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Road Ahead for SAP Consultants : 2012

So it is November 2011 now, and I want to try to present my views on what will be the hot areas for SAP consultants for next year. All the usual disclaimers apply – these are just my personal opinions, and not of my employer’s. And I did not do any scientific study to arrive at these conclusions. Take it with a grain (or pound or kilo) of salt 🙂

1. BPC – Planning and Consolidations

By far the most traction I foresee is on BPC, with a lot of customers moving their planning applications to BPC, and some also doing consolidations in BPC. It will be a good idea to learn the 10.0 version, and take advantage of this boom. BPC is also slated to work with HANA in near future, which gets rid of some performance issues that have been seen in past projects.

2. BI 4.0

Right next to BPC is BI 4.0 in terms of market traction. SAP announced it with an overdose of fanfare, and then had to work thru months of stabilization. There are still things to iron out – but it is at a stage where I can see many customers wanting to do big projects.

3. EHS Management

This is not an area I ever had an interest in, but now I see tremendous interest in this. Environment, health and safety management does not sit in isolation, and needs a holistic approach that includes other modules like MM, and of course BI.

4. Reverse logistics

Forward logistics is one of the most commonly implemented solutions in SAP – where a company sells to a customer. Reverse logistics is the opposite where a customer returns something that you sold, and you have to replace it, repair it, service it etc.  Apparently this process was not always cared for in a number of implementations and now there seems to be a renewed interest in it. Along with RMA, are areas like Service Parts planning and management.


ABAP, which was commoditized to a great extent, is definitely getting hot again. The difference is in the type of work that is done in ABAP though. The list processing, BAdI type of work is still commodity, and I don’t expect that to change. The big driver I think is in the ECC implementation and re-implementation market, where some large customers are choosing to do some fresh implementations .

6. SAP HR – especially Payroll

Many SAP shops had historically chosen PeopleSoft for HR. And now I see many want to check out SAP HR again. Payroll seems to be pretty hot specifically. It is a specialized skill and needs some localization experience since there are variations for most countries, and has a higher threshold for entry for new consultants.

7. BW 7.3

I do expect to see a lot of upgrades in 2012 and it has better functionality now. Plus it is the minimum level you need to be for HANA to work with BW. It is not difficult to learn either.

8. Basis with upgrade skills and landscape design skills

Good basis guys always had a market, and 2012 should see increased demand. I expect to see many upgrade projects, and many other projects including new implementations were customers are looking for solid landscape design skills. Although I personally am not a big fan of solution manager – I should say that I am seeing significant interest in solman these days too – both from blueprinting type functionality, and also the landscape management functionality.

Some Honorable Mentions


Question with HANA is not “if” but “when”. I am hesitant to say 2012 is the year where HANA will create huge demand for consulting. SAP is still evolving the product, and it now works with BW. Customers seem to be buying it too – given the statements made by SAP’s Co-CEOs. However, we have only seen a handful of customers showcased at SAPPHIRE – and they seem to be running HANA as a parallel system to something else. Hopefully in 2012, HANA will mature to an extent that customers will put significant parts of their business in it. And if SAP manages to do that – 2013 should see significant HANA demand.  For sure, there will be some HANA demand in 2012 as well – I just don’t see it to be huge to impact a large number of consultants. But irrespective of 2012 demand – if you want to learn HANA, I suggest spending some time learning good solid SQL. Once you master SQL, HANA is not a big challenge at all.

10. SUP and gateway

Definitely an area to keep an eye on and get some good experience soon. SAP is serious about mobility, and announced an App store in Madrid. Yesterday I saw on twitter that the store was down for a day, which makes me wonder about SAP’s seriousness about this.  SAP’s certification for apps is relatively inexpensive, but they all need to be developed in SUP to be put in the store. Since Dennis Howlett, Graham Robinson and Daniel Gravensen all wrote at length about the licensing issues on gateway, SUP etc to make it worthwhile for developers to jump into mobility – i will just let you read their pieces instead of rehashing it here.  But then again – this is an area where I am very sure SAP will get it right, and hopefully this will go to top of the list for 2013.

11. ByDesign an LOB OD

There is definitely some opportunity to write add-ons and enhancements for these SaaS offerings from SAP. The question in my mind is whether there is sufficient volume for consultants at this point to jump into this. SAP is aiming to hit 1000 customers for ByD by end of this year, and they will probably do that. But 1000 is a pretty small number in my opinion, if you compare to sales force dot com etc. I also got the impression that the SDK is also going to be available only some time next year. So I will put this in “wait and watch” category for now.

