Our latest guest column on how to get your SAP career started comes from Mark Smithson, President and Principal Consultant, MHS Systems Consulting, Inc.
Know your ABAP
What does a beginner need to know in order to get started on the right foot as an SAP forms developer?
Well, I don’t think I need to explain here how to break into the SAP, or ABAP world. By the time you start working with SAP forms, which fall into a specialized sub-area, it is likely you have already done that. Besides, there is a lot of excellent advice already posted elsewhere (such as on this site) on the basics. So the following assumes you’ve already positioned yourself to start working as a developer on an SAP forms project.
First off, manage expectations. If this is your first forms project, you are swimming in foreign waters, so don’t start acting like a lifeguard — you’ll only be setting yourself up to fail. Be honest and realistic with yourself and with the rest of your project team. Expressions such as “please bear with me — I’m new to this” will go a long way. If you are in over your head, do not be afraid to ask for help. Stuck on a Zebra label? Thrown by a requirement to create a ‘new hire’ form in HR? Need to print a multi-language form — with double-byte characters — from scratch? Think of this as an exciting opportunity to learn something new. Tap resources both within and external to your organization. If you feel that you need to take a class or schedule some one-on-one time with an expert, tell it to your manager. And don’t just tell it – sell it. Explain why it makes sense for your company to make that investment in you, how it will benefit them long-term.
Understand the context
Next, as you get deeper into the project requirements, be sure to understand the context. Different functional areas were created by different folks at SAP. ‘Messages’ in one module will be ‘Output’ in another and ‘Correspondence’ in yet another. Thus, there is no single unified approach to populating forms and generating test data. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your chance of success. Take the time you need to properly identify the relevant print structures, tables, preconfigured forms and driver programs available, and study them. Then pick the most advanced forms tool which will support your objective, leveraging any existing code you can. Generally speaking, the newest tool available is Adobe forms, followed by Smart Forms and then SAPscript.
More SAP forms tips
Here are a few other miscellaneous tips: Get a hold of a decent forms ruler, and map out the coordinates of your form off-line ahead of time. In addition, you should make it a priority to learn how to trouble-shoot; know the various debugging tools available and how to use them. Ideally, you also ought to be proficient in ABAP, as typically an ABAP driver program is wrapped around a form.
Finally, be proactive as you encounter challenges. It’s all right to admit “I don’t know the answer”, so long as you follow it up with…”and so I will find out.” A positive attitude will carry you a long way to shore.