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I am often inundated with requests for career guidance from those aspirants wishing to enter the amazing world of SAP ERP. While this article covers the dynamics of Pakistan’s SAP ERP market, a lot of same challenges apply elsewhere in the world. Let’s get straight to the article.

Its every professional’s dream to choose a right career that is not only professionally satisfying but also financial rewarding. However, access to career counseling to make better and informed career decisions is one of the areas where we don’t have or find many resources to turn to. As a result, we turn to our friends, family, peers, or mentors to help us choose a career path or make a transition to a different career. A career in SAP ERP can bring great professional satisfaction, while also being financially rewarding.

What is SAP ERP?

SAP stands for Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing and is the largest database software company in the world. SAP is based in Waldorf, Germany. ERP is an abbreviation of Enterprise Resource Planning. ERP helps an enterprise or an organization or a company runs its business effectively by planning its resources efficiently. These resources may be material, manpower or services. SAP ERP is database software that integrates various business functions of a company to eliminate the need of redundant or duplicate data entry. SAP ERP stores all the activities and business functions that the users perform in its database. Eventually all this data helps in making better business decisions in the form of large number of standard reports available.

Current SAP ERP Implementation in Pakistan

ERP market in Pakistan has started to show significant understanding and maturity towards the benefit of implementing a comprehensive and integrated ERP solution. As a result, not only multinationals but also many national companies have now implemented or are considering implementing SAP ERP. Some of the companies with SAP ERP already implemented are Shell Pakistan, Unilever Pakistan, National Foods Limited, Getz Pharma, Ali Gohar Pharma, Herbion Pharma (in process these days), Macter Pharma, Martin Dow Pharma, Aisha Steel Mills, Pakistan Refinery, National Refinery, Pakistan Beverages, Punjab Beverages, Haidri Beverages, Atlas Honda Limited (motorcycles), Indus Motors, Sitara Chemicals, Fauji Fertilizers and Panthar Tyres. There are several potential and upcoming SAP ERP implementation projects in just about all the important industrial sectors.

This article provides a sneak preview of a career in SAP ERP and will be of interest to you, if

  • You are in college or just out of it and considering a career in SAP ERP.
  • A seasoned professional with extensive industry experience and want to know how working with SAP ERP can give your career a boost.
  • You want to understand the demands and dynamics of a consulting career in SAP ERP.


Major Components of SAP ERP

SAP ERP consists of several important components and to effectively segregate the business functions of the company. These components are:

Financial Accounting (FI): It covers the basic accounting business functions of the company such as general ledgers, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash & bank and asset accounting.

Managerial Accounting (CO): Managerial accounting is alternatively referred as Controlling (CO). It covers business functions such as cost centers, profit centers, internal orders and product costing.

Materials Management (MM): It covers business functions such as procurement or purchasing and inventory management. The procurement can be for materials or for services, and can be both local or imports (foreign procurement).

Sales and Distribution (SD): Its covers business functions such as inquiry, quotation, sales order management, and credit and debit memos. It also includes rebates handling, as well as exports sales.

Production Planning (PP): It covers all aspects of production, including time it takes to set up machine, the product manufacturing time as well as labor hours consumed in producing a product. Production wastages, scrap, by-products and co-products are all within the scope of PP component.

Quality Management (QM): Its covers business processes involving quality control and quality checks in all aspects of logistics and supply chain management.

Plant Maintenance (PM): It covers preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance and shutdown maintenance. The PM component enables companies to maintain their production facilities in optimum conditions through timely maintenance.

Project System (PS): It covers business processes to effectively manage project of any size, and includes Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Network, milestones, and confirmation on the progress of project completed.

Human Capital Management (HCM): It includes business processes involving all aspects of managing company’s employees. Time management, personnel development, organization structure and payroll are some of the sub-components of HCM component.

NetWeaver (Basis): It entails the SAP ERP software installation, taking timely backup, disaster recovery. It also includes authorization management to control which process owner is authorized specific set of business transactions.

Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP): ABAP is the programming language of SAP ERP and is used to create custom-developed reports, layouts, screens or scripts.

What Business Process Knowledge, Educational Background or Professional Experience do I need?

Table 1 relates to the SAP ERP components and the corresponding business process knowledge, educational background or professional experience that helps in attaining greater success in SAP ERP career.

SAP ERP Component

Business Process Knowledge, Educational Background or Professional Experience

FI

Accounts

CO

Finance

MM

Procurement, logistics or supply chain management (SCM)

SD

Sales and marketing

PP

Production and operations management, Engineering degree in any discipline

PM

Maintenance management, Engineering degree in any discipline

QM

Logistics or supply chain management (SCM)

PS

Project management including PMP certification

HCM

Human resources management

Netweaver (Basis)

Computer science or computer engineering

ABAP

Computer science or computer engineering

Table 1: Professional experience or educational background needed for relevant SAP ERP component

What does an SAP ERP Implementation Project like?

When a company implements SAP ERP project, it entails going through the five phases. These five phases are the following:

Project Preparation: In this phase, initial training and overview sessions on SAP ERP are held to provide greater understanding of components-specific features and functionalities and how they integrate with each other.

Business Blueprint: In this phase, the existing business processes or business functions of the company are mapped in SAP ERP. In other words, how business process owners will eventually perform the business functions in SAP ERP system. For example, if company is currently using work order to produce a material, this work order will now be referred as production order in SAP ERP.

Realization: In this phase, the SAP ERP system is built to company’s business processes, and massive data collection exercise initiate. The data can be customers, vendors, employees or products of the company. Several rounds of testing are also held in this phase.

Final Preparation: The final SAP ERP system, known as production system, is readied in which the business process owners will enter live and actual data. Final round of SAP ERP system testing and end-users training also take place in this phase.

