think I’m still missing the point what the purpose is of defining what is ideal if ideal is impossible? Wouldn’t it be better to define what makes someone succesful then?

            Times are changing and have changed already, how many older generation system administrators do you know who are up to date on the latest technologies of SAP? I know very few who are and still I don’t think they are on top of the SAP wave following SAP’s every move.

            Let’s imagine it has great purpose to define ideal. The company would have to be ideal in order for the employee to be ideal. How can one master what is not available in the company and what is certainly not possible to set up at home? It cannot be done.

            I can certainly agree that it is useful to have knowledge on other layers. Like I have already seen that having indepth ABAP knowledge can be very useful as a system administrator. But again there lies the key, having indepth knowledge of that single layer takes years so it’s impossible to have that indepth knowledge on all of those layers.

            Kind regards

            Tom

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            1. Bala Prabahar Post author
              Tom,

              The idea of defining an ideal condition is to see how close is one to that level. Yes, you’re missing a point: the point being that a Basis Administrator should  be proficient in other layers. And it will take time.
              I’m currently working on a blog explaining how knowledge in multiple layers(BW knowledge, Unix Scripting, DB knowledge and SAP Basis) helped me identify the cause and come up with a solution quickly.
              I’m not suggesting one should stay on top of the SAP wave following every move in order to be proficient in other layers.  Even in other layers, one doesn’t need to stay on top of every move of other companies. For example, Oracle/SAP released 11g a year ago. They released a document explaining new features. All one has to do is read and learn by performing those features in a sandbox environment if companies are slow to embrace. Within SAP, all Basis Administrators need to do is learn all new technologies from Basis standpoint. Currently ACC/Virtualization/cloud is new technology. I don’t need to worry about new GL functionality. ABAP introduced new debugger 3-4 years ago. Very useful. Last year, in TechEd, I learnt how to take memory snapshots in ABAP.
              Currently SAP is porting DB to Sybase. As we all know, SAP is also working on In-Memory Technologies. Stay on top of these technologies.

              Have a good day!

              Thanks,
              Bala

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              1. Tom Cenens
                Hello Bala

                If I understand your point correctly it means you want to reflect against your graph and see how far you are? This raises questions when I read it, how do you measure how close you are?

                Even if you are able to master hard skills, soft skills are as important. You can’t call anyone the ideal basis administrator if he can’t collaborate with anyone due to asocial nature of that person.

                I love working on new things and new technologies. We have been testing several features of Oracle 11g for example which is normal I would say.

                I’m also piloting SAPJVM 4.1 (soon to replace platform JDK for SAP Netweaver 7.0x) so I’m definitely interested in those technologies and whatever layer they reside that is related to the SAP system.

                I take any of the opportunities that I can find to jump into new things and learn new technology.

                I also followed an evening session for example on web dynpro programming for example but how far should one go, you can’t follow and do everything. Somewhere down the line you have to make choices.

                So I can definitely agree with you stay staying on top of those technologies is a smart choice as a system administrator.

                Great discussion, makes me think about things.

                Kind regards

                Tom

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  3. Martin English
    Hi Bala,
      I don’t think it matters when people start in Basis; I’m thinking right now of two very good BASIS people who entered the field straight from their CompSci degree.  In fact, something to consider when stereotyping BASIS people;
    – I’m male, the two I’m thinking of are female,
    – For one of us, apart from some intern work during University, all they’ve done is SAP BASIS
    – For the second one, SAP Basis came after about 20 years of Systems and Development work on a very wide range of hardware and software, and
    – For the third one, computers is a second career.

    What makes these two such good BASIS people is their willingness to learn outside the formal courseware (BTW, I’ve found that SAP courses for BASIS people are useful for telling you what SHOULD happen – If that was all that DID happen, we’d have to go get real jobs).  In fact this touches on the most common thing I’ve found in good Administrators (BASIS, Sharepoint, DBAs etc), which has been their willingness to educate themselves, both outside their ‘nominal’ sphere, AND about differences WITHIN their sphere.  A simple example is where someone who has only done BASIS work on SQL Server ABAP engines will, by definition, have less knowledge of SAP / Netweaver internals than someone who has done BASIS work on DB/6 ABAP + JAVA engines, on both Windows AND AIX.

    In a more complex example, a BASIS person who knows about network infrastructure in general (ranging from the differences between IIS and Sendmail, to why some email domains may be blacklisted by the employer’s ISP) is going to be more aware of the impact of the network on external facing SAP systems (be they read only Portals or E-Recruit systems).  This will make the sites more reliable, providing a better advertisment for the employer.

    My previous employer was a large multi-national SI, that encouraged specialisation.  One thing that I tried to encourage was that the BASIS team would be 2nd level support for anything related to SAP (the Help Desk was 1st level), so that we got exposure to the various issues that could cause us problems.  There was plenty of stuff I was happy to leave to the non SAP experts, but I wanted to make sure we had the tools AND the knowledge to provide them with a decent problem diagnosis, if we could. 

    Obviously, some of the non SAP groups were more resistant to this than others.  Usually, this was about who was responsibile for SLA’s (i.e. if area X is our responsibility, we ‘need’ to manage all changes to area X), rather than a simple turf war.  Once we pointed out that we were more interested in learning how to pass better quality information to them, the resistance quickly evaporated. 

    In many cases, this resulted in us being authorised by these groups to do some of the non SAP tasks associated with our systems.  This meant we were able to perform fixes, correct potential issues and so on, much faster than we otherwise would have, simply by virtue of one person doing the work, rather than having put onto my work queue, then someone else’s work queue for their bit, then back onto my work queue.

