SAP and Enterprise Trends Podcasts from Jon Reed (@jonerp) of
Free spirited, old school podcasts on all things enterprise with Jon Reed of, along with troublemakers and/or special guests
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Jon Reed interviews Jim Spath, Technlogy Architect for Black and Decker, and gets his frank views on ASUG 2008, including the Business Objects acquisition, SAP for the Blackberry, and the impact of social media on SAP professionals.

In this thirty-five minute podcast, Jim addresses some of the major themes of ASUG/Sapphire 2008 from the vantage point of how SAP's technology impacts the user community. An active blogger on the SAP Developer Network, Jim is also an SAP mentor, as well as an ASUG conference planner.

Join Jon and Jim as they peel back the conference hype and look at the issues that mattered to SAP users.

Topics covered in this podcast include:

- Jim's SAP's background and his current role at Black and Decker.

- The Business Objects acquisition and Jim's views on how the Business Objects purchase is impcating SAP customers. Jim discusses the importance of SAP customers developing a new Business Intelligence Roadmap that incorporates BO, and what ASUG is doing to help with that.

- The "SAP for the BlackBerry" announcement, Jim's own involvement with the ASUG Mobile Technology sessions and why he believes SAP needs to expand its focus beyond the BlackBerry to other mobile devices, in keeping with its platform-agnostic approach.

- Jim's take on the lessons learned from Sapphire/ASUG co-location and how companies can take better advantage of co-location when they send their user teams to these shows.

- Jon expresses his skepticism about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for big businesses, and Jim explains how his background in environmental engineering has given him a different take on CSR. He talks about his research on SAP CSR and how there may be some positive eco-friendly changes in SAP's own production processes that are possible.

It fits in with his goal of fostering transparency in business and supporting SAP in its commitment to greater transparency. Jim also takes pride in Black and Decker's own commitment to socially responsible business, and after the podcast, Jim sent along a link to Black and Decker's corporate citizenship practices.

- Jim's experiences as a blogger on SDN, how it has impacted his career growth, and his advice for those who are just getting involved in SDN and may be a little shy about starting their own blogs.

Jim talks about how writing publicly means learning how to handle and incorporate criticism, and how SDN/BPX leaders like Marilyn Pratt encouraged his own emergence as a blogger.

- Jim's take on the BPX Community Day and how social media is impacting the SAP professional. He talks about how Black and Decker has been very supportive of his efforts to involve himself in the SAP community, and speaks to the tensions some companies and managers may have around the question of "is this social media stuff you're doing wasting our time or helping our bottom line."

Black and Decker sees how the community involvement of employees like Jim pays off. Not all companies feel that way yet, but things are changing.

- On the BPX Community Day panel, the question of "how do you find time to interact online?" came up. Jim shares his secret to beating the time crunch: getting up a half hour early each day to blog.
Direct download: pcast_0608_sap_reed_spath01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 3:13am EDT

In this Sapphire in Review mega-edition podcast, Jon Reed Interviews Kent Bettisworth, President of Bettisworth and Associates, and gets his take on the key themes of Sapphire 2008.

Kent is a senior Project Systems snd Fixed Asset consultant whose company also offers SAP System Access in conjunction with Michael Management. After you listen to this podcast, you will understand why Kent is one of Jon's "go to" people when it comes to analyzing SAP skills trends and staying ahead of the skills curve.

During this back-and-forth discussion, Jon asks Kent for his reaction to the SAP keynotes and the trends Kent noticed in terms of SAP-for-the-BlackBerry, Business by Design, Role-Based Portals and beyond, and the emphasis on personalization and useability of SAP - not always SAP's strongest aspect historically. A major focus of the podcast is a closer look at the so-called "SAP Skills Shortage" and how SAP professionals should respond.

Topics covered in this podcast include:

- Kent's take on the keynotes, and why he was struck by Hasso Plattner's emphasis not only on Role-Based Portals but even more personalized user experiences, leveraging the technology being developed for Business By Design. Kent also talks about the SAP-for-the-BlackBerry announcement and which parts of the enterprise should be most impacted.

- Jon asks Kent for the key trends driving SAP staffing, and Kent explains that at the conference and in his own client work, the major driver is still core upgrades as well as merger and acquisition implementation activity.

