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I’ve read a few blogs on the SAP SDN recently about what makes an SAP consultant, an SAP expert ( 10 Ways to tell if you are an SAP Expert) , and how to share SAP knowledge (Sharing SAP Knowledge!). They have touched on how SAP Consultants can grow and better themselves. This blog will provide examples of how a junior SAP Consultant can continue to improve and provide value to clients.

How do you become an SAP Consultant?

The route of becoming an SAP Consultant is normally achieved from either a business role, leading to a role on a SAP project, or an IT professional or graduate moving into SAP. There will of course be exceptions to this.

The first objective for any new SAP Consultant is to gain a good understanding of the solutions. A widely used phrase is “getting your hands dirty” – so working day-in and day-out with clients on projects or supporting productive environments.

When you are a junior consultant, the work will normally be received in a form that says something along the lines of…”This is the scope, please do X, Y and Z”. Your job is then to do as you are told and perform “X, Y and Z”. This provides the junior consultant experience of working with the product and hopefully in turn, should provide the experience that they can re-use on future pieces of work.

Over-time by working on different projects with different clients, or dealing with different issues, the junior consultants’ experience will grow and the consultant will feel more comfortable with the product.

Progressing and adding value

So how does a junior consultant move forward and add value? The advice I provide consultants wanting to move to the next level is to question why they are doing what they are doing. This might seem simple and some may argue that they always ask why. However by asking why you get to put into context the reason for the implementation.

Here are some examples:

Question: Why are we implementing X?
Value: This will help you to understand the business drivers.

Question: What are the benefits of the implementation?
Value: This will help you understand what the client expects to get out of the implementation?

Question: What are your current issues?
Value: This will provide the consultant some scope of what they should try and implement.

There are many other questions you could ask and the real benefit of asking questions is so you can not only learn from them, gain a better understanding of the client, their business and their objectives and be better equipped to provide insight to other clients down the line.

If you don’t question why you have been asked to implement X, you will never understand the linked business drivers. And if you don’t understand the challenges customers actually have, you’ll never be able to provide advice. If you keep on getting told what to do, you will become good at following orders, but that does not really add value to the customer or help you grow.

Summary

No matter where you are in your SAP career, one thing is clear, you can always learn more. You can learn more about the SAP solutions and technologies and how different customers plan to use them. However, if you want to become a trusted advisor, you need to question your customers to see why they want to implement SAP or change SAP. Once you can digest that, you can re-use that information, and provide insight into future customers to share these experiences and provide some true value add

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21 Comments

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  1. Holger Stumm
    Hi Mark,
    thanks for sharing this thought. As a senior person, I think, it is always our duty in a project to integrate people and put them in a spot to add value and encourage them to “shine”, because most SAP juniors are also starting their career and need extra help. We all started as juniors and we all looked to find our way – happy to have the help of the more senior people (and sometimes a bit more patient).

    On a second thought, as a mean, old project veteran, I think, getting some sweets and coffee for the senior consultants is also an effective duty for juniors, isnt’it ? 😉

    cheers Holger

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    1. Mark Chalfen Post author
      Holger,

      thanks for the comment.

      Senior consultants should as standard provide encouragement to junior consultants. Senior Consultants can do a range of things to improve a more junior consultant, however I was trying to focus on activities a junior consultant can do by themselves, for themselves.

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    2. Tom Cenens
      Hello Holger

      Spot on, mentorship is important. It is a good advice for a junior consultant to seek out a colleague or colleagues who are willing to mentor them. It is very efficient way to learn and grow.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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  2. Geetha Balakrishnan
    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for sharing this valuable thoughts for Junior consultants like me who are looking for a break in SAP.this will help us to learn more on the questioning business aspects & putting hands dirty deep in our initial projects.
    Regards,
    Geetha

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  3. Stephen Johannes
    The hallmark of a good consultant is they don’t blindly accept every requirement and implement without reviewing those requirements.  The key is making sure that you only question the “big issues” and let the “mostly harmless” issues not turn into large issues.  Not every issue deserves a CSI style investigation, but researching every requirement for intent is a good practice.

