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Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal

The journey which ended recently! Over 6 years of career with a SAP Customer

The purpose of sharing my story is not to express emotions, rather its to narrate useful aspects of my career with a SAP customer organization which may help many fellow consultants in predicting what they may expect if they are in situation where I was 6 years ago – at a then newly established SAP Customer Center of Excellence.

Usual Scenarios at a SAP Customer Center of Excellence

Down the line you may have different experience, depending on your role, but in terms of major activities most probably it’ll circulate around the following main situations:

  1. Designing, Developing, Implementing and Deploying Solutions, during implementation,
  2. Stabilizing the production system, in support phase,
  3. Expanding solution landscape to additional functionalities,
  4. Extending solutions to growing organization, to integrate the business,
  5. Assisting business in transforming processes with solutions,

And if you’re still with the organization, even after you’ve gone through most / all of the above situations, chances are you’ll also witness the upgrades.

My SAP experience at Saudi Arabian Airlines dates back to last quarter of 2008 when I joined the project team as an Hewlett Packard – The Implementation Partner’s SAP Consultant. After implementing few solutions initially for 3 of the airlines’ business units and later for the rest 4, I joined its ERP Center of Excellence – an Application Unit within Information Technology Division, just after more than a year. Until then I had ONLY the project experience whereby I had worked for SAP Partners at some of large organizations in Utilities and Public Sectors. Joining customer on a Support Role had its own challenges which I faced and ultimately learned lessons with. Yesterday after completing my one notice period, I finished the journey I started 6+ years ago. Below I’ve shared a brief summary of two different roles I had; functional and support, along with my learning / situation. Please feel free to add, in comments, for benefit of others.

Functional vs Support Consultant

A brief summary of key differences is here:

  • Volume: As a customer’s SAP Consultant, the number of projects where I contributed in, in a way or another, exceeded to many which was different earlier; while working for SAP Partners, at one time I was engaged at one project MOSTLY.
  • Complexity: I learned CoE support role was totally different than the earlier support experience which I had during post go-live. The post-implementation support doesn’t require too much of effort in finding-out the reasons of issues / problems as the solutions are not in full use.
  • Variety: At customer organization, I got chance to explore different roles, even though in organizational hierarchy the position remained same. There were plenty of options to work as a Consultant, Lead & Project Manager. My earlier experience was different with SAP Partners – I was just a Consultant, though worked in different work streams.
  • Scope: With my latest (& longest so far) experience, I got to know how SAP / any ERP fits in overall IT landscape. Working with SAP teams (Functional, Technical & Technology), along with IT teams (PMO, Commercial, Quality Assurance, Sales & Training etc) as well as business teams (SMEs, Functional Managers, Process Owners etc) was so unique & amazing experience which gave me good understanding of IT function.
  • Value: Another great experience which I had here was to understand how the corporate, with its individual business entities operate and how SAP with other IT solutions 1) provide value to CEOs in analyzing where their businesses stand, and 2) helps process owners in ensuring process excellence across the concern.
  • Integration: I also learned how the integrated environment support the whole organization. My previous experience was limited to the modular areas I worked in and hence I couldn’t fully comprehend the value realization concept at that time as I understand it now.

The list is long and I think I should write it again at some other time. For time being I better focus on the 5 major parts of the journey I had with Saudia and which you could have if you join a customer organization in similar situation.

Roles / Situations

  1. Functional Consultant: If you are engaged at an organization for SAP implementation through a service provider, you may have good chances to be considered for a role with them provided your performance at the project is satisfactory, at least in their eyes. So if you are looking for such chance, you have to demonstrate your skills accordingly. Even if that’s not your consideration, delivering good solutions is still required – you have to have a good reference anyways.
  2. Support Consultant: The support role is definitely different than functional. There are quite a few skills you’ve to master; its more about soft skills than the technical ones. To earn name at customer organization is in fact easier than your earlier efforts with service provider where you are always in competition. So if you work properly you can create your value in less time.
  3. Business System Analyst: You might represent your organization while they hire a consulting firm to deliver solutions. As you’re expected to support the solutions, in later stages, which consultant delivers, its better to work along the consultant to understand why a particular approach was followed for a solution and why not other.
  4. Project Lead: Rolling an existing solution is lot easier than designing & implementing one from scratch as the processes & solutions both are known. So when your organization grows, you might be busy in extending solutions to those organizational units. It could be an opportunity for you to experience a ready-made solution deployment.
  5. Business Process Management: During implementation, you may not work with business as extensively as when it comes to process transformation. Sooner or later, organization may need to re-engineer its processes to get most value from the solutions it invested on, earlier. For you – as a SAP solution consultant, its time to demonstrate how the best-practices solutions could meet the business requirements.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      In a COE, as against a project, even minor changes take a long time to evolve through their life cycle. Henc e you don't easily get the satisfaction of an improvement or minor change satisfying the users. Financials consultant need to get deep into domain areas like reconciliation, inter departmental co-ordination, to achieve this closure.

      One advantage of this digression is a first hand knowledge of the pain points which can motivate us to innovate. Induce as to think of solutions to these pain points. The disadvantage is that we will not be allowed to focus on improvements to address the pain points, rather sucked into fixing the existing mess which may have been created by data, culture or training issues.

      With the amount of technological change around us getting deeper into related areas will not provide us enough time to update our skills.

      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author

      As both environments (solution implementation during project and in operations) are different, such delay is expected. At projects, the work is aligned toward the common goal i.e. implement a new solution. However, after a design is in productive use, changing it may have big impact. Hence, the procedure to implement changes is different; usually to bundle the requirements and go through some procedures first before changing the production system.

      Yes, for consultants and end-users it might be frustrating to see how long does it take to address the business requirements. But if we see it from organizational perspective, we'll understand it, maintaining an existing solution is more important than changing it. And you rightly indicated, the consultants are usually focused on fixing the mess, instead of bringing innovations. But as its Support role, you may expect it. You may like to read my another blog in which I summarized what is expected from SAP consultants by SAP users and why?

      Are they serious? Yes, they are! Expectations of SAP Users from SAP Consultants in an Organization.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I understand that. Just presenting another perspective.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Some very interesting points made.

      I shal be addressing the mindset difference of project versus support in an upcoming blog.

      MMany thanks for your input

      Author's profile photo Faisal Iqbal
      Faisal Iqbal
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks. While you cover the two aspects, you may like to touch on Implementation and Support roles as well. I described it in a blog earlier at following link:

      From Implementation to Support Role: Skills you need in addition to modular expertise