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“What is SAP?”

SAP is an Enterprise Resource Planning software application. Even more simply, it is a software application. Just like any other software application, it must reside on an operating system which provides services to the application for it to run. SAP can function on top of Windows and many versions of UNIX (Linux, AIX, Solaris, HPUX).

“What is SAP Basis?”

In the early days, SAP had just one component, SAP R/3 (today called SAP Enterprise Core Component or Enterprise Central Component or ECC). SAP R/3 sat layered on top of a more basic technical layer, often refered to as “SAP Basis”. SAP Basis acts as a filter (technically called an abstraction layer) between the actual business logic in SAP R/3 and the specifics of the operating system and database underneath. In this way SAP business programmers could focus on writing business logic (in SAP’s proprietary ABAP language) and not have to worry whether or not it would work on the various permutations of operating system and database. Basis handled all that. Long before JAVA was even conceived, SAP mastered the concept of “write once, run many” that JAVA promised but has yet to fully deliver. You can think of an SAP application as a layer cake: hardware -> operating system -> database -> SAP basis -> SAP application. The Basis layer and the SAP application layer are bundled up and can be placed on top of many different permutations of HW/OS/DB and still function as intended. No need to recompile or rewrite code to change HW/OS/DB.

“What is an SAP Module?”

SAP R/3 (now called SAP ECC, see above) contains a staggering amount of business logic. The whole point of a enterprise resource planning system is that it runs an entire business. That means that *all* common business functions: Sales and Distribution (SD), Financials and Controlling (FICO or just FI), Human Resources (HR), Materials Management(MM), and Production Planning (PP) to name some of the most popular functions. Each of theses business functions can be turned on and off individually and is referred to as a module. Even within a module, you can configure just a piece of the module to work and ignore the rest of the functionality if you like. So, basically, a Module is a convenient term used to refer to a subsection of the functionality of a component.

“What is an SAP Component?”

At some point, SAP started to branch out from the business processes that almost every company needs (functionality within ECC) and create separate, stand alone,  components that only specialized companies need. You can think of these components as extreme versions of the modules. For example, extreme Sales and Distribution is Customer Relationship Management. Extreme Materials Management is Supplier Relationship Management. Extreme Production Planning is Advanced Planning and Optimization (APO). These components were built so they could function standalone or in conjunction with SAP ECC. The idea is that every company needs SAP ECC to cover core processes but if your company needs more, then you can augment with the more specialized components.

“What is SAP NetWeaver?”

Originally all of the components were built on top of the same ABAP Web Application Server (Basis), but as SAP’s offerings became more sophisticated, other basic infrastructure came into play. SAP purchased an JAVA company and a Portal company. SAP also developed it’s own Data Warehouse. Since all of these very basic tools were pretty much needed at all customers, they were bundled together under the SAP NetWeaver umbrella (along with a few more items, like eXchange Infrastructure, XI — later renamed Process Infrastructure, PI). The NetWeaver tools are basically a toolkit that you can use to augment or enhance the business functionality delivered by a component. Since NetWeaver provides the plumbing underneath all of the components, it is often interchangeably referred to as SAP Basis in reference to the original ABAP stack that was the foundation of SAP R/3.

“What does an SAP NetWeaver System Administrator do?” or “What does an SAP Basis person do?”

As discussed earlier, SAP NetWeaver is a collection of tools that lies underneath all SAP Components. You can think of that toolset (more specifically the ABAP and JAVA stacks) as an operating system that sits on top of whatever operating system lies underneath any given SAP component. Many of the activities that an SAP NetWeaver System Administrator does day-to-day are similar to the activities of an OS system admin, a database admin, and/or network admin. The SAP Basis person performs his/her activities from within the SAP software as well as at the OS and DB layers/interfaces.

