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The Cloud effect on CRM careers in South Africa

Britehouse.jpgMy name is Gregory Doukas and I am currently working for Britehouse Specialist SAP Division in South Africa. Britehouse SSD, a SAP Service Alliance Partner, provides some of South Africa’s best SAP expertise, with a proven capability for innovation and rapid delivery of complex projects. With the business world’s eyes on Mobile Applications and Cloud Services, Britehouse has become a frontrunner in these areas in the African arena.

I am currently in the CRM business area as a CRM Technical ABAP Consultant.

The Cloud is slowly but surely starting to effect our day to day work environment and I would like to share my experience:

Which industries/LoB are the most impacted by cloud computing and why?

I find the Sales, Service and Marketing LoBs (all encapsulated under the umbrella of Customer Relationship Management (CRM)) being impacted initially and predominately from the shift to Cloud Computing. Within SAP, CRM has predominately been at the forefront of technology being the first to embrace Web UI technologies as the main UI for end user interaction. In the same way, I believe, CRM will be the main industry to bring cloud technologies to the majority of customers in SAP.

On a wider scale, CRM has already embraced the cloud with multiple Cloud implementations in the likes of SalesForce and Microsoft Dynamics so in many ways SAP CRM is playing catch-up in terms of cloud based technologies. Research has shown customers favoring these cloud based solutions over SAP’s on-premise CRM or competing on-premise solutions hence illustrating an increasing trend for Cloud based CRM solutions. Now SAP has responded with the introduction of Cloud for Customer, comprising of Cloud for Sales, Cloud for Service and Cloud for Social Engagement (the 3 main pillars of CRM). Underpowered by SAP HANA technologies in the cloud for database and hosting, and employing advanced UI rendering technologies (such as Silverlight and HTML5) has allowed SAP to introduce a CRM product to the market that can rival its competition head-on in many aspects and clearly outperform them in others. The offering becomes especially attractive to existing SAP ERP customers thinking of a CRM solution but previously indifferent by the cumbersome and failure-stained CRM 7 (with its infamous wheel of death).

“…a cloud based offering makes great business sense and the first step in the strategic staircase towards a customer focused organization.”

As a consequence, it is the perfect time for any prospective CRM customer (existing SAP customer or not) to consider this SAP CRM cloud offering in Cloud for Customer (C4C). In addition, given CRM’s diverse nature and people orientated approach, a cloud based offering makes great business sense and the first step in the strategic staircase towards a customer focused organization. Technically speaking C4C is easily integrated, provides a native mobile offering, and is easily extendable. Such an offering should be especially good news to end users being given the opportunity to work on streamlined systems and processes with an advanced UI that makes it a pleasure to work with rather than hamper a user’s experience.

In conclusion, given the growth and trends in the CRM space moving towards the cloud and now with SAP’s new C4C product offering, I believe we shall see many customers opting for C4C when looking at implementing CRM. On-premise CRM implementations will still always be relevant but these will eventually be overtaken by C4C implementation projects.

How is the cloud changing your job or jobs in your company?

With the introduction of Cloud for Customer (C4C), we are seeing a radical shift in the responsibilities of consultants assigned to a project. As we try understand all that SAP cloud has to offer, functional consultants are questioning their usefulness in a project: with a project span of 3-6m and a pretty much pre-configured system, the role of a functional consultant has been reduced drastically. In many regards, the functional consultant will become more of a Sales guy trying to sell new features and add-ons to the client.

“… integration will reign supreme with integration to SAP products, third party applications and any open APIs.”

Personally, coming from a SAP Technical background, I see most change in jobs taking place in this space. Gone are the days of pure ABAP’ers, and I see people who stick to only doing ABAP being phased out slowly. Initially they will be needed for migration projects from on-premise to Cloud but eventually they will be the same as mainframe developers… we have them around to maintain those old systems no one else wants to touch and an organization tries endlessly to decommission. A SAP Technical Consultant going forward must be able to understand the Cloud landscaped underpinned by HANA and the extensibility options available to him in this new world of the Cloud. To this end, integration will reign supreme with integration to SAP products, third party applications and any open APIs. In accomplishing this, a keen understanding and effective use of open-source technologies will greatly assist a technical consultant going forward. I believe SAP from a technical perspective is moving from pure proprietary technologies (like ABAP) to more open source, embracing the trends. A good example of this is SAP’s SAPUI5 framework and decision to make it open source for the community to consume, enhance and improve upon.

On a wider scale, working for a SAP accredited partner in the professional services industry, I see the company shifting from a pure professional services model, i.e. selling people resources, to additionally a product development house selling pre-build products (or add-ons). Customers are tired of long project lifecycles, unknowns and empty promises and I believe the company that can demo a >75% pre-build product has much higher success to win the business over the company who needs to build from scratch, extending project timelines and adding complexity to the project. In traditional software development projects this has been common practice with customers opting for a COTS approach: looking for “Commercial off the Shelf” products and adjusting/building for the gaps. In accomplishing this, the profit model of the a professional services organization will shift to allow for incurring an initial expense of building products with in-house resources and reselling these products to cover the expense and make a profit.

