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I got the idea to write this article from SAP mentor Nathan Genez  after he made this comment on twitter last week “Now that everyone who works in the SAP industry is an expert, what’s next?”  It got me thinking that everywhere you look people and companies are claiming to be SAP experts when in fact only a fraction meets the true definition of the word. I think it is important to keep in mind what being an expert really means and per Wikipedia the definition is as follows:

An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain. An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study. An expert can be, by virtue of credential, training, education, profession, publication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person.


I asked Nathan for his thoughts on the topic and he was kind enough to share the following “I think the key phrase of the wiki definition is the last sentence; “An expert can be, by virtue of credential, training, education, profession, publication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person” with the key words being “beyond that of the average person”.  As the SAP industry has matured, the knowledge and sophistication of its customers has matured as well.  To me, the average consultant probably has 5 years of dedicated SAP experience and been through 2-4 go-lives.  Looking primarily at metrics such as those, a true expert would have 2-3x those numbers.”

I agree with Nathan that as the SAP industry has matured and the knowledge level needed to be an expert has increased, many people misunderstand what it truly means to be an expert. Most of the true experts I have had the pleasure of getting to know in the SAP industry come from very diverse backgrounds and geographical locations but all share some of the following in common:

  1. They have a very large SAP network and are well known by their peers and public for their expertise.
  2. They are very active on the SAP Community Network or similar platforms as bloggers, moderators and answering questions.
  3. They are presenting at the major SAP or User Group conferences.
  4. They have a strong social media presence on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
  5. They are involved in SAP Press or the Expert publication as authors or technical editors.
  6. They are actively involved in SAP User Groups such as ASUG or DSAG.
  7. They have a history of being involved in successful projects and ventures.
  8. They have a narrow area of SAP in which they claim to be an expert.
  9. They know all the key people within SAP in their area of expertise.
  10. They are current on the latest and greatest SAP technology as well as what is coming in the future.

The bottom line there is no shame in not being an expert as it can and should be a very exclusive club. It is a great goal for all of us to work towards and hopefully you can use the list above to help you towards your journey of being an SAP expert. Special thanks to Nathan for his help with this article.

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  1. Clinton Jones
    I don’t know much but I know enough to be dangerous so I will fake it, that’s my story and I am sticking to it. I’d add another one here, and that is, if you have something to say and those around you take notice and nod their heads or prepared to challenge you on it and you can have a sensible discussion about the topic then…you’re part of the way there…to being an expert that is.
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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Lets just say you are humble as I know if I ever had a question about Winshuttle and looking for an expert I would be reaching out to you. 

      Should have added an 11th….”Most Experts do not call themselves experts and let others do it for them”

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  2. Bala Prabahar
    Hi Jarret,

    I agree with your list to tell if someone is an expert or not in real-world. Should we add one more to this list?
      … They are compensated the lowest in their teams. (just kidding:)).

    I happened to read blog
    “How Gamification of the Enterprise can kill the Dilbert-Comics” written by Mario Herger (How Gamification of the Enterprise can kill the Dilbert-Comics). This statement from that blog caught my attention:
    “… people who were the best and most reliable contributors were often compensated the lowest in their teams. …”.

    Another quote from “The Last Lecture”:
    “…I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every time, because hip is short-term. Earnest is long-term.
    Earnestness is highly underestimated. It comes from the core, while hip is trying to impress you with the surface.
    “Hip” people love parodies. But there’s no such thing as a timeless parody, is there? I have more respect for the earnest guy who does something that can last for generations, and that hip people feel need the need to parody…”.
    There are at least two groups of people: One group(let us call, group W) who share some of 10 characteristics you identified and second group(group L) who are the best and most reliable contributors as mentioned by Mario Herger.  Would you agree group L is earnest and group W is hip?
    I’m currently working to move from L to W.

    Thanks for writing this blog.
    Bala

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  3. Tom Cenens
    Hello Jarret

    When I take a look at that top10 what pops out is emphasis on being connected.

    I have no doubt that being connected can seriously affect one’s knowledge and can create opportunities.

    In the same fashion I have no doubt that if Thorsten Franz for example attends DKOM he comes back with information that is of great value since he has seen what is in the making by SAP for the next few years.

    Being an expert is relative, from the moment someone else finds you to have extensive knowledge on a topic they might consider you to be an expert. It doesn’t neccesary mean that you are the person who knows most on that topic.

    Personally I wouldn’t like to put expert on a business card as I feel like it is not up to me to consider myself being an expert. It’s up to others to consider if they see me as an expert on anything.

    I do what I do and I love what I do. I would rather place SAP Artist on my business card than SAP Expert if I had to choose. My business card is stating “SAP Technical Consultant” which is fine with me.

    There is no doubt that someone who is considered to be an expert can do well in the SAP world. It will become harder and harder in the future to be considered an expert on anything as more and more information will become available online.

    SAP is doing a good job at getting information out there. I really appreciate the fact that an event like Virtualization and Cloud week can be followed live online and it is also very important that one can see the replays since the time zone difference makes it hard for me to follow everything live.

    I would have loved to be there which of course beats following from a distance but I have to state SAP +1 in this case and thanks for all those persons involved in making it happen.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi Tom

      Really enjoyed your comment as I thought it was spot on especially these points

      “When I take a look at that top 10 what pops out is emphasis on being connected” ->Couldnt agree more as having a great SAP network is extremely valuable on a number of levels.

      “Personally I wouldn’t like to put expert on a business card as I feel like it is not up to me to consider myself being an expert. It’s up to others to consider if they see me as an expert on anything” ->Couldnt agree more.

      Thanks for sharing your views.

      Jarret

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  4. Michelle Crapo
    Sap is huge!  There is a very small chance – if not impossible – that you are an expert in it all.

    My area is development.  Lately we were asked to rate ourselves in some of the different available technologies.  Have you looked at what’s out there?!   Technology alone is constantly changing.  

    So am I an expert?  It depends on the area.   Straight up structure ABAP?  Yes.  Objects?  Getting there.  Webdynpro?  Sort of.

