What takes to be successful SAP consultant?
Consultants are required mainly because of two reasons, when a client does not know enough about something or when a client does not know what to do next. SAP is used in about 80% of the Fortune 500 Companies. According to the Pareto principle about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes, or 20% of the SAP consultants make 80% of the money. Based on my research, I have analyzed what are the main areas/characteristics of a successful SAP consultants. This is a rather top level overview and some details may be missing. The following topics will be discussed: SAP knowledge, Domain knowledge, Soft skills and Education.
There are 26 modules in SAP. In 2008, Jon Reed identified the most popular technical skills which were: BI/BW/BO, Solution Manager, NetWeaver Portals, SAP Security, NetWeaver XI/PI, Master Data Management (MDM) and SAP Mobile Device Skills. We can see that in 2015 these skills are still popular and in high demand. As a trainee/intern it is unlikely that you will be able to choose on which one to work on but it is important to identify the modules that you are interested in and invest time and energy to master them. There are very good free courses in openSAP, some of which start in February https://open.sap.com/ , Udemy also provide some good SAP courses. I do not have experience with Sap learning hub so I will leave it for now. Identifying the relevant SAP modules and mastering them is crucial.
Domain knowledge is industry specific knowledge in Finance, Sales, Banking, Telecommunication, Material Management, HR etc. SAP module specific knowledge is tightly coupled with domain knowledge. Although I believe it is important to read books, articles, blogs and courses I strongly support the empirical approach, especially when you need to gain domain knowledge. I believe that the best way to get deep domain knowledge is through work experience. Domain knowledge is one of the key factors of being a top SAP consultant.
There are a lot of soft skills but some of the most important one for SAP consultant are: Being a team player, Being Flexible, Being Effective Communicator, Listener and analyzer. It is not only nice to have these soft skills but I believe it is compulsory. William McKnight in his book 90 Days to success in consulting says that, technical skills are more common and more easily acquired than good communication skills, but you need both to be a top consultant. He also says that people with better technical skills are making far less than he is, because they underestimated the importance of soft skills. Public Speaking and Writing articles are very good way to develop your soft skills and reputation for going the extra mile. For Communication and Listening there is a great course in public speaking from University of Washington in Coursera by Dr. Matt McGarrtity https://www.coursera.org/learn/publicspeaking/outline. Also, Toastmaster international is a great place to practice your public speaking before a public and get constructive criticism. Soft skills are one of the most important traits of being a successful SAP consultant and you should take the time to identify the most important skills and master them.
It is certainly helpful having a degree (Bachelor, Master or Ph.D.) but it is definitely not enough to be a top SAP consultant. The whole industry is very dynamic and it is important to keep up to date with everything that is new and relevant. One way to is be SAP certified, which can be expensive. While I think that certificates are worthy, they are not enough to keep yourself up to date. Constant learning is required and not everyone can manage with that. Albert Einstein: Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think. Having a university degree is important but it signifies the start of the learning rather the end of it.
Finally, we have briefly touched some of the most important areas for being a top SAP consultant. The top SAP consultants have developed their reputation, have built network, have practical abilities deep knowledge and expertise in specific SAP modules, domain specific knowledge, soft skills, and they are constantly updating their skills with various ways of education. There is a great Sun Tzu quote which is: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you will be victorious in every battle. So if we apply the art of war to the SAP consulting it will be something like this: If you know your clients and know yourself, your customers will be satisfied every time.
aspiring SAP consultant.