Go-Live and Support: This is the most critical phase of the project when users are entering live and actual data and occasionally get stuck in the system. Helping users by quickly attending to any errors or problems encountered ensures that the SAP ERP system runs smoothly.

How do I step my foot in the world of SAP ERP?

If you work in a company that plans to implement SAP ERP system, then you should strive to be part of implementation team. You will gain invaluable experience by going through all the five phases just covered and learning what efforts and activities each phase entails. Your biggest asset will be your in-depth and comprehensive business process knowledge of your area of working.

If and when you come to know that a company plans to implement SAP ERP system soon, try to join that company and be a part of the implementation team. You can improve your chances of being hired in such a company if you get the necessary training and certification to stand out from the crowd. See next section on available SAP ERP training options.

If you want to make a consulting career in SAP ERP then try to find opportunities available in several authorized consulting firms in Pakistan. Some of these are Siemens Pakistan, IBM Pakistan, AbacusConsulting, SuperNova, Excellence Delivered (EXD) and Allied VMS. Your chances of getting a break in consulting fields improve if you acquire the necessary training and attain certification from these consulting firms. If you enroll in training program of any of the authorized SAP ERP consulting and training companies, there is a good chance that they will offer your internship, subject to availability of current or upcoming projects or other vacant positions.

SAP ERP Training Options

There are several SAP ERP authorized training centers such as Siemens Pakistan, IBM Pakistan, AbacusConsulting, Imperial Soft, SuperNova, Excellence Delivered (EXD) and Allied VMS. The fee ranges from approximately Euro 5,000 for an intensive 21-days Instructor-lead training (ILT) to approximately Euro 2,100 for 5-months of eAcademy. The eAcademy is computer-based training (CBT) and the trainee can spend as much time as possible to learn approximately 200 hours of training content.

At the end of instructor-led training or eAcademy, the candidate can appear for certification exam. This exam is for three hours and consists of 200 multiple choices questions. Successfully clearing the exam entitles candidates to declare themselves as “Certified SAP Associate Consultant”.  There’s a certification fee of Euro 450. It is always a good idea to check for latest fees schedule, be it training or certification, from your preferred training institute. Also, check to see their hiring policiesfor certified SAP ERP consultants and current or upcoming SAP ERP projects, so you can get a career break.

As a word of caution, you must refrain from considering or attending unauthorized SAP ERP Training institutes as they offer little in terms of career value addition or jobs or projects placement. You must also avoid private tutoring by individuals offering SAP ERP training with steep discounts as well as online and virtual training. In fact, companies accord much lower selection priority to candidates of such unauthorized institutes/outlets.

Career in SAP ERP Consulting or on Client Side

If you work in a company that plans to implement SAP ERP soon and you are part of the implementation team, you will gain enormous value addition to your career when you’ll leverage your business process knowledge to ensure the same is mapped in SAP ERP. However, when the SAP ERP implementation is complete, the SAP ERP system has matured and users are able to routinely perform their business functions in SAP ERP, you’ll have little to contribute except occasional troubleshooting or implementing new functionality. If the company is large enough and have its in-house SAP ERP helpdesk or Competency Center, you’ll be part of the troubleshooting team, at best.

If you work as SAP ERP consultant and in a consulting firm, you’ll have endless opportunities to travel, meet new clients, implement SAP ERP projects for various industries and learn new features and functionality of SAP ERP with its each new release. With each new project or implementation, you career graph will exponentially rise and so will be your compensation. However, a career in SAP ERP consulting has its own limitations, such as you’ll never know how you’ll remain on bench if there is no new project, or when you have to look after more than one projects at a time. Further, as a SAP ERP consultant, it is often unpredictable as to where your next project will be. For example, you are currently deployed to a project in Karachi, but may be your next project will be in Peshawar, Rahim Yar Khan or even in Dubai, or Riyadh (International deployment). This may affects your career planning, for example, if you want to continue further studies or have family commitments that prevent you from being away from home for too long. Obviously, you’ll not be able to move your family with every new project at different locations, as such projects are of normally 6-8 months.

Compensation of SAP ERP Professional

If you work for a company that is implementing SAP ERP, you may be financially rewarded for a lot of hard and long work that goes into implementing the new system. Further, the company wishes to retain such resources to take advantage of all the knowledge and experience gained from SAP ERP implementation for its business continuity.

In the first two years of SAP ERP consulting career, you will often see little or almost no compensation. But this changes dramatically in your favor as you amass more projects’ experience and start taking lead roles. It is also important to highlight that regardless of your industry or professional experience, when you initiate your consulting career in SAP ERP, you are still considered a “Fresher” and must start from the bottom-of-the- ladder.

Table 2 is the general salary break-up of number of projects with compensation. Here a project refers to end-to-end SAP implementation in which the consultant has gone through and managed all the five phases of the project.

Number of SAP ERP Projects

Salary (Rs.) in SAP ERP Consulting

0 – 1

10,000 – 30,000

2 – 3

50,000 – 85,000

4 – 6

125,000 – 175,000

More than 6 projects

200,000 and above

Table 2: Number of SAP ERP implementationprojects and salary breakup

A career in SAP ERP is not just intellectually enriching but also professionally and financially rewarding. However, the start and the initial few years are slightly challenging before you are able to establish yourself as an expert or experienced professional. But, isn’t the learning curve in SAP ERP any different than any other profession, wherein one spends the initial few years digging the knowledge and experience trenches to gain expertise?

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns that I can possibly answer. You can also share your own success (and trials) stories of a career path in SAP ERP in the comments below.

Meanwhile, if you have found this article useful and informative, I encourage you to share it with others so that it benefits greater number of aspirants wishing to enter the amazing world of SAP ERP. Thank you!

*This article first appeared in DAWN’s Spider Magazine.

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