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Discussion Starter #1
for someone who might want to learn SAP and get a job in it, is there a market for people who know SAP?

I have only a web-search knowledge of what SAP is; but a friend is considering moving into this field as a career change and I'd like to get some feedback on whether its a good career move or a waste of time. are there employers out there looking for people with this background? anyone know?
 

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Lisa Simpson
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We're converting this year and part of next. It's a huge ERP (enterprise resource planning) software package that requires huge data architecture design and lots of ability to stare at it without going blind. It requires massive customisation for every install, and when it works well, it is just the cat's pyjamas.

Quick, take a class. We ahve work for your sort over here!
 

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I've been implementing SAP for about 7 years ... I'm assuming that your friend wants to be on the Basis/Technical Architecture side (given what I've picked up on your background). It is my own personal opinion that you can trasition fairly easily from a technical non-SAP background to a SAP support/implementation role. If your friend wants a more functional role, I think that is more difficult because you need to understand all the underlying configuration and integration between the different modules (and there a plenty of them).

I also think there is generally more demand for Tech Arch/Basis folks becuase those roels typically remain ongoing. As for the functional people, unless you are in some sort of support organization, your best bet is on a new implementation or consulting (like me).
 

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Definitely... in addition to what atomicalex and BigSwirv mentioned, there's a high demand for organizational management experts who are well versed in change management associated with an ERP sys. implementation, as well as for folks who have skills in end-user training. All of the manufacturing facilities I've worked in (including my current assignment) use various SAP modules in one way or another as part of their manufacturing execution and planning systems, so there are opportunities for people who can get older factory information systems to talk to SAP, too.
Just my observation...
 

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I'm an AIX admin working directly with our Basis group. We've been implementing SAP now for about 3 years on a 5 year project, and I can safely say that it is VERY beneficial to pick up some SAP knowledge, along with Oracle or whatever DB you guys happen to run. It's helped in more ways that I could ever imagine. My opinion is that you can NEVER have too little knowledge....

I agree with Swirv above in that there's a BIG market on goot Technical Architects who understand not just the application, but the technology behind it. Wedge 50,000 users onto a single database server and you see what happens when the Technical Architect doesn't understand the platform....
 

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I'm pretty cynical about ERP products, but companies do get trapped into infinite projects to implement them, and foolishly pay big bucks for those who put "SAP" on the resume. Go for it. SAP has a large installed base - the best of any manufacturing ERP, a safe bet really. Dull as hell though IMHO.
 

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raneek said:
Definitely... in addition to what atomicalex and BigSwirv mentioned, there's a high demand for organizational management experts who are well versed in change management associated with an ERP sys. implementation, as well as for folks who have skills in end-user training. All of the manufacturing facilities I've worked in (including my current assignment) use various SAP modules in one way or another as part of their manufacturing execution and planning systems, so there are opportunities for people who can get older factory information systems to talk to SAP, too.
Just my observation...
True, true ... I always for get about the "Change Management" type folks. There is always a demand for those but again, shorter term than the Tech Arch folks. As for the interfaces from the existing/remaining legacy systems into SAP, those are typically handled by the Development/Tech Arch teams and are being handled by the growing Enterprise Application Integration products like SeeBeyond.

As for SAP being dull ... I'm not sure it is supposed to be flashy as much as it is supposed to intergrate the different processes across an enterprise (manufacturing or otherwise) and reduce the overhead that older legacy systems, not too mention its real-time. Besides, if you looked at the legacy systems that are replaced by SAP, I think that SAP is a step up. Heck, Oracle didn't get on board with a GUI until a few years ago ... now that was dull and batch-processed.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
so humor me, what IS SAP?

I have a slight database background - but only in terms of SQL (stuff like mysql and postgress). not heavy things like oracle, but hey, a table is a table and a query is a query, right?

so how does sap fit into databases? is it some formal structure that layers on top of it?

how do you describe what SAP is to someone who has a tech background but not much in terms of business/operations theory?
 

