This is the third part in our series about the new SAP job roles outlined by SAP executive Shai Agassi in his TechEd 2006 keynote speech. What's the difference between a developer and a composer? How can a SAP developer position oneself to benefit from the new modeling movement? Find out here!
The confusion between "developer" and "composer" as a SAP role is understandable. The developer is your classic ABAP/Java programmer with varying business skills; the composer is a business process expert first and techie second. Their main function is to make business process innovation happen in real-time.
In the past, you had business analysts, application consultants and others examining the processes and basically putting together specs and requests for the developers to fulfill. Today, the same business analysts can make the changes they need, or perhaps create new applications altogether, using quick and easy models without extensive technical expertise.
"This is one of the more revolutionary aspects of NetWeaver," Reed said. "Modeling may present interesting opportunities for functional folks in particular areas to get more involved in the application development process. Those with some understanding of ABAP and other programming languages will probably have an easy time picking up on the modeling tools."
Needless to say, this trend has caused some concern in developer circles. So what can today's ABAP developer do to avoid getting pinched between outsourcing on one hand and model-driven, do-it-yourself business people on the other?
"You can't do everything with models," Inbar said. "There's going to be plenty of room for skilled programmers for areas like Java and creation of new services."
Inbar suggests familiarizing oneself with the model-driven tools, tapping into the BPX-community and looking for ways to leverage superior technical skills to "move up the stack." For those who work closer to the User Interface, embrace the modeling tools and start building the next generation of UI building blocks — dedicated, highly interactive components that require advanced technical skills.
For those who are true programmers at heart, try to find the unfilled niches between SAP's productized enterprise services for specific industries, advises Inbar.
"Still, the key question for many is: will these tools decrease the opportunities for classic ABAPers? The honest answer is probably yes," Reed said. "Having said that, I think many developers can and should get on board with the modeling movement. SAP wants it to seem like a functional expert in a particular area can come in and just design all this stuff. It's not that easy; they can do a lot, but they'll still need considerable support from technical people."
Bottom line, don't be all doom-and-gloom. Instead, make it a point to be the first in the office to really master the new modeling tools and position yourself as the authority on next-generation development. There will always be room for a liaison between the functional teams and classic techies, and the more you actively seek out that role, the more relevant you will remain to the company.
Even if you don't have access to SAP's own tools, you can gain a lot of experience by using third-party modeling tools, Reed advises. Not everyone is on ECC 5.0 or 6.0, which is pretty much what you'd need to get into this on the SAP side, but you can still pick up a lot of useful knowledge by playing around with similar technology outside the SAP world.
Check back on Monday for our final part of this series to learn what disruptive innovators do and how you can become one!