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There is a very lively discussion going on at the Harvard Business Review site about the importance of high performer for the success of companies and projects. In short Bill Taylor, the cofounder of Fast Company and author of several books argues that currently especially in the tech area great people are overrated. He criticizes the statement that a great developer is 100 times more productive than an average on. His arguments have received heavy criticism following the initial posting.

But what is in for the SAP community? Are single superstars decisive for the success of your SAP implementation or is team of pretty good people the better choice so that you do not need to spend a lot of time as a customer to find the exceptional one and only developer/ architect/ functional expert for your implementation?

During my career and my projects I was lucky to work with many people I admire in the SAP community coming from customers, partners and also SAP. Although it is difficult to decide what was the reason for the success of the projects I realized that no single answer fits to all the projects which will do them justice.

Therefore I think that we can divide the projects in two groups: standard implementations and projects with larger development proportions.

In short I would always prefer a well rounded team with pretty good people to one Superstar trying to cover all the aspects of a standard implementation project. If I take the example of a SAP HR project than we will need a group of pretty good experts for all the single pieces: HR administration, payroll, organizational management et.al. There is a lot of work to do and the precondition is that all these SAP experts have a good level of knowledge. Do not get me wrong: I do not say that these implementations can bear the burden of consultants with insufficient knowledge. I am just favoring the well rounded team above the brilliant superstar in the middle of the implementation with all people concentrating on his work in this case.

The case of a project mainly driven by the needs to develop new solutions for processes outside the existing standard processes is different. Here I really appreciated the single outstanding experts who developed the design and the big picture for the solution and the development or who always found a solution for the difficult development questions to help their team mates. In my experiences these outstanding experts were able to guide the way for their team. But again, also here they needed a pretty good team otherwise they will fail with their design.

The analysis of the football club FC Barcelona which Bill Taylor mentioned in his article gives a very good answer to the question which one to prefer. The success of Barca is based upon a great team spirit, a year-long education in their own academy and … exceptional individuals like Lionel Messi. Players like Messi are able to decide a tough match for their team. But they will only be able to do that with a good team around.

But the example of the FC Barcelona clearly demonstrated another management lesson: If there are many exceptional players in one team playing football or implementing SAP it really makes fun to observe their work.

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  1. Luke Marson
    Hi Bernard,

    That’s an interesting perspective and contains many accuracies. I’d like to add my two pence, if I may.

    If you look at a Visualization Solutions by Nakisa (VSN) implementation, for example SAP Org Visualization by Nakisa (SOVN) OrgChart, usually this will be done by one consultant. Being an expert in this area considerably enhances the chance of project success and there have been many examples of this. Therefore top SAP experts are extremely valued in this area.

    Obviously this is not the case with every project, but having worked on projects where there is no expert in an area I can see that SAP experts are valuable and required commodities for project success.

    Best regards,

    Luke

    p.s. Sorry for the big names – blame SAP marketing, not me 😉

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    1. Michelle Crapo
      Again – agreed.  An expert can set the tone of a project.  Huh!  But who is the one that decides there is an expert or superstar on the project?

      That question is running around my brain this morning.

      BR,

      Michelle

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    2. Bernhard Escherich Post author
      Hi Luke,

      thanks for your reply and your additional input. You are right, I did not mention the very small projects with the super expert who is absolutely mandatory then. But I think that also with Nakisa experts there are different levels of know-how and skills existing.

      I am looking forward to your next blogs about Nakisa.

      Thanks again and best regards,

      Bernhard

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  2. Luís Pérez Grau
    I completly agree with your opinion, The good vibes in a team are necessary to create a “one for all and all for one” atmosphere, every one has his own personal defects and ones are very hard to handle, so as you said, the team must be well rounded, if not, you can have lots of trouble between the members, bad atmosphere will low the productivity, the quality of the product and the delivery maybe won’t be on time. But there are specific roles, depens on which kind of project we are talking, where a superstar can mark the difference and this can be reflected in very diferent ways.

    I like the topic “Top SAP experts – overrated” that touch my nerve, I have an old battle about something that can be fit with this topic title, SAP expert is really an expert? SAP senior is really a senior? There’s a huge demand for SAP consultants and a intentionally or not lack of judgment about what an expertise should know, there are too many interest and not all honests :-), every one wants his piece of the cake, the junior is senior, the senior is an expert,etc. Doesn’t matter if the consultant overrate himself o the Consulting firm overrate his consultants to get more option to win a project or a bigger piece of the cake, but a fact is I have seen many seniors, many superstars, many dream teams, many smoke sellers and seems no one cares about it, fishy, very fishy…

    Regards,

    Luis

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    1. Bernhard Escherich Post author
      Hi Luis,

      thanks for your feedback and input. You are right, there are many self declared superstars floating around. But if I look at the HCM area for example the funny thing is that in the end the community knows quite well who really is an outstanding expert.