Kent does make a distinction between the type of SAP consulting activity we see today versus what we saw in the mid-90s. He talks about the focus on technical upgrades, but that his clients are also doing functional enhancements in targeted areas. Business Intelligence is also a factor now.

- The so-called "SAP Skills Shortage" was a major talking point at the SAP press conference. Jon asks Kent for his view, and Kent agrees that the skills shortage is not so much across the board as targeted in specialized areas of higher demand.

He also thinks that part of the issue is that SAP customers have a harder time leveraging the skills of less-experienced SAP folks (under five years). Kent shares some ideas around a mentoring structure that would allow clients to take better advantage of less experience talent in conjunction with senior mentors such as Kent.

- Jon asks for Kent's take on how specialized an SAP consultant needs to be in order to be successful, and gets Kent's take on a situation where his work was balanced on a project by another expert in the product costing area.

- Kent delves into the Project Systems area of specialization, and related skills in Fixed Assets and Portfolio Management. He shares the latest trends in Project Systems consulting in areas related to capital management, revenue, and investment management.

Kent also tells Jon what the value is in the xRPM xApp and how it fits into the landscape of SAP functionality. xRPM is different from classic PS work in that it involves more technical skills in BI and Portals work in order to implement it.

- The talk then moved into a discussion of how SAP system access can help a consultant get a better feel for these emerging areas in PS and Investment Management, as well as other new areas of SAP. Jon and Kent talk about how the SAP ecosystem can be a great source of self-education for the SAP professional in transition.

- Last but not least, the last segment of the podcast gets into Jon and Kent's debate about the Business Process Expert skill set. Kent has maintained that the best SAP consultants have always had a business process focus.

But Kent also agrees that today's BPX world has new communities (like the BPX community) and new tools to master. Kent talks about how he always saw the value of business process management expertise, whether it was Six Sigma or Total Quality Management.

- Jon and Kent talk about the pieces Jon has done on SAP configuration skills and whether they are going away anytime soon. Jon and Kent talk about the ideal skill set for the SAP consultant - a combination of focused specialization in a marketable niche with a broader (but related) business process and industry expertise.
Direct download: pcast_0508_sap_reed_bettis01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 3:31am EDT

Foote Partners conducts some of the most extensive skills-based SAP (and IT) salary and skills/modules pay surveys on the market today.

In this podcast, hosted by, Jon Reed interviews David Foote of Foote Partners and gets David's views on the extent of the SAP skills gap, which skills are in demand (and which are not), the value of certification, and other SAP skills trends after Sapphire 2008.

The so-called "SAP skills gap" was one of the biggest topics of discussion at Sapphire again this year. David Foote was at the center of this discussion, asking SAP executives about the extent of the skills gap and how they plan to respond.

During the podcast, David details his concerns about SAP's ability to meet the skills demand caused in particular by midmarket expansion. He also gives provides insight into how larger economic trends impact SAP skills demand, and he also tells us why the best SAP professionals have a narrow, rather than a broad, skills focus.

During the discussion, Jon also gets David's take on how SAP project teams can attract (and retain) the best SAP talent. David shares how the data he gathers at Foote Partners ties into the overall trends he observes in terms of the value of IT certifications.

The limitations of certification when it comes to measuring the emerging "business process expert" skill set are also discussed.

In terms of which SAP skills are most in demand, David cites the following areas as trending towards "hot":

SAP ERP 6.0 upgrade skills (Financials, HCM, Materials Management)

NetWeaver Master Data Management (MDM)

NetWeaver Application Server

NetWeaver Business Intelligence (BI)

Areas that are getting a bit colder in Foote Partner's latest findings (which are issued quarterly):

ABAP Development


NetWeaver Process Integration (PI, formerly XI)

Sales and Distribution (SD)

By the time you're done listening to this thirty minute podcast, you'll have an excellent feel for how Foote Partners views the skills trends in the SAP marketplace, and how SAP professionals can best respond to these skills trends.
Direct download: pcast_0508_sap_reed_foote01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 2:57am EDT

SAP HCM is one of the hottest areas in SAP consulting, but the skills you need to succeed in SAP HR are also changing. To get to the bottom of what's hot and what's not in SAP HCM consulting, Jon Reed sat down with Ralph Williams, Director HCM Solutions, B2B Workforce.

SAP HR is changing from a back office product to a strategically important "HCM" solution that includes cutting edge Talent Management components. But what does that mean for the SAP HR professional? What skills are in demand now?

