Protecting knowledge or wasting it?

I have spent the last few weeks since my last weblog, with the SAP Community, the online one on . I have been a member of the community for quite some time now, but after I joined SDN, I felt the need for an increased level of involvement with my peers(OK, the reward program at the community and the nifty pen also tempted me, so?). This led me to my sudden deep exploration of the SAP community, more specifically the community forums. I have always felt that a forum always serves as the mouthpiece of a community; A unique kind of democratic environment that allows people observing it to judge, in a few minutes what the entire community is feeling and what it wants to talk about. Though NetWeaver and other core SAP specifics dominate the noise on the forums, what kept me riveted to the forums was the sheer amount of discussion on topics related to SAP Careers.

It is definitely a crowded place out there, with people jostling for attention, topics with very similar titles being posted and reposted till they get worn out and end up inviting replies that contain links to older discussions about the same thing! The signs are clear, more and more people want to be here, now. Why ? Now that is a profound question, and I don’t think I know the complete answer to that, but seeing the crowds at the doors to the SAP world sure does make me feel happier about being part of the SAP community! Gone are the days when somebody asked me what I did for a living, and I desperately looked for quick ways to explain the meaning of ERP and why SAP is actually five words and not three, without looking as uncomfortable as a Windows user on UNIX. For obvious reasons, I left most of those who asked me that question feeling pretty convinced that I was actually unemployed and was making all this up to confuse them. After all, why would somebody be so bad at talking about his own job? I’m so happy that all that is in the past. Now, SAP is the kind of stuff that everybody who has anything to do with any industry loves to talk shop about. This, it can be easily noticed, is reflected in the SAP Forums as well. So where am I leading this to?

My two bit conclusion: SAP is no longer just a representative of one of the many product lines in the ERP segment of a very fragmented Information Technology Industry. Today, as far as careers are concerned, to a lot of people, it means a full-fledged profession.
Picture a group of third-graders talking… First kid : “I wanna be a fireman!” Second kid : “I’ll be a fighter pilot!” Third kid : “I’m gonna be an astronaut!” Fourth kid : “I’m gonna be an SAP Consultant!” … end of discussion. You can’t be much smarter than that, can you?

All right, I plead guilty! That was a case of severe exaggeration… I must have watched too many commercials last night. But anyway, the misplaced point I was trying to make was that more people are seriously planning a move into SAP careers than ever before, and are spending a good deal of time, money and research in an effort to taking the best steps to do it right. And they’re looking for help… unfortunately too many of these people get misled, due to too much incorrect information floating around and too few really experienced people willing to set the record straight. How many of us have seen somebody with several years of manufacturing experience trying to make it as an SAP FIconsultant ? Or a professional accountant whose only exposure to programming has been AUTOEXEC.BAT, trying to be an ABAPer ? In my few years with SAPient Colleges in Asia, I have seen more of these people than I ever expected. It’s not that they never make it. While some of them do, a few among them actually do make the big time. But all of them struggle… the important thing is that they need not, because if the right people had advised them about the things to do(and not to!), they would end up walking through the right doors and soon, somewhere, somehow, make a small but tangible difference to the quality of the SAP world. And who are these right people, you may ask? Slightly rhetorical question, since most readers would know the answer.“Say, Pal! D’ya have a mirror around you?” It may have something to do with how busy we are as members of the SAP community, but it is generally felt that we protect our experiences and our knowledge a lot more in this community than in most other technical and non-technical communities. I remember the hurt I felt when I read a post(not on the SAP Forums, though) that accused senior members of the community of trying to close doors on the faces of greenthumb consultants. So what exactly led to this extremist outburst? A little investigation revealed that the writer in question had posted an innocent, though urgent request for information about a specific R/3 application. Though his question was not exactly rocket science and could have been answered relatively easily, nobody actually bothered to reply, even after he repeated his request several times…

I wish there was some way I could exhort more of the wiser, more experienced members to contribute more to laying a path for newer, inexperienced members of the SAP fraternity (definitely not third-graders, but still not very sure-footed). I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I’m going to try and take some time out every now and then and dive in the forums doing just that… helping a few newbies make the right moves, helping a few more of the right people come in through the right doors!

P.S.: One of the best things to happen to SDN was the ABAP Programming Forum. I’m going to be there when I don’t have to be anywhere else…

[This is cross-posted from my blog at SAP Developers(or Community) Network at]