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Is Plant Maintenance (PM) Consulting a Marketable SAP Skill?

SAP Plant Maintenance continues to surprise me with its staying power. Back in the 90s, consultants used to avoid PM like it was Cobol. But the PM consultants who ignored all that and stuck with it over the years have done pretty well for themselves, and we see more PM demand now than ever.

I think this is because more companies are investing in warehouse management and plant maintenance systems, and increasingly, they are opting to do this kind of work from within SAP as opposed to utilizing a best-of-breed solution. Having said that, PM is not really considered a core part of the SAP release - it’s more of a "second phase" functional area. That keeps a lid on the consulting demand.

The PM market is best for one of two kinds of consultants: very senior PM consultants who specialize only in PM, or broader consultants that balance PM work with "core" areas of SAP. The MM/PM combination is a particularly good example, since many more companies are running MM than PM. So with the MM/PM combo, you have the broader market usage of MM with the niche skills in PM. It’s not a bad combination.

This question was posed to me by someone who wanted to know if PM would hold out for the next six years, and they also wanted to know if Portals would be the only way to access ECC data. So, one question at a time: as for the question about whether the PM market will hold out for the next six years, that’s anyone’s guess, but I do expect the "upgrade wave" to carry the entire SAP market forward for the next few years. However, that market will create the most demand in "core" areas like FI, HR, and SD/MM, as well as the connections to NetWeaver, SOA, etc. Unless you’re already a senior PM consultant, I’d look to balance PM with other central areas of SAP, like MM, or maybe even a Business Suite product like SRM.

As for the SAP Portal taking over ECC, I’m not sure what to say about that. It’s true that SAP encourages its user base to access SAP applications via SAP Portals, but in reality, SAP Portals is just one way to access ECC data. I would expect to see many more ways of accessing SAP systems, particularly mobile devices and very thin web clients. For most SAP consultants, it’s good to have some Portals know-how, but Portals won’t fundamentally change the ECC market.

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