Is there something beyond SAP Certification?
SAP Certification is just a feather in your cap. But, would you only satisfy with that one feather is the question of the hour. Having said this, there are number of feathers, other than certification, that would make a complete SAP consultant. Employers are going beyond SAP Certification and their expectations are completely different. They are looking for a more proactive; business oriented and result driven personality to achieve their business objectives. There are number of skills that would be really required to make an outstanding and authoritative professional. At a personal level, they should be more of integrity, determined, hard working, ethical and energetic.
Though nobody in this world is perfect, every human being is born with special skills and nobody can be underestimated. Practice makes man perfect. If you practice consistently, you would be mastered in any skill; this is as simple as that. Therefore, please do not compare yourself with anybody, every individual is unique and you do not need to worry much about that. You must be having your own strong areas, which are your strengths; you must identify them and work towards getting excelled in those areas. “Believe in yourself”, this belief would make miracles, please trust me, your destiny is in your attitude.
The life is a process of enrichment of skills and learning new things. Learning is a process and there should not be any stoppage until death. One cannot master in all the activities and all cannot master in one activity. Everybody is excelled in their own and special areas, at the same time they should always brush the other new areas. As a professional, everybody must strive hard in order to excel the areas that are lacking behind. If you have a right mindset, nothing is impossible under this Sun and you can make all extraordinary things possible with your hard work. Please never be under the impression that you know everything, this kind of attitude would be a real barrier for growth and this means that you are putting a stop for further learning. Always keep your mind open and think that there are still lot many things to learn. Always think whatever we have learned is just a minuscule in this world.
It is a great privilege and honour to quote JRD Tata’s words here:
“One must forever strive for excellence or even perfection, in any task, however small, and never be satisfied with the second best” – JRD Tata, 1965
Great things in this world are achieved by great people, because of their relentless perseverance.
The following are some of areas that every SAP consultant should look into in order to become a complete consultant over a period of time. It is certain that nobody is perfect in all areas. There will always be an opportunity for improvement in these areas. The key challenge is to identify our weaknesses and keep working on those areas. Hopefully, these areas would help the Consultants in our SAP Community.
1. Extensive Configuration / Hands-on Skills
Being a SAP Consultant, the first and foremost thing the consultant must have is extensive configuration / hands-on experience in their own areas. There are number of sub-modules in each area, therefore, it is not that easy to get extensive configuration / hands on knowledge in one stretch. Therefore, the configuration skills are to be developed over a period of time in different sub-modules. For example for a FI Consultant, they should stretch getting skills in niche areas like Treasury, FSCM, Product Costing, Activity Based Costing etc. Hands on experience is not just SAP Configuration, they should be familiar with all the tools / all relevant Microsoft Products that are required in their job. Particularly, as a Finance Functional Consultant, they should play (Play means literally play) with MS Excel at advanced level, should be familiar with all lookups, functions, pivotal tables, formulas and possibly Macros. (I do not prefer basic formulas, as my kid is already using them . My fingers never allow me to use mouse on Excel, they are so much used to short cuts). SAP Consultant should not be just limited to Configuration, there are also cases where they are required to do “Business Analysis”, therefore, as a functional consultant, and you should play with the numbers. Accordingly, technical and development consultants should stretch towards niche skills and keep getting stronger in those demanding areas.
2. Thorough Business Process Knowledge
Life is not just limited to configuration. If you do configuration for ten times, probably, you would be mastered. But, when it comes to business process knowledge, which is volatile and changing from business to business. All the businesses cannot be same even within the same industry. Therefore, every business operates in its own spectrum. The key challenge, particularly for a functional consultant is to quickly understand the business processes of the client. This can only be achieved by having discussions with number of key users, business users, managers and with Business Heads. Few lucky consultants would also get a chance to discuss with CXO level individuals of their client. In such situations, try to grab the knowledge and experience from your discussions. These discussions would really help you in the longer term when you are dealing with bigger roles. This is an ongoing process by which you will understand the business processes of your client. The key point of the story is “If you have any doubt, please ask, do not hesitate and hold yourself back”.
3. Quality Deliverables
SAP Consultants are being paid high in the market. You or your company will be charging the client for the work that you have undertaken to perform for the Client. The reason you are being appointed by the client, because, lack of niche skills internally in their own organisation. Therefore, the expectations are usually very high from you. Therefore, you must strive yourself hard and pull your socks to deliver the quality deliverables to the satisfaction of the client. Personally, I have seen number of individuals from consultants as well business side, simply wasting the time without having any type of productive and quality output. Unfortunately, they are not even in a position to realise what they are doing and keep on discussing worthless things. Many people are really interested in meetings without any time management and struggle when the delivery time reaches the peak. Instead, those people must always strive for the quality deliverables to be made and meet the expectations. Meetings are important but “ONLY” meetings cannot deliver anything in this world. Every consultant ethically and with wholeheartedly strive towards to the best results to be delivered to the client. Unfortunately, there could some adamant clients; they will never understand your excellent work, which is their real misfortune. End of the story is whether you have given your best or not, that is what most important point is.
