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SAP Article Classics from JonERP.com

Jon has been writing about SAP consulting trends and answering SAP career questions since 1995. Over the years, he's published many popular articles online that have disappeared from the Internet. In this section, we are reclaiming the "best of the archives" and sharing Jon's classic SAP articles from years gone by.

In each case, Jon will write a new introduction explaining the highlights of the article and how the market has changed since it was published. We're hoping to track down some of the interview subjects in these articles and get their updates on how the market has changed since these classics were first published.
Jon Reed Interviews Paul Halley, SAP SEM Consultant Print E-mail
Article Index
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An Historical View of the SAP SEM Consultant:
Jon Reed Looks Back on His Interview with SAP SEM Consultant Paul Halley

A Strategy for Success: How SEM is Changing the SAP Market
An In-Depth Interview with Strategic
Enterprise Management Expert Paul Halley
Part One
September 15, 2003

We've had it with the hype. SAP consultants are sick of hearing about the "next big thing" that will revive the SAP market and boost sagging rates. The reality is more complicated anyway: offshore outsourcing has changed the nature of the consulting market forever. Even a sharp rise in SAP software sales does not mean the consulting market of the 90s will return. But we know all that already - yet we're forever searching for the "hot new app" that will give the SAP market some real teeth.

Enter SEM. If any application has a chance of breathing life into the SAP consulting market, it's this one. For starters, SEM is part of a family of mySAP products that truly helps customers leverage their ERP infrastructure for strategic planning and decision-making. And SEM's ultra-tight integration with BW makes it a natural add-on for users who found that BW really does make their lives easier. Finally, because of the techno-functional nature of SEM projects, there are potential entry points into SEM consulting from a variety of SAP skill areas. And due to its strategic nature, SEM will be very low on a company's "should we outsource this?" list.

To get to the bottom of these issues, we needed a real SEM expert, and we found one in Paul Halley. We are honored to have the opportunity to discuss the SEM market with Paul. Paul was on SAP America's original SEM product development team in the U.S. He has played a key role in developing the SEM market in the U.S., and through SAP America, Paul's had a bird's eye view on the evolution of SEM and its main components.

Paul is now the SEM Practice Director for Business Information Solutions, LLC (BIS). As he builds the SEM practice at BIS, Paul has the opportunity to work with numerous SEM consultants and client sites. With his broad market knowledge, Paul was the perfect sounding board for all of the burning questions I had accumulated about SEM. To Paul's credit, he answered all of them. The end result is an interview that touches on just about every issue an aspiring SEM consultant would care to read about.

In our wide-ranging discussion, Paul fields questions on topics such as SEM's product evolution and level of market acceptance, its relationship to BW and Enterprise Portals, its main components, and how those components stack up against Hyperion. Paul talks about which areas of SEM companies are implementing, and he explains why companies are taking a cautious, "bottom up" approach to SEM implementations. Most importantly, there is extensive discussion about entry points into SEM consulting from both the functional and technical sides of SAP. Paul tells us why BW experience is essential to breaking into SEM, and he outlines the functional and business knowledge he looks for when he's hiring SEM consultants. The final section of the interview contains a "wrap up" section where I pose questions to Paul that I received from several other SEM consultants.

I hope you get as much out of the interview as I did. On behalf of all our readers, I'd like to thank Paul for his commitment to the SEM market and his willingness to share his "career best practices" with us.

In part one of our interview, Paul tells us how he broke into SEM, and found himself on the original SEM product management team with SAP America. We trace the evolution of the SEM product from its initial releases to its current version. Then, Paul details and clarifies the current components of the SEM product. We wrap up part one of this interview by exploring the reasons for slow SEM market acceptance, and Paul explains why SEM is now turning the corner.

Jon Reed: Paul, tell us about your current company and how you perceive your role in the SEM market right now.

Paul Halley: Business Information Solutions (BIS) is a full service BW and SEM consulting firm. We handle everything from small niche projects and pilots all the way up to large-scale implementations. We also have a separate entity called BIS Energy that focuses on the utilities industry. But by itself, BIS covers all sectors and industries.

