Deep SAP Technical Skills and Solid Soft Skills: The Unstoppable Combination
Over the course of nearly 10 years in SAP, I’ve met very few consultants who had BOTH deep technical skills AND solid soft skills. The few who have both, are unstoppable. They’re always in high demand, highly recommended and despite ups and downs in the SAP market, they typically maintained their billing rates.
The SCN community is focused around technical help, but I’ve come across several great articles in the Career Center from experienced consultants like Colleen Lee, Ravi Sankar Venna and TW Typewriter. Those articles have a lot of engagement, so it appears to be an area of interest to the community. Given my experiences, this would be the most suitable place where I can contribute. Focus on your strengths, right?
SO- without further ado, here are some basic soft skills that are required to be a “high in demand” SAP consultant:
- Networking – Getting your foot in the door
- Business process knowledge – Passing business interviews
- Interviewing – Being able to showcase your business and technical acumen
- Selling – Yourself and others
- Negotiating – Getting the rate you deserve
On the Job
- Emotional Intelligence – Being able to effectively interact with others (and yourself)
- Communications (Verbal and Written) – Being able to effectively communicate with clients, peers, stakeholders, etc.
- Influence – Some might call this “office politics”…
- Teamwork – SAP projects are never a 1 (wo)man show
- Setting goals and expectations – “Under promise, over deliver” OR I like to say: “Over promise, over deliver.”
- Leadership – Managing teams of peers, contractors or employees effectively
- Stress management – Remaining cool under pressure
- Flexibility & Adaptability – Going with the flow, being comfortable with change
- Problem Solving & Decision Making – Getting unstuck and moving forward
Development of your soft skills is especially important if you’re a fresher/junior (< 5 years of SAP experience). Headhunters and resourcing managers sometimes look for juniors to assist a senior resource and are not expecting deep experience from a junior. What will make you stand out from everyone else who has their SAP certification? Your soft skills. True story: When I was staffed on my first SAP project in 2006, I hadn’t even SEEN an SAP screen before…
We’re witnessing continued commoditization of our technical SAP skills: lower billing rates, increased outsourcing, new technology, etc. Soft skills typically take longer to develop over time, are easily transferable and are much less susceptible to changes in technology or trends like outsourcing.
I plan on expanding on these in future posts, but I’d love to hear from you first:
- Do you care about soft skills? If yes, what resources (books, blogs, websites, etc.) do you use to develop them?
- What are some traits of consultants you’ve enjoyed working with?
- Do you or your colleagues sometimes feel that despite high performance, you’re being held back due to your soft skills?
thanks for the shout out! The points in section On the job are excellent. I would like to see you expand on these and give us your views / take-aways on how to develop on each of these.
I love to work with well mannered, skilled, enthusiastic team members - could be business process owners, key users, end users or fellow analysts. I make it a point to show them (in subtle and honest ways) my gratitude by doing my bit and some more.
Thanks TW, glad you liked it and happy to hear from a fellow SD consultant! I will definitely be digging into more details in future posts.
Showing appreciation and gratitude is so key- I bring in donuts or snacks every once in a while for my colleagues. I guess that's a little less subtle! 😉
food is a great way to bring the team together (and another tactic to keep everyone quiet in a meeting). No matter how busy someone is, they always find time to get up from behind their desk and come grab a snack
There are quite a few spaces throughout SCN that are non-technical. You just need to find them. Careers is definately a space we have tried to develop into a skill discussion that can benefit all members of the community - from junior to senior and technical, functional or something else.
Colleen Hebbert, I guess that's why I couldn't tag you as Colleen Lee!
I never thought of food as a tactic to keep people quiet during meetings, I'll remember that one!
I had a hard time finding non-technical spaces and this space seemed to be the most relevant one for soft skills development. Thanks for reading!
It could be just me, but during interviews I rarely receive questions mentioning business processes (which is a vital knowledge for any functional consultant), but I am asked 'how do you configure' referring to a technical setting (storage type search for example). So it is no wonder that you can witness pretty funny conversations when a key user tries to educate his functional consultant. This skill seems to be overlooked during the hiring process, relying that the person will 'catch up' somehow, but is highly valued on the job.
In some companies you may be lucky and go to a plant/market visit, speak with business consultants, but it is not an uncommon practice to throw a fresher in the support line without him even setting a foot in a warehouse or going through some training on the company-specific business processes.
In my opinion management and co-workers place different value in different on-the-job skills- probably due to the fact that management sees the 'big picture' and takes some of these soft skills for granted.
Take stress management as an example: unless you mess up badly and be noticed, the management will not be aware that you do not handle pressure very well and that it impacts the other team members or your performance. Key users and co-workers are more likely to spot the issue (and suffer because of it), but will usually not communicate it (it seems wrong to go and 'tell on others' for such sensitive problem). There will be some gossiping for sure, probably some harsh words exchanged, but it will be mostly in private circles.
On the other hand - flexibility and adaptablilty are highly valued by the management, while in some roles this unfortunately cannot be demonstrated - so it has no impact on the performance.
It seems strange that during the hiring process people seek the same set of soft skills without considering the job specifics (just in case something else turns up).
I am yet to meet a person who excells in all listed soft skills and finds the time and energy for continuous improvement, so sometimes a company can miss the opportunity to add valuable members to the team with such 'one size fits all' approach.
For my experience, the feedback from business (with whom the consultant / analyst interacts) plays a vital role is the performance assessment and then the subsequent re-hiring or not of that analyst.
If the business (end user, key user, business manager) are dissatisfied with the performance of the analyst, they escalate the issue.
Soft skills are an integral part, during a project, in heated discussions, when deadlines are approaching...the soft skills play an important role.
These are the differentiating skills...which will make the difference between one and the other analyst.
Your company seems to handle the matters differently-probably it depends also on the role or project. In my previous one the major impact during assessment was the result of go-live implementation (KBI), documentation delivered on time, innovations etc. Customer satisfaction based on surveys (per team, not per person) was one-digit percentage of the total score (some companies use such methods to determine if somebody is valuable for the project team). So it must be something drastic to trigger an escalation and result in dismissing the person (assuming his job is done accurately and on time).
I agree completely with you that all these soft skills are very important - just expressing the opinion that they can be valued differently by the management and the users/co-workers - different goals, expectations.
It is easy to please the high management - be brilliant and over-performing at work, look confident in public appearances, be very polite.
Interaction with end users/colleagues - this is where the real test of the alloy of soft and technical skills takes place. Even though excelling in soft skills might not always get you a promotion, it will make you feel more satisfied with your role and work environment.
The main saleable skill-set of an SAP analyst is his/her module knowledge and experience.
I understand that this is the assumption or basis for this blog.
But the customer experience can be further improved or impacted negatively by the soft skills an analyst exhibits.
And different soft skills have different importance at different situations, for example during requirement gathering, communication might play a more important role than influencing. Point being the objective determines which skill plays the center-stage role at that moment.