    If you blindly follow your requirements, you will never be able to grow your skills and knowledge.  If done properly your customer will appreciate your attention to wanting to really understand their needs vs just doing what you are told.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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      1. Kumud Singh
        Hi,
        Beautiful blog but invites for lot of fighting with those that gives work to junior consultants and having a thick skin.
        For instance, lets say a junior consultant A is good but new to a particular SAP module, now if A is asked to develop something within stipulated time and A wants to learn things in and out.A would not do blindly whatever she has been asked to do. Believe me,she would have to fight with the respective functional guy many times to get things corrected and to be done in the best possible way.
        I think another attributes of good consultant are
        QUESTIONS + CONVINCE PEOPLE + FIGHT TO WIN.

        Thanks,

        Kumud

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        1. Michelle Crapo
          +Listen and learn.  Your idea may not be the best solution.  Your idea may be a great solution, but not supportable by your client.

          Present different solutions.  Give good reasons.  Ultimately it is the customer that lives with the solution.

          If you fight to win, that’s nice.  But learn to give in as well.

          Michelle

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          1. Kumud Singh
            Michelle,
            With a smile(all my teeth out) on my face I am writing this.
            I think experince also gives people power to identify the personality of other person.
            I have been trying hard and have improved on my listening skills even if its painful at times.

            Thanks,
            Kumud

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        2. Mark Chalfen Post author
          Fair point – what is the best way to convince someone?

          Provide a compelling answer – and how do you do that with knowledge and experience.

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    1. Mark Chalfen Post author
      HI Stephen – you are correct a “good” consultant should act the way you have described. However the point I am getting to, is a junior consultant will either be fresh from university, or coming into SAP from a business role.

      Either way, on day one they are not a good consultant.

      The point I am making is that a consultant needs to fully understand why they are immplementing SAP – what are the business drivers, how much money are they expecting to save, what issues will there be if the solution is not implemented on time. These type of questions are key to providing consultants so solid insight when advising consultants further down the road.

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      1. Stephen Johannes
        I agree with your point, but the only way to become a “good consultant” is to also adopt/emulate practices of other good consultants.  I believe that a “junior” resource needs to ask the questions in a FYI mode, rather than an WTH mode. 

        The best example would be if you receive a requirement for a report that requires a “divide by zero” as part of the calculation, you might want to question the requirement regardless of status.  Sometimes the best practice for learning is repeating back what was told to you to the person who wrote the requirements for complicated/long requests.  These type of simple proofing activities allow a “junior” to add value while learning the “why”.

        The other major key point you covered is that shadowing someone who already is experienced and learning from them makes a huge difference.  I would also add that there should be at least one major learning in how to do something and how not to do something that should be gained from each project experience. 

        Take care,

        Stephen

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        1. Mark Chalfen Post author
          Stephen,

          I totally agree. Junior consultants should look around to see if there are any senior consultants that they would strive to be like.
          This in turn should put some pressure on senior consultants to coach and mentor junior consultants.

          For those coming from university into SAP consultancy, the junior consultant should be looking at the prospective consultancy to see if the ethos aligns to their ambitions and try and move to a consultancy that will enable them to grow.

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  4. Tom Cenens
    Hello Mark

    I’m a technical consultant what is a possibly way for a junior consultant to add value without having any SAP technical knowledge yet is by looking beyond the bits and bytes.

    I came in at a customer and there was no clear sight on all the accessses to be requested and neccesary demands for a new hire so I created a “new hires” document that captures that and provides information for new hires to make it possible to get integrated more easily and more quickly.

    Customer loved it and it is still being used today.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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  5. Michelle Crapo
    Well – I’m on the customer side – NOW.   I’m on the technical side of things – ABAP development to be exact.

    I have some things I would LOVE Jr. consultants to do.
    1.  Admit when they have no knowledge on a subject and need help.
    2.  Network.  Not just with other Sr. Consultants but with customer technical people.
    3.  FOLLOW customer Standards.
    4.  Apply the standards to ALL the code you write.  If you find a problem in a code review, fix it in all your other programs that you are working on prior to requesting another code review.
    5.  Ask why.  That’s good.  But when given a good reason why – don’t continue to push back.  Give alternatives, but ultimately it is the customer that has to live with your code.  So listen to what they want, and provide it.  BUT do offer better alternatives.  Just live with it when they don’t want to do them.
    6.  LISTEN.  Listen to requirements, listen to the customer, listen first question second.
    7.  Think outside of what is ALWAYS done on projects.  Don’t expect one template to work for all your customers.  It may be a good starting point, but it shouldn’t be the ultimate solution.
    8.  Start using objects.  Often.  Look at the “newer” technologies.  Web dynpro, objects…  Then always follow MVC.  Model view controller.
    9.  Follow industry standards.  There are some great books out there.  Stop and take some time to read them.
    10.  Learn OO ALV.  Learn OO.

