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How to Groom and Grow Your SAP NetWeaver Team

by William Pelster and William Grasham

January 1, 2006

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”  — Benjamin Franklin

The SAP NetWeaver platform encompasses a lot of different technologies, and project teams that work with this platform have to draw upon many different skill sets. ABAP and IMG configuration don’t reign supreme in a world propelled by Web services, Java, and integration brokers. At a minimum, harnessing SAP NetWeaver requires expertise with a variety of technologies, including object-oriented ABAP, Java, interfacing with IBM WebSphere and Microsoft .NET, mobile, knowledge management, collaboration, iView design, SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer, master data management, and business-process integration and mapping.

At first, you may not need to bring all these skills to bear on a project. But give it time. You will. Some companies will groom and grow this talent internally. Some will acquire talent and bring it in house. Most, we suspect, will exercise a combination of both. In this article, we focus on cultivating talent internally.

[9] Tips for Cultivating Your Talent Pool

  1. Know the differences between legacy SAP skills and those required for SAP NetWeaver-based projects. They are markedly different, and no training or skills-development plan will be successful without a firm command of these differences.

    SAP NetWeaver demands a different approach in its use and implementation, one that differs greatly from the way in which project teams have operated in the past. SAP NetWeaver requires new skills and a fresh way of thinking when it comes to working with the system, integrating the components within it, and building interfaces to and from it. Project teams must understand these new requirements and plan accordingly. Of critical importance is the shift from programming solutions to leveraging Web services and various integration options. This change frees the business from traditional technology constraints so that it can focus on business processes — the mechanisms by which real value is created.

  2. Provide additional training for project team members. There are no shortcuts. Be prepared to make sizable investments in training classes. SAP is a logical choice for this type of instruction.

  3. Assign a change manager to oversee the quality of the people who will serve on SAP NetWeaver projects and in whom you will invest training time and dollars. Have this individual systematically identify the effects that SAP NetWeaver preparedness will have organization-wide. For instance, if you envision a reduction in the number of ABAP programmers, you need to be asking:

          • Where would the staff go?

          • How would they transition to new jobs?

          • How would they get training in the new project skills?

          • What message did the executive sponsor want to send to the company as a whole about the change process?

  4. Know that the skill set transition is a challenge that extends beyond the project team, creating a ripple effect throughout many parts of the company.

  5. Create a comprehensive skills requirement matrix for internal recruiting. In the sample matrix we’ve included, we’ve outlined the grade-level range of the position, the SAP and non-SAP technical and functional skills required, and associated duties and responsibilities.

  6. Create a detailed training-program roadmap in addition to the skills requirement matrix. The roadmap should specify what types of training an individual would need to complete to become qualified for a given role.

  7. Leverage the skills requirement matrix when recruiting for these positions internally through company job boards, job fairs, project-sponsored speaking engagements at company meetings, and so on. This type of systematic approach to team-building differs drastically from the way in which most companies build project teams. Many times, project staffing is done informally, which often leads to mismatched skills and expectations. Team members are chosen based on their availability, not necessarily upon the skills required.

    Project management sometimes does not support formal training, but instead expects IT professionals to learn solely on the job from consultants or contractors. Obviously, this type of attitude can slow the startup phase of a project considerably. In any SAP NetWeaver project, the bottom line is a simple one: Project team members need adequate training prior to project launch to be successful.

  8. Contract with SAP and other training providers to provide the new skills training. With the help of SAP and other technology-training vendors, you can construct a comprehensive training program to develop the necessary skills identified in your skills requirement matrix.

    If you can customize existing course offerings or break them into smaller pieces that better fit your company’s needs, you’ll get highly concentrated training, instead of the broader, “off-the-shelf” courses typically offered. Concentrated, or targeted, training enables those with solid foundational skills to quickly build upon them.

  9. Closely monitor the type of person you allow to attend training, along with the individual’s progress, to ensure that you are getting solid returns on your training budget.

Don’t Shortchange the Process

You need more than just a training curriculum when you’re dealing with a transformational event like this one. Appointing a change manager is a pivotal action that organizations don’t always take. It can enable you to stay ahead of change, rather than just react to it, demonstrating early that the project is in control and well managed.

Creating a detailed skills requirement matrix allows the project team to effectively recruit the right talent for the project. A skills requirement matrix makes the expectations of the project team transparent to everyone, and it provides a means of obtaining the necessary new skills. It also creates a growth path for staff members, who may have been let go from other companies, to reinvent themselves. The skills requirement matrix produces goodwill within the organization and can ultimately lead to an appropriately skilled and highly motivated project team.

While the focus of this article has been on cultivating in-house talent, let us close with one cautionary note for the times when you look outside your corporate borders to bring in fresh talent. Be wary of advice from individuals who have implemented an SAP system before but are unaware of SAP NetWeaver’s approach. SAP NetWeaver requires a new Web services perspective. Therefore, previous project team descriptions don’t apply, and organizations need to search, perhaps in some unusual places, for new sources of talent. For instance, existing middleware, B2B, and EDI resources may provide a good source of potential SAP NetWeaver XI integration skills. You need to get people who understand mapping concepts such as xpath.