In his role at B2B Workforce, Ralph has the opportunity to see firsthand which areas of HR are hot, and which are not as hot. In this thirty minute podcast, Ralph shares with Jon the specific areas of SAP HR that are heating up, and what he looks for in the HR/HCM consultants he and his team place on B2B Workforce projects.
Direct download: pcast_0308_sap_reed_williams01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:15am EDT

What skills do you need to perform an SAP Logistics upgrade to ERP 6.0? And what does it take to thrive as an independent SAP consultant? To get a better feel for the functional skills needed on the ERP 6.0 platform in the SAP Logistics area, Jon spoke down with Thomas Woelfel, a veteran SD consultant, and got his take on how the SD module is evolving.

During this thirty five minute podcast, Thomas gives his view on what SAP Logistics consultants need to know in order to keep pace with SAP. A major focus of the podcast is on the role of the independent SAP consultant on project teams, and Thomas' recommendations for success as an independent.

In this frank look at the challenges of independent consulting, Thomas explains how he has found a way to thrive as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on SAP projects, balancing his relationships with the end client and the outside consulting partner.
Direct download: pcast_0308_sap_reed_woelfel01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:02am EDT

SAP development is changing rapidly, and this technical evolution is impacting both technical and functional SAP professionals. To get an inside look at the future of SAP development, Jon interviewed Thomas Jung, NetWeaver Product Manager with SAP Labs and an influential blogger on the SAP Developer Network.

Jon asked Thomas about a number of "hot button" topics in the SAP development space, including the innovations of the CE environment and the modeling tools needed for eSOA-driven development, the impact of outsourcing and how to make your skills "outsourcing proof," why ABAP development is alive and well, and how's SAP's SDN and BPX communities are affecting how SAP professionals interact with SAP and enhance their skill sets.

In this thirty-three minute interview, hosted by Jon Franke of, "the two Jons" and Thomas cover the following topics:

- Thomas' role at SAP Labs and how his NetWeaver Product Management team is involved with the rollout of the NetWeaver product line and the interaction with SAP users at events and seminars.

- Why the online communities have had such an effect on SAP development and how knowledge about SAP products and skills trends is disseminated.

- Jon asks Thomas to explain why his presentation on "Updating Your ABAP Skills to NetWeaver 7.0" has been so well received at SAP conferences, and what the key adjustments a 4.6 SAP developer has to make to be effective in NetWeaver 7.x and eSOA environments. Thomas points out that one key aspect of the "SAP developer of the future" is simply mastering object-oriented programming and ABAP Objects - something you can get started on even while working on 4.x projects.

- Frequently, Jon his from readers who ask him "is ABAP dead?" Thomas puts these fears to rest once and for all by explaining that ABAP is still very much a part of the NetWeaver development environment. He describes some of the situations where ABAP is more useful and some where Java-based tools are more relevant. ABAP works best for powering high-volume, core transactions and Java is ideal for "edge programming" where SAP is extending its functionality via Enterprise Services. But ABAP can be "opened up" as well, and many new SAP components are built partially or fully in ABAP.

- The impact of offshoring - Thomas gives his take on which SAP projects are better suited for outsourcing and which development projects are more effective to have in-house. Thomas doesn't believe that it makes sense to outsource all SAP development projects, and he goes on to describe some of the ways that SAP programmers can make their skills "outsourcing proof": don't build a "wall" between you and the rest of the team, keep up on your knowledge, stay visible, and become known as the person who learns the latest SAP technical tools and shares them with others.

- Thomas shares the highlights of the SAP Composition Environment (CE), including the integration between CE and the Enterprise Services Repository (ESR), Visual Composer, Guided Procedures, and the other bells and whistles of this EE 5 environment.

- What is the makeup of the ideal SAP project team? Thomas puts on his CIO hat and talks about the kinds of people he would put on his SAP technical project team. More than anything, he'd be looking for self-starters who aggressively educate themselves through their involvement with SDN and other learning communities. He'd want to see a mixture of Internet, Java, and ABAP skills on the team, but more important than specific tools is an SAP technical team that can adapt to the pace of innovation.

- In terms of "soft" business skills, Thomas places a high value on those who get outside their cubicles and interact with the project team, making an effort to transfer knowledge to other team members. Thomas believes that you can't get away with being a "cubicle coder," anymore. If you aren't needed on site, then you run the risk of being outsourced. One way to differentiate yourself is to know enough about the business to be able to help business users define their requirements and what they want to accomplish technically.

