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Last week I got a call from a friend, who wanted to know- How to transition from his current job in the manufacturing industry to become an SAP consultant?  He has heard of several people that moved from other professions to the “lucrative” world of SAP consulting.  So, he wanted to know if he could go through some training in any SAP module or do something else to gain “SAP skills”.

I have heard similar questions not just from mid-career professionals like my friend, but from recent college graduates as well.

I find it somewhat amusing that people generally assume that most SAP professionals are in some consulting/ contracting type role: constantly traveling, installing SAP somewhere or the other and making big-bucks.  But, it is true that being an SAP Consultant is perhaps one of the more common (and visible) roles played by a professional in the “SAP world”- whether or not earning big bucks 🙂

Is there a 5 Year Rule?

I have often wondered- Is there a minimum experience level to become an effective and successful SAP consultant?

A tale from the field:  A few years ago an SAP consultant who worked in my project team as an independent contractor, expressed that it takes at least 5 years of hands-on experience working on SAP projects. Being effective and successful in this context are measured by two factors (a) acquiring proficiency and skills for the role (e.g., FI/CO, MM or SRM consultant), and (b) customer or hiring manager having enough confidence in your ability to deliver. 

So, is there anything like a “5 year rule”? Or is this a myth?

It is true that there is a certain degree of training, experience and maturity needed to do justice to the role – whether a business/functional consultant, a technology focused consultant, a solution expert or a project manager.  There is definitely a “knowledge barrier” and to be successful you should have witnessed, experienced and learned from real customer situations, and not just have attended some training programs.

However, having said that, the need for relevant and structured training cannot be de-emphasized.   SAP Education and many other companies provide quality training for SAP consultants. 

Back to the question – Is there a certain number of years of experience required to do the job? 

In my opinion the “number of years” would depend on factors such as:

  • Role on the project team- whether functioning as a leader or in supporting cast
  • Nature and complexity of project/ assignment
  • Prior/relevant experience in the business function/ industry/ technology, etc.
  • Flexibility, adaptability, and ability to learn.

I have seen in some cases, relatively new consultants being fairly successful – whether in understanding customer requirements, exhibiting ability to design/ configure SAP solution, solving technical issue, or articulating and solving customer problems.  However, there is no denying the fact that a consultant with several years of relevant and current experience has a higher probability of succeeding.

An important aspect is cultivating young talent to get ready for the job.  After all, every experienced consultant first starts at entry-level.  SAP Services and its service partners have programs in place to recruit and groom professionals.  SAP even offers a Corporate Master Program for promising junior managers and recent college graduates to get a jump-start on their careers.

Game Changer for SAP Consultants?

Will a different level/type of experience be required in the coming years due to new innovations and advancements in service methodologies?

There are new and complimenting approaches such as SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions and methodologies e.g., Advanced Delivery Management for implementing SAP projects.  These new approaches embrace the philosophy of fixed-scope and pre-assembled solutions that can jump-start SAP projects as well as reduce the implementation complexity.   Also there are new innovations in SAP space- e.g., HANA, Analytics, Mobile and Cloud Computing that consultants must adapt to.

I think, the knowledge and experience-level of SAP Consultants will continue to be important in future.  The skills and experience requirement may however be different than it is today, due to advancements in technology and delivery approaches.

Please let me know your thoughts on this topic. 

I am a Sr. Principal with SAP’s Business Transformation Services group.  Prior to SAP, I worked at a large consulting firm as Partner and management consultant. Please respond with your comments to this blog on SCN.  You may email me privately @ anil.joshi@sap.com

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  1. Luke Marson

    Hi Anil,

    Good blog. Many people want to get into a “big money” industry and some see the entry-level or required skills as less for SAP consulting. I think this is probably because, when compared to something like engineering, you don’t see any real “hard” skills or qualifications (ABAPing aside 😉 ). Of course, soft skills are incredibly important.

    I don’t think many people realize that to consult about something means that you have to know about something! Too many people think they can walk in and earn good money, but just like everything it requires hard work, discipline and good skills that can continuously develop.

    Experience, for me, is not necessarily about number of years. Of course, this is a good yardstick, but generally good people with the right exposure (as you point out) can master something in a much shorter time than average people with the right exposure or good people with the wrong exposure. I expect these type of people might be the exception rather than the rule. Whatever the rule might be, hard work over a long-time and trying to master your field is what earns you good money – irrespective of whether this is in SAP or any other field.

    Onto your last point, there does seem to be a change in consulting coming in respect to HCM. Cloud technology (SuccessFactors, SAP NetWeaver Cloud platform, etc) will mean different skills, such as managing multiple projects and being far more functional than before. Technical skills will shift, but will still exist in one form or another. People with strong functional and process skills will be the fittest in the race for survival. Those in the middle will mostly likely be the weakest of the pack.

    However, you look at it – there are changes ahead…

    Best regards,

    Luke

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    1. Anil Joshi Post author

      Hi Luke,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Your observation about consultants needing “soft-skills” is spot-on. Some SAP professionals confuse the “number of years in SAP consulting” to be the all important criterion to be successful.  Its true that there is so much more to being a “successful” consultant- as you have pointed out.

      It will be interesting to see the shift in consulting skill-set requirements in areas such as HCM.  I agree this shift is more likely to be in functional space.

      Best regards,

      Anil

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