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Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal

Are Business Knowledge, Technical Abilities AND Soft Skills necessary ingredients to be a SAP Consultant?

If I’ve to answer the question Paul asked in his blog “HELP! Where are the skills?OR if I’ve to suggest a new SAP entrant for specific skills to work on to be a Consultant OR if I’ve to design a curriculum for a diploma in SAP education OR if I’ve to hire a Consultant what skills I’d be looking at, most probably my feedback would circulate around this blog. For past few days I was thinking to 1) summarize the areas which should be focused to become a consultant, identify the objectives of each area and lastly setup a high level plan from basic to advanced skills development AND 2) share my thoughts with the community to seek experts’ feedback. So here’s the summary:




In my opinion a Consultant, and a functional consultant in particular, has to be versatile and not limited to ONLY the technical knowledge. I think of a consultant 1) to have good business knowledge, 2) he should be technically sound and aware of varied SAP applications in addition to his specialization, 3) he should be able to use other SAP and non-SAP applications (as indicated below under Tools), 4) he should understand the implementation projects & SAP operations to participate appropriately when assigned to a specific role, 5) should develop the-must skills (section below indicates some of those skills). The main areas of expertise with subareas are listed below.


SAP Skills & Knowledge Matrix

1.      Business Knowledge

1.1   Introduction to Business

1.2   Typical Business Processes in today’s organizations: Industry, Specialization, Cross-Industry Functions

1.3   Domain Knowledge e.g. Human Capital Management: From Recruitment to Hiring, Developing and Appraising to Retirement and Pension etc.


2.      Technical

2.1   SAP Overview: History > Future, Demand > Response

2.2   Organizational Model e.g. HR models such as Enterprise Structure, Personnel Structure, Organizational Structure, Work Schedule, Pay Scale Structure etc.

2.3   Technical Structure: Features, Functions / Operations, Rules, Schemas etc.

2.4   Components: for instance within HR there are various components including Organizational Management, Recruitment, Personnel Administration, Personnel Development, Time Management, Payroll, Compensation Management, Personnel Cost Planning, Travel Management etc..

2.5   Business Scenario Maps: Scenario > Solution: mapping the business scenarios with SAP delivered applications


3.      Tools

3.1   SAP Solution Composer: Pre-sales

3.2   MS Visio: to draw flow diagrams

3.3   SAP Solution Manager: Implementation to Operation

3.4   MS Visio / ARIS: Flow Diagrams, Charts etc.

3.5   MS Spreadsheet: Complex Formulas

3.6   MS Project: Setup plan in terms of activities, resources and timeline

3.7   MS Presentation: Summarizing key points

3.8   SAP Tutor: E-learning content

3.9   SAP StreamWork: Teamwork


4.      Project: Implementation & Operations

4.1   Work Streams: Pre-Sales, Project Management, Training, Support, Technical Solution Management, Change Management, Business Processes Management

4.2   Approaches: Phases, Rollouts, Upgrades etc.

4.3   Roles & Responsibilities: Project Manager, Leads, Technical / Functional Consultants, Architects, Trainer, Support

4.4   Roadmaps: ASAP


5.      Skills

5.1   Analytical: Critical Thinking,

5.2   Problem Solving,

5.3   Communication: Written & Spoken

5.4   Presentation: Clarity in message

5.5   Interpersonal: (Social) Listening, Understanding, Building Relationships with Others

5.6   Negotiation: Compromise / Finding a Way to reach to an agreement



What to achieve?


The table below describes each of the main & focus areas and describes the objectives one should aim at to develop oneself on particular area.

High Level Plan

How to achieve?


Following could be used as a high-level plan to achieve above-stated competencies.


Targets: from the plan


At level 1 the learner should have a fair understanding of a particular business line (HR for instance) and SAP as a solution. Tools like Solution Composer could be introduced at this level to describe how SAP addresses particular lines of business functions. Learning basics of Visio could also help the new entrants in defining their own scenario maps / charts etc. At this stage one should develop his analytical skills to be able to analyze a particular problem and solve it with an appropriate solution. Of course, this should be monitored by an expert educator.