- Thomas explains why the latest batch of modeling tools are catching on and why modeling is having such an impact on SAP development. There are two types of modeling tools: those that help business users model processes on a higher level without needing to program (Visual Programmers), and those that help programmers reduce repetitive programming tasks (Web Dynpro for Java being one example, and other modeling tools added to the NetWeaver Developer Studio and the ABAP Workbench being other examples).

- Jon asks Thomas about SAP's eSOA strategy and how it is impacting development. Thomas agrees that eSOA will allow companies to build Enterprise Services using the language and platform of their choice, but he also notes that SAP is building some of the best SOA development and consumption tools on the market.

- Jon Franke of SearchSAP asks Thomas about how business users can get more involved in these trends, and Thomas points out the BPX community, and how business users can get involved in a variety of ways, including through BPX's industry vertical communities.

- Jon points out that Thomas' "Update Your ABAP Skills to NetWeaver 7.0" seminar is available on the Virtual TechEd '07 track on SDN (for a fee), and Thomas shares the forward schedule for when this workshop will be held next.

- Thomas wraps the podcast with a compelling argument to avoid career panic in the face of new SAP technologies. He makes the point that SAP developers should follow their passions, and when you are the best at what you do, that's an excellent way "outsource-proof" your skills.
Direct download: pcast_0208_sap_reed_jung01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:57am EDT

In this podcast, Jon talks with Peter Scott of Traxion Consulting and gets his take on why the NetWeaver BI marketplace has picked up so much momentum. Jon asks Peter to explain how NetWeaver BI got so hot and the skills SAP BI professionals need to succeed in the BI field. Peter also shares the keys to staffing SAP BI projects and how SAP end users should approach their BI installs and upgrades.

In this twenty-seven minute podcast, Jon and Peter cover a range of NetWeaver BI topics, including:

- The role of Traxion consulting in the BI market and their focus on BI knowledge transfer.

- The changing terminology of BW and BI and the transition from BW 3.5 to BI 7.0.

- Jon asks Peter why the NetWeaver BI market is so hot right now. Peter explains that in a recent survey, 40 percent of all CIOs cited BI projects as their number one priority. Part of the issue is the explosion of data for all SAP customers, and they want to stay on top of this data to improve decision making based on facts. Also, because of Sarbanes-Oxley, companies installed BW and now they are looking for more ways of leveraging the data.

- Part of the growth of BI is about the transition between ERP as a transaction-based system and the new role of ERP has a decision-making platform to extend reporting and business intelligence to users and executives. How to pull the ERP data out and use it has become a top corporate priority.
- Peter explains the keys to BI training and bringing an internal team up to speed, to leave them in a better position after external consultants have left. Peter talks about the importance of custom SAP training with heavy hands-on involvement, and why it can be so much more effective than a standard "out of the box" training.

- Jon asks Peter how SAP teams can overcome user resistance to job changes brought on by BI and how to get them excited about the new technology. Peter talks about the importance of getting management on board to improve buy-in of the system, and to recognize that there will be user resistance if SAP users are not brought into the loop with the changes that are pending.

- Jon's theory is that BI is not just for specialists anymore. BI is a skill that all consultants can and should incorporate into their SAP skill set. Peter agrees, and talks about the how all R/3 and ECC consultants can add value to their clients by understanding the NetWeaver stack, and BI specifically, and how the ECC environment connects to the OLAP environment, in SAP Financials and many other areas. And you can also get a great niche in BI by including a functional focus with those skills.

- Peter gives his take on the kinds of skills you want to have on a well-rounded BI team. A solid understanding of data modeling and data warehousing is key. ABAP is still important, and ABAP for BI is valuable also for writing user exits and function modules for BI. Even in the age of Web Reporting and the Java stack, ABAP is still relevant. HTML and Javascript are also useful for advanced programming and inserting code into the Web Application Designer. Peter also recommends Visual Composer skills, and Web Dynpro skills, as well as Object-Oriented programming skills.

- Peter comments about some of the tools that are emerging in the BI space, including Visual Composer and Web Dynpro, as well as other tools that are extending the out-of-the-box functionality, including customized reports and better presentation options that also increase user buy-in through a better interface. Peter says that with the latest WebDynpro and Visual Composer presentation options, you can almost trick users into not realizing they are using SAP because it's so intuitive.