So there we are – I am looking forward to hearing your opinion and analysis.

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  • my priorities are as follows:

    1. SEM (BI) on HANA
    2. ECC upgrades
    3. ByD
    4. Mobile SUP
    5. BPC in Netweaver
    6. XBRL
    7. IFRS
    8. ABAP
    9. SQL
    A. HTML 5

    but who remembers last year's predictions?

      • why leaving out the (magic quadrant) cash cow of ECC upgrades? there's a lot of SI's revenue projected based on the installed base.

        regarding HANA there are Cognos, Essbase, Brio, TM1, and Exadata (Hyperion), and Excel from you know whom to take into consideration as well.

      • why leaving out the (magic quadrant) cash cow of ECC upgrades? there's a lot of SI's revenue projected based on the installed base.
        regarding HANA there are Cognos, Essbase, Brio, TM1, and Exadata (Hyperion), and Excel from you know whom to take into consideration as well.
  • Good summary Vijay. Knowledge around Industry solutions, though a niche, has always generated some good demand in the consulting space as well.

    Also, need for infrastructure/basis consultants around virtualization and landscape optimization seems to be generating a lot of buzz as well (you mentioned solman type skills but I am referring to more infrastructure skills here).


    • Thanks for chiming in , KK. Industry solutions are definitely a good area - and I did consider putting them in the list. If I had 2-3 more, it would have made the cut.

      infrastructure - yes, and I already have it in the list

  • Hi Vijay,

    was nodding while reading your projections in agreement, not off because of boredom 😉

    As an old CO-PA implementer, my hope is, that there will be a renaissance of that amazing functionality, once the biggest obstacle for its success: performance will be taken away by HANA. But 2012 will be probably too early for CO-PA consultants to paint another Sistine Chapel.

    All the best, Mark.

    • Hi Mark,

      First off, thanks for changing my name from Vitaliy to Vijay 🙂

      Yes, CO-PA will probably be a comeback kid. But, the issue with Co_PA is not just performance. Many companies just totally messed their implementations with peanut butter allocations etc to secondary cost elements etc. Now they cannot figure out if CO_PA is working as designed or not. Hopefully they will have an opportunity to clean it up before switching to HANA.

      The beauty of HANA is that you don't need to wait long to see the impact of bad data - you know you are messed up in real time. How cool is that?  🙂


  • I have stuck to FI/CO for the last 15 years, and only CO for the last 4. I have sat without work for 2 months in that whole period, when I was transitioning from full-time to independent.

    I think the most important topic on th elist should be to know your subject matter thoroughly, not only on the technical side (SAP) but also functional side. (Business) If you can talk to your business in their language, better still, advice them on their subject matter, you will always have good paying work.

    • Hi Piet,

      The list is not about how tips on how to be successful in the SAP consulting market, but to project, where the demand will be the highest aka if you have these kind of skills, you will be able charge premium consulting fees. In some cases multiples of what a regular FI/CO SAP consultant can charge.

      Example, if you lead a project to port BI to HANA, you will be golden for the foreseeable future.

      If I were you, I would brush up on my CO-PA skills as HANA will finally help it over it's performance problems and make it shine.

      All the best, Mark.

  • Vijay,

    Thanks for this write up. You've already spent considerable amount of time writing this blog. I'm feeling bad expecting you to invest more time in answering questions below. Sorry.

    I thought I'll ask you about Exadata since you meet a lot of customers. What is your and/or customers' perception of Exadata? Specifically are SAP(Oracle DB) customers:

      1) Migrating to exadata temporarily before deciding to move to HANA later?
      2) considering Exadata (Exalytics?) and HANA as "either-or" meaning move to either Exadata or HANA.
      3) Move to HANA
      4) Don't do anything immediately.

    I know customers are different but looking for general perception(on Exadata/Exalytics) of the customers and of course, yours. Too early to ask this question?

    And, probably unrelated to this blog,any thoughts on Sybase-ASE? SAP is supposed to port SAP to Sybase-ASE by the end of this year. I'm not really sure why would customers move or install SAP on Sybase ASE knowing HANA is going to replace legacy databases in near future. Knowing answer to this question would probably help project the demand for migration projects.

