Check Jon's latest diginomica blog!

Here's Jon's diginomica blog updates
Read Ultimate SAP User Guide kindle reviews Podcast Feedback

"I listen to all your SAP podcasts in my car, until my kids get mad at me and make me put on music for them instead. Keep up the good work!"

- Robert Max, 2007 Solution Manager Community of Interest, and Systems Management Special Interest Group Chair for the Americas' SAP Users Group - Visitor Feedback

"Jon, let me congratulate you on building a site which exclusively caters to SAP skills and careers and answers a lot of doubts young and senior SAP consultants have about what skills to have and get trained on."

More Site Feedback

"I have been reading your SAP newsletters for over a decade now... It's remarkable that you have now embraced the Web 2.0 delivery methods - Podcasts, Twitter etc - without sacrificing the in-depth nature of your analyses!" - Dave Sen, SAP Enterprise Architect - Reader Feedback

"I visit almost everyday to check out whether there is something new and what the future trends hold for SAP skills and careers."

More Site Feedback

"I was struggling with career direction a few years ago and you provided me with some extremely valuable advise. I've been very satisfied with my career direction which was influenced in large part by your coaching. Thanks again!" - Keith

New JonERP Feedback

"You have always been there with a prompt reply when it matters the most. You have really been a mentor in true sense."

- Hussain Sehorewala -

Get all of Jon's blogs, videocasts, and SAP content

Note that Jon blogs and videocasts on a variety of SAP and enterprise web sites. The easiest way to track all his content is through his JonERP Feedburner feed, which you can subscribe to via RSS or email. There is also additional video content to subscribe to on Jon also posts audio versions of much of his content on his JonERP iTunes Feed. To pose questions to Jon directly find him on Twitter.

How is the SAP Functional Skill Set Changing?

As we enter the "SAP eSOA era," one thing is certain: the SAP functional skill set is changing. What we don’t know is how soon these changes are going to happen. We also don’t know for certain is what the "functional consultant of the future" will look like. One thing, however, is clear: consultants are going to need to bring more to the table that just configuration skills. Increasingly, companies want consultants who can add a deeper value to their implementation beyond the customization of SAP tables.

One of the main goals of the rapidly growing SAP BPX community is to collectively define the functional skill set of the future, and to help SAP professionals of all flavors become "Business Process Experts." We are still early in the process of mapping out these new skills. In this blog entry, I’ll give my best shot at spelling out the key components of the Business Process Expert (BPE) skill set.

  After you read this blog entry, if you want to learn more about the BPE role, SAP’s BPX Community has a bunch of great resources for getting a better feel for the BPE skill set, and better yet, you can interact with other BPX members and build that skill set profile together.

If you want to get a focused look at what it takes to become a Business Process Expert, you can also check out my podcast with Marco ten Vaanholt, the Global Director of SAP BPX Community.

In August of 2007, Marco was part of an ASUG-sponsored webcast on the evolving role of the business process expert. There were more than 600 people on the webcast, which gives some indication of the urgency SAP customers and consultants are feeling about getting a handle on this new skill set. During this webcast, I picked up on six distinct areas of the "BPE skill set of the future":

1. End-to-end business process know-how (as opposed to "silo" functional knowledge in just one area). In this respect, consultants need to mirror the evolution of SAP as a whole. SAP is positioning itself as a "Business Process Platform," rather than a transaction-driven system. To achieve this vision, SAP will need consultants who can see beyond specific chunks of configurable functionality to know how the pieces fit together. In this kind of approach, understanding an entire business scenario, like order-to-cash, is much more valuable than just knowing how to configure a sales order. This is the image of "consultant as advisor" over "consultant as table configurator."

2. Business Process Management(BPM) tool expertise. SAP has been honing and releasing a range of modeling and BPM tools. Some of these tools involve technical knowledge; others are specifically designed to pull business users into the modeling process without requiring deep technical expertise. Up to this point, the best-developed of these tools were the domain of the "SAP techies," but this is going to change. I would expect to see some big announcements along these lines at the big SAP conferences of the spring and fall. I’m not going to make a huge list of these BPM tools here, but here’s a link of some of the tools that may be relevant. You can see more of them on my "SAP Skills You Want to Have" list. From Visual Composer to Aris for NetWeaver (now called SAP Enterprise Modeler), from Guided Procedures to Intellicorp’s Live Model, there are plenty of tools that are worth getting a handle on sooner rather than later.

3. Soft Skills - "Soft skills" can be a maddening phrase because it’s hard to define exactly what it means. To some, "soft skills" simply means the ability to talk in complete sentences. I like to think of "soft skills" as encompassing a range of interpersonal abilities, in particular the ability to move from the project team to the boardroom and communicate the needs of the project to a wide range of audiences, understanding the agendas of each and being able to explain how your role fits into the overall project mission. As Marco ten Vaanholt puts it, soft skills are about having the savvy to be a "marriage counselor" between IT and the business user community.

You could also describe "soft skills" as the ability to be a customer-facing SAP professional who understands business strategy (as opposed to a "cubicle coder."). Anyone who can function in an "outward-facing" role these days, working either with customers or suppliers, has more job security - period.

4. Industry knowledge - SAP professionals need to cultivate more of an industry focus, as opposed to the typical jumping around from project to project across many industries. This is not just a hypothetical - staffing managers from many different firms have told me that SAP customers are becoming increasingly insistent that the SAP consultants on their project understand their particular industry. Ray Kelly, Vice President - B2B Workforce Solutions Center and a seasoned SAP staffing professional, recently said, "Learn a specific industry. The time has long passed when a consumer goods client will accept an FI/CO consultant who only worked on manufacturing clients. Restructure your resume to show specific industry experience gained. Our clients are consistently asking us to not only align the SAP function, but to bring industry-skilled resources to bear."

