abap developer

A job wearing many hats – What does an ABAP-Developer do?

The current situation shows how urgently it is for companies and employees to be flexible. Without an efficient IT infrastructure, apps, websites or digital processes, our economy will remain at a standstill. With the far-reaching digitization of business processes, now more than ever, we need more developers with a good understanding of both business and IT. And this is where Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) comes in. ABAP is a programming language that simplifies the development of business applications within SAP landscapes. And as the necessary link within an organization, the ABAP developer is the one to connect business and software development. So why is this important? what do these ABAP talents bring to the table and what influence do they have on the business transformation processes needed today?

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The expert within the SAP-Universe

As an ABAP developer, you are a critical component to the company’s extensive SAP system, which is used in many configurations for standard processes such as quotation entry, invoicing and much more. It is ultimately a server on which countless applications are located and many employees interact simultaneously. Therefore, the developer needs to understand the respective business processes in order to then actually develop the right solutions. Due to the complexity of the SAP NetWeaver system and the different industry solutions it supports; most developers will sooner or later specialize in a particular area, and cease being your typical ABAP developer. However, their role as the link between managers, customers, and IT project managers makes them stand out. Because they understand the business logic and can translate it into technological applications, it enables them to better streamline processes and guide companies safely into its digital future.

What are the most important skills needed to succeed as an ABAP developer? In addition to good IT expertise and an understanding of operational structures, there is no denying that “experience” is an important factor in your day-to-day work. It is about simply “knowing” many important concepts and tools of the SAP system in order to avoid the overhead and burden of the ABAP landscape. For example, if you want to implement a lock mechanism in a program, without additional programming or maintenance effort, you need to know the general SAP lock concept. Therefore, the developer should approach the journey into the depths of the SAP world with a thirst for knowledge. And because “experience” plays such a big role, it can be a reason why good ABAP developers are hard to find and why getting started in this profession still remains so difficult.

A moderator between processes and technology

ABAP is used to develop precise programs and solutions in a very narrow business context and to understand interrelationships with the technical area inside the SAP system. Especially with the upcoming migration of processes to (cloud-based) ERP systems such as SAP S/4HANA, the companies need ABAP knowledge to support customers and companies in this process.

In addition, the most important tasks of an ABAP developer include the development of additional applications that map custom processes inside the SAP system or interfaces that connect external functions with the ABAP stack. The same applies to the design of forms and labels for, for example, quotations, purchase orders, or billing documents and their data retrieval, as well as the development of migration programs for the transfer of data from a legacy system to its new SAP environment.

ABAP-Programming and Digitization: Who influences whom?

Digital Transformation poses many new challenges: new languages such as NodeJS, React, NoSQL or MQTT have become part of the workflow, and software interactions no longer only take place within the SAP environment. Nevertheless, ABAP’s undeniable strengths still lies in the mapping of business logic and business processes. No matter which new user interfaces people digitize with, the data ultimately comes from the backend and must be processed accordingly. And it is precisely this “backend area” that is the responsibility of an ABAP-based SAP system – even for the foreseeable future.

New and modern approaches to rapid application development (RAD), including Neptune Software and their Neptune Digital Experience Platform, are also providing further opportunities. These platforms are becoming increasingly important in relieving the burden on developers by rapidly delivering business applications. In this context, ABAP developers have a comprehensive toolset at their disposal that enables them to leverage valuable know-how to the familiar SAP universe without much learning effort. RAD platforms simplify and accelerate the development of business applications, but in the end, the ABAP expert’s view of the different levels of code is essential to make the application productive.

Conclusion

Digitization creates both challenges and opportunities. The scope of tasks for an ABAP developer is dynamic and versatile. You never stop learning. No matter how eagerly one explores all sides of the SAP environment, it’s impossible to become an expert in all areas of this vast universe. This is the main reason why an ABAP developer’s career usually involves specialization. And while it can be difficult for us ABAP developers to branch out beyond the confinements of our SAP systems, new and modern RAD tools already help aid us in the development of SAP UI5 applications.

That said, it’s important to note that the ABAP-based SAP ERP system will remain one of the most important links for companies and their future digital transformation efforts. Currently, many companies and consulting firms are looking for SAP ABAP developers for the migration of processes to SAP S/4HANA, the programming of interfaces and the implementation of ABAP developments, and us ABAP’ers are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

About the author

Thorsten Wolf

Thorsten Wolf
Development Consultant at Neptune Software 

Thorsten is an ABAP expert and development consultant at Neptune Software and works, outside of customer projects, mainly on the further development of Neptune Software’s SAP centric module. He inherited his passion for the ABAP world from his father and has continued to thrive on it. He completed his dual education in the field of business informatics with a bachelor thesis at SAP in Walldorf in Carsten Ziegler’s BRF+ development team. In the course of this experience, he first came into contact with generic ABAP development and thus found his calling.

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