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Are you a Specialist or a Generalist?

 


I came across a very interesting discussion that happened between two groups of team members. I found it very interesting and made me pause and think if I fall under specialist, generalist or both.

 

 

The first group: We need generalist more than specialist… if I have team members with multiple skills on our projects; we will be able to swap resource from project to project and will be able to optimize resource on the project rather than having specialized in each area.

 

The second group: I think we need specialist and not generalist?  This project is very complex project and we need specialist in many areas to get to the right solutions. Deep knowledge in specific areas will help understand business requirements and in deriving the right solution in an optimal way.

 

Generalist – Knowledge in multiple areas as example knowledge in multiple modules within SAP and other 3rd part applications. These team members are like Swiss army knives. Generalist will be able to navigate various applications and fix quickly. This may span many modules in SAP and many diverse applications.

 

Specialist – Specialized in specific areas as an example Pricing expert or Payroll expert in SAP. In-depth knowledge of the application and SAP modules. These team members will be able to understand the Business process, analyze requirements, offer and recommend efficient and effective solutions and validate solution meet requirements.

 

 

In this specific scenario, we are not debating about efficiency or productivity of generalist or a specialist. Assumption is that they are all excellent.

 

 

The consensus from the above discussion was that we may need …. Generalists… Specialists… or both and it depend on the projects.  For Production support tickets to minor releases we may need more generalists. Whereas for complex SAP implementations or SAP upgrades we need more Specialists.

 

My take on this is it is always good to be a specialist at least in one core SAP knowledge area (core capabilities) and be a generalist by expanding knowledge in other peripheral areas.

 

 

Who are you? Generalist…  Specialist….

 

Appreciate if you can give us your thoughts on when we need a generalist… and when we need a specialist…..

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6 Comments

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  1. G Lakshmipathi
    As you yourself have said, in some projects, we need a Specialist and in some projects, we can manage with Generalist.

    Of course, I do agree that we should be specialist in one area with some basic knowledge in other areas.

    G. Lakshmipathi

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  2. Former Member
    I know and understand development. – Yes, sure – Actually I do, BUT it is changing everyday, and to keep up with it, I’m losing some of my generalist skills.

    I think to a point I have to understand how the system integrates with each of the areas – Generalist.  (Or BPX person)  Otherwise it would make me a weaker programmer.  You really have to understand the touch points prior to coding something that would affect the system BADI, Enhancement Point, User Exit.  I would have to know what would happen if… And then I would test for it.

    BUT there is a general view that programmers do not need to know that.  The B/A (functional person who would have to be somewhat of a generalist) and the BPA would tell us about it.  Just a programmer?   I think I ranted about that before.

    To be more than just an FI, BW/BI, developer, PP…  I think you need to have some generalist knowledge.  I’m not saying you don’t need to be strong in your area.  You do.  I’m not saying that you have to be strong in all the areas – impossible.  I’m saying you have to have a limited understanding of how everything comes together.  Then you can collaborate with the person that is a specialist in the other area that you are touching.

    I kind of went round and round.  I think we all need to be a little bit of both.

    Michelle

    Keep in mind this is the comment of a customer, and not a consulting firm.  I think that makes a difference.

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    1. Sascha Wenninger
      Hi Michelle & Srini,

      I wholeheartedly agree with the need for a balance of both aspects!

      There is this wonderful concept of “T-Shaped” people in the wider development community which is a great illustrating point of the need for a balance. Basically, T-shaped people are those with a high-level understanding of a lot of things (i.e. they are broad), but balance this through deep knowledge and experience in some specific areas.

      This blog explains it pretty well: http://www.coderenaissance.com/2009/07/t-shaped-people-vs-generalizing.html

      In my experience, T-shaped people also make much more satisfying colleagues to work with, and from a project manager’s perspective reduce the reliance on a single person for critical aspects!

      Sascha

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      1. Former Member Post author
        Thank You Sascha for sharing your perspective on this blog.

        T-Shaped People vs. Generalizing Specialist blog is very interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

        BR, Srini

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    2. Former Member Post author
      Thank You Michelle. You always take time and add rich insight and make blogs more interactive.
      I totally agree with you. A little bit of both and which one…. depends on timing. When many new projects ramp up, management look for specialists and the tendency is to on board contractors. When companies run tight on budget or during downsizing, tendency is to look for generalists – team members who can manage to jump in as many areas as possible.
      This is true for technical as well as Business Analysts/Functional Analysts and Project Management. As an example if you take an SME in HR Payroll Functional Area (Specialist), it is desirable to have generalist skills in Time Management, Benefits etc…
      Also, we can choose to be a specialist in one of the Area say Technical and generalist in Functional and Project Management Area.

      We can go round and round… and this is good interaction to gain valuable perspective.

      BR, Srini

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