Which new job opportunities are being created?

From a project perspective, the introduction of the cloud should see a rise in opportunities for functional/business consultants to rapidly deploy cloud solutions in an organizations. Similar to the role of a functional consultant today but working on a much simpler platform, being the cloud, and requiring much less effort to configure the system. The functional consultant of the cloud will need to understand cloud technologies and especially the possible integration points that are available to him. Furthermore we shall see consultants specializing in the specific implementation of C4C with Sales, Service, and Social Engagements experts.

“…the reality now is that you now need 3 skill sets going forward (Cloud developer, integration expert and back-end ABAP’er) for what was predominately achieved by an ABAP’er…

On the technical front, I believe we should see many new opportunities for a wide variety of developers. With C4C project requirements for technical resources will shift from ABAP to Java (SAPUI5 based screens) and/or C# (Silverlight and related screens). Then if you need integration to existing ERP/CRM on premise solutions, gone are the days of CRM middleware but an integration specialist will have to be brought along that specializes in either Hana Cloud Integration (HCI) or XI/PI. An ABAP guy will only be needed to extend ERP/CRM interfaces and/or build custom interfaces to the cloud. Unfortunately, the reality now is that you now need 3 skill sets going forward (Cloud developer, integration expert and back-end ABAP’er) for what was predominately achieved by an ABAP’er and the functional guy. Granted the world in the cloud should be simpler and straight forward but I guess we will see about that!

Are any jobs at risk?

I don’t believe we shall see any jobs being lost because of cloud technologies but rather these jobs transforming to respective cloud job opportunities. SAP ABAP developers will transition into the cloud by up skilling into one of the new technologies like JAVA or C#. Alternatively they will remain ABAP developers maintaining existing ERP systems, working on migration projects and taking care of interfaces between ERP and new Cloud systems. Integration specialists (either in CRM middleware and/or PI) will still be crucial in any project with their role adapting to the new cloud technologies and configuration of integration flows through HCI.

In a similar fashion, most jobs will transition naturally into the cloud if people are willing to adapt and accept the new technologies, functionality and vast new opportunities the cloud will bring.

Which skills do you need?

I am a strong believer in the more you know, the better off you are in the long run irrespective if what you learn has a direct correlation with you day-to-day job. And this couldn’t be more prevalent then now with cloud based technologies. Specifically from a technical perspective, any skill related to integration, web technologies and social media will greatly assist you moving forward. HANA, JAVA, HTML5 and C# seem to be the most prevalent technologies for C4C with skills in web service (REST, oData, SOAP, or other), Twitter and Facebook feeds, cloud hosting and mobile development being greatly advantageous. Finally, and possibly the most important skill working with cloud computing, will be your ability to adapt and embrace new opportunities.

“…we are moving to a more social and interconnected world with seamless integration between systems and social media right at the epicenter of it all.”

With the cloud being still relevantly in its infancy, the industry is transforming at a rapid pace and keeping up with these changes will be vitally important in a cloud based IT career, functional, technical or other. Furthermore, with cloud and IT in general, we are moving to a more social and interconnected world with seamless integration between systems and social media right at the epicenter of it all. A keen understanding of these social media concepts and platforms and what they could mean for your customer will differentiates great consultants from everyone else. Gone are the days that just knowing and specializing in a single module or system will be sufficient in your role as customers will demand a coherently interconnected system that just works…simple, intuitive and powerful.

It is definitely an exciting time for anyone working with cloud based technologies and we shall see many new exciting things coming from the cloud. Just be ready to endorse it and be ahead of the curve, stay up to date with new technologies and keep on learning.

What are the education options?

Education options for cloud computing and cloud based solutions are becoming more and more widespread. From a tertiary perspective, most tertiary institutes employ courses that outline the cloud and what it means going forward in the industry. Furthermore, SAP training provides various education options for the new cloud technologies available within SAP. Specific specialized skills (JAVA, C#, HTML5) can be addressed through various courses at tertiary institutions or colleges.

However this type of formal education is only the first step in staying relevant in cloud computing. The most valuable education will come from online communities and self-learning on the web. My greatest advice to anyone would be to join any blog or community relevant to their chosen cloud technology, to follow and partake in these communities and subsequently learn from fellow contributors. SAP’s service marketplace website provides great insight into new cloud technologies and additionally, the SCN community is a great place to find information on any new SAP technology. More formal training can be found on website with a multitude of courses focusing on HANA, cloud technologies and integration.

In conclusion – keep digging, researching and exploring all your available options. The cloud world is new to everyone and what we see today and what will be there in 5 years will most probably be radically different.

Embrace online communities, peer learning and sharing and before you know it, you will be the expert in your field.


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For more opinions on how Cloud Computing may affect your Industry and/or Line of Business (LoB) – and thus your career, read here:

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      Author's profile photo Schalk Viljoen
      Schalk Viljoen

      very valuable feedback from South Africa - thanks Gregory!