    Now an expert is very subjective in 98 when we went live an expert could spell SAP.  Now we look for experience, but experience doesn’t mean you are an expert.  Webdynpro – well some of the Webdynpro consultants who are “experts” scare me.  But that’s a newer technology.

    I have a question right back to you.  Is anyone ever an “SAP” expert?  Really?  Does anyone know all areas – the new ones just coming out – all technology?  I don’t think so.

    Are you an expert in your area?  ABAP??  MMMmmm… What does ABAP mean anymore?  Webdynpro, Objects, Web UIs, CRM UIs, HCM… I’m sure there are more.

    Are you an expert in PP??  What’s new?  Do you know all different levels of ECC releases?

    Expert is subjective to who you are talking to.  How do you really know?  I’m not sure that you do.

    I think I’m always learning – even in the things that I think I’m an “expert” in.  There are 10,000 different ways to do one thing in SAP.  Are you 100% sure your solution is the right one?  I would say I’m only 99.9% sure.  Because once I hit 100 – something new will come out that will blow my mind.  I love it!

    Michelle

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Michelle….your comment really hit home as I started SAP in 1998 and because US Payroll was so new and in demand I was considered an expert in 1999 (I wasnt). Each time over the years that I have started to feel like I “knew everything” in a very niche area of SAP I got a rude awaking as SAP has a way of bringing you down to earth (great thing about it).

      When I see people that call themselves experts in multiple modules of SAP I immediately start to question if they are an expert in either. 

      To put it in perspective I have been doing SAP for 13 years and I am not and expert in SAP HCM as it is to broad. I do have some niche areas US Payroll and Employee Interaction Center where I do have some expertise but know very little about eRecruiting for example. 

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  5. Uladzislau Pralat
    You do have to prove to wide public that you are an expert to be actually one. I think, many people read SND, SAP Expert and other sources to get educated, but do not contribute because they value their time or do not have ambitions to be “experts”. There is a proven way to show that you are an expert – on the project.
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    1. Michelle Crapo
      And here is where I HAVE to comment.

      You don’t need to have the ambition to be an “expert” to write for SDN, etc.   The time?  Think about all the time you’ve saved with searches – answers from the forums.  If no one made the time, then you wouldn’t have those resources.  

      So I would say – just put in a small percentage of the time that you spend getting answers back into the community.  Expert / non-expert – who really cares?  (OK, you may care.)  But if you can help just ONE person, it was time well spent.

      We wouldn’t have an SCN without active contributors.

      Sorry – I had to comment.   This is one of the things that I am excited about!

      Michelle

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      1. Uladzislau Pralat
        You are right. I you do not have to be an expert to write one SDN, etc. Most of information I come across on SDN, etc every day is trivial stuff for beginners. Many people a just lazy to read documentation. It is hard find an answer to really hard and challenging questions. I such cases you are on your own.
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        1. Michelle Crapo
          OH KNOW – I have to comment again.

          Beginners – we all were a beginner at one time.   Sometimes, they should stop and read the help documentation prior to posting.  I would suggest gently pointing that out to them.

          For hard and really challenging questions – I challenge you to start trying to answer some of them.  πŸ™‚   That will make SCN a better place.  Remember we are a community.  Most of us volunteer.  The harder the question the longer it takes for us to answer.   (I haven’t been to the forums for a while.)  Some of us don’t have the time to answer.  But if we make the time, SCN will become better.  Check out the Webdynpro forum.

          So my challenge, when you have the time, answer some of those harder questions.   Next time someone does a search they will find your answers.  Then they can justify answering a harder question.  I saved 20 hours with this answer, I can spend at least 10 hours answering questions.  (This is just an example.)  And only when I’m not up and over my head busy.

          Have FUN!  This is supposed to be fun.  Networking, meeting new people, exchanging ideas, and encouraging our beginner users.  I usually present to a more “beginner crowd”.  Why?  We need to help out that new crop of SAP people get to be experts.  You were there once.

          And yes, the harder questions should get a response too.  But they won’t – if “we” the community don’t spend the time doing it.

          Michelle

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          1. Uladzislau Pralat
            I am still not excited about your idea of contributing more to SDN. I am contributing as much as am getting value from it. It least it makes sense to me. I can make better use of my time.
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            1. Michelle Crapo
              We will have to agree to disagree.  

              It is a hard one does the chicken or the egg come first.  If I have a question and no one answers does that mean I should not answer other people’s questions?  So then that would mean they would not answer my question because they didn’t get an answer?

              But if I answer first, then I may never receive a good answer for my question, and then I have spent my time with no return.

              Chicken or the egg?

              I can see your side of the debate.

              Michelle

              On the plus side – you do use SCN – you are commenting to this blog πŸ™‚

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          2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
            I have noticed since I started blogging on SCN that anything geared torward begineers has a lot more interest and we have to keep in mind we were all there at one point.

            I think it is important for everyone using SCN to spend a little time and try to give back to the community as it is great only because of the free time spent by its members. Considering there is 2.4 million members if only 1% wrote a blog we would 24K a year and I know we are well under that right now. 

            On a side note it doesnt take a long time to write a blog as this one took me less than an hour.

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    2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi Uladzislau

      Thanks for your comment and I think the proving it on the project albeit probably the most important one is only a small peice of being an expert but probably the reason that many people claim to be an expert after 1 SAP implementation.

      I think we would both agree there is a lot more that goes into being an expert.

      Thanks,

      Jarret

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  6. Mark Chalfen
    I am not sure all of your 10 points are valid. To me the way to identify an SAP expert is around their experience.

    There are numerous types of SAP consultants, functional, technical, ERP, CRM, BI etc and so not all of your measures will stand.

    I have come across many SAP experts, who may have worked in a single functional area for a single customer for over 12 years. They live and breath the system, and know their area inside out. However what they wont do is to use social media, attend conferences, write blogs etc.

    What they will do is be passionate about their subject matter, and in the most will want to learn the latest and greatest in their area. Some may have relationships with SAP, but this is rare.

    I would say your list was aimed at identifying a “SAP Influencer” and not a SAP Expert.

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    1. Michelle Crapo
      “SAP expert is around their experience” – ah but does the experience mean they are good?

