Employment in the Agile Business
Today’s workplace and employment market requires skills, techniques and adaptability that were unheard of 5 years ago.
Change is Inevitable
According to a 2010 study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers today will change jobs every 4.4 years during their working life. That works out to 7 or more job changes over a thirty year career. People who started their careers in the 1990’s or later likely will experience shorter job tenure. These job changes may or may not be by your choice. The 20th century career model of vertical promotion and pay advancement within a single career track is endangered, if not extinct. The new model combines horizontal, vertical or even downward moves and possibly multiple, different careers.
The End of “Business as Usual”
An agile business is one that can “…adapt rapidly and cost-efficiently in response to changes in the business environment. Business agility can be maintained by maintaining and adapting goods and services to meet customer demands, adjusting to the changes in a business environment and taking advantage of human resources.” (Wikipedia).
IT departments in general continue to face pressures to reduce adapt to or drive business agility. IT organizations have been downsized, right-sized, outsourced, insourced, offshored, nearshored and onshored ad nauseum. Now we might be clouded, consumerized or mobilized. For those engaged in SAP practices these changes are multiplied by the major changes occurring for SAP products, services and SAP itself.
On the web, several blogs have been forecasting an upturn in hiring in the SAP practice areas. (SAP Skills in High Demand via Jarret Pazahanick and Optimal Solutions). The article is quite specific about the skills that are in demand: HANA, BI/BOBJ, Mobility, and SAP BPC. There is always high demand for the latest skills or many years of experience in older skillsets. The many new SAP technologies now in ramp-up or first release have created the expected shortage: SAP’s Innovation Plans May Lead to Skills Gap (via Jarret Pazahanick). In his tweet Jarret commented: “Same old story for the last 15 years.” That is definitely my experience as well. I have developed a theory on the supply/demand relationship between the skills or experience level required in job postings and the skills or experience available in the employee pool. This graph illustrates my theory of supply and demand in the job market for SAP skills.
The graph is totally subjective and with only a relative scale intended. Briefly, the demand is always greater for experience in newer technology or greater experience in existing technologies. Ideally your skills, experience and abilities will find you placed further to the left on the x-axis where the demand is higher and the competition less. Vijay Vijayasankar gives some hope for those with experience in existing technologies in his SCN blog: Road Ahead for SAP Consultants : 2012.
How do you respond to this new job environment? I suggest that it is necessary to become an Agile Employee. Someone who competes in and, hopefully, thrives in the Agile Business. Sitting back doing the “same old thing” the “same old way” no longer works for business or for employees or consultants. If you are full-time employee, you should learn to start thinking like a consultant or entrepreneur. Take stock of your skills, interests, aptitudes and begin looking to enhance your value in your career – today.
What To Do?
Below, in no particular order, I present some techniques, tips, and strategies that might be useful in preparing for this new workplace environment.
- Update and refresh your Resume — NOW! This is a chance to self-examine, review where you were, where you are and where you want to go. Keep an up-to-date log about significant accomplishments, projects completed and goals achieved. Make notes on significant contributions of other team members or co-workers. This journal can be a great help during reviews and the dreaded self-evaluation. These notes can be added to your resume or become the framework of your “career story” that you will be providing in future interviews.
- Network Do not underestimate the power of your network now and in the future. Reconnect with former co-workers, vendors, consultants and others who know you and worked with you. The people who know your capabilities are a source of leads and references. Create a copy of your work contacts; a hard copy is fine as long as you have it saved away from work. Do not consider this network only in terms of what it can do for you; that attitude will only serve to alienate the people who can provide the link to your next job. Become a member of a SAP user group in your area.
- Find your passion — as it applies to your career. This is hard to define, hard to coach and can be hard to attain. Your career and life will improve if you are doing something that you enjoy and motivates you. At least find the aspects of your job that you really like and focus on projects or assignments that allow you to spend more time in those areas. Volunteer for new tasks, new responsibilities, new projects, especially those with new technologies.
- Get training — In this era of shrinking IT budgets, expensive off-site training can be one of the first things to be cut. Tight project schedules also interfere with allowing one week offsite training classes. Consider alternatives: 1)Web-based training classes with flexible schedules outside of normal work hours. 2)Find a partner or mentor in your department or team to learn with. 3)Talk to your manager about cross-training in another area related to your work. 4) Strike out on your own to learn a new skill. Michelle Crapo has a great blog on this topic right here on SCN: How dare anyone comment that Old Grey Haired programmers have to stay with OLD Technology She is passionate about the value, challenge and fun found in learning new skills and improving current skills
- Learn more about the business. Bill Wood had an excellent post on the need for consultants to get business focused: ERP-II & ERP III — SAP Business IT Revolution. Those tips apply equally to permanent employees. The new model for IT departments involves a close partnership with the business to provide services and applications that allow more flexibility (mobility) and improve productivity. Spend a day or two on the help desk to understand what is really causing problems for your end users. Ask about going out to meet with customers where they work to appreciate their perspective of your SAP solutions.
- Social Media Today job seekers, those wanting to learn new skills, or enhance current skills must build a social media presence. Social media is the differentiator of the new, agile employee and yesterday’s employment model. For your professional social media profile extreme care should be taken to separate your personal/social presence and your professional/social presence.
Here are links on social media from SAP Mentor Initiative and other SCN blog postings.
- Personal Brand: from Natascha Thompson: How To Build Your Brand on Social Media
- LinkedIn is the entry-level requirement for building your online professional profile. Consider as if it was your online resume and marketing presence. Google LinkedIn + optimization to find more information about how to maximize your time investment there.
- SCN Because you are reading this, you visit SCN and have found value here. The forums are an excellent source for problem-solving. The educational content is overwhelming. However, do not overlook the value of becoming an active contributor to SCN. Read this blog from Tom Cenens‘ blog: You can’t stop me now. In a tweet Tom related that being active on SCN added value to his job. For SAP professionals SCN should definitely be a part of the learning set. See this post by John Kleeman: Why does SCN Matter?
- The New SCN should feature more built-in social media features and user-friendliness. Share information you find on SCN with your co-workers, it might make a difference in your workplace.
- Twitter The power of people collaborating and sharing knowledge in 140 character conversations is amazing to witness. SCN and the SAP community are quite active on Twitter. The specified item was not found. by Natascha Thompson. How Twitter Helped Me Become a SAP Mentor (on page 8) by Jarret Pazahanick. And a “starter set” of Ten recommended SAP people to follow on Twitter by John Kleeman.
One last item on the new employment realities as presented by SAP Mentor Jon Reed. Jon hosted an Expert Lounge session on the Future of Tech Skills at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas. Take 10 minutes to listen to this Podcast from www.jonerp.com.
I am not a recruiter, a career advisor or hiring manager. This is not presented as advice, counsel or suggestions as to what you should do in your current situation. I am a SAP Basis Administrator (#sapadmin). This list comes from lessons learned during my 3 months of unemployment this spring. There is no doubt that learning and practicing these techniques has made a major difference in my attitude, performance and career satisfaction. One thing I do know: building and optimizing my LinkedIn profile and spending many hours reading and learning on SCN shortened my period of unemployment significantly.
And now I’m off to learn more about HANA, or HTML5, or jquery or BPC, or maybe BOBJ…