Being a SAP consultant and working for implementation or support projects, the main parameter that measures our performance is how happy our customer is with our work. The managers are always on a lookout for any appreciation or positive feedback received from the clients that can validate the success of a project and the customer service. However, at times in the rush and pressure of service delivery we tend to forget thinking from the business point of view. Listed below are a few pointers which I believe that every consultant should keep in mind when dealing with clients / end users.


1. Understand the issue/requirement with an open mind
One mistake that many consultants tend to make is to immediately start co-relating the business requirement with the system configurations that they know or have done earlier in that area. We need to understand each requirement or incident from an open mind and first try to understand the business process that’s driving the requirement or issue. Only once this is understood clearly, you would have a better idea of how to transform this into SAP. In case a particular business requirement just cannot be met by any possible method then explain the same to the client with proper reasoning. The client would appreciate it if he knows that you have tried all possible options to achieve it first instead of saying no to it straight away.


2. Ask relevant questions only

Being a functional consultant, clients expect us to be aware of the basic business processes of the industry and how they are mapped in the system. So while resolving an issue or configuring a new requirement when you ask the user for certain clarifications, make sure that your questions are relevant and related to the topic. Avoid asking extremely basic questions or repeating the questions which have already been answered by the user earlier.


3. Provide Progressive Updates

Whenever you are working on any incident or requirement that is complicated and time consuming, keep providing time to time updates to the user on the same. This will keep the user assured that you are working on it dedicatedly and are making significant progress. However, make sure that the updates are meaningful and not sent out only for the sake of writing a mail. Any update should clearly point out how much work has been completed and the target date by which you are aiming to complete the remaining.


4. Do not promise timelines that cannot be met

When resolving critical issues, consultants tend to give out timelines that they haven’t thought through properly. This is one habit that can annoy the client very much. Whenever you are working on anything critical, firstly assess if you know the solution to the problem. If you do, then estimate how much time would it take to resolve and deliver and then accordingly update the client. If you do not know the solution already and need to do some research or tests, do not promise any definite timeline. Let the user know of the complexity of the issue and the possible side effects if the solution is delivered in haste without being sure. Assure the client that you wish to deliver an error-free solution for which you need to extra time. Any client would prefer a solution delivered with some extra time instead of one that causes further issues due to undiscovered side-effects. However, keep the client updated on the progress even though you have an extended timeline.


5. Explain the client in business language instead of technical jargons

It should always be kept in mind that the people to whom we deliver our solution or give updates are end users who may not know the technicalities of SAP. Thus, when communicating with the business users, make sure that you do not use technical jargons or try explaining configuration concepts as they won’t understand it. Always simplify your communications by explaining in business process language which would be easier for the clients to relate to.


Regards

Shruti

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36 Comments

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  1. Joao Sousa

    Good pointers.

    The managers are always on a lookout for any appreciation or positive feedback received from the clients

    It gets tricky when you have different stakeholder with contradictory expectations. This is specially relevant if you are working via IT with a business unit. The objectives of IT are not the same as the business unit, so making everyone happy is not always possible. 🙂

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    1. Shruti Joshi Post author

      Hi Joao

      Agree that making everyone happy is not always easy or possible but our attempts should always be towards striving to achieve it. Trying is all that we can do.

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  2. Subhasish Ghosal

    As a general rules points looks great but it also purely depends on the situations, project environments, whom you are interacting with- is it Super users, is it solution architect, is it process leads, is it interface experts, is it IT Lead etc.

    Off course we need to be game changer or somebody who will provide valuable inputs in regards to processes, solutions, functionality etc but we should not forget the most important point to adhere is act and react according to the situations and environment.

    Also know your & your organisations limitations when you are going to interact with client as that will help you to act appropriately to safefuard your interest and your organisations.

    If you are not aware about the limitations then its bettter to know before your prepare to appriase your discussions forward.

    Thanks & Regards

    Subhasish

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    1. Shruti Joshi Post author

      Hi Subhasish

      Yes I agree that a lot depends on the situation that we are in. However, I am a believer that its difficult situations that give you a chance to recognize your own potential and skills. And only when you are able to handle it successfully it shows your true caliber.

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  3. Jobi Sebastian

    Hi Shruti,

    good one, brief though.

    I have  a view that, its good to ask questions, even if its basic, to understand the requirement clearly, if required. I have seen that, many a times , even before user explains the issue/requirement, the consultant pre-assumes and suggests solution. And many consultants do that thinking that asking many basic questions may leave the user with an impression that the consultant is not knowledgeable. I felt, this can be avoided, if you have given value to your customer and solved the issues promptly and professionally. Once you prove your ability, then there is no worries abt asking any questions, if its required.

    Regards

    Jobi

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    1. Joao Sousa

      There is a trade off that must be made. If you make all the little questions and suggest nothing, the user will explain the requirement as the process is in the current system. If he is implementing a new system the process may change, it’s not always the right things to leave the requirement solely on the side of the business user.

      In my last project the users wanted to create a different SKU for different units of measure, and even for different purchase prices. Because their old system required this.

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    2. Shruti Joshi Post author

      Hi Jobi

      I wont say I disagree to your views but I think that we should keep our queries relevant to the topic even if its basic. I think if there is some new knowledge that you are going to get by asking that query then there is no harm asking. But at the same time you should first do some brainstorming with peers before directly reaching out to the client.

      Also what I have observed in support projects where there are SLAs to meet, consultants tend to ask any silly query just so that they can mark the incident as on hold for business clarification. While some people consider this ok from SLA saving perspective but this definitely doesnt create a very good impression on the client and thus should be avoided whenever possible.

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  4. Mahesh Reddy

    Dear Shruti,

    I Have 2 yrs of experience in Other Field but I have done SAP MM Model  I have interested in this field. Then what i do. plz help me…

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    1. Joao Sousa

      People have no clue who you are, where you are from, where you want to work, what is your experience for those 2 years, etc, etc. How can you expect “life wisdom”?

      What you should do? Think real hard before asking questions, that would be a good start. I’m not being harsh, I’m being realistic. If that is your real name, and I saw this question in a forum, it wouldn’t look good for a job opportunity.

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  5. Jagadish AC

    Hi Shruti.

    It is nice blog.  all points are required keep in mind.

    addition to your points I would like to add below one point.

    If issues relevance is taking time  or it is complex design change, client always look for temporary work around.

    First we have to provide some work around, if available then we go for permanent issue fix.

    Regards

    Jagadish

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    1. Shruti Joshi Post author

      Hi Jagadish

      Thanks and I agree with you. Users do look for a temporary work around if the business process is critical and time-bound. However when giving the same, it should be explained to the users why that particular solution is providing only a temporary fix so that they can understand the situation and allow us enough time for the root-cause analysis and permanent fix.

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  6. Zahiruddin khazi

    Hi Shruti,

    Customer Facing wearing different hats is not easy, to make customer happy and trying to please each phase, rather I would go thru SLA after achieving the goal try to make extra mile. Let me tell you Users become pretty smart success lies with. Sure client is happy world around you is happy. But I cannot be  “Biryani” every single time.

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