Most business application consultants and experts have a high emphasis in one aspect of the solution (say finance, controlling, HR, CRM), sometimes, they even go to higher focus (marketing campaigns within the CRM) but very few of them would know what happens in the next phase of the process. They usually work in a blackbox mode knowing the input they’re getting from previous phase, how to process it before serving it to the next phase.
This has worked pretty well due to the widely spread practices in the implementation of processes within monolithic solutions. These processes were also mostly fixed as companies rarely looked forward constant process innovation to keep up with the pace of competitivity. But today, the world’s changing. Processes are being executed across the solution boundaries and even across the company’s boundaries, they may be re-engineered at several phases to match the company’s strategy on the market.
If we take the computer manufacturing industry, the usual process would be “Manufacture the equipment -> ship to dealers -> Select the equipment (customer) -> Pay (customer)“. DELL has drastically changed this process, which earned them a highly competitive advantage at several levels. The process has been changed to “Select the equipment -> Pay -> Manufacture the equipment -> Ship to customer“. At this point, DELL has improved at least on two main points: exit the dealers, reducing the number of intermediates and they don’t need fully manufactured stocked equipment. Basically computers are stocked in warehouses in a pre-assembled state. Assembling might even be transfered (outsourced) to Supply Chain providers. At this point, they’re having a direct contact with the customer, tightening the relationship, and they’re increasing their profitability (fixed costs reduction).
For solution experts, this has a major impact on the way they usually implement the process. They need to have a complete understanding of the impacts of the re-engineering on their blueprint. How they shift from a data receiver from process step 3 to a data source for step 2.
For this purpose, the experts will require to have a broader knowledge of what they are implementing, how’s their part is being integrated within a wider scope, what happens in every phase and then they should shift into a full understanding of the process end-to-end.
So if you wonder how you can update your skills ? What you should look at ?
I say, forget modules and go end-to-end process: Order to Cash or Procure to Pay. With today’s technology and solution maturity, processes tend to have tighter integration between them. They are not just merely tables and transactions, but there’s a real logic flow orchestrating each step of the process.
Coupled with the Business Process Experts/Champions/Owners, the consultants will seek into bringing a higher value to their customer/company by optimizing the execution of the process at every step with a coherent and comprehensive understanding of the impacts of each action and decision.
In an SOA approach, the isomorphism between the process and the services will lead to create fine grained components which are then assembled altogether into composite applications. This leads to a tighter integration of components (logical point of view) as a service might as well execute operations in a project and finance systems.
While there might still be confusion among SAP practitioners on the ability to go from a modular perspective to the end-to-end perspective, this change will be driven by the market evolution and the solution architecture anyways. The idea is that rather than being an expert on 10 FI processes while you usually implement 4 of them. The skills evolution roadmap would guide you through the different stages of your process implementation within the other modules/solutions, hence fully leveraging your training and expertise on all areas.
This full fledged knowledge of the process will also provide a new empowerment that will allow experts to drive the innovation to reflect the business requirements or even anticipate them, as this is where the real value lies.