In a small shop, a typical SAP basis person might do the following tasks: create users/assign roles (within SAP), run backup, check db/os space utilization, add space if necessary, install SAP software, configure SAP parameters, monitor CPU/Memory/disk space/performance, configure connectivity between SAP components or SAP/nonSAP components, configure printing queues/printers, and/or sap software change management (aka Transports or Transport Management). Not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. For the most part these are all activities that would be familiar to a UNIX/Windows OS admin, a DBA, or a network admin. Most SAP Basis folks start their careers as OS sysadmins and/or DBAs. A smaller number start life as network administrators.

In very small shops, the SAP Basis Admin often wears all four hats (os admin, dba, network admin, and SAP admin). As you go up in company size, you see more specialization. Many companies have a separate dedicated admin for each function: OS admin, DBA, network admin, and SAP Basis admin. As you go further up the scale in size, you’ll find those responsibilities spread even thinner: one or more OS admins, SAN admin, one or more DBAs, one or more SAP Basis admins, one or more dedicated SAP Security personelle, etc. I’ll cover Basis specializations in a separate blog post.

“You can’t get hired as an SAP Basis Admin without experience, so how do you get experience?”

There are several paths, but these two are the most common: 1) Company already runs SAP and has experienced staff. Hard workers from desktop support/os admin/dba pool get promoted to SAP Basis group. 2) Company does NOT have SAP, but buys it. Existing OS/DBA/network admins get tasked with helping implement SAP with help of consultants. You’ll not that there is NOT a group three in which a recent college graduate pays a chunk of money to get SAP certification and then gets hired to do SAP Basis work. It happens, but VERY infrequently. Mostly companies want to know that you can function as a normal admin before training you to be an SAP Basis admin. Thousands of people get their start as SAP Basis Admins every year through the first two routes. This means that there are PLENTY of experienced people available for every job that is posted for SAP Basis work. I can’t stress this enough: if you have no work experience as an SAP Basis admin, you are wasting your time applying for SAP Basis admin openings. The folks you are competing against for those jobs typically have 8 or more years as an admin with at least 2 or 3 of those years doing SAP Basis work specifically. If you have no experience and would like to have a career as an SAP Basis person, go get hired as an OS admin, a DBA, or a network admin at a company that already runs SAP. That is, by far, your best chance to eventually get into SAP.

“What role does SAP Certification play in this process?”

If you read up on SAP Certification, you’ll see that SAP recommends certification for experienced folks only. That means, get a job as an admin, then get a job as an SAP admin and get trained. Work as an SAP admin for a a while… THEN get certified. Certification is not a golden pass to your dream job if you have no existing work experience (see above), but it CAN provide a key differentiator between two experienced candidates applying for the same junior to mid level Basis job. Some consulting companies require all of their consultants to be certified to give their customers a better feeling about hiring the consulting company. Once you are very experienced, the certification loses some of it’s power again as you can generally get hired by referencing work you’ve done in the past.

I hope this gives you a good idea of what SAP Netweaver (Basis) is all about and how to start off your career if you decide SAP Basis is your path.

Best regards,

  –Tom

Also posted at http://scn.sap.com/blogs/SAPCareerAdvice

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16 Comments

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  1. Dan Hahn

    I’m a DBA in a mid sized company just starting to implement SAP, this was a very well written and informative post, thanks!

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    1. Thomas Dulaney Post author

      Thanks Osvaldo! Thanks Dan! I absolutely appreciate the feedback! And congratulations, Dan, you’re on the start of a fantastic adventure. At least, it’s kept me entertained and off the street for 14 years. 🙂   -td

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  2. Seraph Za

    Hi all

    Could really use some advice/direction.

    I am thinking of going into SAP Basis, I am very interested in the type of work in SAP Basis, it seems very similar to Systems Administration/OS administration the latter an area which I am very much interested in as well.

    I have a degree in Business and a major in IT, and I am currently working in an organisation which uses SAP working specifically and primarily with the system in the Level 1 Support Team .So hence while I do get to troubleshoot basic SAP issues users of the system encounter, the more advanced problems are normally escalated to the higher teams to resolve.