Project Roles — Old versus New
SAP Role Previous Approach SAP NetWeaver Effect
Development Develops technical specifications for the system, as well as forms, reports, interfaces, conversions, and enhancements. Technical specifications are less detailed because little programming is required. The number of developers is reduced because SAP NetWeaver handles the interfaces with less effort.
Basis Conducts Basis activities, which include: performance tuning, transport management, data archiving, system administration and monitoring, troubleshooting, problem analysis, and client strategy. Some additional Basis resources may be required, as well as an enhanced understanding of the SAP NetWeaver environment. Basis specialization is necessary in the following instances: SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaver AS) 6.4, SAP NetWeaver Portal (formerly called SAP Enterprise Portal), SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (SAP NetWeaver XI), SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI), SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management (SAP NetWeaver MDM), and SAP NetWeaver Mobile.
Security Designs the security structure for the SAP application and establishes authorizations and profiles that support business requirements. Security skills need to be enhanced to understand and apply SAP NetWeaver’s methods of dealing with single sign-on (SSO) and to create new profiles that are relevant to the new components.
Infrastructure/ architecture Delivers a technical infrastructure that supports the reliability, continuity, high availability, and recoverability of the IT environment. Need to understand how reliability, continuity, availability, and recoverability are achieved in SAP NetWeaver, a highly federated landscape.
Master data management In the past, SAP assumed that it was the sole source of truth. The SAP NetWeaver MDM component can harmonize, link, and manage master data not only from SAP but also from disparate systems.
Functional business advisor Configures the system based on the required business processes. Configures the system. Also, needs to understand from a system perspective which functionality resides in which instance and how these systems integrate with one another. This integration knowledge is critical to configuring and debugging SAP in a federated landscape.
SAP NetWeaver Portal Much of the same functionality was accomplished through the Internet Transaction Server (ITS). SAP NetWeaver Portal can run on Windows or Unix. Portal developers need to understand Java, Web Dynpro, SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer, and graphics design.
Skills Requirement Matrix
Role: Process lead Reports to: Process supervisor (grade M40 through M45)
The process lead will be responsible for managing the team work plan and coordinating all day-to-day work activities across all phases of the project, including project preparation, business blueprint, realization, final preparation, and go-live and support. The process lead will have business knowledge within warehouse management. In this position, he or she will be required to report progress on goals, identify key risks, develop mitigation strategies, provide direct support for other process teams or work threads, and complete other duties as needed or assigned.

Activities and duties performed:

  • Mobilize team, develop and manage a detailed work plan

  • Own the development and implementation of the “to be” business processes, SAP configuration

  • Own the development of functional specifications

  • Own and maintain system print

  • Create and maintain transport requests

  • Assess the degree of SAP fit and determine the level of process commonality between systems

  • Coordinate process team functional specifications

  • Plan and execute unit, string, and integration testing

  • Develop recommendations, options, and pros/cons of potential changes to scope and functionality of implementation

  • Act as a communication focal point for design and process improvement opportunities in a given area and facilitate business process reviews

  • Ensure timely issue identification, resolution, and appropriate escalation

  • Participate in status review meetings with Project Management and provide timely feedback to team

  • Monitor, quality review, and approve team deliverables

  • Provide a single point of contact with other teams

  • Assist in facilitating change-management interventions and activities within process area, as assigned

Key deliverables:

  • Team work plan

  • Team weekly status progress reports

  • Scope change request forms

  • Participation and leadership in program management process

  • Unit, string, and integration test plans

  • Cutover and production support procedures with tools to track metrics and plans

  • Delivery of fully functional and configured SAP system

Skill requirements:

  • Specialized level 1, 2, and 3 SAP training

  • Integration across SAP systems and components

  • Proven ability to build, lead, and manage a team

  • In-depth working knowledge within given process area

  • Broad knowledge across multiple aspects of the business (e.g., organizational structure, key players, current business processes, and supporting systems and services)

  • Experience with project planning, management, methodologies, and tools (e.g., SAP Solution Manager)

  • Ability to manage multiple and competing priorities

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, with ability to communicate at all levels within the organization


William Pelster is a principal in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice with more than 17 years experience leading complex business-transformation projects enabled by technology. He is experienced with SAP’s next generation of products, as well as the requirements of project governance, project team training, and the people dimension of projects, including user adoption, change, communication, and training. Pelster is a published author and noted speaker.

William Grasham is a principal in Deloitte’s Technology Integration practice with 18 years of SAP experience leading complex business-transformation projects across many industries. In particular, he has experience with SAP’s next generation of products and is the Americas SAP NetWeaver leader for Deloitte. Grasham is also a published author and noted speaker.

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