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Recently, I decided to try out LinkedIn’s “Question and Answer” functionality. I decided to give it a shot with a question to SAP professionals about how relevant BPX skills (and the BPX web site) is to their skill sets. I got some really good responses from a range of SAP professionals that I’ll share with you here.

I’ve been writing a lot about BPX skills, partially because I think that the question of how important BPX skills are during an economic downturn is a vitally important one. I’m not going to try to answer that question definitively in this particular entry, but I will say that one really good thing about BPX skills is that many of them are affordable to pursue and require time and dedication more than money – so, those aren’t bad skills to have on our radar screen in times like these. I’m also interested in LinkedIn and whether it can be a useful platform for connections in the SAP community. I’m still exploring this, but you’re welcome to check out my LinkedIn profile and perhaps we can connect.

As it turns out, LinkedIn Q/A isn’t really that well suited for this type of survey question; it’s probably better for questions that have a specific answer so you can mark the question as “closed.” Also, LinkedIn didn’t print my responses I sent to some of the answers, so this blog entry is a good opportunity to share a couple of my responses as well. But even if the Q/A structure wasn’t perfect for my purposes, the answers were helpful.

Let’s start with the original question I posted:

I have a few questions for SAP professionals on LinkedIn regarding SAP BPX (Business Process Expert) skills and how relevant they really are to your work?

For a bit of context, I was wondering how important do you find “SAP BPX skills” to your project work, now and looking ahead to the future?

Is it a top priority for you to acquire these skills, a moderate priority, or not a priority at all?

For those of you who are curious about how BPX skills might improve your overall skill set, how useful is the SAP BPX community to you? Is there something you need to help make these skills transition that you are not getting?

The first answer I received was from Samantha Gammill of Osiris ERP Consulting. She responded to each question in turn, so I will italicize the questions and then we’ll see her answers.

For a bit of context, I was wondering how important do you find “SAP BPX skills” to your project work, now and looking ahead to the future?

“I am definitely interested, there is a proposal out that I will be included in as a BPX for an ERP Integrated Task Force to come up with strategic solutions for future SAP ERP initiatives with my current client. So it is very important and viable at this time for me to show all the BPX skills on my resume to be considered for this position.”

Is it a top priority for you to acquire these skills, a moderate priority, or not a priority at all?

“Yes, it is a top priority. I don’t have a PMP (project management certification) and I think that having a certification on SAP BPX could compensate for the educational aspect of my skill set.”

How useful is the SAP BPX community to you?

“I have used the SAP BPX community to reach out to other consultants and identified a need to go to SAP TechEd 2008 (although I am a functional consultant) and found that the new BPM and BRM modules offered by SAP are very useful tools for any consultant and have since spread the word as much I could to the independent consultants on my contract.”

Is there something you need to help make these skills transition that you are not getting?

“I wish that there was more time and money to continue my education in this area, as I am sure that in the near future, this will be vital to my consulting repertoire and be a valuable asset to any of my future clients.”

Samantha’s responses spoke to the relevance of BPX skills to a functional consultant. At the same time, it was clear that the down economy was going to affect her ability to pursue some of her BPX skills interests. I thought that one of Samantha’s most interesting points was that for a lead SAP consultant who doesn’t have a broader project management certification, the SAP BPX certification might provide a way of not only getting credibility/background in BPX, but also solidifying project management skills in the eyes of the market. That will be an interesting topic to follow.

The next response was from another senior functional consultant, Nathan Genez of Serio Consulting:

“As a concept, BPX is vital to properly deliver a high quality service that covers all touch points in SAP. To deliver a total solution you have to have knowledge of the process as well as both the functional and technical sides. BPX tries to address some of this.

But in regards to the modeling tools themselves that SAP is trying to push out, I haven’t yet seen them at work in the marketplace so they are not yet on my skills acquisition list… but I’m keeping my eyes and ears open.

I’m also beginning to think that some of the specific BPX tools really need to be in the domain of the customer and not the consultant. After all, it’s the customer that is generally more aware of their business process, its history, outputs, and reporting implications.”

I tend to agree with Nathan’s points here, and his view on the new generation of modeling tools (interested but waiting to see more customer traction) probably echoes a lot of other consultants. I told Nathan that when we see a modeling tool that allows business users to generate truly executable code without further customization, that could be a game changer. NetWeaver BPM is moving towards that vision, but we’re not there yet.

The next response came from Dorian Salmon of SOA Connect. Dorian’s view comes from the perspective of a senior technical SAP consultant with CRM, NetWeaver, and eSOA expertise:

“I believe BPX skills are very important to consultants who want to stay marketable.

SAP has for some time been a process-driven product; even more so now that SOA and BPX methodologies are being emphasized by both vendors and customers.

Both technical and functional consultants who do not embrace BPX as a skill to be learned and improved upon will find themselves less valuable to projects that are being implemented around business processes. Simply knowing how to configure the IMG or write code is not enough to compete with the huge number of low-cost/high-volume “body shops” that promise low cost of implementations to customers.

The differentiator right now for independent consultants and small consulting groups is the ability to (a) provide workable business processes to meet customers’ needs and (b) to be able to persuade those customers up-front that they have the skills and business knowledge to provide those solutions. This entails not only gaining the required knowledge and skills, but also being able to “talk the talk” at the proposal/interview stage to convince customers that they know what they are talking about. The BPX community is one of the tools I find valuable in doing this.”

