How to start a career as an SAP Functional Consultant in India
I will try and answer a few frequently asked questions on making an entry (and a Career) in SAP as a Functional Consultant in India . The answers are based on my observations of the Indian SAP scene over the last 8 years, and not backed by any research. This is a personal opinion and not necessarily shared or endorsed by my employer.
Question: I am a professional with X years (from Nil to 15 or more) years of industry experience and want to make a career as an SAP Consultant. Will an SAP certification guarantee me a position as an SAP consultant in a company ?
Answer: The simple answer is NO. An SAP Certification will NOT guarantee a job. While the agencies ( SAP and its authorized education partners) selling the Certification training often make tall claims of “placement assistance” and 100 % placement, this is merely sales talk. Once you have enrolled and paid the fees, they do no more than act as a post office. If you are lucky there might be some company looking for SAP certified freshers around the time you complete Certification and the company might contact the training agency, who will then refer you. My estimate is that less than 20% Certified freshers get placed through the training agency, and this tells me that the training agencies are really NOT doing any great deal of concept selling to prospective / potential employers of Certified SAP Consultants.
(If anyone from SAP or an Authorised training agency is reading this and would like to dispute my estimate, I would only be too happy to be corrected)
Question: So is certification of any use?
Answer: This one is not so simple to answer. First, please bear in mind that while there is strong demand for SAP Consultants, very few IT large companies (in fact not more than 2 or 3) take Freshers, Certified or non-certified. The problem is that while IT companies have large programs for Graduate / Entry level hiring of BE/ BTech/ MCA, when it comes to SAP Functional consultants, everyone wants consultants with experience. So how do you get experienced consultants if there are no openings for freshers ? It’s a classic chicken and egg story, to which the IT companies by and large have either not found a proper answer or do not want to find an answer. The current solution seems to be to take experienced people from other companies and sometimes through the contact hire route. I will write more about the contract hire issue later in this note.
So the Certification has a very limited utility. In cases where companies take freshers, SAP Certification might carry some weight, but is, as I said before, not a guarantee for a job. A certification may sometimes be specified as minimum eligibility criteria in selection of freshers, but this is extremely rare. I am not aware of any large scale recruitment where certification was used as the only screening criteria. At best, with a certification , you have a slightly better chance of being short-listed/ selected than another person with an identical profile but no certification.
Typically, companies look for
- for industry experience AND
- some minimum SAP experience (usually 1 to 2 yrs) OR SAP Certification (with or without SAP experience)
Also keep in mind, that once a person has acquired some experience as an SAP consultant (say 3 plus years) , the value of certification becomes almost NIL. There was a time (say 2007 or before) when some clients insisted that Consultants should be certified, but those days are over.
Question: So if the industry is looking for experienced consultants and not taking freshers, how is the total pool of SAP consultants growing?
Answer: There are several streams from where the IT industry gets consultants to add to the total pool
- From Indian companies that implement SAP. Core team members, once they have acquired some experience in their company (say 2 to 3 years) have a good chance to move on to IT companies as SAP consultants. Please note that while IT companies usually do take Core team members, they will not take end-users/ super users
- As mentioned above some hiring of freshers does happen.
- Contract hire route. Companies take SAP Consultants on contract from various sources. Later, depending on demand and individual capability they are absorbed as employees. The logical questions here is .. where do the contract resources get their initial experience ? The catch here is that many of the contract hires have fake experience on their CVs. These are people who take training from unauthorized institutes. The institute then helps them “manufacture” suitable experience. Some of them get absorbed by smaller SAP outfits and get real experience. After getting an year or so of real experience , they “clean up” the CV and may then get a contract position with a larger company. In my estimate, this is also the largest channel for addition to the SAP talent pool. It is not an ethical practice, but it is happening because the IT industry has not really taken the trouble to find a better solution. This is a very sad situation, because I have often noticed that while the fake CV resources may finally get real experience, their communication skills are usually poor. Not only I totally disapprove of this fake CV practice, I also want to add that this route is very risky as IT companies have found methods to spot fake experience and if an employee is caught he can be sent to jail in addition to losing his job.
Question: So keeping in mind all the above, should I do a Certification ?
Answer : My advice would be NO. Unless of course if you have Rs 3.50 lacs to spare and take a risk, go ahead.
Question: I am thinking quitting my job and doing SAP training. Should I quit.
Answer: ABSOLUTELY NO !!!! Find a method to gettraining while continuing in the job.
Question: So how do I make a career as an SAP consultant?
Answer: As I pointed out earlier there are multiple streams.
- If you are working for a company which is implementing or has implemented SAP, try and get into the Core team or the Support Team. The crucial thing is that you should be doing (at least as a significant part of your total work) an SAP role and not just be an SAP end-user.
- If you are not working in such a company, join a company where you might get this opportunity.
- Keep a look-out for IT companies running Fresher hiring. Now the problem is that while the number of positions IT companies have may be 400 per year, the number of applicants is at least 10 times more. So IT companies often do an “employee referral hire only” recruitment drive. Therefore keep in touch with friends/ relatives who work for large IT companies.
- Keep abreast of the industry requirements through sites such as Linked in
- Join a training program… the cost is usually one tenth of the authorised one. Then try and get into a small SAP company, but DO NOT repeat DO NOT use fake experience. Firstly because it is unethical, and secondly because giving fake experience is a criminal offence and you could be sent to jail.
As I said at the beginning, this is my personal opinion based on observation. No research has gone into it. I would welcome comments, corrections and criticism.
Finally a bit of advice to aspirants. Please improve your English communication skills. Even if you have certification you will get rejected if communication skills are poor. My observation is that 50 % of certified candidates do not have adequate communication skills. You have spent or are planning to send money on SAP training …at best SAP knowledge has a shelf life of 10 years. So consider spending money on communication skills, they last a lifetime.