      The person how has worked in one functional area – that’s nice – but how does that functional area integrate with the other areas.  If you make a change to your area it will affect other areas.  What different versions of SAP have they worked on?

      Do they stay up to date on the latest and greatest.

      I’m still thinking it’s hard to spot an expert.  An expert is usually a beginner in a different area.  Your network of friends help you be more effective. 

      I totally agree – I think SAP Influencer is probably a better description of this blog. 

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      1. Mark Chalfen
        I agree there is no easy formula. To see if someone is an expert, it is a perception, do I believe consultant X is an expert?

        Are they an expert in Y?

        When you look at experience you need to look at the role they are doing and how they do it.

        One thing is for sure there is no easy way to measure this or to calculate it.

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    2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi Mark

      Thanks for the comment as well as RT of the blog on Twitter.

      I tried to write the article to cover all types of consultants and think they hold true regardless of if you are ERP, CRM, BI etc as I know folks that hit all 10 of them in each of those areas.

      On a side note it would have to be a VERY VERY dynamic customer in order for the SAP Expert you mentioned to be able to get enough skill to be considered an expert without leaving the client. In my view as a consultant you gain experience at each client both from an SAP but more from a business perspective.  My job as an SAP consultant is not only to install SAP but provide insight and guidance to customers as to how to best utilize SAP to run their business and I try to take the best I have seen from all the clients I have been at.

      On a side I know several people who dont use social media, attend conference and write blogs that I would consider experts but if you look at the definition of the word they dont qualify as the “public” doesnt recognize their expertise.

      Best Regards,

      Jarret

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      1. Michelle Crapo
        Oh really?!!!

        I would be a customer.  We have some consultants that need some serious work.   I know a lot of them that do not even use ABAP objects!  Some of them can not even spell ABAP Webdynpro.

        Am I an expert?  It’s up for discussion, and is subjective.  But I don’t think it’s only the consultants that are experts.  (Might want to look at the mentor page.  There are a lot of people there that I would consider experts.  There are mentors that are people who work at customers who and they are THE experts.  πŸ™‚

        Disagreeing again – I’m contrary today,

        Michelle

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        1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
          You bring up a great point and I was looking at it from the view point of a consultant and I did caveat it by saying it was possible if it was a dynamic customer/client which I bet your organization is.

          I have worked with many client resources over the years that would put senior consultants to shame with their expertise and knowledge. The bottom line is there are experts all over in the SAP world (clients, customers, SAP internally) 

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          1. Michelle Crapo
            Cool – you gave me an idea for another blog!

            You can make your organization as dynamic as you want, on the programming side at least.  Simply start using the newer technologies.   That is assumming you are on the higher release levels of SAP.

            That’s what I advocate – start using the new things prior to becoming outdated yourself.  (Anyone that is struggling and in development drop me an e-mail.  I’ve presentations that may help.  It can be an uphill battle.)

            I saw the caveat.  But you hit another “hot button”  πŸ™‚

            Michelle

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          2. Stephen Johannes
            Michelle is right there are some awesome folks on the customer side who are experts, who don’t choose the consultant lifestyle.  I worked with many of these people when I was a consultant and continue to work with many more of those people when I switched over to the “good side”.

            I think one advantage folks who work on the “good side” have over consultants is that we are more interested in the long term big picture at times, because the system will always be ours to take care of once the consultants leave.  I found that most consultants except for the very good ones, do not understand this long term ALM focus that is required.  It’s one thing to put in the system, it’s a different ballgame to keep it running for multiple years.

            I think the one advantage consultants bring over those of us on the “good side” is the fact they see many different ways of doing the same thing.  That knowledge makes the consultant useful to the “good side”, because we can always pick up the pure technical skills with no problem(contrary to popular belief). 

            Don’t worry we haven’t e-mailed the comments here to all the SAP Mentors who aren’t consultants for review ;).

            Take care,

            Stephen

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            1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
              I hope I clarified my comment regarding the client/customer comment before I get any mentor “hate mail” πŸ™‚ as I was answering it regard to a consultant calling himself an expert.

              I have worked with many client resources over the years that would put high profile consultants to shame with their SAP and business knowledge but just werent interested in a consulting career for a number of reasons. On a side I think that most good consultants love to work with very smart long time SAP clients as they can see the value that a good consultant can bring to the table as they have had many pass through over the years.

              I love working with experts on the customer side as I am continually trying to learn and grow and couldnt agree more that the technical side of SAP is often the easiest peice to learn. 

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    3. Stephen Johannes
      The problem is that I know at least three people I would consider as SAP experts, but whose public contributions aren’t as visible.  I would almost agree on this being more of an influencer list, because I know they don’t meet the public requirements of the list.

      I will even defend my argument more that one of those is my primary “goto guy” when I need my second opinion on CRM technical issues.  Yep I have tried to lure him to contribute more publicly, but I understand why he doesn’t.  IMHO a real expert is person who you turn to when all other “experts” can’t figure out your problem.

      The other expert I know, is from an age group is not as active on social media and contributes in more traditional realms.  However still can classify as an expert, because he has written those classic “white papers” that get passed along, but aren’t 100% in the public domain. 

      I think we already alluded to this but a real expert always knows what they don’t know and are honest when asked.  Now perhaps a more interesting challenge is to find a SAP generalist, which I would argue there are fewer of these people than experts out there.  A generalist is someone who understands the “big picture” and knows what type of experts to call on in order to figure out the details. 

      Take care,

      Stephen

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      1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
        Great comment Stephen as I know several as well that dont do the public peices of the top ten (ie conferences, SCN, social media) but I will also say I see MANY more that say expert on their Linkedin profile that dont do any of the items on the list.

        Could agree more that a true expert always feels comfortable saying I dont know….because they know that they either can figure out the answer or easily ask an friend/collegue in their network and quickly get the correct answer. Often there is no prize for being the quickest and first to answer but there is a credibility penalty for being wrong.

        I liked your generalist comment as I for one have such a narrow area of focus even after 13 years wouldnt be comfortable in any role where I speaking outside of HR.

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  7. Klaus Utech
    Don’t know, but I got a shiver when I read your article…
    I know some of these so called “SAP Expert”, and except being good in producing Social Hype and Hot Air, there is not much left when it comes to the hard facts.

