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How Do I Anticipate the SAP Jobs of the Future?

I am going to answer a lot of individual career questions in this blog, but I’m also looking forward to writing about the SAP consulting trends I am seeing in the market. The reason? If you can anticipate SAP market trends, your skills will always be in demand. So what are the trends I am seeing?

My plan is to periodically add blog entries that focus on particular SAP "skills trends" and back up why I see those skills trends as being important. "Backing it up" is crucial. We’ve heard a lot from SAP about the emerging SAP job roles in the NetWeaver era - jobs with sexy titles like Repository Keeper, Composer, Consolidator, and yes, even "Disruptive Innovator."

  I’ll be doing more pieces on the subject of SAP jobs of the future, as well as podcasts. If you find that these job titles sound like they are from outer space and you want a bit more info on them, then I recommend checking out this excellent blog by Matt Danielsson that reviews each of the four jobs. There are some quotes from me in each section of Matt’s piece.

But here’s the problem with the SAP jobs of the future: they may be a little too far away to take advantage of today. So how do you get there? What is needed is a bridge between the jobs of today and the SAP jobs of tomorrow. So how do we form that bridge? By identifying hiring needs in the present that we haven’t seen before - indicators of a new kind of skills demand.

So, in this blog I will share some of what I have learned. So what do I know that SAP doesn’t? Not much. But what I can tell you is that I talk constantly with recruiters and managers who tell me which SAP skills are hot and which are not. I also sit in on a lot of webcasts and when I hit the trade shows, I’m always trying to interpret how the latest technology announcements impact SAP skills trends. Perhaps one difference between me and SAP is that I don’t mind telling you which products are truly in demand and which ones are really dragging.

With that in mind, I’d like to share one trend I am seeing again and again. I’m currently writing an article for SAPtips on midsize companies implementing SAP and the "lessons learned." (The article will be posted to this web site also when it is completed).

Managers of mid-size companies implementing SAP have been pretty open about the value they have received from SAP and the challenges they have had to overcome. Check out my podcast with Dan Lubin of Abiomed for one great example of this. As you would expect, many mid-size companies have chosen to SAP in order to standardize their environments and upgrade from the noodly chaos of scattered legacy environments.

As a result, their focus is often on implementing core SAP modules first, which obviously drives demand for consultants with skills in the core SAP ERP areas such as HR, FI, and SD/MM.

In their presentations on SAP, rarely do these mid-size company managers mention advanced SAP functionality from the Business Suite like PLM or SRM. And rarely do they mention NetWeaver components like Portals and XI, or add-ons like MDM or xApps. This does not mean they aren’t using these new areas, many of them are using one or two new technical components or SAP Business Suite add-ons. What it does mean is that these product extensions are not "top of mind" during these trade show presentations.

So what SAP product IS top of mind? Again and again, the answer that keeps coming up is SAP Business Intelligence (BI), or NetWeaver BI. Most of these companies are still running on previous version of Business Warehouse (BW). But that’s not the point. The point is that BW is not only becoming a core part of the SAP product line, but it’s also proven its value to the point that it becomes one of the first products mentioned when it comes to SAP Return on Investment (ROI).

Sometimes there’s a big difference between what SAP is pushing and what their customers are pushing. If SAP is pushing SOA and xApps, then their mid-size customer base is pushing BW.

So why is that? Why is BW delivering? The biggest reason given by the managers I have spoken with (and heard presentations from) comes down to empowering both the executive team and the business user with real-time reporting capabilities that are not IT-dependent. I guess it’s easy to forget just how reliant companies once were on IT departments for reporting - reports that were stale almost as soon as they were delivered.

The ability to slice and dice information and to generate reports on the fly without having to consult IT has energized many SAP users, and, perhaps more than any other factor I have heard, this is the example cited first when companies are asked to justify the implementation effort.

This blog entry is plenty long so I won’t go into more detail on BW/BI here, except to say that these trends clearly point to the need for more and more BI-focused consultants. However, there will also be a growing need for technical and functional consultants who don’t necessarily have a BW/BI focus, but who understand how BW impacts their area of specialization.

Obviously, the idea that BI is a growing consulting area is hardly headline news. But the reason I am mentioning it here is because when I hear one product mentioned over and over by the managers of successful implementations, I take notice. Most SAP products do not get that kind of mention, and you can think back to a time when BW certainly wasn’t the first product SAP customers raved about.

To me, that’s proof that BW is an area to target for skills acquisition. BW/BI may not be the ultimate skills destination, but if we are looking for bridges to the SAP jobs of the future, there’s no question in my mind that BW/BI is one of them.

I will return to the subject of emerging SAP skills in future blog entries.

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