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Over the years I have read many resumes, and interviewed many ABAP developers.  Where I am dismayed is when I come across ABAPers (a decent proportion) who have made no real effort to proactively update their skills from what they learned a decade ago.   Presumably if you are reading this blog you don't fall into this category.  It is as if there are two communities .... what I see online, and what I see on the street.

Here are some examples of my experiences with prospective ABAP developers and consultants in the last couple of years:

-  ABAPers who don't know about the existence of SDN, or of SAP Press, or that you can run an ABAP minisap environment on your own machine;

-  ABAPers who think creating a BAdI implementation is enough to qualify them as accomplished object oriented ABAP developers;

-  ABAPers (approx. 80%) who I meet have still not touched Web Dynpro ABAP; this before even considering flow-on frameworks such as Floorplan manager or POWL;

-  Some ABAPers have come to me listing Web Dynpro ABAP as a skillset, but when I then commenced testing them on it they retracked and admitted no such skills;

-  An ABAPer with 10 years experience who wondered why I was asking for Web Dynpro skills, when he had just seen a great new web technology called ITS.

-  An ABAPer who appeared to have cut and pasted from a SAP Press book to indicate their list of skills, but when pressed on what a 'regular expression' was they had no idea;

-  An ABAPer informed me that some interviewers forbid ABAP Objects-based development in their environments because 'they don't have the in-house skills to support this type of code';

Obviously some of these are extreme examples.  Nonetheless I feel that organisations and customers would naturally be better served if their developers understood and used modern day ABAP techniques and approaches.  So, this leads me to think .... what can we do about it? 

Here are my thoughts:

Advice for ABAP Developers

-  Waiting for SAP  instructor-lead classes is too limited.   There are simply too many new  techniques and technologies in NetWeaver ABAP development to gain  coverage by attending SAP courses alone.  Courses are useful for targetting important topics, but also follow SDN, TechEd, SAP Press  etc.

-  Waiting for a work-related opportunity to learn a new  technology is too reactive.  Good ABAP developers should seek  opportunities to look ahead of the curve.  Follow SDN, TechEd, SAP Press  etc. If you are not working with an up-to-date release level, download  an ABAP WAS trial version from SDN.

-  Monitor the latest trends  through social networks (LinkedIn groups, Twitter feeds etc.).  These  days I personally use Twitter to subscribe to SAP announcements, SDN  blogs, and to follow SAP mentors.

-  The modern-day ABAP developer  should also follow trends outside of the ABAP language.  Many of the  concepts introduced to ABAP over the past decade have originated from  other languages and technologies (for instance, XSLT processing, regular  expressions, etc).  Useful skills to explore would include  HTML5/Javascript/CSS (including frameworks such as jquery), RIA  development technologies (Flex, Silverlight), and mobile development  (iPhone, Android etc.)

Advice for Managers and Team Leaders

-  When engaging an ABAP developer, don't assume your recruitment agency has performed a skills analysis to any depth;

-  When engaging an ABAP developer, don't be lazy with the interview - make sure people with good and up-to-date SAP development knowledge are allowed to participate in the process.  Good due diligence up front will make a profound difference over the employment timeframe of a developer / consultant.

-  Do your best to ensure your in house team knowledge and skills is up to date, so your people can properly identify others who are not.

-  If your ABAPers are being sourced from a consultancy, if possible be allowed to verify their skills also.   I have seen poor developers working for some of the largest consultancies.

-  When I interview an ABAP developer who clearly hasn't kept  up-to-date, I recommend to them that as a starting point they read some  SAP Press books such as the excellent 'Next Generation ABAP Development'  by Rich Heilman and Thomas Jung (note that a 2nd edition is due in  2011).

SAP has worked hard over the years to reinvest in and extend the ABAP language such that it continues to be a world class development platform and still relevant for our times.  There are many in the SDN community who appreciate this and make the most of it in their working lives.  We just need to make sure more of our ABAP developers can do the same.

Addendum:  It should be added that this blog does not dismiss the value of experience in business processes and functional modules (eg. development in FI/CO/MM etc).  However, this experience is not difficult to find on the street these days.  The challenge for ABAP developers is to couple their business and functional experience in the SAP application with continous learning to stay current in the latest programming approaches available to them.

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