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My tryst with SAP APO

Like many of us, I too began my IT career as an entry level consultant. I was a campus recruit with 2 years of prior experience in core manufacturing (but a fresher in IT Consulting). During those 2 years (2004-06) of work in Manufacturing industry, I did come across an ERP product called Baan. I was an end user in Production Planning area but as a trainee engineer my initial assignment was just to maintain master data (BOM, routing, recipe etc.) 😕 . There was no formal training imparted. They termed it “On the Job” training 😛 . Moreover, I was asked to attend office in 2nd or 3rd shift because I had to share desktop with a senior colleague. I didn’t even had my own log-in ID as I was told that the company has to pay license cost for every log-in created. In short, a mechanical engineer was doing a job of data entry operator 🙁 😯 . This went on for an year after which I got a dedicated desk, a desktop and my own log-in ID. Now I was looked after as an experienced Baan user. I explored and learned a lot of other functions on my own. So overall it was not very exciting work but I used to boast about working on an ERP product. Now, I think of that experience as an indicator of what destiny had planned for me 🙂 .

After investing 2 years in a full time MBA course for so called polishing of managerial and consulting skills, I was eager to kick start my career with one of the Top IT Service company in India but unlike my previous employer this one was not going to believe in my skills blindly. They asked me to report to their training center in Hyderabad (India). A 6 week training program was lined up for hundreds of fresh & experienced MBA graduates who had joined this company along with me. So the journey began. Some 3-4 batches of 100-120 consultants each were formed. In first half of the journey (initial 3 weeks) we were trained on basic concepts like data base, PL/SQL, ITIL, software products & services, SaaS etc. We also attended lectures which introduced us to various packaged applications (Eg. SAP FI/CO, Oracle Manufacturing, SAP PP / MM / SD, SCM packages like i2, Ariba, Manugistics, Oracle ASCP, SAP APO to list a few) and were explained which area of business do they fit with. We were also informed about the market share & prospects of these applications. At the end of 3 weeks we appeared for an objective test to prove our understanding of the basic concepts. A score of min 70% was required for passing the test! (an option to reappear for the test was also available J). For someone from Engineering background this kind of passing criteria was a cruel joke. 😀

Then came an important twist. We were asked to give two choices of the packages on which we would like to get trained along with 2 choices to decide on our base location (among the ones from where the company operated). We could also indicate our preference (Package or Base Location). We were told that Company would try to meet at least 1 of the 4 options (i.e. 2 packages & 2 locations) given by us. This was kind of bizarre. Everyone knew that a basic expectation from consultant is flexibility to travel. So what is the point in preferring a location over a package? Imagine an MBA Finance graduate giving preference of location over package and thus getting assigned to Oracle Manufacturing package at his preferred location! Nevertheless, it was just an option available. I decided to give preference to package and listed SAP SD and SCM (not specifically SAP APO) as my two options as I came from Operations management background and was more inclined towards Supply chain management. Of course, I did mention my two preferred locations of Bangalore & Pune (if at all the authorities consider this option too 😉 ).

These preferences were collected from all the trainees and were then aligned with Package specific and Location specific corporate targets. We all waited eagerly for the results. Then came that moment when I found myself amongst few fortunate trainees who were allocated both the package and location of their choice. My base location was decided as Bangalore and I was allocated to be trained in SCM package. But the battle was only half won. Management had not yet decided which SCM package will be selected for training of our batch. Rumors were rife that Demantra and Oracle ASCP are the front runners. For me and my fellow trainees it made little sense because that time we didn’t know the career prospects we would have had in either of these packages but with some internal & external guidance we were convinced that we should get trained either in a SAP or an Oracle product because of the brand name associated and their respective leadership in market. Our conviction made little difference though because the decision makers had corporate mandates & outlook etc. as deciding factors. Finally after lot of deliberations it was decided that this batch of (To be) SCM Consultants will be trained in SAP APO package. All of us (from the batch) were very happy.

In second half of the journey, we spent 3 weeks on APO focused training. Classroom as well as Hands-on sessions for APO Demand Planning  (DP) & APO Supply Network Planning (SNP) were conducted. DP and SNP configuration was covered in detail and basic introduction to Core Interface (CIF) & PPDS was also covered in the course curriculum. Training went through like a typical MBA class with surprise tests, interactive QnA sessions, case study etc. These 3 weeks of package specific training was followed by another Object oriented question examination along with an Oral exam to prove our understanding of concepts. Thus I got (internally) certified as an SAP APO Consultant 😎 . Spent next 10-12 months as a shadow resource on some production support projects to gain more confidence on the actual application of concepts and resolution of tickets.

Today, after spending 5 years as SAP APO Consultant, I still think about that one day (the day of the twist) when someone somewhere decided that let’s develop Ravi as a SAP APO consultant. How different my career would have been if I would have got trained in SAP SD or SAP MM or any other package. I think that day really defined my career and would stand out as the day I had my tryst with SAP APO 😀

I will try to pen some thoughts about my initial days in SAP APO some other time. Hope my story was not too boring. Would be interesting to know about your experiences too! Do share!

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