4. Good Presentation Skills
Most of the good consultants even tend to struggle at this point. However, there could be some consultants with their limited knowledge excel at these areas. The presentations skills would really helpful in leading the workshops; business blueprint reviews, explaining a new functionality and training etc. Effective presentation in the workshops would make the real difference. This would really helpful in getting the productive output of the meetings. Everybody in this world cannot be an orator; however, they should set themselves to a reasonable speaker and presenter. Particularly, functional consultants, they should be able to explain the SAP functionality in business terminology, as most of the users around you in meetings only talk the business language. They would really appreciate if you can properly explain them in the business language rather than SAP technical terminology.
5. Excellent Communication Skills
Excellent verbal and written communication skills are really helpful to the success of the Consultant. As a SAP consultant, you are required to work globally on different projects in different countries. In certain cases, it is not always possible to know the local communication / language or local dialect to interact with the users. Communication would be a barrier when you are working on an environment where you should know the local language. Therefore, some of the jobs specifically mention the preference knowing the local languages in which you should be able to freely communicate in verbal as well as written. If you do not know such languages, though you are having relevant skills, you should opt out of any such assignments. Therefore, you should prefer the projects which are available in your native / professional language. Excellent Communication is the key to success of any consultant / project.
6. Proactive Client Relationship
Maintain healthy relationship is the key for success of your credibility. This healthy relationship would fetch further opportunities to you and your company. Therefore, you should always listen to the requirements and problems of the Client with bigger ears. It is not just resolving their problems, but you should also give them the proactive solutions and suggestions, which would be appreciated by them. Many normal consultants tend to neglect this area and they would prefer to do what they are supposed to do. But, the excelled consultants will go further beyond and suggest the solutions and share the ideas with the Client. Through your advices, if you can show them the areas where they can save the money, process can be improved, things can be automated etc. they would really give you the respect you deserved. First impression is always the best impression. Create your impact at client places and you will be remembered by the Client for your outstanding contribution towards their business goals.
7. Best Testing Abilities
Testing is one of the enduring jobs, which requires you to record the results meticulously. There are number of testing activities that are required to be performed by you. Few of the types of testing are: Unit Testing, Integration Testing, User Acceptance Testing and Regression Testing. Particularly, as a functional consultant, you may have to play a role in each type of testing. Each test results are to be recorded at a detailed level, as they are the source for any future audit trail. Many times, whether to go live or not will depends on the results of these tests. Some of the tests you are required to perform on your own, some of the tests you should help the users, while they are performing. Sometimes, users might be very new, in such cases; you should go to their level and explain the steps very patiently. This is where you are going to build up the relationships with the users. In all these activities, your detailed observations and helping the users are the real point to be noted.
8. Thorough Team Player
Every person in the team will have their own role to play from Program Manager to Junior Consultant. You would be very lucky if you get the people in your team with no egos. Personal egos are real barrier for the success of any project. Therefore, all the people in the project should strive in helping each other, effectively communicating and working towards the success of the project. Particularly, for functional consultants, they will have to coordinate with technical consultants, in parallel; they should also in tandem with the business people. They are the bridge between the technical team and the business. Usually, business people will not directly interact with the technical team like ABAPers etc. They will explain their business issues or requirements directly to the Functional Consultants, in turn; the functional consultants coordinate with Developers to get the results done. The Consultants should also effectively communicate with the Project Management Team from time to time. In order to increase the levels of friendly environment, project top management should encourage the consultants to attend the after office parties / outings.
Unfortunately, most of the people are not willing to share their knowledge in this world. Unlike money, if you share your knowledge with others, it will be doubled. The bottom line point is, please forget your role / position and keep your personal egos to minimal, try to help your colleagues and clients to the best you can, this would automatically give success to your project.
9. Train the Trainers
Particularly, the functional consultants are required to be the best trainers. They will be interacting with number of key business users and there is a lot of responsibility on the part of functional consultant to train those people. If you are working at a place where SAP has already been implemented for number of years, then dealing with those Users would be a real tough job. Some of the key users would know better than what a consultant knows. Unless, you are at your best and on your toes, you cannot really satisfy those people. You are required to create number of presentations, many times, a picture talks many more things than a document. Therefore, your MS Powerpoint skills must be at its very best. Therefore, as a Consultant you should not only train them but also ensure that they have understood the knowledge and able to apply it independently in future. Consultant is not just for configuration, but as a trainer also he / she will have to play a key role in the project.
10.Outstanding Document Writing Skills
Number of documents will be produced during the course of the documents. AS-IS Templates, Business Process Documents, Business Blueprint, Transaction User Guides (TUGs), End User Documents, Unit Test Documents, Configuration Guides, Functional Specifications, Technical Specifications, Knowledge Transfer Documents, Presentations and Lessons Learned Documents etc. Therefore, each consultant has to take part in some of the above mentioned documents. These documents would go through number of revisions and finally take a sign off from the Client. Therefore, quality document writing is one of the most important skills a consultant must have. Effective writer is the individual who intelligently club the technical world with the business world. These documents will be stored with the client for their life time. Therefore, your personal credibility will be at stake unless you ensure quality documentation at every stage.
If anybody intended to do SAP Certification, that is just a start of the journey, but not the end. Therefore, every consultant who is eager to looking for doing SAP Certification should obviously look into some of the areas, which are beyond Certification.