    In my opinion, a SAP Expert is someone who has got a second home – for example “SE80” for an “SAP Expert in ABAP” or “RSA1” in my case πŸ™‚

    Greets

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    1. Michelle Crapo
      Hey now!

      My second home is SE80.  However, social hype – again is what gives us valuable answers.  Sometimes to questions we didn’t know we had.

      “Hot Air” – yes, I agree.  Some of the times there are blogs, articles, etc. with someone just blowing hot air.  But there are some really good ones.

      I dare you to look at some Thomas Jung, Karin Tollosten, Susan Keohan, Tammy Powlas blogs/articles – I could go on and on – and say they were producing social hype or blowing hot air.

      SCN is usually the place to go for answers!

      Again – found a hot button for me – sorry!

      Michelle

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      1. Bala Prabahar
        Hi Michelle,

        We all know all rules have exceptions. The examples you gave are exceptions. I believe Klaus is bringing up a great point. Let me give you an example: On Business Objects, I’ve seen several blogs. I’m yet to see one blog explaining the architecture or internals of Business Objects. All blogs-as far as I know – explain how to install or create nice-looking charts using BO. Even books on BO-I purchased one from SAP PRESS- don’t explain how BO works. (Note: I’m using a generic term BO to specify all products in BO family).
        This reminds me of those days when people knowing TCODES in SAP were treated like experts. Even training sessions used to teach nothing but tcodes. The instructors would teach what check box/radio button does or doesn’t do;they wouldn’t teach the implications.
        “SCN is usually the place to go for answers” – If one is looking for configuration steps or how to fix an issue, yes, SCN is usually the place to go for answers. Normally you wouldn’t find answers to WHY in SCN.

        Thanks,
        Bala

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        1. Michelle Crapo
          Did I miss saying that?  Sorry guys.  Yes, this is a great point.

          Yes, there are exceptions to the rules.

          I agree the why is important.  

          So – I totally agree with you Bala.  With the exception to both of you, that I find a lot of good information here.  I think people like you and Klaus could make SCN even BETTER.  

          What makes this place great is that it is a community.   A lot of times we miss good information – if you don’t take the time to blog, add to the forums, etc.

          Of course, I haven’t been real active lately.  I understand about limited time.  That’s why for me it has to be fun.

          This is a great debate!  (And one of the things I think is fun.  Hence my participation.)

          Michelle

          So talk slow – talk slow on SCN and share with us all.  It will make us all better in the end.

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        2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
          Hi Bala

          You bring up a good point but you have to understand it very difficult to explain the “why” in a SAP blog though I would expect in an SAP Press book or SAP training that you should be able to get a better understand from that perspective.

          The bottom line is that learning the “why” takes a lot of time and expertise and you would be suprised how few people in the industry know the SAP technical and the business side in enough detail to answer the “why” SAP works in the way it does and how to best utilize it to match the needs of the business customer.

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    2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi Klaus

      Thanks for the comment and just curious if you could give me a few examples of people who claim to be SAP Experts (and other recognize them as Experts) but only produce “Social Hype and Hot Air”

      Best Regards,

      Jarret

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  8. Tom Cenens
    Hello Jarret

    I have to disagree on years of experience needed you mention in the blog and on the same pace the go-live’s that are needed.

    For example Person X works four days a week and spends eight hours a day on SAP. Person Y works five days a week and spend on average twelve hours a day on SAP. Now consider they work fifty weeks in a year.

    Person X: 4*8 = 32 * 50 = 1600
    Person Y: 5*12 = 60 * 50 = 3000

    Now lets say Person X has eight years of experience and Person Y has four years of experience you come to the following result:

    Person X: 1600 * 8 = 12800
    Person Y: 3000 * 4 = 12000

    You see how close those persons can be in terms of hours spent on a single topic. I might be giving a rare example but you get the idea.

    Someone who is breathing SAP in and out can overcome someone who has twice the years of experience so for me it’s not accountable as a good measure.

    A video you might be interested in on TED which mentions the fact that spending 10.000 hours on studying a single topic would make that someone an expert on that topic compared to others:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html

    Even if someone manages to do that, technology, applications and products are changing so fast it is almost impossible to be aware of everything that is happening, changing and be the person who has the most knowledge on the topic.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Great point and just for clarity that was Nathan’s comment so I will let him defend that πŸ™‚ but I think he would say it was a broad characterization.

      It is very subjective but I know people with 4 years of experience that have ALOT more expertise than people with 10 years and will be an expert well before.

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Jarret

        Correct πŸ™‚ I have had a lot of discussions on this with other people on similar points like getting a raise or getting a senior title with very little years of experience. It creates a lot of conversation.

        Basically it comes down to the fact that it has to be interpreted case by case and that expertise is a relative thing depending on one’s point of view.

        How about the following statement
        “He is a SAP expert, whatever issue we have or whatever we need to get done he handles it.”

        From that perspective the person who would be considered to be an expert doesn’t need to have indepth knowledge in those areas at all.

        Expert comes from latin expertus and can also have the meaning “tested”.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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    2. Michelle Crapo
      Hi Tom!

      I would disagree with both statements.  (You and Jarret on that one.)

      Amount of time spent does not equal an expert.  Think back to your school days. (For me a long time ago.)  The person that spent 100 hours of study time may not do any better on the test than the person who spent 2 hours studing.  πŸ™‚

      That doesn’t mean I don’t think you need to put in the effort.  It just means that experience is only one part of it.  I think Jarret nailed it when he said 10 ways.  It could be 100 ways.

      We do technical interviews.  Experience MAY get you in the door but it is only one factor of many.

      Michelle

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Michelle

        I totally agree, I wanted to dismiss the years of experience as a factor but even spending time isn’t a proper factor.

        It would require a lot of prerequisites to be able to use it as a useful metric.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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  9. Thomas WÜRCHER
    … that you brought up a really emotional topic. When I started with SAP as a trainee 6 years ago, I was digging through tutorials, online-courses a.s.o. for the – at that time – hot Java @ SAP topic. And after getting my certification in this area, I thought that this would be the entry-point into experts heaven. At that time, somebody was already a senior expert who could build a simple WDJ application and deploy it via NWDI.