- Jon asks Peter about BI implementation scenarios and common mistakes to avoid. Peter talks about companies spending insufficient time on design, planning, and user buy-in during the initial project stages. Understanding the company's user requirements is important to be able to identify the limitations of the system and plan accordingly.
- Peter talks about the real ROI takeaways from a successful NetWeaver BI project. Peter shares the example of a project where they were able to identify 7 million dollars in unbilled revenue as a result of the BI tools. Peter also finds that a good BI project helps an SAP customer develop much clearer benchmarks and metrics for everyone understanding the keys to business success in their industry.

- In terms of a real-life example of a KPI, Peter describes previous clients who did not know who their most profitable customers were, and how the BI implementation helped them to identify who those customers were. Or, alternately, a company that figured out that some of their products were too expensive based on the analysis of the raw materials through BI reports.

- Jon asks Peter to talk about upgrade lessons to NetWeaver BI 7.0. Peter talks about the importance, once again, of pre-project planning, and what bugs you might run into during the conversion. Internal knowledge, training, and change management all play a role.
Direct download: pcast_0108_sap_reed_scott01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:50am EDT

Jon Reed speaks with Steve Strout, CEO of ASUG, Americas' SAP Users' Group, about the key issues SAP customers are facing in the NetWeaver and eSOA era. Jon asks Steve about the different perspectives SAP customers have concerning upgrades and how ASUG can make an impact on SAP project team education and support during the upgrade cycle.

Steve also talks about how ASUG is impacting SAP's product evolution and he shares his vision for ASUG in 2008 and beyond.

During this thirty-five minute podcast, Jon and Steve touch on key topics such as:

- How Jon first met Steve at SAPPHIRE/ASUG 2007, and right after they met, someone spilled a drink on Steve. Jon begins the podcast by telling Steve he hopes that this initial spill is not permanently associated with talking with Jon. Jon talks about how ASUG has evolved from a "small thorn in SAP's side" to a "true collaborative" partner, and one of the most powerful software users groups in the world.

- Steve talks about how he initially got involved in ASUG with his first event he attended in 2002, why he is so impressed by the passion of the SAP community, and how his role at ASUG evolved until the opportunity to become ASUG's first CEO emerged this fall.

- Jon asks Steve about his progress on developing an ASUG strategy for the coming year, and Steve shares his vision of redefining what a software user group can be. Steve's goal is to reach the point where ASUG is at the center of the SAP ecosystem. Steve talks about how the 50,000 plus ASUG members have had a major impact on SAP's product development through ASUG's expanding group of Influence Councils.

- Jon tells Steve that at TechEd, he ran into a number of SAP customers who were still confused about NetWeaver, eSOA, and how to leverage to eSOA technology to get a true return on investment. He asks Steve to explain how ASUG can help customers sort through their eSOA confusion and come up with a solid roadmap. Steve talks about the way that SOA technology has evolved, and the power of the eSOA architecture due to the loose coupling and the potential to involve customers and suppliers through exposed services. Steve talks about two of ASUG's new SIGs (Special Interest Groups) dedicated to eSOA: one focused on Enterprise Architects, and one on eSOA, and how those SIGs allow ASUG to gather and relay key feedback and influence SAP's approach to eSOA.

- Steve asks readers for feedback on whether it would be helpful to offer regional workshops on getting started with eSOA and developing an eSOA roadmap, and if so, what regions and cities would be best for the sessions.
- ASUG regularly conducts "Voice of the Customer" surveys to identify the key "pain points" SAP users are facing in both functional and technical areas. Steve tells us that the key pain points SAP customers are facing are: 1. upgrades, 2. eSOA and 3. how to get the most out of their existing SAP investment. Steve talks about the upcoming "SAP upgrade symposiums" that will help ASUG members network with other members who are in the same situation or are further along.

- Jon tells Steve that these three pain points correspond well with the results of his own informal survey at TechEd, where he grouped SAP customers into three separate mindsets: the early eSOA adopters, those who were looking seriously at eSOA, and those customers who were much more focused on getting the most out of their existing SAP R/3 systems and distrusted the hype around the new eSOA functionality. Jon asked Steve how ASUG can meet the needs of members with such different agendas, and Steve talked about the different roles ASUG can play depending on the version numbers the member is running on, and that ASUG can do something for all of its members no matter what version of SAP they are on. However, Steve acknowledges that it can be hard to get SAP to make changes to releases that are a number of years old.