    Long story short, I was interested in doing courses in SAP BASIS but I read here that If I do not have experience with SAP Basis or as a System/OS admin It’s not going to help.

    Hence does this mean I need to get into System/OS administration first? Is there any certification that can help me do that? Would this mean I would have to start off in Level 1 IT support?

    any advice would be appreciated

    Thank you

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    1. Thomas Dulaney

      Hi Seraph,

      Yes, you have the best path laid out. First concentrate on getting basic os and/or db administration job at a company that runs SAP. Then, by proving yourself to be trustworthy and hard working, you should get opportunities for advancement. Let the SAP group know that you’re interested in transferring to Basis. Your reputation as someone willing to do the research and to do the work will hopefully carry you into the job when something opens up.

      Sorry I took so long to respond. Any updates from your side? Have you secured an os/db admin job?

      Best regards,

      –Tom

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  3. mahmoud galal

    hey am still student and last year in faculty and i wanna work in this field so plz suggest me a plane as am a fresh graduate and what job i can apply for (faculty of information system)

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    1. Amal Aloun

      Hello Mohammed;

      I would suggest to check SAP customers, and partners who are already running, or implementing  SAP at their organizations, and see if they need someone who can take care of their systems from the back end, and take care of their basis work including system backups, installations, and upgrades, and users support with the rest of the expected work from a basis consultant.

      Best Regards

      ~Amal Aloun

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      1. Aparajit Banik

        Hi Amal,

        I appreciate your suggestion to Mohammad. But here in India the scenario is completely different.
        Companies dont recruit freshers from market they are hired via college campus placement. Those who dont get placements and want to have a career in SAP there is no way out. MNCs dont recruit them as they all want experienced fellows.
        Small scale firm, they dont have projects and so they rarely hire and even if they do, they will do it with multiple skills like say BI-BO, or BW-HANA. 
        My question is  pretty simple.

        Employer want their resources to be trained and skillful so as to reap the maximum in terms of effort, time and cost. In this context, the question that i have is:

        If college pass outs irrespective of their discipline of study is hired by the same MNCs (who say they dont want freshers in SAP domain) and being trained and put to work in SAP as SAP Consultants, what wrong has the SAP Certified freshers have done that they don’t even deserve the entry level positions similar to these college pass outs?

        Forget about salary, one who has proved his/her credentials by clearing so called SAP Certification exam should or should not be given an opportunity at entry level ??

        This question has never been answered as no body has the answer or nobody wants to.

        -Aparajit

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        1. Thomas Dulaney

          Hello Mahmoud, Amal, and Aparajit,

          Both Amal and Aparajit are correct. Some folks are recruited into SAP Basis directly from college. Those folks have the easy path. For folks who missed that path, the way is much harder. You have to get a job as an OS administrator or DB administrator FIRST, then work your way into the SAP group. Sometimes you have to start as end-user help desk support before you can even get the OS/DB admin job. This path takes many more years, but is possible.

          Please see:

          FAQ for SAP NetWeaver Admin (SAP Basis) Careers

          FAQ: How do I get my first SAP job?

          Advice for Recent College Graduates (aka “Freshers”)

          FAQ: What is the best SAP module for me?

          How did you get your start in SAP?

          Aparajit,

          The reason MNCs take a chance on folks before they graduate is because they feel like they can get the “best” candidates before they’ve been snapped up by others. Anyone not snapped up prior to graduation is automatically suspect and stamped “second choice”. It’s not fair, but it is a fact of life. This is why it is important to tell anyone who is in college how to get to the front of the line and get selected PRIOR to graduation (Advice for Students Interested in a Career in SAP). Early preparation and application lets the recruiters know that they are not only eager and prepared and willing to do the work, but that they can take initiative and act proactively instead of reactively.

          Clearing the certification exam without experience just proves that you know how to take a test. Getting an internship and getting in front of recruiters before you graduate give recruiters the impression that you are aware of what it takes to make a career and that career comes before partying.  Waiting until after you graduate and can’t find a job, then paying money to get trained and certified before you have any job prospects, just makes you look desperate. Recruiters hate desperate. Desperate people are unpredictable. Companies like predictable.