    After switching more and more to ABAP, I had to learn quite rapidly that my previous SAP experience wasn’t worth a dime – except for the ABAP Objects approach and later WDA.

    Now I’m developing ABAP in various modules for 4 years already, and the more I get to know about SAPs applications themselves, the less I would call myself a SAP expert.

    This is what I agree with you totally: No SAP experts around, just ones for small areas.

    Regards,
    Thomas

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Thanks for the comment and you bring an interesting perspective especially given the area you intially focused on WDJ has been minized due to changes in SAP’s strategy.

      I think it is important to continue to learn new things in areas outside of your core as you never know when having experience will come in handy.

      I agree with your point that the more you learn the more you realize what it takes to call yourself an expert. In 1999 I thought I was an expert (I wasnt) and the more I learn and as the years go by I realize how little I really knew. That is the great thing and the curse of choosing SAP as a living.

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  10. Sandra Rossi
    I prefer the general definition of wikipedia, rather than Expert™, at least it allows me to be a little expert in some areas in my company πŸ˜‰

    Sandra

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      I am exactly the same and the interesting thing is most of the true experts I know would never call themselves an expert but many others would do that for them.
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    2. Hari Guleria
      There is a sanskrit saying
      “As students we go out and accumulate knowledge. As experts we start to learn more and more about less and less. That is the only way to become an expert. Finally we return home knowing everything about nothing”
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  11. Hari Guleria
    Error 1: There is a global ERP, my area is BI so the focus is there, where I feel the tilt of these conditions makes Ralf Kimball not an expert in SAP BI at all- fact is he is without knowing anything about SAP BI

    Error 2: This is a Technology focused, Looking outward definition of expert. most SAP employees would thus become experts by merely existing within SAP.

    Error 3: Missed the most important condition: Success or what I refer to as BVA = Business Value Attainment, also termed as Valuenomics.

    Devils advocate business case:
    SAP BI Expert A went straight from Engineering college to SAP. Knows everything about SAP for a very SAP point of view, i.e. firmly believes technology is King. Works for SAP for 8 years
    1. Has a large SAP Network
    2. Is active on SDN and blogs
    3. Presents pre-made content at ASUG and SAPPHIRE
    4. Has a LinkedIn identity and tweets
    5. Has done 2 technical editor assignments on books
    6. P7. resents at local ASUG chapters, once participated at DSAG
    7. HERE IS THE KEY – Define successful.(WILL ELABORATE AT THE END)
    8. Is an technology expert in a narrow field of BI. Lets say BI Project Management and Architecture.
    9. Being in BI and SAP knows a lot of key people – I dont think any can know them all
    10. They are current in the technology and known what is next from the SAP technology side.

    REALITY OUT THERE
    A. 50% of BI Projects Fail (Gartner Report- this is agnostic of platform. Result 50% of our experts BI projects also statistically fail

    B. 98% of BI Projects are declared successful in Week 1, 90% of vendors leave BI projects by Week. Only 50% of BI projects remain successful by week 10 (BI Valuenomics stats July 2010)

    C. “Without business in business intelligence, BI is Dead” – Folks that come from pure Technology shy from including business into their projects or methodologies. They have been nurtured and firmly believe that technology is king. The same way as agrarian landlords before 1860’s thought land would provide all solutions, and as industrialists before 1908 thought machiones would provide all human needs, and as automation experts thought robotics would solve all manufacturing processes. In each case it was only with the establishment of ‘Scientific Principles and methodologies’ that success was achieved. Historicall this takes around 15 years and we are at that 15 year point. All around us lie Multi-million BI structures standing at a 50% crumbled state.
    So how does this make anyone an expert.

    The customer, their business needs and meeting business expectations is what should define whether a person is a SAP expert or not. Not simply having all the contacts and knowing only the technology.

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi Hari

      Thanks for the detailed comment an you bring up a good point that a key part of being an expert is understanding the coresponding business as in-depth as you understand the technology.

      I would like to get your thoughts on some common traits you have seen of individuals that understand both the business as well SAP at an expert level.

      On a side note per your example if a person has done the following:

      1. Has a large SAP Network
      2. Is active on SDN and blogs
      3. Presents pre-made content at ASUG and SAPPHIRE
      4. Has a LinkedIn identity and tweets
      5. Has done 2 technical editor assignments on books
      6. P7. resents at local ASUG chapters, once participated at DSAG
      7. HERE IS THE KEY – Define successful.(WILL ELABORATE AT THE END)
      8. Is an technology expert in a narrow field of BI. Lets say BI Project Management and Architecture.
      9. Being in BI and SAP knows a lot of key people – I dont think any can know them all
      10. They are current in the technology and known what is next from the SAP technology side.

      On a side note I would guess that someone who had done the above would in most cases be part of the 50% BI projects that are successful.

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  12. Sven Ringling
    Hi Jarret,

    in order to provoke, I’d call this definition including the Wikipedia one “very American”. Thruth spoken it is probably more the European stereotype of an American view.

    Why? Because it does focus primarily on public perception, not inherent qualities. The definition given is more of an expert for sales or self promotion than for SAP.

    And let’s be honest: you don’t need to be very good at the subjetc matter to write an SAP PRESS book. (I can say that, because I wrote some myself πŸ˜‰ ) I’ve read some all of our juniors could have written.

    Why am I making this comment? Not because I want to be a nuissance and contradict you (I actually believe that it is desirable that real Experts do what you asy, but it’s not a criterion for experts). It’s because I do believe that far too many people, who are just good at selling themselves are to be found in SAP projects and for too few, who actually understand the technology and the process or are good at managing projects and change. Some people busy getting their names out would better use that time to read, what the real experts publish or go home and play with teir IDES system to learn.

    Sure I’l get some fire for this, but as I said, it I want to provoke, so that’s ok.

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    1. Michelle Crapo
      Provoke away – I love a good debate.

      My very American viewpoint.  Perception becomes reality.   I know if different situations, I have heard that from upper management.  I work strange hours 6:30 AM – 3:30 PM.