      Best regards,
      Bernhard

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        1. Bernhard Escherich Post author
          Oh, sorry then my answer was not completly clear. I do not only reference to the community on SDN but to the community of the SAP customers with their consultants, e.g. the international HR customers which meet regularly.

          And you are right there are some superstars out there who never post. But via this customer networks they are always found by the customers.

          Best regards,
          Bernhard

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          1. Michelle Crapo
            MMMMmmmm… I wonder how they are found.  Sometimes we have a real hard time just getting someone who knows the technology.  A superstar?  We don’t really share those names.  I guess probably because we want to be the first to be able to get them as a resource.

            However, you are right – word of mouth, yes, I have friends who may be able to help.  But it’s still hard.

            Those superstars that never post, usually are the ones that play down their skill in an interview.  The not so good ones, they try to tell you how great they are.  Not all of the time for either comment.

            Just some of the time.  So how do you sort thru it all?

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            1. Luís Pérez Grau
              Don’t forget the time when everybody has interest in “sell the messiah”.

              – “The messiah” have intests in be the messiah to incress his/her rate.
              – The Recruiter/headhunter has interest in belive that he/she is the messiah to see his benefit incresed (rate+ %comission)
              – The consultancy firm has interest in belive that he/she is the messiah to see his benefit incresed(rate+%comission * X )
              – A lot of freeloaders who have they personal reasons to belive that he/she is the messia( suuuuper rate)
              – And finally the customer/beliver who need to belive( normally the customer will react too late )

              What happend if “the messiah” is not really a messiah, the last to leave the burning building will be burned…The rest, will have his part of the cake 🙂

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        2. Sandra Rossi
          I agree that superstar or expert “alone” means nothing. You’re expert in some domains but you can’t say “I’m BI expert”, there are some subdomains of BI you don’t know at all. So, at the end, you know that one person may probably help you, but maybe not…

          In SDN forums, top “experts” are only the ones who play, and have time to play. It’s a game. At least, by looking at the answers, you can know the domains that the person seems to know.

          It’s like Miss Universe, is she the beautiful girl in the world. Of course not, only the ones who play can be. But if you are looking for a pretty girl, then instead of looking for one in the world, it’s easier to ask Miss Universe.

          Sandra

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            1. Michelle Crapo
              Love the proverb.  Sometimes we know nothing about a technology.  Therefore we bring in an expert.  They are an expert because we know nothing about the technology.

              We are blind.  The expert isn’t an expert, just someone that knows more than we do.  (And we know nothing as we are blind)

              Love it!

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  3. Michelle Crapo

    My listening ears are on.  I do agree there has to be a solid team.  But you can get away with having some people with less experience IF you have someone to mentor them.  In my area – review the code prior to any move to our quality system.  In configuration, the mentor would verify that it was done in the best way.

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    1. Bernhard Escherich Post author
      HI Michelle,

      thanks for your long answer which contains a lot of thoughts which keeps me thinking. Most valuable for me is your customer perspective. I noticed this again and again in the past: Many long-term customers have their superstars which keep the projects running. Engagements in this projects were always the most demanding and satisfying ones. But these superstars have always taught me a lot in return when they noticed that I was fully committed to their projects. As they possesed two importants traits of a real superstar: knowing where your limitations are and willing to share knowledge at all times.

      Thanks again and best regards,

      Bernhard

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  4. Jarret Pazahanick
    Good article and my thought is if it is a niche area  of SAP such as Nakisa, EIC, US Payroll for example in the HCM space than trying to get an expert should be the goal. It is important to note that there are more projects than true experts in many areas of SAP.

    If it is a larger project there is no reason why the goal STILL shouldnt be to get as many experts as possible as it will limit the risk of the project. True experts not only know their area but they work will in teams. I think a common misconception is clients have the choice of 1 expert or a team of people but in my experience the rates for the true expert are not much higher than for an average person especially at the big firms (vs the niche consulting companies)

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    1. Bernhard Escherich Post author
      Hi Jarret,

      thanks for adding your interesting comment.

      You are right in most cases the rates are not the problem it is very often the availability of this sought-after experts.

