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Road Ahead for SAP Consultants – 2011

This is my third year trying to give my outlook for SAP consultants for the following year. All the usual caveats apply – these are just my personal opinions, and not of my employer. Also I have not done any scientific study to arrive at these. These are just based on my conversations with my clients, fellow consultants, analystsm and what I have observed over the past year or so.


1. BusinessObjects reporting tools will get significant traction in BW shops


Some work needs to be done by consultants to undo the confusion generated by name changes of products. I saw first hand the amount of confusion that exists when I was at Teched this year. There is also some doubts on XI 4.0 – and I heard several people taking a position that they would rather wait for XI 4.1 . So – expect your clients to ask many questions on Roadmap for BOBJ when you walk into your client’s office.


2. More clients will move from BPS/IP and EC-CS / BCS to BPC 


With the 7.5 version for Netweaver version, I think a lot more clients will move to BPC. This is not a totally painless exercise – since legacy planning and consolidation systems usually have a lot of custom built functionality that is business critical. And I am yet to see a BPC consultant who has not expressed serious frustration on Allocations functionality. Not many consultants seem to have checked out Profitability and Cost Management solution, and how it integrates with BPC and ECC and legacy systems. I don’t think PCM will take off significantly in 2011, but nevertheless I would like to urge my fellow consultants to check it out.


3. New GL migrations is an area where FI-CO consultants can keep busy


Over the last couple of years, more and more SAP customers have moved on to ECC 6.0. However, several of them are still using classic GL. Automatic reconciliation between FI and CO, preparation for IFRS and so on are prompting many clients to migrate over to New GL.


4. Learn what is possible with HANA and what is not


HANA is a game changer – I am fully convinced. 2011 will be the ideal time for consultants to get themselves familiar with HANA. A lucky few might get to experience HANA 1.0 in 2011, and those folks should have a upper hand when later versions of HANA come out.


5. ABAP rules, again


SAP’s commitment to ABAP is not in doubt anymore, and programmers will do well to learn how ABAP has evolved. A significant number of programmers are still stuck in the late nineties abilities of ABAP. All I can say is “you have no idea what you are missing”. The quality of projects will significantly increase if ABAPers learnt how to use their tools better . Learning what is new in ABAP is not an end in itself – you have to find where to use it in your projects.


6. Virtualization will continue to gain traction


SAP and many partners have made significant advances in virtualization – and I have first hand seen many clients seriously interested in virtualizing their SAP environment. However this is also an area where the world is not short of hype and jargon – so it would be prudent to find out what is possible and what is not before you commit too deeply into this area.


7. Security and Compliance is a big deal


All things security/compliance related will be hot. This is a constant worry for many clients, and is one of those areas like BI where companies are willing to spend money despite the shape of the economy. Also, a lot of consultants are unaware of what GRC is – and getting some knowledge on GRC might be a great idea.


8. Data federation can add significant business value


From the time I started in SAP, I have seen the pain of data sitting in many different systems and business not being able to use it without spending a lot of time building ETL to put it into a common data warehouse, and then build reports on it. In M&A type situations, it is a big problem on combining data quickly enough across companies and get a common P&L statement. With tools like data federator from SAP, this is now quite feasible. With data federator being a part of common semantic layer, a lot of possibilities have opened up for SAP customers. Consultants should be able to add significant business value by using these features in their projects.


9. Wait and watch for Business by Design


I talked to many consultants who know more about this area than I do – and in general, from the consulting side, my impression is that the opportunities is in creating add-ons. C# and ABAP are both relatively easy languages, and you can jump into ByDesign from either side – although I think C# folks will have an advantage. But I could not fully understand what it takes for developers to create add-ons and sell them. So I think this is a “wait and watch” item.


10. Capitalize on SAP’s growth in many parts of the world, especially Asia


The number of ERP implementations in Asian countries remind me of the scene in US and Europe when I started as a consultant. This might be a great opportunity for the experienced SAP consultants in mature markets to use to their advantage.


So there we are – I am looking forward to hearing your opinion and analysis.

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  • Hi Vijay,

    In which industry verticals you see significant movement in 2011…
    A blog on the Road Ahead for various Industry Solutions – 2011 is welcome…

    Manas Dua

    • Hi Manas

      I do not have a good answer on this – but I am 100% with you that it is an important topic to be discussed. Maybe Jon Reed can help us out here.