Reed: And is BIS Energy also focused on SEM consulting?

Halley: It's a little bit broader. BIS Energy focuses on SEM, BW, R/3, and CCS (SAP's customer care solution). BIS Energy also does some public sector work for the Department of Defense and other public sector entities.

Reed: Paul, you really got in on SEM from the ground floor here in the U.S. Weren't you at SAP America when you first got SEM exposure?

Halley: Yes, that's right. Starting in 1998, I was an FI/CO consultant with SAP America. That's about the time when the consulting market started to slow down considerably. I got in one implementation with basic FI/CO, but after that, there wasn't too much work out there - even for an SAP America employee. So I started looking for new products to pick up in order to diversify my skills. At the time, I noticed that there was training going on over in Walldorf for a new product called Strategic Enterprise Management. I asked my colleagues in my SAP office if anyone knew about SEM, and no one had heard of it. So I thought to myself, "This is a great opportunity to learn a niche consulting skill that no one really knows about yet." So I attended the training class in Walldorf and learned how to configure the five components of SEM.

But I didn't realize how timely my training was until I returned home from the class and found out that I was only the second person from the United States to have attended SEM training. So at that time, I had skills that very few people had. I was then invited by Kathy Wilhide of SAP America and Alan Hildebrandt of SAP Canada to join SAP America's first SEM product management team.

Reed: So to retrace your steps here, you observed a down trend in the consulting market, and it provoked you to put your head up and try to spot an emerging product you could segue into.

Halley: That's right. In the consulting world, you have to keep your skills current and seek out those niche areas where other people don't know as much as you do. I found exactly what I was looking for with SEM. I've been working with it ever since.

Reed: Were you able to get out on SEM projects after your first training in ‘98? Were there enough SEM projects out there to keep you busy?

Halley: Initially there weren't. In the early days, we spent a lot of time doing knowledge transfer with customers, and doing knowledge transfer internally within SAP. We worked with SAP's salespeople to help them tell customers about the benefits of SEM, and we worked with consultants to teach them how to implement SEM. We also took on the role of trainers, because at the time, there weren't any trainers who knew SEM either. So we helped Walldorf develop SEM training materials and taught the first classes within North America until the SAP America training department got trained.

Reed: So in the early times, you guys were product evangelists more than anything else.

Halley: That's right. We were forced into a "jack of all trades" role, which was an invaluable learning experience.

Reed: Sounds like it gave you a window into how to build a whole new consulting market. You must have seen a lot of interesting evolutions in the SEM product. Was it a classic SAP rollout where the first releases were a bit sketchy, and then became increasingly robust?

Halley: In a sense they were, but not as much as one might expect for such early releases of an SAP product. But more importantly, the early versions lacked functionality that many customers felt was necessary, especially on the consolidations and planning side. It was almost like the SEM developers spent too much time on the quality of the SEM functionality, and the quantity of functionality might have suffered for a while. But overall, I think they did a great job with the product. These days, the functionality is top notch, and customers are really starting to come out of the woodwork to implement it.

Reed: Let's talk about that. What official release are we on now?

Halley: The most recent release of SEM is version 3.2. We went from 3.0 to 3.1, and as of February 2003, we've been on 3.2. SEM 3.2 sits on top of BW 3.1, and it's a very solid release. I would say that from version 3.0 on, SEM has really moved into "primetime," and customers are finding a lot of value in it. It's been some time since 3.0 came out, so SEM is an extremely stable product right now.

Reed: Tell us about the main components of the SEM solution in its latest incarnation. What are the key areas? Hasn't SAP changed a couple of the SEM component names recently?

Halley: Ever since the early days, there were five components, or "submodules," of SEM. There have always been five, but over time, those five have changed a little bit. It started off with: (1) the Business Information Collection, or BIC, (2) Business Consolidations, or BCS, (3) the Corporate Performance Monitor, or CPM (and that was comprised of the Balanced Scorecard and the Management Cockpit), (4) Business Planning and Simulation, or BPS, and (5) SRM, or Stakeholder Relationship Management. From version 3.0 onward, they've combined Business Information Collection and Stakeholder Relationship Management into one component, and split the Corporate Performance Monitor into two: the Balanced Scorecard was placed in a new Strategy Management (SM) submodule, and the Management Cockpit was put into a new submodule called Performance Measurement (PM).