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Longwinded answer follows, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty, send me an AIM

The most basic explaination of SAP is that it is a software program that completely manages an entire business. Depending on which modules are installed it can do something as small as just payroll, or in our case it handles business-to-business automated transactions and makes sure we have raw materials in our manufacturing lines. It can also do look ahead planning for your company, and tied with OTHER bolt-on applications you can even have it tell you when and where to build a plant or assembly line, how many workers you'll need and what you should make there.

How does it interact with the database? SAP lives inside the database. There are a few external binaries (disp+work, dispatcher, os collector) but they just read in and out of the database. The code for the app is in the database. The first time a transaction is run, it compiles the code out of a table in the database. Want to change something under the hood? Change it in the database, don't tell SAP tho, they get pissed.

This is why in my opinion, your DBA's are the most important people to a good SAP implementation. Regular DB reorgs (or Live Reorgs with the right tools) good maintanance and design are HUGE influences on performance of the system. Response time to the app is key and it's driven by the OS and Database Performance. Something as small as not stripping the database filesystems across multiple disks could lead to horrible response times.

One of your most important skills as a Systems Admin under SAP is good backup and restore policies, along with testing them. SAP in the business sense comes in bare, just basic tools and the business developers use a language called ABAP to customize the app. In the same sense, SAP is just an application runnign on top of oracle, and you have to write a few tools to manage things on the backed, like archive logs, tape storage, and general archiving. SAP delivers a number of scripts in KSH, but we've implemented a number of tools in Perl. There are a few sites out there with some help for Unix admins when implementing SAP, just don't have them on hand.

An example of how the database IS the application is that we do system copies just my mirroring up the data volume groups, split the mirrors and rewrite the oracle control file with the new system name. Do a "oracle recovery" and BAM we just copied our production system in under 3 hours. The important part is bringin over the database and having the basic binaries installed. Application servers are just NFS mounts off the database server with the users in the /etc/passwd and correct group configs. It's a VERY generic environment that can be VERY dynamic.

Now, what skills are important to have? Since SAP is so ingrained into the Database, having a great SAP background, but no understanding of the database will get you a job working on the business end of things. Being more dynamic and having good Oracle/DB2 background will give you a big edge. I've found that the people that are making the most money are the guys who know the OS, understand how the Database interacts with it, and can hold their own with the SAP->DB interactivity. They know the OS side of SAP, they know the OS side of Oracle/DB2, and know the OS itself really well.

SAP projects on a whole go through a number of stages. Blueprinting, Implementation, Running State, Upgrade. Blueprinting is where they plan what modules, how to write the code, that kind of stuff. Implementation is where you build your servers, your Sandbox, Dev, QA, Production, and Prod-Fix environments and the business folks write all teh software needed. This can be done in a number of roll-outs, and each one is called "going Live" Good change management of these systems is key, as something getting into Production before going through Dev and QA can be a very very very bad thing. You'll run into all kinds of surprises here, performance problems, unexpected hardware issues, sizing issues (someone WILL buy equipment too small, you WILL use more disk then projected) Running State usually never happens, but this is where they business folks are just supported the implemented system and you're doing the same thing, performance tuning and upgrading. Then Upgrade, which is where you go to a new release of SAP.

I've gone on for a long time here, hope this answers some questions, if you have more and want to talk about it, again drop me an AIM. I've been on our project since day 1, so I've been in the thick for 4 years now.
 

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linux-works said:
I have a slight database background - but only in terms of SQL (stuff like mysql and postgress). not heavy things like oracle, but hey, a table is a table and a query is a query, right?
*gasp* no! I'm a devote Oracle programmer. I fight battles weekly with DB2 guys, smash SQL Servers in single blows, squish Access between my fingers. "a table is a table"... sheesh. You make it sound as if we're running macros on spreadsheets.