    For this type of work process to function, you do need several prerequisites;
    1) You need people who are interested in owning the problem – i.e. technically, it’s a comms problem, but it’s affecting the SAP systems, so it’s an SAP problem.
    2) You need people who are interested in learning – i.e. I know you’re an SAP person, but THIS  system is running on an IBM pSeries, so start reading about LPARs [site:redbooks.ibm.com LPAR pseries|http://www.google.com.au/search?q=site%3Aredbooks.ibm.com+LPAR+pseries]
    3) You need people with an open mind – regardless of where the technical issue lies, it may be that the SAP system has to change to suit not vice-versa 🙂

    apologies if this is a bit disjointed; its the tail end of a long weekend here in Oz.  I hope this helps you define what you need in your Administrators, and what you need to provide them (or yourself !!).

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    1. Chris Kernaghan
      Guys,

      For me you both raise very valid points and I did stereotype some people. In every field there are good people to be around and bad people to be around – thankfully the good people tend to stick together, loosely.

      You also articulated something I alluded to, but I suppose did not make clear – the ability, desire, drive, capability to look beyond the SAP Basis layer and want to know more – also importantly apply that knowledge.
      In my experience corporate structures that force specialisation are the things that we should be discouraging as they stop the cross-fertilisation of ideas and practises that drive efficiency. Perhaps this has more effect on the new Basis admins, fresh out of college, that I referred to.
      Like Martin, I’m going to claim a long weekend to excuse disjointed rambling 🙂
      Chris

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    2. Bala Prabahar Post author
      Hi Martin,
      Great points. Agree with everything you said. Here is one challenge I potentially see when someone begins her career in Basis. She might get a chance to work on other layers. That experience wouldn’t be similar to someone starting as DBA for example. IMO, SAP provides tools to manage databases so Basis administrators may presume DBA job is really easy and not make an attempt to learn about RDBMS fundamentals. After starting career as Basis administrator, I don’t know anyone who moved to other groups. However anyone working as DBA/SA becoming Basis administrator is not uncommon. This would mean probably of DBAs knowing a bit more about RDBMS is more than a Basis Administrator who began her career in Basis.
      As you said, if someone is good in learning fundamentals of other layers as Basis administrator, then it is great. It doesn’t matter when people start in Basis.
      You’ve made a lot of great points on other aspects of Basis/IT in general. One of them is an ability to take ownership of a problem. This is key requirement. 

      Thanks for your input.
      Bala

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  4. Michelle Crapo
    I’d argue on the other side…. Slightly. I think years matter. You can’t learn all the tips and tricks over a short amount of time.

    That said – yes I do know some great basis admins with limited experience. HOWEVER, they know a lot about technology prior to getting into Basis.

    I would say – if you don’t want to work incredibly long hours, have thankless tasks until something breaks – and then maybe even get blamed for it – then don’t go into basis! Our Basis team is well loved. I however, would never want to work the hours they do.

    Glad to see this blog. Good going Bala!

    Michelle

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    1. Bala Prabahar Post author
      Michelle,

      Thanks for your feedback. One day I hope to become as excited as you and Tom. Well, I’ll try.
      I happened to watch Video of American Express(I believe) in Tom’s blog. That made me think. Why not I make use of this free blogging space to better my personality, writing skills, networking and more importantly “give back”. Everyone in this space makes an attempt to understand what another person tries to say due to cultural diversity of this network. I hope to contribute more in coming days/weeks/months/years.

      Regards,
      Bala

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Bala

        You make a good point there, you can leverage SCN can help you get closer to your ideal point.

        The way of doing that is by creating, sharing and by doing that you do critical thinking and you get into discussions that can alter your point of view.

        I find being active on SCN very valuable. One can only understand what it is about and to what extent the community and yourself can benefit from it once you are doing that.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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  5. Augusto Cristicini
    In my 13 years of Basis and only Basis as I came from Auto Cad and was schooled in both architecture and computer technology, doing some 4 years of Auto Cad and then being hired right into Basis from the computer schooling, I believe that we need to work in teams and therefore teamwork being an important attribute as well as embracing diversity.

    One person can solve a problem and often will but when we get more people involved the benefit is huge.  It takes all kinds of Basis Administrators and in the end being able to work in teams is the key to success for a company supporting some 200 plus instances of SAP or just 20.  Diverse teams from different backgrounds, knowledge, and techniques, every growing, improving

    No right answer to this puzzle, but my experience working as a lone warrior and part of the team, tell me the team is much more effective and utilizing all breeds and backgrounds of what placed you into Basis Administration are valuable.  In fact the more diverse the team the better I find it to view the problem from the multiple angles it requires, so that solving and preventing problems as well as communicating, documenting and continuous improvement become a team effort to service the industry and not individual careers. 

    This I have found to be the most valuable part of working in basis, the calibration of different skills and how the come together.  No one and I mean no one can know everything and keep up with the ever changing technology field whether basis or other, which we need to know other cause we can not be effective unless we do.  Ability to learn, capacity, motivations, following good leaders.

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    1. Bala Prabahar Post author
      I agree when you work with brilliant teams, the benefits of team work is really huge. However downside is that brilliant people may spend time debating every little issue unless they are managed by brilliant leaders. “No right answer to this puzzle” – this is great point. It all depends. Sometimes one person who can work independently could be an asset. They would call him “low maintenance”. Some other time he could become an nuisance.

      Thank you for your input.
      Bala

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