5. Web 2.0 skills - Web 2.0 skills are hot - if only we could define what they are. In the SAP context, I like to think of Web 2.0 skills as the ability to harness the power of user communities and collaborative tools to solve business problems. When you think about SAP’s venture into Web 2.0, you think first of its SDN and BPX communities - some of the best developed software user communities on the web today. But in terms of SAP’s own product, SAP has yet to unveil a robust Web 2.0 platform that is fully integrated with ERP 6.0. But if we know anything about SAP, we can be confident that such tools are coming sooner rather than later. In the meantime, anything that SAP professionals can learn about how Web 2.0 tools can be leveraged in a corporate setting is time well spent.

In particular, I think it’s important to learn about how participatory tools like wikis can support knowledge transfer and project communication. But it’s also crucial to get a handle on how all this unstructured information can be monitored, and, if needed, incorporated back into a business intelligence structure. For example, if several employees on an Intranet wiki are problem solving about a particular customer account, how do the follow ups from that conversation get pulled back into a CRM program or onto a salesperson’s daily task list pulled from the same? The consultants who are innovators in leveraging Web 2.0 for profitability are going to be in demand inside and outside of SAP.

6. SAP product knowledge - last but not least, we can’t forget about traditional SAP product knowledge, along with a good understanding of the underlying NetWeaver architecture and the delivery of future upgrades via "enhancement packages." For now, this product knowledge still centers on configuration know-how, at least for functional consultants - though the best functional consultants understand the entire SAP implementation lifecycle, including blueprinting, training, and testing. Keep in mind that it’s not enough to know your stuff, you also have to know how to leave your team smarter than how you found it. The "wank word" for that is knowledge transfer, and it’s one more important skill to have. But as broad as the SAP consultant’s knowledge needs to be, it also has to have depth. It’s hard to succeed in SAP consulting without a depth of specialization.

Clearly, you could write a whole series of articles on becoming an SAP BPE. In closing, a couple quick observations: for most of the ’90s, all you needed to rake in some great SAP rates was number six, SAP product knowledge. And within number six, the main thing you needed was hardcore configuration skills.

Obviously configuration is still an important part of the SAP skill set - how could it not be? But a more balanced consulting skill set is now in order. And when you look at this BPE list above, note that all six of these skills can be developed via free online resources, and that’s not even considering the various SAP training programs and advanced degrees that are out there to supplement the self-education options. Because so many of these resources are available online, those who find themselves lagging behind will have to look in the mirror first.

One final comment: when we talk about this next-generation consultant profile, one answer I get in return goes something like this: "Jon, this is an old story. The best SAP consultants have had this type of skills approach since the mid-90s."

To a point, I agree with this feedback. The top tier of SAP consultants has always been reserved for folks who had this type of well-rounded skill set. But there are two things that have changed: one is that SAP customers are expecting (and often demanding) more than ever before. It used to be that the exceptional consultants did very well and the average consultants did almost as well in SAP. I expect that to shift. It’s not a matter of getting paid more, it’s a matter of being the one who lands the assignment.

Another difference is that the tools are finally catching up with the skill set. True, the best SAP consultants always made an effort to stay ahead of the curve, but this is the point in the market where the Web 2.0 and SOA tools have reached a maturity level to make the "Business Process Expert" skill set relevant to the technologies that are now available. As the SAP product continues to shift into a more adaptable, flexible framework, those consultants who have acquired the BPE skills that match where SAP is headed are going to be well-positioned in the SAP market for years to come.

WordPress database error: [Incorrect file format 'jos_wp_comments']
SELECT * FROM jos_wp_comments WHERE comment_post_ID = '39' AND comment_approved = '1' ORDER BY comment_date

No Comments

Add your own comment...

JonERP Feature Video

Browse Jon's YouTube SAP Videos
Read Ultimate SAP User Guide reviews

What is Jon Up to Now?

Track Jon in real-time on Twitter
See his latest diginomica blogs

Get Jon's SAP Blog + Videocast Feed (or Email Notifications)

Jon's "Get All My SAP Content" RSS Feed

or Subscribe to the Feed by Email

The Latest JonERP Feedback

"I have referenced your articles on for my internal Fujitsu colleagues on how the functional skill set is changing. It's not just theory, but real life change and the need for new SAP skills."

- Ranjan Baghel, Associate Director, Fujitsu America - Site Feedback

"I can't imagine any SAP professional who is serious about their career not utilizing the website. I know I used it frequently when I did SAP consulting. I use it even more now and I know my colleagues go there quite frequently to increase their knowledge of the SAP market, it is a source of great information."

- David Dawson, SAP Direct Hire Consultant, Acsys -

More Site Feedback

"Jon, you are definitely spot on with your analysis of the SAP market. I've been using your websites for over five years now. Instead of buying all the SAP books, I use your stuff to catch up with what's new in the ever-increasing SAP market." - Mark Reader Feedback

"I've kept up with your site for a long time and your articles via and elsewhere. I just realized a few months ago that you were also the author of the first SAP Consulting book that I read when I decided to take the leap from working at a Utility company to becoming an SAP Consultant. The SAP Consultant Handbook is a staple for any SAP consultant, new or experienced. I just wanted to thank you for the quality work."

- J. Michael Peace, Independent SAP Consultant -