Sorry for the dull comment above. I'm going through alot of job angst at the moment. I find myself at the intersection of application developer & database administrator. I was recently roped into providing DBA support while a co-worker was on leave and found myself better at it than some of the other DBAs. So maybe it's just salary angst... and career confusion. I can take one of two roads a decide my fate for years to come. Right now, I think I may be switching gears into the data side. The fact that these jobs tend to stay domestic gives it an edge over app development.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
wow, long reply ;) which is great since I did want to know what my friend is getting into if she takes the SAP training that is offered to her.

so it sounds like it is a database but also some kind of executable code - but in a much much higher level than, say, shell scripting.

really, I think all the database stuff COULD be accomplished by sql (pick a robust one) and some programming that does queries, runs conditionals and branches and loops (ie, simple programming primitives). but I am getting the impression that SAP is mean for 'business guys' and so there's probably some kind of description language you 'program' in instead of a regular programming script.

it also sounds like there is querying, data gatewaying (translating from one db format to another as you carry data from one system to another) and some kind of scripting.

am I close in understanding what it is?

as a programmer, when I need to do stuff like this, I bite the bullet, write table defs in mysql, write the code in C to import/export/analyse and then I'm done. and I know you don't get business guys to write code in C or directly use an sql system. but at a certain level, the same development process still maps, yes?
 

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linux-works said:
really, I think all the database stuff COULD be accomplished by sql (pick a robust one) and some programming that does queries, runs conditionals and branches and loops (ie, simple programming primitives). but I am getting the impression that SAP is mean for 'business guys' and so there's probably some kind of description language you 'program' in instead of a regular programming script.
The programming language is ABAP /4 (Advanced Business Application Programming, i think). It was something that SAP came up with back in the day. I even think that there is some SQL based logic in there too ... not sure since I never coded (thankfully or else I never would've made it anywhere)

As for the rest of the extremely technical questions ... I'll pass that off to someone else. I enjoy the fact that I am a functional guy with a basic understanding of the tech arch.
 

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Gurft said:
Want to change something under the hood? Change it in the database, don't tell SAP tho, they get pissed.
Yeah but watch out for upgrades, they frequently change table structures when the upgrade. You can even see it with patch updates and OSS notes (though you will be lucky if you can get a good OSS reply if you changed anything in the database without following the right steps. IMHO
 

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We were actually in a situation once where a number of blocks in the system tablespace had gone south and we were unable to recover from a recent tape. Oracle said that they could rebuild the data by hand in the database for us (at a nominal charge of course), however SAP said that if we let them do it they would no longer support that system (Our Payroll system) So we ended up restoring from a tape 44 days old (one day from expiring) and rolling forward a LOT of archive logs. Took almost a week to roll forward.

With any Enterprise system, the vendor *GUARANTEES* certain things (uptime, functionality) and if you start poking at the underside with your stick they can no longer Guarantee anything, so they drop support on you.
 

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I've been doing PeopleSoft Technical Architecture Design/Implementation for a little more than 3 years now. Currently implementing a huge system for a state government client. Essentially installing the whole suite of software (HRMS, Financials, EPM which is their data warehouse, etc).

It's about a 4+ yr project to go from design to build to conversion to rollout and then get the 2nd phase modules up and running.

For SAP shouldn't you also know some german language too?? I was lucky, I saw this implementation from the start and got to see Oracle/Lawson/SAP/PeopleSoft all in house trying to sell their stuff. So I got to review the RFPs from everybody and rate them on their technical merits (while the other teams rated the software).

Anybody need a PeopleSoft admin? Not that I need a job right now but it never hurts to know what might be out there.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
why would SAP people need german lang skills??

if so, that would be perfect!! its my GF who is interested in SAP and she's german born and raised (german is her 1st language).

or, did I misunderstand your question or comment?
 

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I thought ABAP (the programming language that SAP is based on) contained items written in the german language. Like I said, this is going back to when SAP was at my current client showing their software, and some code comments was in german (darn german programmers).

SAP guys, am I correct on that? It's been a while.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
is that a feature or characteristic of SAP - OR was it just the implementation of some code you got that may have been written by germans?

if your code was written by french, maybe the comments would be in french?

is this an issue of 'application' vs. 'platform'?

is SAP really a high high level programming language? at its essence?

pure raw sql isn't a programming language. at least not mysql and postgress level sqls. to do real apps, you still have to write CODE. you always will, at some level. so you have to write C code or shell script or perl or SOMETHING to wrap intelligence around pure raw database queries.

so is SAP some business person's way to translate applications into code - but much much higher level than C or perl or even vbasic?

(I'm trying to get a handle on what this whole 'SAP' world is all about. my GF wants to get into this as a career choice and I'm trying to understand what SAP is about.)
 
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