      Best regards,
      Bernhard

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  5. Tom Cenens
    Hello

    You can call me a junior if you want as long as you pay me enough.

    I don’t mention any “level” on linkedin or anywhere else because I don’t find it to be neccesary. I’m a technical consultant. The definition of what an expert is differs for individual persons/companies.

    The company I started out with was taken over financially and one of the company owners mailed me to say he had always known I was a white raven. Getting comments like that or someone saying you are remarkable means much more to me than if someone would tell me I’m an expert.

    Can an individual have an impact on a project so it becomes more succesful? Yes, I’ve seen it happen.

    Is being an expert the most important factor to make an impact? It can be in some cases but in general you need more than a lot of knowledge on a single topic/area.

    What about soft skills, Emotional Quotient, team spirit, influence and making things happen even if those are not matching your job description.

    Conclusion: is being an expert overrated? Yes it is.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Michelle Crapo

      I’m not so sure about that.  When you an expert – talking about you here, Tom – you can say an expert is overrated.  That’s because you have the knowledge to cover for “no expert”.  Or you know where to find it …  Or you have a network..  A lot of other things too!<br/><br/>So an expert is a must on a project where the client is learning the technology for the first time.  How, what, why?<br/><br/>Now – soft skills – Me, I don’t consider you an expert unless you have them.<br/><br/>The impact of the expert from a development standpoint, even when we are strong in that area, is less rewrites.  Quicker code turn out.  Easier to work with.  Open to teaching us new techniques.  If I can pay one person double or triple to do the job of four people, and do it better and quicker.  Well my project deadlines stay on time or better than on time.  My budget is better.  My internal resources learn more.<br/><br/>So I’m not sure an “expert” is overrated.  I think it depends on what you define an expert / superstar as.<br/><br/>If my project is completely a mess.  I can’t figure out how to begin to fix it.  Again an expert would step it up, and help me figure out where to start.  Maybe some tips on what to do, and will dig in to start fixing it.<br/><br/>You can put anything you want on your resume?  We always do a technical review.  Some of those Sr.?  Well let’s just say I would classify them as intern.<br/><br/>Great points.  Soft skills are so important and often overlooked.  We had an “expert” who really saved us when we first started in SAP.  He was a developer.  He was hard to approach.  He had some interesting language.  Expert?  Maybe.  But I had more of the project team asking me questions than him.  I was just out of ABAP Boot camp.  I then would go ask him.  I didn’t care if he was grumpy.  Then I would give the answer to them.  Crazy?  And at that point, counterproductive, and I wouldn’t classify him as an expert.  He could code like no one’s business though.  But if he could transfer knowledge, listen to the requirements, or treat others with respect.   Not an expert to me.<br/><br/>BR,<br/><br/>Michelle<br/><br/><HA! Ha!  Good luck Junior Tom! >  Not for anything would I call you a Junior.  Maybe 10 years ago?  Not sure if you’ve been in SAP for that long.  But maybe 10 years ago you would have been a Junior.<br/>

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hey Michelle

        Thanks for your reply. As always nicely done.

        I can agree with you that my “yes they are overrated” depends on what someone calls an expert.

        Like you also mention I’ve also seen so called experts that didn’t impress me at all.

        I’ve been working in SAP for five years now.

        I’ve had discussion on X years of work experience in the past. It’s comparing X with Y because a lot depends on environment, opportunities, time spent on a subject and so on.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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        1. Michelle Crapo
          X number of years does not a make an expert.  I wouldn’t even say the first couple of months means your not an expert. BUT you are not an expert in your area of SAP until you’ve played in the “real world” for a while.

          So Tom – I would say you were not an expert 4 years, 10 months ago in your area of SAP.  In something else?  I’m sure you were an expert.

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      2. Kumud Singh
        Okay, I am good and has wonderful impression in the current company…but how about when I move on…How do I show my client/management appreciation mails…
        let’s say the interviewer asked me questions completely off track to what I have knowledge/worked on.
        Generally the interviewer would ask what he thinks he is expert on…..:)
        How do we tackle this situation…

        Regards,
        Kumud

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        1. Tom Cenens
          Hello Kumud

          I wouldn’t make anything up to start with. I’m me and I have fun doing SAP and I think that shows.

          For me it’s important that the company I work for believes in me and what I do. You should feel at home and feel compatible with their vision.

          If you get interviewed and you don’t know the subject you can state that you don’t have much or any experience on that topic. Emphasize what you do know and what you have done and can do and show that you are willing to learn (really important) whatever you don’t know.

