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Jon Reed is putting together his lists of the hottest SAP skills of today and tomorrow. The skills that SAP professionals need to succeed is a common theme in all of our podasts as well, but these articles and ranked lists below will take you closer into the skills you want to have to succeed on project sites, and to stay marketable in the "outsourcing era."
Which SAP Functional Module is the Hottest? A Exclusive Print E-mail
jonerp_full_logo.PNGWhich SAP Functional Module is the Hottest? 
A Ranked List by Jon Reed of
Published: September 2008

For the first time ever, I am ranking all the core modules from hottest to least hot. I'm not going to count Business Suite applications; I'll cover them in a separate piece down the road. Before you read this list, I recommend reading my full disclaimer about my SAP hot skills rankings, which has some crucial skills tips as well.

Just remember one thing: sometimes what is hot is not a particular module, but which combination of modules are used. For example, MM and PP are not as hot as some areas, but taken together as "Logistics" with a bit of SD thrown in, they can be very hot. Then there are areas like Project Systems (PS), which are not necessarily super hot but are definitely good niches.

Your background goes a long way towards determining what you should be pursuing - not just what's hot. In addition, within a particular module, some areas are much hotter than others. The SAP version number you are working in also has a lot to do with what's hot. ERP 6.0 skills are much hotter than 4.6c across the board.

With that in mind, let's have a look at some of the hottest modules in SAP, ranked in terms of their relative consulting demand:

1. FI/CO (Financials) - Driven by the core upgrades, Financials is still the hottest thing going in the "functional module" arena. I now divide SAP Financials into three areas: Financials (FI), Controlling (CO), and "value added" components. In the core Financials area, you really need that ERP 6.0 upgrade experience. Good old "Accounts Payable" may not be the hottest thing, but when you have the new General Ledger under your belt, now you're talking. The New GL ties into increased activity on global reporting and compliance, driven by SAP's multi-lingual reporting capabilities. It is now possible to really have a top-down GL structure that integrates parallel lines of subledgers in real time. This is a good skill to have, and compliance-based reporting is yet one more reason why the SAP Financials demand ranks the highest. The "Controlling" areas (CO module) are also in demand. Many of these areas involve the costing of various aspects of your company's operations, and analyzing profit and loss by segment and product is very much in demand. SAP has been honing its CO components for years, and the functional areas in CO are robust and also start to dovetail into BI/SEM, which is not a bad skill to have on the resume either.

We're also seeing some definite demand for the FI/Travel Management piece, now that this has crossed over from HR. In terms of the "value added" areas of SAP Financials, there are some interesting niches emerging too, from Treasury to Funds Management (Public Sector), Fixed Assets/Asset Accountings, and, perhaps the most hyped, Financial Supply Chain Management (FSCM). FSCM is, in part, about web-based collaborative tools, such as an online claims and disputes management process that is integrated into the core ERP system. Anytime you have a cutting edge "extended ERP" skill like that, you are moving in the right direction, as long as you don't get too far ahead of the overall market demand. Also, keep on the lookout for more work in GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) and EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) as the Business Objects product integration proceeds. All these strategic areas bode well for both the present and future of SAP Financials consulting.

2. HR/HCM (Human Resources/Human Capital Management) - HR/HCM is making a surprisingly strong push for number one. Also driven by core upgrades, HR/HCM is remaining hot in part because HCM is emerging as a competitive advantage for companies (as opposed to the traditional HR administrative/back office approach). This is increasing the need for those who are skilled in Performance Management configuration, as well as E-Recruiting, and we can expect a similar surge in the need for other areas of Talent Management as well, as more and more companies realize that they need the best possible software solution to aid in their attempts to recruit and retain top talent as a key competitive driver. Performance Management is currently one of the hottest areas of Talent Management, because you can't manage talent unless you can systematically evaluate and reward performance.

We are also seeing a big push in terms of Portals-based HR self-service, with ESS (Employee Self-Service) and MSS (Manager Self-Service) showing up on a lot of job orders. There are also some Portals-HR-Security tie-ins driving work in this area. Another advantage to SAP HCM: many of the components are new, thus reducing competition from experienced consultants. As one recruiting friend of mine told me, "SAP HR has grown up." The combination of the increased quality of the core HR components and SAP's sophisticated HCM solutions is driving more and more companies to standardize on SAP for HR and FI as they upgrade. This means we can be confident that SAP HR skills will be in demand, not just during this "upgrade wave," but after the upgrade, as more strategic HCM components are installed.