      So perception – even when I work late – is that I don’t work long hours.  That becomes a reality in some people’s minds.   (I try to ignore them.)  However, when it is upper management well it can be a CLM (Career limiting move)  Not to worry – I love doing what I do.

      By the way, perception of the time I spend on SCN.  That isn’t always a good one either.  Too much time means “I don’t have enough work”.  Go figure!  Sad but true.  Again I make sure to annouce that I do most of this on “off-hours”.  So my talking about what I do is the only way to keep the perception from becoming reality.

      Now – other companies – I do a quick search on SCN when looking at applicants.  It really is not the only thing that would help me make a decision.  There is a lot more to it.  AND I am not the only one that gets to weigh in.  But I do a quick look to see what they have done.  

      Junior’s writting books.  I think that’s great!  How else are the pre-juniors going to learn?  Remember there are all levels of SCN people out there.

      Michelle

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      1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
        I would hope being an SAP mentor help with the “perception” issues as it is a great program and team of people.

        I dont know many junior consultants that have written SAP books as in the SAP HCM area most are very senior including Sven.

        The interesting thing is through this discussion I realized that I missed a pretty important one for the top 10 which is

        “An SAP Expert should understand the business and process as well as they understand the SAP technology.”

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    2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi Sven

      Thanks for the comment and it is great to get your opinion on this topic.

      Wouldnt you agree that as the SAP industry matures most people dont self promote themselves unless they have the inherent qualities already.

      As far as the SAP Press book if we look at the SAP HCM space the last few have been written by Jeremy Masters, Martin Gillett who I know personally and would consider experts in their area (so you are in good company) πŸ™‚

      I do agree that most consulting companies are good at selling people to clients that dont always have the skills needed to do the job and one of the reasons I wrote Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant (Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant)

      The last thing I will mention is dont you think a real expert could not only “use that time to read, what the real experts publish or go home and play with teir IDES system to learn” as you mentioned but also do many of the things on the list?

      On a side note, I have even heard rumors of some so called SAP HCM experts trying to form and do a regular podcast series…what has this world come to πŸ™‚

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  13. U B
    I’d like to claim that the (social) media & publishing aspects (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) are way overrated as “true expert indicators”. This has to do with the platform this conversation takes place on: SDN (blog area). All readers of this blog, all comment-writers and especially the author do not represent the “average” SAP professional. This has been discussed lately on SDN, although I don’t remember the exact context. And “average” does not imply “average-skilled”, but I refer to the statistical average.

    Okay getting to the point: My assumption is that the absolute majority (let’s say 80-90%) of the “TRUE SAP EXPERT”s has absolutely no connection to the above-mentioned aspects 1 till 6. Absolutely none. Two important reasons that come to my mind spontaneously are:
    – not willing to sacrifice valuable time that is better spent in projects
    – not willing to share valuable SAP knowledge / internal business knowledge because this is _business_

    Additionally I think aspect 9 is not really substantive. But I would agree that pursuing one or more of the 10 aspects is a way to BECOME an SAP expert (in a modern definition).

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    1. Michelle Crapo
      OK – maybe I didn’t understand the comment.  I feel strongly that the SAP expert should:
      – sacrifice valuable time that is better spent in projects
      – share valuable SAP knowledge / internal business knowledge because this is _business_

      My idea of an expert is someone that tries to educate and help the next group of people.  I know when bringing in a consultant our #1 priority is knowledge transfer.   WOW – really?  Sharing knowledge is what makes us all better.  Including the “SAP Expert”.  They can not know it all.  No one can.

      Taking time out to write blogs, answer questions, educate…  Again you can learn so much by doing all these things.  People take your ideas – repond and make you think in a whole new direction.   That is a great way to become a stronger SAP “expert”.

      Losing time off of a project.  THat can be bad.  My idea is that you always try to hit your dates on a project.  That’s why you will see me disappear off of SCN at different times.  I will be too busy to do much of anything outside work.

      Again – really – how much time doe it take?  I usually spend around 30 min. in the morning prior to work.  It expands my knowledge.  Again I ask – What really is an expert?  Does this blog define it?  Maybe not.  But I don’t think you can become better without sharing information, networking, and opening up to others the things that you find…

      The expert should help!  It is good business to promote and share information.

      Michelle

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      1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
        Thanks for the comment Michelle and I very much agree with you (and enjoyed your blog this morning).

        I wrote this in an article last year and still very much agree with it.

        5. Knowledge Transfer – We all know individuals in the industry that try to hoard their knowledge thinking it will make them more valuable. There used to be a lot more of these folks before the SAP Community Network was formed and sharing became more fashionable. I still remember during my first month of consulting an individual who had 1 year of experience (that was lot in early 1998 for US Payroll) who would not explain or provide any help to either his fellow consultants or client resources. He confided in me one day at lunch that the client would never let him go because he had “all the knowledge”. The interesting thing is that he was the first one to roll off the implementation and yours truly stayed as although I had very little knowledge at the time I was more than willing to share it with everyone. I learned very early that the more I shared, and the more questions I got, the more I learned.  If you want to continually learn and become an expert in your area share all your knowledge as you will get way more back in return.

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    2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi UB

      Thanks for the comment but I totally disagree with the fact that 80-90% of the True Experts dont have any connection to 1-6.

      If you are a true expert you should be able to balance your time and get the project experience as well as do many other things. It is important to note that sharing valuable knowledge is a two way street and not only do you get smarter when you share but you get much back in return.

      I would be curious to hear about the area of SAP that you have the deepest expertise in….and I can give you 2-3 names that do 1-6 and would like you to tell me they are not experts.

      Thanks again for your comment and this is a great discussion.

