Quite often in our careers we will come across the decision to specialise in an area or generalise across the SAP Solution. It’s always difficult to know which is the best path to go do down. Much of it comes to career opportunities and being in the right place at the right time. But a lot then also comes down to personal preference and the interest & willingness to learn more.
What has hit home more recently is the risk to your skills if you specialise too much. And it was the following type of conversation that took place to realise this risk.
Customer: Is it possible to configure that initial screen and let and embed a link or company picture instead of the default?
Consultant: That would be the job of the portal consultant. I would have to check with him.
Customer: Is it possible to add an extra workflow approval step as we have this business requirement xxxx?
Consultant: That would be the job of the workflow consultant. I would have to check with her.
Customer: Is it possible to have a report that pulls together those overview screens so we can get one central view?
Consultant: That would be the job of the developers. I would have to check with them.
Customer: Is it possible to integrate your system with the system over in the cloud?
Consultant: That is would be the job of the cloud consultant. You would have to check with them.
In some cases I’ve found myself crossing paths with consultants who know their product or module very well – you could say at expert level. But they do not know the integration or possible scenarios and options to apply. On large clients it’s understandable that they specialise so much and have a larger network to cover the other areas. But I’m now finding a lot of customers and new projects are smaller in size. And this means less consultants on the ground. Less consultants means those on the projects needs to have both breadth and depth to the knowledge and skills.
As a result, the Functional consultant who used to keep to the IMG is now providing guidance to the customer on Fiori. The application security consultant is now being asked to look at database due to HANA. The developer is now being asked to cover languages beyond ABAP. And everyone, at some point, is now being asked questions of integration as all these products have to communicate with each other.
I’m not saying the conversation should have resulted in the consultant telling me they could do all of the above and more. It would be wonderful to have the one person who could cover the end to end but it’s unrealistic to rely on that as a common skill combination. But as the customer, being told it’s always someone else’s skills isn’t good.
You start your career and try your best to obtain as much information as possible. You don’t have a specialty (even though your job title may imply you do). You are the sponge and will absorb anything you can get your hands on. You will naturally gravitate towards areas of interest – or be placed there and introduced as the expert for that area. At the same time, you may take great interest in continually increasing your breadth of knowledge across different modules and components. Your resume and skill do not point to any one area but you have this “all-rounder skill”. This general skill can be great as you get variety but it could also mean you don’t fit a particular area or struggle to apply for certain jobs as there is no one job description that you meet.
Over time your knowledge has increased. You are assigned or you start seeking out roles for a specific skill set. You build reputation around having knowledge and skills in a specific module(s) or technical area. You’ll learn different ways within that area (one form of diversification) but you remain within a specialty. You now have a depth of expertise in a certain area.
Depending on your specialty it can result in a niche skill that is sought out and well paid. But it can also pigeon-hole you to certain roles. You might find after a while the work is all the same with the only difference being the people and systems. You might also find that your specialty is no longer niche as the demand has slowed or competition has increased. You might even find your specialty has become a bit outdated and struggle to compete in the market.
This area is where you take the best of generalising and specialising to branch out and increase your skills and knowledge. The idea is you might start as a generalists and move towards a specialty.
However, whilst specialising you seek out complementary skills or products and generalise in them. Learn that such products and areas of the solution exist. You might read up on articles or do some course work. You might even shadow a work colleague or teach yourself.
As someone who diversifies, you are both a generalist and specialist as well as an expert and a beginner at the same time. And in doing this, you can find yourself becoming the FICO consultant who can discuss Assets and Maintenance. The Procurement consultant who knows ECC and Ariba. The HR Consultant who understands (and can explain) how SuccessFactors products integrate with SAP. Or the Sales Consultant who can discuss mobility and CRM. The options and combinations are infinite.
So next time you find yourself being asked for help from your customer or your boss, which person would you rather be – The generalist, specialist or diversificationist?
Would love to hear your thoughts below
P.S and on that note it’s time I force myself to learn Single Sign-On instead of telling everyone that’s the Basis person 😉