I think Dorian nailed one of the key points in the BPX discussion in terms of the value of BPX skills enhancement in order to remain a valuable on-site consultant, less prone to global offshoring. 
 
The last comment came from Looking Back at TechEd Bangalore: Three SAP Mentors Share Their Experiences. Abesh has deep experience in Rich Internet Applications (RIA) as well as shopfloor integration and next-generation UI design. So what use does he see in BPX?

“I am a mean coder and love to get my hands dirty with code. But then again, what would code be without the business knowledge? Knowing in-depth the business scenario that I am going to work on would definitely increase my productivity and cut down on situations where the developed functionality does not match the requirement of the customer.

I also believe that some time during the line and also as one treads the path of an architect, coding becomes redundant. There are already enough tools in the market which generate a fairly good amount of code for you, especially modeling tools. Architects need to have BPX skills as they are required to map the whole IT or process landscape of a whole organization. The SAP BPX community is actually a good starting point with all of one’s BPX queries. Stalwarts like Dick Hirsch, Ginger Gatling, and Ann Rosenberg are very helpful and always available for initial handholding. As a techie with a new found interest in BPM, the BPX community on SCN is where you would go to :)”

Abesh’s comments rounded out the picture with more awareness of the limitations of coding in a world where modeling tools are becoming more prevalent and the “Architect” skill set is more important, which feeds directly into the conversations going on about BPX skills here and elsewhere. The only thing I would take issue with is Abesh describing himself as a “mean coder” – Abesh is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. 🙂

So that’s a nice range of perspectives on the relevance of BPX from a range of functional and technical views. I was hoping to get a BPX skeptic to chime in, but was not able to get one in this batch. I have, however, corresponded with some SAP professionals who are more skeptical about BPX skills. If you want to hear how I respond to skeptical views on BPX, I recommend you check out a replay of my SAP BPX skills webcast I did with ASUG, where I get into the fray with the skeptical views that my JonERP.com web site visitors have relayed to me. 

I hope you found this collection of views interesting. If you want to read even more about the emerging SAP BPX skill set and the different project roles that are emerging, I have now posted a detailed book review on the Process First book, authored by Marco ten Vaanholt and the SAP BPX community, on JonERP.com.

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7 Comments

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  1. Marco ten Vaanholt
    I hope you continue to explore and help with this dialogue. I am also interested to see if people had success to istitute parts of the BPX skills and how they did it
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  2. Vijay Vijayasankar
    Jon and Marco, while I would not say we had a “big BPX success” in the project I run now, I will definitely say that we have laid a very solid foundation.

    Our project is completely based on SOA principles. We decomposed the business processes and identified candidate services, and built our CRM and BI solution based on it. A lot of emphasis was put on data modelling to maximize the effectiveness of the SOA foundation.
    Now that we have abstracted the processes reasonably well – we will move on to compose processes with a lot of flexibility. Truly keeping with the spirit of SOA, we have a large number of services based out of non-SAP systems that didn’t have to be re-written in the SAP system. We followed IBM’s SOMA methodology for this (SOMA incidentally is technology agnostic).

    One of the key learnings is that it is foolish to do this in a big bang approach all the way. So we spent a lot of time planning, and we cut our teeth on low hanging fruit. Now that we have more confidence in all aspects of the design, we will extend it to the larger picture.

    Of course, this was not an easy task – it took a lot of effort to evangelize the concept, and lot more work needs to be done still before every one of the stakeholders is a convert. But I have every confidence that we will reach that state in very near future.

    We never used the term BPX or BPM – mostly because people were still getting used to the term SOA. If we were to start today, I would have used the term right off the bat.

    I am planning to write on my team’s experiences in a blog in near future.

    Cheers
    Vijay

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    1. Marilyn Pratt
      Glad to hear that you will share this experience. In fact was speaking to some of your colleagues about creating a “community wiki space” around such a journey.  Would there be others who participated that might be willing to share.  It would be great to have multiple perspectives, rather than monolouge and to really understand the roles of those who engaged.  Very useful material for others to learn from and perhaps respond to.  Thanks for promising to share.

      To Jon, regardless of how we regard the appropriateness of the survey tool, your findings (responses) provide interesting perspectives.  The candor of folks like Nathan and Vijay is refreshing and important.

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      1. Vijay Vijayasankar
        I think having a community wiki space for this is a brilliant idea, Marilyn. The primary reason a lot of this message gets lost is because some one preaches from a roof, instead of an open dialog.
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  3. Bernhard Escherich
    Hi Jon,

    thanks for your blog. It is thought provoking as always. I also take this as a push to publish more on the experiences in our BPX approach-based projects.

    Best regards,
    Bernhard

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  4. Jon Reed Post author
    Thanks everyone for the comments. I fixed a couple of glaring typos in the piece this morning – apologies, was kind of a tricky format.

    Vijay, building these “personal case studies” is really important to the BPX community and I am always glad to see your thoughtful comments to my blog posts. I agree also with Marilyn about the wiki idea. Every time I talk to someone about their “BPX skills journey” I learn something new, and I was very glad that those I wrote about took the time to post their thoughts. It’s the collective story that’s important to gather and any ways that can make that happen sound good to me. In the meantime, I’ll continue to report back on anything I learn or write about. Thanks again for the comments, it is a lot more fun to share information when you feel that others are also engaged and involved in the discussion.

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