      • Vijay – thanks for this post, an annual tradition I always enjoy.

        Manas, as for your question, SAP industry demand is one of the hardest areas of consulting demand to assess. The factors that must be weighed are:

        1. The strengths of a particular industry, which tend to be cyclical, 2. The level of SAP product penetration in that industry 3. The supply of experienced SAP consultants in that industry.

        Then, you have to factor in Industry Solutions. SAP is strong in some industries where the Industry Solution itself is not as widely adopted. And you can be highly successful as a focused SAP consultant on a particular industry without in-depth expertise in an SAP IS. Then you have to throw in some geographical variants.

        Almost two years ago, I did an in-depth analysis of SAP consulting demand by industry. It’s on, in the news >hot skills section.

        It would be good to update that soon. Reading through it, I find it holds up pretty well though. It still appears to me that public sector, Aerospace and Defense, High Tech, Retail, and Consumer Products are some of the better places to be focused on as an SAP consultant right now. I would add Utilities also. Obviously if the economy goes into another dive the consumer areas won’t be as attractive.

        Finally, there is still a lot of SAP project activity in Pharma, Chemicals, and Oil and Gas, but there I see more experienced consultants taking up more of the demand. That’s off the cuff, though.  I’ll spend some more time trying to assess how this has changed since my last update and let you know.

        – Jon

  • How about Sybase based solutions catching fire next year? I see a lot of my customers jumping about mobility solutions esp with android making it big & smart apps ruling the roost of mobile applications.

    How abt the NetWeaver Composition Environment? Is it a good bet to invest?

    • While I am fully expecting SAP to make great strides in Mobility on software side next year – I am not convinced that 2011 will be the year that SAP consultants will get a significant opportunity to work on it.

      I am waiting to hear Vishal’s keynote in Bangalore to see if there is a reason to revise this opinion.

    • I am a fan of BPM as a concept – but I doubt if 2011 will see a significant number of SAP clients will take it up. Even at some of the big SAP shops I am familiar with, I have not seen BPM go beyond a couple of small projects. It might change at some point – and I will be a very happy camper when it does.
  • I am seeing lots and lots of demand for SAP Visualization Solutions by Nakisa and Talent Management. Nakisa is a huge growth area and there are too few skills out there.
  • Vijay,

    i like the ranking order of your list.

    agree with having BPC on top of the list, but unsure about the conclusions. i think it will need at least 2-3 years to get to the functionality on par with ECCS and BCS. it will happen, but expect a lot of resistance from the installed base.

    New GL on HANA? why not? i like to think in terms of IFRS meeting their final hardware/software solution. with all financials in memory, there’s no need to adjust your actuals and planned numbers are also instantly available and ready to be consumed by your spreadsheets and browsers, the former on laptops and the latter on tablets. eh, ok, i’m dreaming…

    one big area that i find missing in your list is mobile applications on smartphones and tablets. that is definitely a growing area and don’t think it’s only for marketing people.

    • Thanks Greg – glad to hear you liked it.

      New GL on HANA will be really nice, and we share the same idea on the end state. In fact, I think this should be used as one of the business benefits to convince instal base on HANA.

      On Mobile – I left it out only because I did not feel confident that 2011 will be the year that SAP consultants will see significant demand. SAP will probably take a good part of 2011 on making software side ready. So maybe 2012 will see a significant demand. Also, maybe Vishal will anoounce something in Bangalore Teched that might make mobility a big deal for consultants next year itself.

  • Thanks for the thought provoking blog (as ususal) Vijay.

    Whatever happens in 2011, I think that developers / architects / consultants etc. should use this time to skill themselves up. “When” things like mobility, cloud, BPM etc. take off, you want to be equipped to take on the challenge/s.

  • Hi Vijay..

    Good job in bringing us the trends for 2011. .

    There has been a significant growth with respect to sustainability especially in the areas of Environment, Health & Safety(EH&S).. and I believe SAP is finding great number of opportunities as most of the organizations have started realizing the importance of analyzing their sustainability needs.. but I am not very sure if the number of consultants needed for 2011 would match up with other areas that you have mentioned in your blog..

    Any thoughts??

    Regards & Best Wishes!!

  • Well last year seems you be quite eventful for you.
    You have completed a decade of SAP consulting as well. 
    And wish you hearty congratulation of being promoted as Associate Partner in IBM.