Do I Need Previous Experience to Learn BW?

Do you need previous experience to learn SAP BW? Fundamentally the answer is ‘No’. When you were only two years old did you have any prior experience? Not much. So how did you learn? You got in there, you tinkered, you played and you interacted with whatever it was you were trying to learn. That interaction itself formed the experience.


As time goes by, you got older and you complicated the question. The questions and the desired answers were not aligned, which lead to an ambiguity that essentially stopped you from seeing the simple answers. The situation is not helped when employers also seem to have forgotten the simple answers. As you move further along the career path, prior experience appears to be a stepping stone, a hurdle.

This includes questions like ‘Are you SAP Certified?’. It’s the age-old debate of theory versus practice. Have you got certification which proves you have a certain level of understanding? This in turn leads to the debate of ‘understanding versus experience’. Which has more value? This will vary across the different industries and employers as it really does depend upon what is more important to them.

At the end of the day I believe it comes down to the achieving of the results. So, yes, it is great that you’ve got certification. It is a way of highlighting that you have achieved a certain level. It communicates quickly and easily to other people a rough ballpark of how much knowledge you are supposed to have in a particular area.

“certification does not explain how well you understand
or how efficiently you can achieve results”

The more esteem the higher levels of certification are held to, then the higher the expectation is that you’ll be able to achieve the results. This is demonstrated by SAP offering their Associate, Professional and Master certification levels.

One of the main clear distinctions between these levels of certification is you have at least X years experience in the industry and a broader range of knowledge. The actual experience you have will vary depending upon what your daily focus was:

  • Did you watch process chains and help users fix their queries.
  • Did you create DataSources and fix up authorisation security problems.
  • Did you monitor the business content statistics and optimise the system.

It doesn’t matter if you were pigeonholed into only a certain number of niches within the environment. The fact is that you still have experience. Are you seeing these limited experiences in a negative light? Don’t. You will find that even in the small niches, the exposure you have picked up involves some core fundamental understanding and, more importantly, a framework on how you best approach the solutions to problems.

Is previous experience required to learn SAP BW? No. The very fact that you actually learn BW by doing, by gaining experience, is what is most valuable. If you are now using that question to ask ‘To get a particular SAP BW job?’ then the answer will be ‘yes’, because you will need to have a base understanding of what’s entailed in that job. Now, here is where the fun begins. The previous experience statement when going specifically for a role also needs to ask ‘What is the employers expectation for learning on the job?’.

“a prerequisite to Learn SAP BW is to understand
that learning and experience are a cycle”

Can you show a certain understanding across the breadth of an area that the job covers? What about a good understanding of how the big picture looks, the macro view? For Example: DataStores and Cubes versus MultiProviders and Queries. How are they integrated with security and authorisation? What about the process chains for pushing data through all storage areas? What about the broadcasting of information via e-mail? Perhaps even something more obscure like the Business Documents Store (BDS)? How the documents are related to not only values of data but then also types of objects or a combination? Sometimes, the previous experience is limited to understanding how all of these big pieces fit together and not necessarily the details. Great, that is what the interview process is for.

Do you need previous experience to learn BW? No. Do you need previous experience to fit into an employment role which has very specific requirements? Yes. Do you need to fully understand every single piece of information that is involved in that job opportunity? No. Now we are back to the questions that seem to go in a circle:

  • How do I get the experience? I got the experience by learning.
  • How do I learn? Through experiencing the activity.

You can see that these questions need additional context before they can solidify into a satisfactory answer.

In its very simplest terms the answer to ‘Do I need previous experience to learn SAP BW?’ is ‘No’. As long as you’ve got the interest and you keep running around the cycle then you will gain the experience as you learn and you will continue to learn more and more.

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