- As an example of another way that ASUG can help SAP users, Steve talks about ASUG's new "Best Practices in HCM" report, which gathers HR-related data from SAP customers and puts it into an "actionable" form that ASUG members can utilize, knowing that the data in the report was based on the "best practices" of companies with deep experience managing SAP HCM projects.

- Jon talks about how at TechEd 2007, he ran into a number of SAP customers who were frustrated by the challenge of finding the right consultants for their projects at the right price. As a result, they were focused more than ever on building a good internal team. Jon asked Steve what the training options might for companies looking to recruit and retain their own SAP talent, and how ASUG could help. Steve responded by saying that while formal training is important, that there is sometimes even more value in the simple process of networking at ASUG events and online. Being able to interact with customers in the same situation as you, or perhaps further along enough to share "best practices," is one of the biggest benefits of ASUG. Steve explains that ASUG's goal is to help provide its members with more resources so they are not as dependent on consultants who take the expertise with them when they leave, or cost a pretty penny to keep around.

- Unable to stump Steve with any hard questions, Jon has one more curve ball ready: Jon asks Steve about the new Business By Design (BBD) customers, and how ASUG plans to support this type of smaller customer, one that might have a very different kind of training need. Steve explained that ASUG will soon be running on BBD, and that ASUG is working with SAP to define the kind of support and member services the BBD customer will need. He envisions a combination of virtual support and in-person seminars and conferences.

- Steve closes the podcast by sharing his goals for ASUG for 2008, including improved web functionality and ease of use, increasing involvement of ASUG Associate Members (vendors, suppliers, etc), and the continued goal of bringing ASUG into the center of the SAP Ecosystem.

- Jon and Steve confirm that the way to get more details on items such as the ASUG HCM report, or to learn more about becoming an ASUG member, is to visit
Direct download: pcast_1107_sap_reed_strout01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:54pm EDT

The SAP market is changing, but one thing remains a constant: the need for quality SAP professionals with the right skills combinations. In his latest podcast, Jon sat down with Kent Sanders, a 15 year SAP professional who is knee-deep on a cutting edge eSOA project for a major SAP Retail customer.

Sit in with Jon and Kent as they discuss Kent's keys to attracting and retaining SAP talent, how SAP developers can stay relevant on projects and reduce the risk of being outsourced, and how Kent's project team has developed a different way of obtaining "buy in" for eSOA projects, building support "from the bottom up." Kent also talks about the tools SAP professionals need to master to stay relevant, and how his project finds the right mix between outside consultants and internal training.

During this thirty five minute podcast, Jon and Kent cover topics such as:

- How Kent's fifteen year SAP career has evolved into his current role as an Enterprise Architect, and how he has pursued the TOGAF certification and other components of his skill set.

- The importance of the TOGAF SOA architecture and how it applies to the SAP world, in terms of architectural solutions that solve SAP business problems. Kent explains how the TOGAF framework was incorporated into SAP's Enterprise Architecture Framework, and how he was involved in the earlier stages of this process while working for SAP.

- Why ABAP Developers and SAP Java Programmers need to think about becoming SAP Software Engineers, and why SAP Basis Experts should focus on becoming SAP Enterprise Architects.

- The current NetWeaver product suite, including NetWeaver Portals, and how eSOA skills fit into a broader NetWeaver competency.

- How the line is blurring between technical and functional approaches, and the role "offshoring" can play in this process of staffing projects. Kent also notes the communication issues involved in outsourcing that can impact which projects are appropriate for offshoring and which are better handled in house.

- Fresh back from a conference session on attracting and retaining SAP talent, Kent talks about the three keys to building (and keeping) a great project team: provide a well-thought career path for your team members; 2. don't hold back on training your people with the latest SAP skills even if it means you might lose some of them to the SAP job market; 3. adopt a mentality of continuous training.

- Kent also reports that the hardest skills to find, according to the SAP customers at the conference, were: 1. NetWeaver Administrators, and 2. Enterprise Architects. Java developers and ABAP programmers were easier to hire on the open market. Kent mentioned that the consulting firms don't even have many folks that know NetWeaver and Enterprise SOA well. Kent said that many of these firms turn to outsourcing to fill their project needs.