    Best regards,

    • Bala, thanks for your comments. Glad you liked the blog.

      I did some asking around on if customers were taking Exadata/Exalytics seriously - and some are. Just as some customers buy everything from SAP - some also buy everything from ORCL 🙂
      But interestingly, I am yet to find customers do a direct comparison of Exalytics against HANA. When SAP wrote a bunch of blogs right after the exalytics announcement at openworld, I had several customers ask me if they should be worried about HANA since they thought SAP reacting atypically meant something was amiss. But bottom line - so far I personally have not seen any head to head buying decisions for exalytics vs HANA.

      I am ignorant of ASE demand. Never heard it come up yet in any serious discussions from customers or fellow consultants I have chatted with. But I did not explicitly spend time asking specifically on it either. Hopefully some one else will comment on it for our benefit.


    • Bala, as you can imagine - this topic is very close to my heart and I have been asking around to determine if exalytics and hana are competing head to head. So far, I have not seen that happening. ORCL and SAP both have loyal customer bases which will satisfy initial sales projections without needing a headson competition in my opinion.

      The only time I saw exalytics being discussed seriously was when SAP flooded forbes advoice and SDN with a bunch of blogs right after Opeworld announcement came. Many of my customers started pinging me asking if they should be concerned with HANA, since SAP made an atypical response. But that has stopped now, and life is back to normal.

  • Hi Vijay,

    I am indeed happy to see EHSM in your list. Nowadays corporations are increasingly focussing on sustainability not as a liability but as a value creator and cost-saver in the long-run. Also it has directly got linked with brand image with transparent reporting of company's initiatives. Infact, I was expecting it to be in your 2011 list.
    Can you please elaborate which part of the world and which business verticals you see much interest in EHSM solutions? Do you also see Indian companies getting really serious for IT investment in Sustainability area?

    SAP Sustainability Consultant

    • Hi Pavan,

      Where I have seen traction is in North America and Europe, and their subsidiaries in Asia. I do not have a good feel for Indian companies, but hope some one else here on SCN can fill us in.


  • Hi Vijay,
    I see some traction on Portal as well:) with SAP NW 7.3 is promising a lot , customer is already in for upgrading their NetWeaver stack.. probably (kind of comes under Upgrade and mobility area)

    • Thanks Krishna. I have mixed feelings on SAP Portal. My customers all use some other technology for majority of Portal needs, and keep a very small footprint of SAP Portal itself. My colleagues who are experts in Portal tell me that SAP Portal is quite good, but when it was introduced originally many years ago it was not industrial strength, and customers just did not take a chance to use it widely. And now they probably don't see sufficient value add to change.

      I am sure there are plenty of customers out there who use Portal in a big way - just that I have not seen it personally. So thanks for pointing out that you are seeing traction in this area.

  • When looking at what technology or software a client may or may not utilise in the future you need to look at what business issues they currently have and what pain points they want to address.

    I agree HANA and SUP will gain momemtum, but the majority will plan to look at these tools further out.

    Upgrades tackle issues of risk and compliance.
    BPC tackles issues around forecasting and being able to model scenarios in an ever changing world.

    All the talk of CO-PA - you need to consider what it would bring to a customer that does not use it at the moment. What work around do they have in place to pull the MI they require - could PCM be a better tool to address the business requirement for MI.

    • The big problem with PCM is the lack of awareness - most clients, SAP sales people and consultants have very limited idea of PCM. Another reason is that some clients have horribly complex COPA implementations that they are worried about touching it anymore for fear that something will break.
      • Totally agree education around the benefits of PCM is the more likely outcome for PCM in 2012.

        However the benefits for some are easy to highlight and some of the "reports we cant get" could be around the corner.

        Sounds like another SAP product  ...


  • I also am glad to see EHS make your list, Vijay. There is a strong development group in India doing excellent things with analytics and sustainablity if I recall.  (would need to check back with Innovation Day contents from last year for details) but we might prod some of those folks to chime in as well as Jeremiah Stone who you all probably know from the community and LOB Sustainablity. I'll ping him 😉
    • I had very little visibility into EHS in past, Marilyn. And now everywhere I turn, EHSM is in demand. All the awareness campaigns must have finally started to make an impact
  • Hello Vijay,

    It is great to see your views on the upcoming hot areas and skills on SAP Productline.