      Author's profile photo Gaurab Banerji
      Gaurab Banerji

      Cloud systems are highly centralized and are bandwidth consuming. A Non- Centralized system can exploit the processing power of all systems in the network. A major natural calamity can lead to breakdown of centralized system and total halt to business. It is better to maintain a non centralized system as it has much better chances of survival.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you for your comments Gaurab.

      Yes, cloud systems are indeed highly centralized and somewhat bandwidth consuming but we are slowly moving to a world where bandwidth constraints are falling away. Non-centralized systems, depending on the scale of your network, can be highly complex and additionally even more bandwidth intensive. In general the PaaS model offers an unprecedented amount of choice and flexibility that you just can't find in non-centralized systems. In terms of major natural calamities, there are several blogs around SCN discussing SAP cloud backups, security and compliance in ensuring minimal downtime.

      Ultimately, i do agree that a centralized system may not be for everyone and every organisation will have to weigh the pros and cons of both options against their business requirement, strategy and growth into the market.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Gregory,

      Thank you for a very interesting article. You mentioned that functional consultants during initial phase of cloud implementations can perform role of sales guy + cloud set up. But once cloud implementation market matures in couple of years do you see that the need for CRM functional resources to come down drastically? Also what will be the impact on functional consultants at client side as full time employees? Will those kind of jobs be gone? With SAP CRM losing eCommerce jobs to Hybris could it make situation worse for CRM functional consultants?

      Author's profile photo Kendal Evans
      Kendal Evans

      Hi Praveen,

      To answer your question about roles of functional consultants, in my opinion –

      “…once cloud implementation market matures in couple of years do you see that the need for CRM functional resources to come down drastically?”

      I also questioned my role and wondered about this same thing when SAP launched their RDS for CRM. Thoughts of how much time I will actually be spending on projects if we are implementing in a time span of 8-12 weeks. I do agree with Gregory about our life span shortening on projects. This however, does not mean we will be on fewer projects. SAP themselves have aimed to shorten overall implementation times on projects for the reasons Gregory has already mentioned with regards to on premise solutions and the bad taste that can be left in a customer’s mouth because of costs, time, complexity and, in some cases, empty promises. But they are also doing this to produce more opportunities with more customers. Lowered costs alone mean more customers have the opportunity to deploy SAP as a solution for their companies.

      As Gregory also said, we are playing catch-up with other major CRM players in the cloud and it is the responsibility of not only SAP, but the SAP partners and consultants to make sure the market recognizes what SAP has to offer in the cloud.

      This is where we (Functional Consultants) play a vital role.
      We are consultants, advisors. We remain the ones who have the opportunity to engage with customers and inform them on what this new solution offers them and how they will leverage this to improve customer engagement and experience. It is up to us to study this new technology, to know it’s ins-and-outs (integration, flexibility, capability, pain points etc.) and to then advise and convince customers that we will make it work for them where we can. Furthermore, we need to know and  understand what the customer plans and expects for the future and to give them a functional solution that will execute a smooth transition for future phases of CRM.

      We will be the hand-holders and the ‘go-to’ guys for customers, not the technical guys and not the pre-sales guys. As SAP delivers more pre-built solutions and our configuration effort lessens, it only means SAP partners have to drive for more implementations to fill the gaps. Remember that on-premise has its place and is not being replaced, but complimented by C4C. So, we still have our work cut out there.

      The same applies for consultants in permanent roles at customers. There are improvement releases quarterly for C4C.

      Our places will be reserved by harnessing our experience as consultants and advisors, not only implementers, along with the homework we do now to understand this product for our customers. The need for us will never go away as long as we can adapt to changing technologies. This is how good functional consultants will remain relevant throughout.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Kendal,

      Thank you for your POV and I am in agreement with it especially the part about adapting to new technologies and sticking to solutions that improve operational efficiencies as well as user experience and they provide best ROI for clients’ spend on CRM initiatives. I agree that on premise will continue to have its space (rather a shrunk space) but will become a niche market as cloud space grows. With increase in cloud implementations  On premise share of overall CRM budget/spend coming  down does not only create a need for SAP CRM functional consultant to learn and adapt new technology but also change other softer aspects such as frequent travel, shorter projects and higher competition with other packages like MS dynamics or SFDC. Once we are in cloud space there will be stiff competition from MS Dynamics (Going to be a leader in couple of years) and SFDC (If not already taken over by MS) and hence may not always be true that higher number of CRM implementations will compensate loss of project work for on premise SAP CRM consultants even though they adapt to SAP C4C. Currently on premise SAP CRM consultants are engaged in 12 month implementations or are in support, upgrade engagements. Compare it with 3 month cloud projects with no support, upgrade opportunities.  I am in no way saying that this is not good. I just want all my SAP CRM friends to acknowledge the situation and find out ways to train themselves and prepare for this challenge. There are many of us that over a period added skills such as web UI, middleware, sales, marketing, CIC, service, groupware integration, ISA, WECEM, IPC and ever changing mobile solution. While lot of technology areas offer period of consolidation SAP CRM space does not seem to get its turn yet. I would expect SAP to be more proactive in providing platform for training in CRM cloud space. Consultants with strong package knowledge could prove to be good ambassadors in promoting C4C.