Guest Column | November 5, 2020

SAP Basis Role And Responsibilities: What To Look For When Hiring A Basis Engineer

By Tyler Constable, Director of Sales Engineering, Avantra

Field Service Recruitment And Retention

What exactly are the roles and responsibilities of SAP basis? And how do we ensure we are putting the right people in place for this role? We all know SAP is complex, so be sure to look for these modern things when hiring a new employee for the job.

The technical SAP world is changing and hiring the best-of-the-best technical SAP Basis Engineers is becoming harder and harder. Below I've highlighted five key areas of the SAP Basis role and responsibilities to explore during the resume and interview process that can be used to launch you deeper into the hiring process. It's important to note that this article does not consider the non-technical aspects into hiring a new team member, which I feel equal to - or even more important than - the technical aspects. These are things like what drives a person, their critical thinking skills, how they interact with the team & customers, etc. Instead, we're going to focus on five vital technical components.

Are Certifications Needed In The Role Of SAP Basis?

Certifications are great when someone uses them for self-growth and training in their real-world environment. But often, technical people feel they are a 'badge of honor' and look to achieve certificates only to post it on their LinkedIn or their resume. This is a major trap that you need to look out for.

For example, someone with one year of SAP Basis experience may take some courses, study real hard, and pass the test to become an SAP Certified Technology Associate on OS/DB Migrations. Their drive, passion, and ability to accomplish this should not be overlooked because it is an outstanding achievement. But you'll need to dig deeper. Do they have any experience with migrating SAP systems since achieving this certificate? The next resume in the deck may be from someone with the same years of experience, but instead of taking the time to become certified, they've completed multiple real-life migrations successfully. Experience is hard to find; certificates can always be granted and can even be seen as a way to reward a team member when they may have some downtime. If someone has the experience, but no certificates, ask them: "Where do you learn about new changes in the SAP ecosystem?" - this will give you some indication about their technical drive and work ethic.

What About All That Experience?

Alright, so you've found a resume with a handful of certificates and previous roles, with a vast amount of experience and responsibilities - you're in the clear! (well, kind of). You must be cautious with the experience as well. When it comes to project work, many large organizations or consulting firms will put multiple team members on these projects, and unfortunately, not everyone contributes the same level of effort. Don't get me wrong; each person plays an essential part in making sure these large-scale projects go off with no issues. However, a person's role can mean different things. For example, maybe they helped build the server and load the software, or they ran through the prep phases, continued through a near-zero downtime, and handed it off for post-processing - both very different scenarios. It's essential to dig into their EXACT role and responsibilities in these projects. The vaguer the answers, the more you should check-in and question it.

I remember about a year ago reading through a resume where this individual stated they were on a team that had completed hundreds of projects, including greenfield implementations, cross-platform migrations, migrations to the cloud; it was almost too real to believe. After about 5 minutes of phone conversation, it was quickly discovered that this person was referencing the team at their consulting practice had completed these projects as a whole, and they were really a more junior level employee who mostly watched, and maybe completed some minor post-processing steps. While this was an extreme example, these people are out there claiming they have more experience than they really do!

Look Up To The Cloud

It's no secret the public cloud is becoming more and more standard throughout the SAP ecosystem, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Even if you currently host your systems on-premises and have no intention of transitioning to the public cloud soon, it's not a bad idea to have someone on the team who has experience in the role and responsibilities. This SME will be an integral part of the process when it's time to refresh hardware.

Understanding how to architect an SAP system on a public cloud is entirely different from on-premises. Some tools can be used to auto-scale, and methods to bring systems down at certain times to help save you money. The public cloud providers have ways of backing up and restoring and scaling in different ways that should be considered when architecting an SAP landscape.

SAP Basis Role And Responsibilities: Make Life Easier

The best Basis Engineers understand (and care) that the weight their company's world is resting on their shoulders. If they mess something up, they know the system is at risk of downtime, which could cost millions of dollars to the business. They understand these systems need constant attention, but at the same time, they need to architect and plan for significant project work (upgrades, migrations, installations, etc..). So they rely on the best of breed tools to get them there. The best engineers look to utilize tools to give them a single pane of glass view they can use at any time. They integrate SAP with their ticketing systems, so they don't have to spend time on tickets. They find solutions that can help them automate recurring and straightforward tasks. Oh, and they don't want to spend as much time updating these tools as they do on their SAP upgrades. The best SAP engineers will find the best tools to make their life easier, give them one-stop-shop visibility and automate as much as they can to focus on the big things that will positively impact the business. These are the people you want to hire.

They Know What They Don't Know

One thing to keep in mind is SAP has been around for a fair amount of time. There are all different kinds of SAP platforms that can run on various databases that can run on multiple operating systems that can run on additional hardware, public cloud, or SaaS (software as a service) infrastructure. Certain systems are industry-specific, and almost every SAP system is customized to the business. If you find someone that is overly confident about what the role of SAP basis is, and says they know everything about SAP, be wary. Ask about the platforms, the databases, the operating systems, and the infrastructure they are not familiar with. The best of the best are aware of what they don't know. Perhaps they'll say they're not as familiar with a particular database, or maybe they never worked with a specific SAP industry solution. Who knows, you may not even run that solution or use that database, but at least you know they're honest and self-aware. However, if someone inclines that they know it all, and are fit for the job, be careful.

There are a million other technical topics about the roles and responsibilities of an SAP Basis that can be discussed during the interview process. Still, these five should be your starting point. These will indicate their experience and what they want in a career, how they look to make things run efficiently (not only for themselves but also the business) and give you an idea as to where the abilities may not be as strong. The strongest SAP Basis Engineers will consult you on making the systems run the best for the business, and that comes with real work experience, using the best in class tools, and having a confident understanding of where their strengths lie.

About The Author

Tyler Constable is Director of Sales Engineering at Avantra.