SAP consultants are not immune to the greater economy that is crashing around us. But, the question that rings in our mind all the time is – Will companies spend on SAP projects when we are in a recession like situation? If they will, we can tide over the temporary hardship. If they won’t, then some panic is probably justified.
I have been thinking about this for a good while now, and keenly following what every one else is talking about this on various online communities. Also, being a career road warrior, I meet other consultants at airports every week and this is a great topic to spend time while waiting for the boarding announcement.
Here is the summary of what I found so far.
1. Support projects are the place to be
SAP already announced cancellations, cost cutting etc last month. My interpretation is that they are finding it hard to sell “new” licenses. But a very steady part of SAP’s revenue should be the renewal of existing licenses. For consultants, this means – there is always a safe haven in the form of maintenance projects. Flip side – it probably doesn’t pay as much as implementation projects.
2. Large scale projects that started a while ago will continue
I expect companies with big deployment plans to mostly stick with their plans. Most of these projects should be partly deployed by now, and it is probably very costly for corporations to stop midway. Flip side – there is a risk for consultants that such projects might have a level of maturity that might prompt corporations to reduce consultant workforce and try to finish with internal employees.
3. Size matters
This one went back and forth between me and several people, including an exchange of ideas with Jon Reed here on SDN. Majority of the people I spoke to have the idea that more and more companies will give more business to the big Tier 1 companies, since the bigger companies are percieved as a better insurance against risk. This would probably lead to more hiring at these compnies. Flip side – it probably wont pay you like an independent gig.
4. Two skills are better than one
This is true in good markets too, but especially true now. I will also try to make a case that functional guys with some ABAP programming (enough to code a small BAdI maybe) might find life a lot better now. Functional guys with multiple modules also seem to be in hot demand – like SD/MM, SD/FI, MM/PP etc. Traditional programming combinations like BW/ABAP seems to have become pretty common place now to make a difference now. Flip side: if you already did not pick up two skills by now, not much you can do in short term I guess
5. Web based solutions rock
Everyone I spoke to reiterated this in diferent flavors. Internet is the king – and no one is cutting down big time on web based projects. One guy gave me an example where his client laid off employees, but continued a web based CRM project with increased budgets. While I hate people losing jobs, I guess I can see the company’s logic in moving more and more stuff online and automated.
Although consumer electronics might take a hit because people might delay their ipod purchase, I guess the electronics industry will still make money due to increased spending on hardware that is needed to support the expanding wprld of internet solutions.
6. Very few companies are putting money on “new” SAP stuff
New stuff includes SOA – and this disheartens me quite a bit. I am hoping that the information I got is skewed and a large number of you see it differently. This was also something I mentioned in my reply to Jon’s blog on the subject. I have spoken to several more people on this – and there is one anomaly that I found fascinating. It seems people don’t shy away from SOA per se, just that they do it only for non-SAP systems. So probably SAP based SOA solutions will also pick up some day soon.
It appears that while some are on leading edge and readily moved on to business objects, there are a lot of companies that seem content to wait for a while with existing BI before making the leap.
7. CRM and BI are dandy
Customer is king , but probably this assumes greater significance in bad times. From what I can see – from own experience and from the information from all around, I am convinced that more and more people are spending money on CRM. The much nicer UI in CRM2007 itself is probably worth the upgrade. It is also apparent that lots of BI projects are around – and my theory is that companies probably are taking a more data driven approach to decision making to reduce risk in the bad economy.
There might be other areas doing really well too – just that my own background in CRM and BI makes me follow these two areas more closely.
8. Life should be good if you have anything to do with security, risk etc
Not hard to believe I suppose. GRC, good old SAP authorizations etc should be great skills to have now. I could see a lot of C level guys commisioning projects on these areas in these times. Now might be a good time to learn GRC.
9. Get ready for even leaner onsite teams (yeah it is possible)
Those of you who have to sit through early morning and late night calls most days of your work week – it is going to get worser. Most projects of any size now work in this model, where you only have say 20 or 30% of your team onsite. This is bound to become something like 10% or even less. But I guess we will settle into a routine again, after some kicking and screaming.
10. Industry knowledge is the biggest differentiator
Again, this is not new – just that every one I know thinks this is the most saleable “consultant thing” at the moment. Clients will most probably hire you if you come with some experience in their industry, compared to just being a great SAP consultant.I think this plays nicely for the tier 1 companies, since most of them have a lot of industry experience to showcase.
So there you are, I think we will live after all !