Level 2 should train the learner with typical functions of a business including industry specific and cross-industry functions. At this level he should also learn how organizational models are depicted in SAP such as within HR Enterprise & Personnel Structures are defined. Introducing component specific (such as HR) technical details could be a good addition here. As the learner start to understand specific tool, he could be introduced with Solution Manager – at least basic understanding. Since SAP solutions are implemented using different approaches; phases, rollout etc.. level 2 could be a good time to learn these models. At this stage, the learner should be able to speak well of SAP solutions (to communicate and present his viewpoint).


At Level 3 the focus should be on particular module such as HR and one should be able to relate specific business scenarios with components in a module. Being able to draw business diagrams in a cross-functional view could be target at this stage and tools like Visio and ARIS can be explored further at level 3. Now when a to-be consultant has good knowledge in his module, he should be able to understand importance of networking with relevant gurus / seniors / experts etc.


At Level 4, advanced stage of skills development, one should be able to map different business scenarios with SAP applications and if needed should be able to describe how a customized solution can address specific business need. The tools, a consultant should be well-versed at this stage could be Project, Presentation, Tutor, StreamWork etc. for project planning, delivering information in workshops and as self-learning material and collaborating work with others. A thorough understanding of different roadmaps (including the typical ASAP) could help in understanding delivery & deployment concepts better. And lastly the consultant should be able to negotiate, discuss with customers to reach to an agreed solution for a particular problem.


Additional Sources


The learning could be blended with site-visits (including SAP Vendors, End-Customers), case studies, usage of various forums / networks etc for further skills development…




I understand there’s a lot to add but the above-mentioned summary could be used as a starting point and can be refined further with suggestions from experts on SCN / elsewhere… Please leave your comments to improve it further. 

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      Author's profile photo Jon Reed
      Jon Reed
      "Are Business Knowledge, Technical Abilities AND Soft Skills necessary ingredients to be a SAP Consultant?"

      I believe the answer is yes. Most of the great SAP consultants have always had this mix is in some form.

      To put it slightly differently, "Are Business Knowledge, Technical Abilities AND Soft Skills necessary ingredients to be a GREAT SAP Consultant?"

      Almost 100 percent yes.

      As offshoring takes the commodity consulting work of the table, on site consultants must establish exceptional value. It used to be that knowing your basic tech and/or config was enough. But now you need to be exceptional, that means, understanding the business case, how the SAP technology supports that business case, and having the soft skills to help move that business case into reality and help the process of change and end user adoption/empowerment or whatever you want to call it.

      Thanks for these good thoughts! Look forward to your next blogs.

      - Jon

      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author
      Yes that’d be better to say GREAT / GOOD Consultants are not only Technically sound but they are the ones who know the business & SAP together. Thus they understand the customer requirements and transform these to the Best-Practices utilizing their business & soft skills.

      Anyways good to know the experts are thinking on the same line 🙂

      Author's profile photo Tom Cenens
      Tom Cenens

      I can certainly agree that a healthy mixture of ingredients should be present to make up good SAP Consultants.

      To be great some special ingredient should be present. Like Mark Finners referred to "spunk" in his blog to call for SAP Mentor fall 2011 nomination a special something should be present.

      You will find many good SAP consultants and fewer great SAP consultants.

      Kind regards


      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author
      Some people have natural talent in addition to hard work they put on to be successful and its sometime their plus point.. And this applies to almost every profession. Hope all try to be GOOD & GREAT and not ONLY the Consultants!
      Author's profile photo Martin English
      Martin English
      The whole point of what we do, as SAP implementers and supporters, is to support 'the business'. Even as a BASIS / Netweaver consultant, I need to be aware of what skills are available in-house, what arrangements are in place for DBMS, OS and hardware licensing when I make platform recommendations - for example, windows platforms are harder sell to a customer thats already heavily invested in a *nix platform (and vice-versa, of course).