    I have strong feeling on SAP EIM (enterprise Information Management) solution portfolio. as now a days firms has realized that their data is in mess and they need some apporoach to handle with it.
    as per one survey most of the firms are in planning phase for some Information management project.
    again most of the new SAP skills as MDM, BODS, MDG ..etc are involved in this.

    - deepak

    • Hi Deepak

      Agreed on EIM - probably the fastest growing area for SAP I would guess. I mulled over it for a while before not including it in the top few. The reason I avoided it is the relative lack of maturity compared to competitor products. But I am pretty sure it will be in top 5 for 2013 list


      • Thanks for aiming EIM on top by 2013. Here Just wanted to include that as per a magic quaderent survey SAP along with its various product lines is very flexible enough to make a integration with SAP & Non SAP environment. SAP provides end to end solution for Information Management project on almost any landscape.
        Hoping for firm to think broadly about managing their data.


  • Hi Vijay

    I always enjoy this blog and am a big fan of prediction articles. I was happy to see SAP Payroll on the list especially since Payroll (and HCM) have been my focus for the last 13 years.

    SAP Payroll has been a "hot" skill for more than a decade now which says a lot about SAP and the product. They have quietly built up a global payroll solution for 49 countries and have partner built solutions for another 33. I am biased but feel it is the best global solution in the marketplace and a product that competitors cant duplicate overnight (ie Workday has payroll for 2 countries). This and the fact that deep business knowledge is required due to the legal rules, regulations and changing yearly requirements for each country has helped "protect" SAP Payroll consulting and keep in "Hot". 

    Per your comment about Peoplesoft SAP has won a lot of business over the past 5 years due to the takeover by Oracle and are currently the market leader in HCM worldwide with a ~17.5% marketshare.  That said Workday is currently winning a lot of the customers that are moving from Peoplesoft in North America which isnt surprising given Workday's executive teams background with Peoplesoft and Peoplesoft customers.



    • Thanks for chiming in Jarret. You are compeletely right - SAP has built deep business knowledge into HCM and other modules that make it very difficult for competitors to match. But workday is totally an emerging threat on both financials and HCM - and I am eagerly watching how SAP tackles them
  • Vijay,

    Would you suggest anything for Pure CRM Experts?

    The latest Release was Ehp1 and i guess with that SAP will go slow for the new releases for CRM since there is a lot that has already been offered in the previous releases, functionality wise.

    From my experience features like AET, direct ERP quotation & sales order creation, Web services tools are being really appreciated all across.

    With Sybase CRM offering i guess CRM product seems to be attractive in the segment.

    Harshit Kumar

    • CRM in Europe might be seeing some extra demand. I had a chance to catchup with SAP's EMEA sales leaders in Madrid, and got the impression that SAP is seeing increased demand for CRM in Europe.

      The delay between enhancemnt packs is probably why - just guessing of course - I did not see any pent up demand like usual in US.

    • I had an opportunity to go out for drinks after the concert at Madrid SAPPHIRE with some of the sales leaders for SAP in EMEA. According to them, CRM is where they see the most interest in Europe now.
  • Vijay,

    my fave blog tradition of the year. Thanks for not overhyping ByD, HANA, and mobile/SUP/Gateway.

    I do think it pays off to start getting access to these systems on sandboxes whenever possible, but I have pissed some folks off by pointing out that job needs are a LAGGING indicator for new areas. You have to have a level of demand that exceeds what SAP and its partners can staff internally.

    I have no doubt that in 2013 we will see a bigger jobs need for HANA and mobility/SUP, but we have to manage expectations without diminishing our enthusiasm to get these new skills under our belt. ByDesign consulting demand will take a while to build as the projects are often done simultaneously, so a single consultant can be working a number of projects virtually. It's a different model. I'm thinking maybe the second half of 2013 for an uptick in ByD skills. As far as SAP's LOB solutions, I would not expect consulting demand for those until 2014 earliest.

    I would also caution folks not to look at these areas simply as products (HANA, ByD, SUP). Look at it in terms of converging tech/business trends: on-demand, mobility, analytics, and in-memory. Does it makes sense to immediately start making the connections between these four trends and your area of SAP? Yes! And that goes whether you are a full time consultant or not. Of course, I think we're all consultants, but that's another story.

    You had some interesting surprises on here, including BPC at the number one slot. Maybe we'll do a podcast getting in-depth into your analysis at some point, that was fun last year.

    Thanks for a great read!

    - Jon