          Hope that helps!

          Best regards,

          –Tom

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          1. Dharma Reddy

            Hello Tom, Amal, and Aparajit,

            Nice explanation to fresher. A good blog explaining what SAP basis is in a nutshell.

            Amal:

            You may heard “Practice makes a man perfect” in same lines once who joins as a fresher in any function will attain some expertise and excels in it, provided one is having zeal to learn.

            Aparajit:

            As Tom said bigger organizations recruit younger people and put them in projects with existing seniors as helpers, and within six  months to a year they become experts in the areas of basis with guidance of the seniors, though they doesnt have all the experiences Tom speaking about.

            Best Regards

            GDR

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  4. Amith Vejendla

    Hi Thomas,

    This is by far the most informative post I have ever read on SAP Basis. It gives each every detail with regards to basic doubts and querys in mind with regards to the course.

    I have been working as a technical support(Windows troubleshooting, a little of networking and remote assistance; Hardware troubleshooting) agent for 8 years in Dell. Kindly let me know if this experince will count when job hunting for SAP Basis.

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  5. Scott Lund

    Hi Thomas,

    I very new to SAP and after 10 years of System Administration in the Windows world, it was great to read an article that was to the point and offered the pro’s and con’s to the many aspects.

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    1. Thomas Dulaney

      Hi Amith and Scott,

      I am glad you have found this article helpful!

      Amith,

      I apologize for not responding sooner. Yes, your years of System Administration would definitely weigh in your favor. In the old days, that would have been enough to get you hired and then trained by an SAP implementer. These days, your best bet is to still try to apply for a regular OS admin job at a company and then try to switch into the basis group.

      The problem is that even if you pay the money to take the training and get certified, if you apply to a Basis position, you’re going to be competing against folks who have hands on experience. From a hiring manager point of view someone with direct SAP Admin experience but less OS admin experience is a safer bet.

      However, if you work for a company as an OS admin and build up a reputation within the company, then you’ll have a good shot at having them decide that based on your track record, all you need is a little training and you’ll continue to excel in the SAP admin group.

      In general, I recommend that you get the job and let the company pay to train you. If you pay to get the training on your own and apply for an entry level Basis job, you’re likely to take a big step back in pay. If you get a lateral transfer within your company, even though technically you’ll be more junior as an SAP administrator, typically, they keep your salary the same.

      I wish you all the best on your journey and hope this helps!!

      Best regards,

        –Tom

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  6. Bradley Makinson

    Hi Tom.

    I am in a slightly different situation than any in your description. I am an apprentice in SAP Basis and have basic IT knowledge. The idea of the apprenticeship program is to teach young and fresh people how to become a basis consultant. As I have no experience in the fields you mentioned, and I am fresh with SAP, how would you recommend I take up the best and fastest way to learn my trade. I am everyday working with Basis consultants some with over 20 years experience, and they are always giving me tips and showing me things I should know. But as for learning in general, should I take more courses and continue to get hands on experience with my employees? should I revise basis consistently and only get hands on when I am more competent? What is your recommendation?

    Kind Regards

    Bradley

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    1. Thomas Dulaney

      Hi Bradley,

      You are in a very fortunate position! Experience is the best teacher and since you are doing the work day to day with senior folks to advise, you’re going to find that you learn something every day. After a year or two of hands-on, you’ll be in the sweet spot for getting your certification. With a few years of experience plus certification, the sky is the limit for you!

      In addition to doing the work day to day, invest in new SAP books when they come out, follow the forums on SCN that interest you most and document what you’re doing every day. You’ll be surprised how much more you understand what you’re doing when you take the time to do good documentation. Also, make sure to mentor those that come in after you. Teaching someone else to do something will also help solidify your understanding and help with communication/presentation skills which are essential to progressing in your career.

      Sounds like you’re off to a great start!

      Best regards,

        –Tom

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