      Similar logic is required when evaluating upgrade / update scenarios; Developers may be pushing for a particular EHP to be installed, so they can take advantage of a particular feature. Someone needs to cost this out and know enough about the business AND the SAP system to do a realistic  cost-benefit analysis.

      Even in the day to day process of managing system and program changes, you need to know enough about the business to make the right judgement call about whether to rush through a change or fix, or to follow a more thorough change management process.

      In short, Life is meant to be easy for the Customer, not necessarily for us 🙂

      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author
      True! Business is the starting and an end point; developing applications / deploying a system is meant to improve the processes and ultimately the business. Knowing the business with technical skills helps in assessing the business requirements and developing right solutions. So from beginning various skills are required to analyze & resolve an issue / situation, communicate & present the solution to customer and negotiate for the best one and develop & deploy the solution. So right mixture of soft / business skills and technical abilities can bring in right solution.

      And for the customer since he just needs his issues to be resolved and requirements to be fulfilled, no matter how, we shouldn’t expect easy life as them being Solution Providers 🙂

      Author's profile photo Chris Kernaghan
      Chris Kernaghan
      This debate has raged on and off for a long time, and although Martin, Tom and Jon have raised very valid points, I think we have overlooked one in particular - the value of the team.
      We all work in diverse areas and because the Netweaver stack is growing, no one person can know everything about every area. So consultants have to rely on a couple of things, their ability to research the answer, their wider network for find the answer, their team network to get the answer.
      As regards On-site consultants, I believe (like Jon) softer skills are becoming more important so that they can become skilled enablers for the commodity consultants working off-site. As enablers they will architect solutions and evangelize them to the client - providing the critical link between the technical and non-technical streams.
      Also your learning maps are very detailed, and a great deal of thought has gone into them, are these maps and processes you have/are following yourself?

      Looking forward to hearing more from you

      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author
      No one is perfect, very true, however struggling toward perfection anyways helps and as you mentioned relying on teamwork always is fruitful. And I strongly recommend the starters to focus on interpersonal skills in addition to other soft, business & technical skills. And using SAP and non-SAP tools to achieve the objectives; I mentioned the tools which are helpful in achieving certain objectives.

      The learning maps, ah! I’ve argued a lot with some of my colleagues who still think only the Technical / Configuration knowledge is sufficient to stay as Consultants. I always have suggested them to broaden their horizons from typical module consultants to versatile consultants. For past few days I was thinking to organize my thoughts and put them in a blog to see 1) what experts think 2) if the learning maps are helpful for beginners. And I’m happy that the experts and beginners agree with my thoughts; Jon, Tom, Martin and You are supporting my opinion and Chris says it helpful.. 🙂

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I believe this is a very helpful information for beginners like me.


      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author
      Chris, as you could see Jon, Tom, Martin and Chris Kernaghan has highly valuable comments. Hope we can serve the community better!
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      If you don't have them, you won't even get in the door.

      I'm a developer.  I still need to understand the business to ask the right questions.   I have a basic understanding of configuration as well.  That gives me an advantage when suggesting a solution.  I know what I don't have to program.

      I think more and more you'll find the lines grey.  As Jon says, we are moving more and more towards an offshore model.  As we go that way the onsite people have to be very good at what they do.  A large part of that is communication.

      As Chris suggests there is a "team".  There is probably Basis, Functional, Technical, Business process experts on your team.  It's still helpful to be able to speak to everyone else - to "know their language".  AND -It should be encouraged for someone to learn a little bit about each area.  That's my idea of a Great Consultant.

      Just some thoughts,


      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author
      Absolutely! These skills need to be developed as well as we develop our technical skills. As you said knowing other’s language helps in understanding a situation, its good to know about other areas.
      Author's profile photo Kumud Singh
      Kumud Singh

      I think this blog very much revolves around the points highlighted by Michelle in a blog for BAD,GOOD AND GREAT CONSULTATNS.

      Kumud Singh