    And my list could go on.  Be ready to adapt to different customers styles and needs.  Some of your customers require code/design reviews.  Some of them are just starting and will need direction from you.  You, yes even as a Jr. consultant can help your customer.  You can also help your Sr. Consultants by learning newer technology that they may not have the time to learn.

    As I write a longer, and longer comment – I wonder is it time for another blog?  It’s not just Jr. Consultants that could benefit from the above list.  Sr. Consultants could as well.  🙂

    I did the consulting thing for only 9 months before I decided I hated travelling 4 days away from my family.  So I do have both sides of the fence – the customer and the consultant.  I have been on the customer side longer than the consultant.

    Add value – don’t just add value – work well with your cosutomers.  Great communication goes a long way.  It will help you with your experience.  It will help the customer with better programs sooner.

    Anyway – great blog – great way to make me think!

    Michelle

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    1. Kumud Singh
      Hi Michelle,
      I just love reading anything you write….You have almost written a blog here.
      All the ten points taken.
      But please tell me ARE WE(junior consultants) HEARD?
      There have been couple of times when what we say is just not given due respect? The same old experience gap problem. Also there have been times when if a consultant is good, she is kind of suppressed by the immediate senior.(reason being clearly known). And by the way junior consultants are not very much exposed to the customers but only to their coordinators. Whatever, the story keeps going and we keep moving.

      Thanks,

      Kumud

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      1. Michelle Crapo
        I hope you are HEARD.  That’s the flip side being a great customer – listen to what your consultant is saying.  It really doesn’t matter, Jr. or Sr.  They both have good suggestions.  The Jr. consultant may have a solution that is not intuitive for the Sr. because it is not the way they have always done something.

        Not talk to the client!!!!!  That’s never a good thing.  Yes, I know it happens.   I tend to code review all code.  Usually giving it directly to the programmer.  I hope they feel confident enough to explain to me why they did something a different way.

        I don’t know everything and never will.   I am guilty of doing things just because it is the way I’ve always done it.  I’ve seen some really cool code out of Jr. consultants.   “Jr.” does mean lack of experience sometimes that equates to thinking of things in a different way.  And sometimes they need to learn too!

        I say we are all learning.  LISTEN first speak second.  It’s a rule to live by.  I don’t always do it.  But it’s one I try to do.  (Frustrate me a lot – and I probably will not listen first.  Frustrate = disagree without first considering what I have to say.  Respect goes both ways.)

        I hope your Sr. consultants are listening to you.  You have some great ideas!  You – meaning Jr. Consultants too!

        Now – from a business side – my business analyst hat.  The experience is more important.  The solutions should be presented with that in mind.  It’s going to be harder to present facts to back up your solution.  If you search SCN – clients tend to hold at least part of the solution back.  That’s just good business.  So getting you facts together will be harder.  BUT that shouldn’t stop you from trying.  🙂  A prototype is always a good way to support your theory.  (I would try doing that over lunch, before or after work.)

        Does it sound like I’m contradicting myself?  I hope not.  

        Debate your solution but not so long that it stops progress in the project. 

        If it is a Sr. Consultant that is stopping your view point, well…  I honestly don’t know how you would work with that.  That would be like my boss or project manager disagreeing with me.  Again at some point I would have to back down, and move forward. 

        Thank you Kumud – your views – help me with the frustration that I have at times.  (And thank you for the nice comment – it brightens my day.)

        Michelle

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        1. Mark Chalfen Post author
          I totally agree some less experienced consultants have great ideas, sometimes better than more experienced consultants.

          More experienced consultants can oftern look at problems in a different way and not spot the obvious simple solution.

          I have had some examples of this recently and it was a real eye opener.

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