How does SAP work – Understanding Roles and Job duties

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This lesson is split into three parts. This is the first part of the lesson. 

In this part you will understand 

  • The various jobs/profiles people usually have in a typical SAP environment. 
  • The roles and duties they perform. 
  • How they coordinate with each other to satisfy a typical client requirement. 

This is me with my beloved car.


I love my car and I consider myself a good driver. I follow all the road signs and drive within the speed limits. My car loves me too. It works so well that only on 2 occasions in the past 6 years have I had the need to open the hood. That was because of me alone. I had forgotten to switch off the head lights the whole night so the battery had drained out and I had to jump start my car.

Confused again !! Is this an essay on my beloved car or am I teaching you SAP.

Ha Ha.. No!! The reason I spoke about my car is to bring home the point that just like a super performing car, SAP is a very durable software. The roles and duties in SAP are very well defined. Just like how a chauffeur of a car need not know the internal workings of the car’s engine, gear box, radiator etc, similarly an ABAP developer or a functional consultant need not know the internal architecture of SAP.

But, and this is an important: if I know the basics of the architecture just enough, it will go a long way in understanding how my car performs in what cases. When should I take my car out for service? What are the strengths and weakness of my car? Is my car built for luxury like a Mercedes or for performance like BMW.

So, In this lesson I will open the hood and dive through some of the important parts in the SAP environment. Though you may not need it directly, it will definitely build your confidence when you are attending job interviews.

I have split this lesson into three parts. I call it the soft part and the hard part like the soft skills and technical skills.

Following is the soft part of the lesson in which we will learn about the various roles/job profiles/actors in the SAP industry. In the technical part I will go into the actual hard core architectural break up of SAP.

So with this aspect clear, lets proceed.

Players in the SAP environment

A typical SAP environment has the following actors in the system

  • Technical Consultants
    • ABAP Developers
    • Basis Administrators
    • Security Admins
    • Database Admins
    • Portal Admins
  • Functional Consultants for the various modules
    • HCM, FI/CO, MM, PP, CRM, SRM etc.
  • End Users
  • Project Manager
  • Support staff
  • Core Users
  • and many more.

Though the definition of each of these roles is very clearly defined in SAP, their duties may sometimes overlap. To understand their relations lets expand on our car analogy.

With this analogy let’s understand the various roles people play in the SAP industry. This may be silly and may not apply completely, but you will get the basic gist, I hope.

So, we have a car and the owner of the car comes up to the car. The door man of the car opens the door and the owner of the car gets in.

In our SAP world, I can say that the car here is the SAP software. The owner is the customer who has bought the SAP software( car in our example) and the door man is the implementation partner’s ( implementing company) project manager.

Functional Consultant / Business System Analyst:

The customer gives a requirement, that he/she would like to go to destination X.

The navigator in the car, now pulls out her charts and maps out an optimal and feasible path to reach the destination. She then proceeds to explain the path to the client and upon the client’s approval, gives these directions to the chauffeur/driver. Coming back to SAP then, the customer requirements are termed as business requirements and the navigator here is the Functional Consultant.

This is what Functional consultant do

This is what Functional consultant do

This consultant knows the various routes available to go from X to Y and has the business knowledge to drop all the non-feasible routes and come up with the optimal path. The directions in this case is actually called functional specifications in the SAP world.

ABAP Developer:

The limitation of the navigator however is that she herself does not know how to drive the car. This is the job of the chauffeur. The chauffeur then looks at the directions or the route and decides how to drive the car, when to change the gears, when to take it slow and when to push the gas pedal a bit more. Chauffeur then in our example would be the Technical Consultant – specifically the ABAP developer. The developer knows how to talk to car, and can exactly take the car from point X to point Y.

What consultants think to themselves.

What consultants think to themselves.

So what would be a Techno-Functional consultant?

You guessed it right, an ABAP developer who can both draw out a route as well as drive the car. Such consultants are rare and are paid very well in the industry for obvious reasons.

Are these the only actors in our example. Well !! No.

BASIS/Netweaver Admins:

The car has to be serviced regularly and this is done by the service agents who are familiar with every detail of the internal architecture of the car. They love car talk and dig every aspect of it. In SAP we would call them BASIS or Netweaver Admins. The duty of BASIS is to perform system setup and system level configurations, software installations, apply support patches and kernel upgrades, apply OSS note solutions, and manage the every day up keep of the software.

Security and Basis work hand in hand .. we hope

Security and Basis work hand in hand .. we hope

Security Administrators:

Also our car is a high end piece of equipment. Hence you would want to restrict access to the car to a limited group of people based on their roles and responsibilities. This in SAP world is done by the security admins. Security folk determine who can access what aspect of SAP so that sensitive data is protected from accidental or purposeful over-write. This ensure data security such that an HCM module user cannot view data form FI module and so on, based on the roles.

Access Granted.. Now Go break the system !!

Access Granted.. Now Go break the system !!

There are many more roles and responsibilities in a typical SAP implementation, like System Testing, Organization Change Control ( OCM ), Project Management, but that is well beyond the scope of what we are discussing here.

Summary :

So, in this lesson we learnt the various important players in the SAP environment.

Friends, I had planned to explain only the core technical architecture of SAP in this lesson, but I think getting an understanding of the main players in the system is important to understand SAP. Hope with this lesson we have touched this aspect.

So in the next part of this lesson we will get into the nuts and bolts of this system.

Please provide your feedback on this lesson in your comments below.
Let me know what you liked and did not like about this chapter.

Also if you like this do share it and if you have not done so, do subscribe to this blog to get more updates as I make future lessons available.



    ITS VERY NICE TOPIC AND YOU ARE DOING AWESOME WORK…hope people will folloew this blog and get some good knowledge

    • Glad you liked it Ravi.
      SAP concepts are tough to understand since it is not only technical but needs to have a business outlook as well.
      I try to make learning fun and easy, still keeping it as relevant as possible.
      What Role in SAP are you interested in ?

      • Gerardo Aguilar

        Hello good Morning,

        I very good explanation for beginner people and example SAP versus CAR.

        I am waiting second lesson.

        Thanks Pereira

  2. Tarak

    Great work Linkin,
    it is very helpful to beginners in sap to understand the basic key points
    and am very eager for your upcoming posts.

    • Pushpa Jha

      Very nice document Linkin and your way of explaining the concept even more interesting 🙂 Awaiting for your next documnet 🙂 🙂

  3. Brayden

    Very informative post, i’m regular reader
    of your site. I noticed that your blog is outranked by many other blogs in google’s search results.
    You deserve to be in top10.

  4. Miguel Enriquez

    Nice Blog.

    i am happy of your desicion of share your knowleadge…..

    i am not have questions….. but please include the BluePrints topic.


  5. Rohith

    Hi Linkin,

    Really you are making tough one to learn easy with your examples which suits exactly.Please continue this blog further.

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