- Jon asks Kent to elaborate on the role outsourcing plays on SAP projects, and asked him to talk about how SAP professionals can make themselves less vulnerable to outsourcing. Kent explains that mastering data modeling and business modeling tools, and emphasizing strategy and architecture was the key to becoming more outsourcing-proof.

- Kent talks about his current SAP project, and how his team has developed a unique approach to building momentum for eSOA projects by working on projects from the "bottom up." Kent talked about how there is natural resistance to eSOA from both high level IT executives and business executives. He explained how his team is gaining support one project at a time by focusing on projects that have a "wow factor" and a tangible business benefit.

- Kent provides an overview of his current SAP environment, and how they are working on eSOA with plans to involve NetWeaver CE, ESR, and NetWeaver PI. He talked about how his team can get projects done within a $50,000 budget and having composite apps up and running in a six week to two month period. Kent's team is using this approach to solve business "pain points" and to develop their own eSOA roadmap.

- Jon asks Kent to explain to listeners how he identifies which areas are the best candidates for early eSOA projects. He lists the main factors that are ideal for eSOA projects: simplification, consolidation, and building new services and composites. Kent talks about which projects can have a "wow" type of impact, such as service-enabling inventory lookups, getting data to customers more effectively, and making user-friendly interfaces for in store employees for quick training and ramp up.

- Jon and Kent go more in-depth into a discussion of the future of SAP development and the future of SAP technical skill sets. Kent talks about the importance of mastering new process modeling tools like Aris for NetWeaver, which is now tied into the ESR. He tells us that it's not yet possible for business process experts to model all their own code without the help of a developer, but this kind of model-driven programming is becoming closer to reality. Kent mentions other hot tools that SAP professionals should know, such as Web Dynpro, Adobe Forms, Solution Manager, and Aris
- Kent highlights the keys his project has used to build a quality internal team and strike a good balance with outside consulting support. He talks about the importance of hiring manager-level folks who are "SAP rock stars," which in turn allows for a more savvy use of SAP implementation partners. Kent says that for the next phase of his project, they are looking to bring in less consultants and train more people internally.

- In closing, Kent talks about how the successful SAP professional understands that technology changes all the time, and that if you view paradigm changes as a threat, you should get out of this particular field, because there is always change. The point is to apply the right forward-thinking mindset towards skills acquisition. In terms of adding real value to SAP customers and keeping your skills in demand, Kent says that the key is to develop a deep understanding of NetWeaver and the ability to help SAP customers harness that technology and break through their NetWeaver confusion. If you can do that, says Kent, you can "write your own check."
Direct download: pcast_1107_sap_reed_sanders01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:31pm EDT

As part of his ongoing podcast series with SearchSAP, Jon Reed interviews Ori Inbar, Senior Vice President of SAP NetWeaver, for a groundbreaking interview on the SAP skills needed for success in the NetWeaver and eSOA era.

In this frank discussion, Ori acknowledges that SAP faces a significant skills gap that needs to be addressed for NetWeaver to realize its promise.

Ori then analyzes the skills gap, explains how SAP plans to address it, and most importantly, highlights the skills needed for NetWeaver and SAP eSOA project success.

This is the first podcast we know of where a high-ranking SAP executive goes beyond talk of the skills gap and the "NetWeaver jobs of the future" to detail the specific "next phase" skills and roles that SAP professionals can pursue, not in the future, but right now.

Ori also announces a new plan for SAP certification that will be unveiled at TechEd '07 in Las Vegas.

In this twenty-five minute interview, Jon and Ori cover a series of critical topics, including:

- How Ori broke into SAP and how his SAP career has evolved into his current NetWeaver leadership role.

- The significance of SAP Enterprise SOA (eSOA) and why it impacts every SAP product.

- The estimated "SAP skills gap" of 20,000 SAP professionals and how SAP intends to fill it. Ori explains the importance of "the SAP ecosystem" to filling these gaps and how consultants can anticpiate where SAP is going next.

- Ori's take on the four new SAP roles that are emerging on project sites, and his assessment of the skills required for each of the four: NetWeaver Systems Admin, Enterprise Architect, and Business Process Expert and NetWeaver Developer (Enterprise Services Developer).

- Ori explains why the NetWeaver era means the "end of the functional silos" and why SAP skills will be business process driven from here on out.
Direct download: pcast_0907_sap_reed_inbar01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:45am EDT