Over past few years I have been approached by consultantats both within my company(ies) and from outside asking how to grow primarily as SAP APO Consultant. Being in this “trade” for a fair amount of time no, I thought of pening down my thoughts in a Blog post. That may save time in responding to the mails I get seeking career guidance :D. While this is mostly focussed for SAP APO Consultant, but it holds true for any SAP Functional Module Consultant as long as they want to remain a Consultant. Also I would like to point out this career path is in Indian context and may be different in other geographies and countries.
As a beginner its a big challenge breaking into SAP Functional Consulting as many of us come in straight from Bachelors course in Engineering or Science. Most “freshers” are likely to break into SAP Technical Consulting getting into ABAP Programming, BASIS System Administration and related fields. The challenge for “freshers” is not because of the SAP Solution perse, but more in terms of business process understanding.Without industry / domain experience it is very difficult to comprehend the business context where the application is being fitted into as an IT solution. That is where many others coming with some Industry / Domain experience and /or post Graduation in Business Management (read MBA) break into SAP Functional Consulting. As for myself that has been the path getting my break into SAP APO way back in mid 2001. To know more you may like to read this Learnings from my SAP Career.
Now that we have established the entry point, the next challenge for Functional Consultant is getting into a”good” project. For many of us we start in Support Project and apsire toget into Implementation Project and work on Implementations or Rollout Projects only. Unfortunately that is not always a feasible option as there are more Support projects than Implentation projects because most of the big organisations have implemented SAP solutions. Most Consultants have in some point of their career worked on different projects be it Support, Rollout, Upgrade, Implementation. There is nothing wrong working in a Support Project as there will be continuous enhancements coming up which dependeing on the complexity and scope end up like mini implementations or are bundled into mini releases. Likewise an Upgrade project offers technical challenge in terms of Upgrade and impact review of all enhancements but also what new functionalities can be used in new version of SAP application.
As a Functional Consultant the focus needs to be on understanding of the business processes and how they are mapped in SAP APO – either by standard functionalities or in many cases through enhancements. It is good to start in a Support project where you can explore these at leisure(?) and get prepared for Implementation project.
Then one can leverage this experience in understanding client’s business requirements, abstract them to functional/technical requirements and finally mapping to SAP solution to see what is possible standard and what needs customisation can be applied in an Implementation Project.
Over time as one progresses to a senior Consultant and ultimately Solution Architect role, apart from your SAP functional/technical experience, one needs to develop / improve on domain specific business process knowledge, oral and written communication, time / project management related soft skills. Early this year I attempted penning down my thoughts in a Solution Architect Role Puzzler Continued ….
Coming back to APO for example a fresher working on Demand Planning Planning module – it would be good to focus on core Supply Chain concepts around Sales and Operations Planning Process, how Demand Planning fits in there, the theory behind the different Forecasting methods (pure mathematics), concepts related to retailing like Promotion / Cannibalisation, the entire Sales cycle etc. Depending on the client industry there will be nuances in Demand Planning that you need to be aware of while you get into an Implementation Project. Likewise someone starting off in Supply Network Planning module need to pick up concepts on S&OP, Safety Stock usage in conjunction with Target Stock / Days Supply and Lot Sizing methods for Economic Order Sizing, concepts around responsive Supply Chain, Vendor Managed Inventory / CPFR and so on. On the other hand those starting out in Production Planning Detailed Scheduling can focus on order creation methodologies, MPS and MRP concepts, scheduling options and so on. Similarly those on Global Availability to Promise can focus on Order Fulfillment business process, Allocation process and how it all ties up with Demand Planning processes.
To hear more about your SAP Career watch this interesting recording from recent SAP Inside Track Bangalore where audience had a chance to discuss with SAP Mentor Jon Reed about SAP Career and skills trend.
Disclaimer: This Blog is not formal career guidance and nothing written in this blog to be construed as sacrosant or binding. Views are purley mine and does not in any means reflect policies of my current and previous companies.