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SAP Career Outlook 2010 – Lessons Learned (plus videos)

Recently I released a two part white paper series called “SAP Career Outlook 2010: The Intersection of Talent and Community.” These papers were written for the Career Center on SCN, and you can download both parts on the Career Center home page.

It’s been amazing to get so much feedback since the papers were released. The level of response has been a welcome reminder that when you give something your absolute best effort, there is almost always an audience for it somewhere. This directly contradicts the views of some that in our Twitter culture, no one can focus for more than 140 characters – therefore longer documents are useless.

I don’t believe that information overload means that we must always force our ideas into sound bites, with these caveats: the paper in question must be well put together, cover a topic readers give a darn about (meaning: has relevance to their needs, not the vendor or author’s), and, ideally, should have some flair and personality (as opposed to the sterile “position paper” approach most of us wasted time on in college).

Here’s the rub: finding the time for that kind of effort is another matter altogether. In this blog post, I’ll share a few lessons that I’m going to try to follow in the future. I also have a couple of videos to embed.

Of course, with software as meaty as SAP, you can’t cover all the career variations in one paper. Example: Tony de Thomasis, fellow SAP Mentor, did a slideshare on NetWeaver career paths inspired by some video content related to this white paper. In turn, I did a four part SAP Basis and NetWeaver video commentary to Tony’s slideshare, where I responded to some of themes in his slides. It’s neat to see how one piece of content can inspire another and continue a conversation. This dialogue with Tony fleshed out the NetWeaver and Basis career paths further than I took it in the white papers.

One fun thing about the Career Outlook 2010 papers: during the editing process, we cut some material that would have been nice to include, but the papers were overstuffed. So I’ll be sharing some of those outtakes on this blog in the weeks ahead.

When Claudine Lagerholm of SAP commissioned me to do these white papers, my biggest concern was whether the final product would be relevant to readers. It’s easy to lose relevance during the editorial process. Perhaps the writer is trying too hard to please their editor or client. Perhaps the client in question is overly concerned with marketing messages and cuts the soul right out of the article. Often, I find that papers die into dullness in a more subtle manner – a series of decisions to smooth the content dulls the edge and leaves the end result as flimsy as an overcooked noodle.

So am I advocating posting raw, uncensored content? Not necessarily. In fact, a good editor can really help, if they understand their role, which is not to tone down the writer’s voice, but to make sure that the writer has not lost track of the needs of their audience.

Here’s the model I endorse:

1. Write something that has style and personality; write with attitude. The more fun you have writing it, the less like a “sterile white paper” it will feel.

2. Make sure your editor helps you to bring out the visual impact of what you are doing. The revision process can go a long way towards turning a huge pile of words into a graphically attractive, well organized document that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read through. Accessibility matters.

I’d like to thank Claudine for setting me free to write in my own style, and then for her help bearing down on point number two – making sure that these pieces were vivid to the reader despite the detail. I can only hope future papers I am involved with can approach this type of spirit.

Now, for the videos:

One very interesting topic is: what is the ideal functional/technical skills mix for the SAP professional? In part one of the white paper, I go into this topic in detail, but this video gives you the context:


In the video, I get into why there is a danger in claiming you can “do it all” in SAP and are a complete “techno-functional” “cross-module” consultant. Then there’s the emerging “BPX” roles, like “Solution Architect” or “Enterprise Architect,” and how these roles are impacting my traditional advice on the right SAP techno-functional skills mix. You can check out the video for my views on that.

The second video gets into a topic I only touched on briefly in the white paper, which is: why is having the latest SAP release experience important? This video addresses that question, but I also launch into a rant on why recruiters and hiring managers make big mistakes fixating on version-related experience when in fact there might be no real difference in the functionality between different SAP versions.

Yes, that kind of simplistic SAP hiring does “drive me bonkers” and I do believe the end result is excluding capable people from new projects and hiring inferior talent. It’s not just a rant, though, I do regroup at the end and offer some practical advice to improve your chances when small-minded hiring practices are used.

Thanks to all who provided feedback on the white paper so far, and if you have a topic you want me to cover in future content, please comment here or send me your question on Twitter – in 140 words or less.

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  • Hi Jon,

    as always your paper was thought-provoking and interesting. During my discussions here at the Cebit 2010 in Hannover I even pointed some freelance consultants to your paper when they asked about possible roadmaps for their future careers.

    Please keep the momentum of your great activities.

    Best regards,

    • Bernhard,

      I’m honored by your comments. Thank you. It’s a welcome perspective you bring, as I’m perpetually frustrated with myself for not finding time to get out even more of the content I want to share. It’s wonderful to hear how the papers advanced some conversations for you at Cebit. I will definitely continue to revise and define these roadmaps as the year goes forward with additional content…there are many avenues to flesh out, I want to do more examination of mid-market career paths and how SaaS is impacting ERP skill sets, etc. Lots to do. And definitely more for SAP freelancers like the folks you were talking to at Cebit.

      – Jon

  • Thanks for preparing these excellent documents Jon.  They really gave me some clarity and focus.
    “Advise as well as Implement”
    “Solve business problems”

    As a result of reading the papers, I feel great about building on what I’m great at, blending it with the emerging technology, and keeping the focus on value to the customer and value to the community.

    • Ray – that’s excellent – “clarity and focus” are definitely encourage words to hear you cite after reading these pieces.

      I like your dual mention of value to the customer and value to the community – with that dual focus, it’s pretty hard to go wrong- though there is always major homework keeping up with your SAP specialty as well….

      At any rate, definitely feel free to ping me with follow up questions, either here, or on Twitter (@jonerp), or on my own site.

      Good luck out there and let me know how things go for you in 2010 and how we can refine this based on your experience.

      – Jon

  • Hi Jon,

    Thank you so much for all your hard work creating the white paper: SAP Career Outlook 2010: The Intersection of Talent and Community and for your contributions to the SCN career center.  I am also a firm believer that relevant content does not need to be short, but the key there it must be relevant.  And I also think that readers appreciate your conversational, informal writing style. The paper is relevant but not stuffy and boring. It’s not easy to find that balance and you do it beautifully. Great job! 

    It’s also terrific to see that the content you developed is really helping our community members and making a difference in people’s careers. The comments and feedback from the extended community are a testament to the quality and value of the white paper. I look forward to collaborating with you on other career related topics in the future.