          How do you show client/management appreciation? Linkedin recommendations could help out there or old skool references. If your previous customers are so fond of you they probably won’t mind someone calls them (ask them first though) to talk about how good you are.

          Hope you can do something with a few of these tips.

          Kind regards

          Tom

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            1. Tom Cenens
              It shows that you have fun at what you do 🙂 That’s just one of the things I like about you.

              On the same note but slighly offtopic, I had fun creating a SCNotty award movie. Seriously stepped out of my comfort zone there but I had a blast creating it and the most important message of the video is “love what you do and do what you love”.

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        2. Michelle Crapo

          Kumud – great question – here’s my answer.  There is probably 1 million different answers.  That’s what makes an interview fun?  Right.Michelle

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          1. Kumud Singh
            Michelle,Can I  please request you write your next blog on INTERVIEWER Vs INTERVIEWEE as I am sure you have experience being both.

            Regards,
            Kumud

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  6. Alexandre Carvalho
    Hello, All!

    First, congrats for your blog. If it’s off-subject, I guess we should have a place for such topics.
    Here in Brazil, that takes place the same. I (not saying I`m TOP) have a rate above the normal standards and that gets in spotlight everytime you are switching Agencies. There’s a great GAP between your knowledge and the client. The agencies’ crew are not consultants, they only know budget, sales goals and “Search Command”in Word to know if you are skilled or not.
    Then, when you mention your current rate, they get astonished first, and then say “You are too expensive…”
    I have worked with Mentors in the same project and I assure it was a nice and profitable experience, and t has been quite a nice time since then!

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    1. Michelle Crapo
      Wow! Agencies – I forget they are the ones that bring us the people to interview in the first place. We usually give them a range. So we are probably missing out on some great talent.

      Also consulting firms that subcontract to contractors. I’m sure they do that as cheap as they can.

      What a thought! We don’t get the experts because they are never brought in. Some of our consultants have been experts! Don’t get me wrong. I like many that we have working here now.

      We do get the experts in the newer technology, because we expect to pay a lot.

      You’ve really made me think even more. I love these responses. I know it’s not my blog. So a BIG Thank you to Bernhard! What a great discussion.

      Categories? Who cares about categories? Me I never know where to post my blogs at.

      Top – now who calls themselves “top”? Expert? Again who calls themselves an expert? That’s so funny. I sure don’t. I bet if you talked to someone you thought of as an expert they would think you were crazy. Expert / Superstars, mean so many different things to different people. My definition: Expert great communication, shares the information they know or have found, knows something extensively, can get things done on time, raises issues, suggests technology, and cares about the project. I know there’s more that I’ll think of as soon as I press submit.

      Just remember: The person with the lowest rank in the company can be the expert at what they do. So is it related to pay? Maybe. That low graded employee may be getting paid more than the next grade up. Maybe not. It’s all about supply and demand. So that “expert” may never get paid what they are worth. But they are an expert at what they do. And it is wonderfull to work with them on a team.

      When it comes to consulting an “expert” usually gets paid more. He/She will only work on projects that are for a longer term. They will only work for a “higher” amount. Clients – like me – need to remember that the consultants take home a lot less than they make. -I remember this because they usually “make” a lot more than me. ( Very off subject: That may or may not be true, that they get paid more than I do. I have a lot of benefits from working as a client. I also have things like vacation, stability, and more. I’m very happy about not flying out every week. Been there, Done that, hated it.)

      Great thought – now the wheels are turning in my head. How to talk my boss into looking at people with higher salary requirements. I know she does in some cases. We have some experts. They are really experts working for us. We try to fund them by moving them from one project to the next. That will keep them here for as long as possible.

      BR – great response!

      Michelle

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  7. Kumud Singh
    Hello,

    Very well said and thats why its called TEAM.
    There was a similar blog wherein I commented sometime back that a good combination of people is very much required for the team to be successful.
    Everyone in the team may not have have the same level of passion for the work to be done in the best way but there should be a balance for that.
    People get motivated seeing others pretty highly and I have experienced that.A lot depends on the management level and culture prevailing at work.
    In today’s world of cut throat competition everyone tries to be the best..its just that there should be someone to ignite and utilize it.

    But at times I face/see exceptional as well..

    Regards,
    Kumud

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    1. Luís Pérez Grau
      Funny and scary and the same time. If you read one of my answers on the very bottom “Every one has his role” where I speak about the belivers relationship maybe you will laugh too 🙂
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