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  14. Krishna Badarla
    Jarret, The requirement or a path way to become an expert, may not be depending on the popularity of the person, we have seen popular persons are not always complete and expert and some times proved unworthy of the popularity,Also unpopular persons also proved very much expert in many cases.Participation in social media is only a personal choice.Also I disagree with any one who says expertise in a particular area/skill makes any one expert
    How ever, I want to add, here my own definition on expert,
    “An expert is a person who can apply his  experiences in to diverse utilization, and has the knowledge of the end result,or at least predict the end result with a minimum variation. the degree of variation will determine the expertise, As such, there is no 100% expert in any field or any area,
    Coming to SAP expertise, Each project/assignment is unique and the similarities are all most none, If it were similar,then there would have been a a single pre-configured, pre-set, plug and play SAP system.So the past experience would not be of any use here as the past experience cannot be applied in to-to.How ever the experience of “approach to the solution might/can be applied, that too only to some extent and the end result can only be “planned”.
    Concluding the above, SAP expert is a non definable object :),i.e. the more you dig the more you find your self “appear” to be alien to the subject.This is the single truth across all the definitions.
    I would like to see any comments on this.
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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Thanks for the comment and found your view of “SAP expert is a non definable object” interesting as so many people in the industry find it easy to define themselves as an expert πŸ™‚

      I was hoping to get some discussion started around this topic to bring to light how difficult it is to be as well as define an SAP Expert.

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      1. Krishna Badarla
        Thanks Jarret for the appreciation,
        “From 0 to 1 it is infinitely long” is my opinion
        I prefer not to comment on the “self styled experts”.
        in other places of the forum I observed that a knowledge seeker is being rep-remanded discouraging the user.and also there are questions un-answered by “experts” and “mentors”. What should be understood by that? is the expert aware of the answer or not? or the so called expert is hiding his ignorance behind the iron curtain of hypocrisy?
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    2. Marssel Vilaça
      Krishna,
      Actually to be be an expert there are no need to be famous and recognized, but it is impossible to well known without being a good professional. Without mentioning that a participation in the media is a Personal marketing to new opportunities. I I appreciated your comment.
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      1. Krishna Badarla
        Hi Marssel, Thanks for the comment,I am almost known to all “who is who in SAP”,I am active linkedin net worker I own Erp freelancers group and almost another 60 like groups.All most a considerable number of clients world over know me or heard about me and they ask me suggestions for their requirements. It doesn’t make me an Expert.
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        1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
          Krishna….you mention that “All most a considerable number of clients world over know me or heard about me and they ask me suggestions for their requirements. It doesn’t make me an Expert”

          Why do these client reach out to you if they do not feel you have great expertise?

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          1. Michelle Crapo
            Ah…

            But if you are an expert – do you think you are one?  That is the question. 

            I know the people I think of as experts, are always learning and so they don’t think they are experts.  They sure are to me!

            Michelle

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          2. Krishna Badarla
            What I mean by that is being famous/popular may not be a certificate of an “Expert”
            They don’t call me “expert”, May be with in their organization team they may refer me as one, Which doesn’t make any deference to me.
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        2. Marssel Vilaça
          Krishna,

          maybe it makes no difference for many people because they could be happy with their positions, but for those who intend to take higher flights, knowledge by itself is not enough. It should be diffused to be evaluated by the general public. If the feedback is positive you’ve got more credibility than before. Everithing depends on personal goals of course.

          Best Regards

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  15. Marssel Vilaça
    I believe that we can not be an expert in many areas. Maybe in a couple of them, but not many, because it would decrease the deepening of the skills.
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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Hi Marssel

      Thanks for the comment and I very much agree. Personally whenever I see someone claim to be an expert in a bunch of SAP areas it is often a red flag and often they arent a true expert in anything.

      Thanks,

      Jarret

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      1. Marssel Vilaça
        Jarret, certainly in all parts of the world are fake experts. If you let me add my point of view as functional consultant, I can say that it is made by a short-projects market, where they require high expertise to resolve errors caused by these very ones “fakexperts”. The Beginners has little chance to be applied because this is a high level demand, and therefore artificially force up their own level to be able to get inside. This process becomes a chronic problem that results in Customer dissatisfaction, and especially the end user, who spends time off with their families to perform rework and endless corrections.

        Best Regards

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        1. Krishna Badarla
          Yes, I fully agree with you.Hey,Marssel, That’s my bread and butter my friend,I only do that “setting it right” thing, no green field implementation,Those “experts”are are my “providers”, By the gods grace,I have full work and expect the same in future πŸ™‚
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  16. John Goran
    The whole IT industry is oversaturated with guys full of bubbles. Being expert is ability to draw on past experience + research in new development and deliver best solution. Expertise is measured by someone ability to stay well informed on new development and stay ahead of his peers. In fast changing industry as IT, the ability to research and stay on top of the industry development and technology is a quality that is most valuable.
    Being good at communication is important in IT industry, however in past 26 years in IT industry and 16 years of SAP consulting across 4 continents; the most brilliant guys that I would refer to be an Expert in SAP where quite introvert persons.  

    The experienced SAP consultants can recall occasions where self proclaimed “Expert” delivered lot of hot air and noting else. Presenting material that is widely available does not make one – The EXPERT.  

    Stop blogging get to know your system.

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author
      Thanks for the comment and viewpoint John as having 16 years of SAP consulting gives you a good perspective.

      I will throw out two points to consider.

      1.The “introverts” of today will struggle to be experts of the future given how information is starting to be exchanged via social media etc and even deeper I would question how a true expert could even be an “introvert” in the first place as part of being an expert is working with clients/business people and if I understand the word introvert that would be difficult. The experts of the future will on the most part be outgoing individuals.

      2. “Stop blogging get to know your system” is interesting as I recently wrote a blog on Business ByDesign and HCM and part of the reason was I wanted to learn more about it. For me personally it forced me to learn and the questions I got forced me to dig deeper. To each their own but for many of us blogging helps us learn and this is from someone with 13+ years of SAP HCM consulting experience.

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  17. Stephen Millard

    Jarrett.

    An interesting and thought provoking post.  Personally I’m not sure I buy into that many of the points you use, but I get the idea of where you’re coming from and I commend those who strive towards them – particularly around sharing knowledge and supporting one another.

    I thought that while I’m here I’d add in my own thoughts on expertise….

    There are several points from previous commenters around experience and time spent don’t always necessitate someone being an expert and I don’t believe reputation does either.

    Thinking this whole “expert” business through conjured up a rather pseudo-historic scenario:

    Imagine a man who has a sword and some combination of natural talent and experience that has given him some level of skill with the weapon.  In fact his skill is such that he can defeat any other swordsman within three days walk of his home. But he has never once had to.