Out of those new five components, by far the most popular products are the Business Planning component and the Business Consolidation component. The others are not lacking in functionality in any way, but in this down economy, people are looking for a quantifiable ROI. And in my opinion, with tools like BPS and Business Consolidation it's a lot easier to quantify a return than it is on a rollout of the Balanced Scorecard or the Management Cockpit.

Reed: So when BIC and SRM were merged, what was the new component called?

Halley: It's still called Stakeholder Relationship Management.

Reed: And just to clarify: when CPM was broken down into two components, they were called...

Halley: The two components are called Strategy Management (SM) and Performance Measurement (PM). The PM component has the Measure Builder, Measure Tree, and Management Cockpit, and the SM component has the Balanced Scorecard and Risk Management in it.

Reed: Just what we need: another SM abbreviation within SAP. :)

Halley: That's right, and another SRM too.

Reed: Oh right, there's also Supplier Relationship Management... well, it will probably change again soon, so that shouldn't be a problem. :) So, for those who are still catching their breath from the latest SEM lineup, the five major components of SEM are now known as Strategy Management (SM), Performance Measurement (PM), Business Planning (BPS), Business Consolidation (BCS), and Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM).

Halley: That's correct.

Reed: Let's move into SEM market acceptance. My theory on SEM is that most companies are still a bit sore over how much money they spent on their initial R/3 ERP systems. Unfortunately, their frustration over the amount of money already spent can get in the way of realizing what they can actually do now. And like many other mySAP products, SEM allows companies to take a transactional ERP system and really turn it into more of a strategic tool that can help them to leverage all of the effort that's already been put in. I assume you are in basic agreement with that theory. But even if that's true, it doesn't change the marketing challenge. All of these SEM components you've described sound pretty sexy and interesting, but can you tell our readers about how these modules can help companies right now? How can companies use SEM to leverage their SAP infrastructure?

Halley: You bring up an excellent point. It's something I see fairly often at organizations that are already R/3 customers. You're right, it seems like SEM - and the consulting organizations that are driving it to SAP customers - are being penalized by previous implementations that didn't go as smoothly as companies would have liked. I keep trying to remind R/3 users that SEM (and BW) are part of a new line of SAP products that don't get implemented the same way as their older R/3 systems did. Most of those R/3 implementations were longer, and they were more costly. These days, an SEM implementation can be as small or large as you want it, and it can get done a lot faster and less painfully than classic R/3 implementations. In my opinion, SEM is the number one implemented product by customers who didn't necessarily purchase SEM. What I mean by that is: many SAP customers in the U.S. now have mySAP licenses. So these folks come into the office one morning, and right there in front of them is this case full of CDs from SAP. Of course, the major reason why they ordered all these CDs (and licenses) is because they wanted to use FI/CO or HR or any other standard R/3 module. But after they finish those implementations, they look back into that box of CDs and say, "Jeez, what else can we use?"

My opinion is that SEM is the most widely implemented product out of all of those "secondary" implementations. That's because users, once they understand what SEM does, see the obvious value in the SEM product. To find out what SEM does, users have to either read SAP marketing materials on their own, read interviews like this one, or listen to presentation at ASUG. Users are somewhat forced to learn about SEM on their own, because, quite frankly, SEM isn't the high-profile product that CRM or APO is. You don't read about SEM as much in the industry press and you surely won't see an ad for it during the Super Bowl. But once SAP users find out about the value of SEM, and all the different things it can do for a company, they usually decide to implement it.

Reed: And the exciting thing for them is the realization that two-thirds to three-quarters of the work is already done, through the groundwork they've already laid in the R/3 system.

Halley: You're absolutely right. And even more work is already done if they have some portion of BW up and running.


 

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