    So does that makes him an expert with no reputation?

    What if it just so happened that one in every ten swordsman who lived more than three days walk from his home could defeat him?

    What if his neighbour could actually best him in a fight using nothing but his walking stick?

    Is he really an expert?

    I personally think that the man is an expert with a sword … for the area he lives in … but it so happens that nobody knows or recognises this.

    Returning to the original list of points, I think many of them pertain to the the building of an individual’s reputation through deed within one or more spheres of influence.  As my scenario suggests even the level of skill is probably not an accurate relative measure of being an expert.  Rather I think it is the combination of skill level coupled with a sphere or frame of reference (i.e. who you are being compared to and what their skill level is) that is what is required to determine if someone is an expert.

    Experts exist at all sorts of levels in all sorts of areas.  You just need to be sure to identify your frame of reference and your measure and assign a baseline – after all there can be more than one expert in the same place on the same thing can’t there?

    Hopefully there’s some more food for thought in there.

    Stephen.

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author

      Thanks for the comment and kind words and your example made me stop and question whether I was on the right track with this article as it was a bit of a rant and quick blog. After giving it some thought I stand by it and let me explain why.

      Given that the definition I stated was “An expert is someone widely recognized” your example of the 3 mile radius doesn’t apply but that is EXACTLY the problem in SAP as everyone thinks they are an expert and by my higher standards that is not the case.

      Lets say in your example the King (ie Large Global Client) wants to find the best swordsman ((ie Nakisa consultant) in the entire kingdom (Europe) chances are they will not be limiting the search to people within 10 miles of the office that claim to be an expert. While they may not use the 10 points I listed above I still believe that people who have done them have proven their skills outside of that 3 mile radius given the skill needed on several of them.

      While I do believe reputation can grow quicker than expertise and vice versa there is some correlation between the two.

      As I know you focus on Nakisa I would be curious to hear how many Nakisa Experts you believe there are worldwide and what you will have to achieve before you would consider yourself an expert?  Since there might not be a Nakisa expert living a few miles from you maybe you already are one πŸ™‚


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      1. Stephen Millard

        My point would be that I don’t know how many Nakisa experts there are world-wide.  There will be partners, SAP staff, Nakisa staff, ex-staff from some of the above.  I just wouldn’t have any confidence in guessing … but I’m sure they exist.  To me an expert who is unknown is still an expert.  It’s just that their expertise is of no use to me if I don’t know they have it.

        Personally I can’t even lay claim to being the foremost VSN expert within a few miles.

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        1. Andy Silvey

          as part of my Basis activities at the current client I installed Nakisa and administer it, but I would not say I know it like I know other area of basis

          but you’re right there aren’t many Nakisa peop’s around

          Petr.

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          1. Jarret Pazahanick Post author

            Thanks for the comment Petr and with SAP starting to heavily push SuccessFactors Talent Management solution there are about to be a lot let Nakisa projects out there and my guess less and less people that specialize in it.

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        2. Jarret Pazahanick Post author

          Good discussion Stephen and obviously there is no “right” answer but if I use the Wiki definition as I mentioned above of “An expert is someone widely recognized ” that would mean everyone should know the true experts. In my view there are a handful of Nakisa experts worldwide and the goal of the article was that the term expert was use way to loosely in the SAP world.  

          Sounds like you are going to have to move as you must live in a competitive and smart few miles πŸ™‚

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        3. Luke Marson

          This is a good point and I have an example to back up Stephen’s comments. We just hired someone who is ex-Nakisa with over 6 years of experience in designing, developing (core code), customizing and implementing Nakisa solutions at companies like SAP (he implemented the solutions that SAP run), Coca-Cola, Motorola, Australia Post etc. He also worked in the team that designed and created what are now the SOVN and STVN solutions. Pretty impressive? Well, I would consider him the biggest technical expert outside of Nakisa by far (as I expect some other Nakisa professionals who know the market would) yet no-one knows who he is, let alone if he is an expert. However, having known him for several years and knowing some of the projects he’s worked on in Nakisa and Talent Management I would say without a shadow of a doubt he is one of the key experts.

          Referring to Jarret’s post (09-May-12 03:16), interestingly, I’m not sure if we would’ve hired him if he didn’t have Talent Management experience because of the way in which the market is heading and the fact that just being able to implement OM solutions isn’t enough to be a leading, all-round Nakisa consultant.

          My colleague is going to start using Social Media so maybe it won’t be long until he is known as an expert, but for now he is definitely one of the people that Stephen refers to. However, it is worth noting that there are really few experts outside of the knowledge of the well-known Nakisa experts that don’t work at Nakisa themselves and there are 2 or 3 experts at Nakisa who have been there for several years.

          I’m not sure how well the Nakisa example works with the rest of SAP, but I imagine there are some similarities.

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          1. Andy Silvey

            Hi Luke,

            Nakisa has been one of my systems for the last 18 months, installs, configs, operational support.

            We’re now looking at going to Nakisa 3.0 on Java.

            Doing my research I’ve come across your zillion blogs on Nakisa.

            And I want to say, kudos to you !

            Excellent, good job and thank you.

            I’ve always looked at Nakisa as one of these funny components that one has

            on one’s cv, but more and more it seems Nakisa could get very big demand

            wise and there could be money in them there Nakisa hills !!

            All the best,

            Petr.

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            1. Luke Marson

              Hi Petr,

              Thanks for your comments! I’m happy that I am providing value to people out there.

              The Nakisa market is quite big and will continue to be for some time, although I think there will be less demand because of SF.

              Best regards,

              Luke

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                  1. Andy Silvey

                    I shall start digging and findout everything about it.

                    Then I will tell the Boss it’s new and shiny and if we get it the company will make more $$$

                    Always works πŸ˜‰

                    Thanks,

                    Petr.

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  18. Typewriter TW

    Jarret,

    Thanks for the blog! The message is clear…keep working, keep improving your skills.

    The terminology “Expert”, “Principal consultant”, “Technology architect” all this for me is BS (pardon my French). You are an analyst, let the customer decide if you are worth the pay or not.

    TW

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