3. SD (Sales and Distribution) - I see SD getting pulled into Logistics upgrades, and to some degree, into extended Supply Chain Management (SCM) when it comes to the "distribution" side of SD, and this is a hot area. There is also some demand for SD-Variant Configuration, which often ties into PP and MM. Then of course you have Pricing, which can be very sophisticated, and the bread-and-butter Billing component comes into play also. And, of course, SD-CRM integration. Another area we are seeing that drives the demand for SD consultants is the SD-GTS (Global Trade Systems), now frequently called GTM (Global Trade Management) - a key area for many international SAP implementations, and one that requires significant expertise to configure properly. International tax requirements are pretty complex, and SAP's GTM solution is going to play an increasing role in this. SD spans a lot of areas, from the "sales" side of SD tying into CRM, and the "distribution" side tying into overall Logistics side of SAP as well as the Supply Chain Management (SCM) components. SD's integral role in all these areas promises continued consulting demand.

4. WM (Warehouse Management) - Perhaps the biggest surprise on this list, Warehouse Management has made a big rise from earlier days. If I had made this list four years ago, WM would not have ranked this high. This niche area has traditionally been more attractive in combination with other skill sets, such as MM/WM. However, we are seeing more of an emphasis on WM jobs lately, and that is because SAP's WM component is starting to win more projects over the best-of-breed warehouse management systems that many companies previously opted for instead of SAP WM.

SAP EWM (Extended Warehouse Management) is driving some of the job orders in this module also, as companies are able to manage complex warehouses down to the storage bin level. Of course, some companies have more sophisticated, industry-specific warehouse management needs than SAP can currently handle, but as SAP beefs up WM further, that list is getting smaller. Another good skills combination involves WM and RF/RFID, and if RFID ever picks up more momentum, that particular combination could solidify WM on this list even further. But what makes WM hot today is just the simple needs of companies for more visibility into their inventory, integrated real time with their ERP system. Basic issues like managing storage bins in multiple locations are the key to WM demand today.

5. PS (Project Systems) - PS continues to gain traction as a perhaps unexpectedly popular SAP niche area. It's a versatile module that links up with several key areas of SAP, but the PS-FI/CO integration between PS and the costing components in the SAP CO (Controlling) module is probably the key to the ongoing demand in this area.

6. PP (Production Planning) - Use varies by industry, so there's not as much demand here across the board as in more general areas of SAP like HCM that cross industries more universally. PP is often in more demand when tied into other core Logistics components (SD/MM/PP) or integrated with APO on occasion. I think that PP is an area that may be better pursued now as part of a broader SCM (Supply Chain Management) focus.

7. MM (Materials Management) - A pretty low place on the list for a core area of SAP, but there are some reasons for this. Not all industries apply or use the MM module. It does get pulled into many Logistics and SCM processes and job openings. Some would consider IM (Inventory Management) a separate SAP niche module, but for our purposes here, I'm grouping it with MM, and the MM/IM skills combination is one of the hotter MM-related skill sets. However, MM has also given way to SRM when it comes to e-procurement and more sophisticated marketplace and auction functionality.

8. QM (Quality Management) - Another niche module that seems to have more traction in areas where compliance throughout the manufacturing process is mission critical, such as Pharma and Chemicals. This is another area of SAP that does compete with best-of-breed systems for market acceptance. In many industries where companies would consider QM, they cannot bend on functionality simply based on the appeal of easy integration with the ERP core. Because QM is often tied to regulatory compliance, best-of-breed solutions that address the compliance issue perfectly often have the upper hand over SAP QM. For this reason, SAP has very little penetration into best-of-breed "QM" areas like LIMS (Laboratory Management Information Systems). While the QM area does support some senior level expert consultants, in general QM skills often work best in conjunction with core modules like MM. The MM/QM mix is a common and effective one.

9. PM (Plant Maintenance) - PM is another niche area of SAP that has always had a steady trickle of requirements, typically scooped up by senior level consultants. Again, PM is often a handy module to have in conjunction with other core areas like MM, or other niche areas like SM. I don't consider PM to be a good focus for an SAP "newbie," but it can be a nice area for a senior level consultant. In some industries, we also see a nice skills combination of SM/PM/CS, and this area may get a bit hotter as NetWeaver's embedded wireless capabilities have an impact on integrating the shop floors of these remote service and plant areas. Another example of where SAP has had some success is in the SAP MRO for Aerospace and Defense solution (Maintenance, Repairs, and Optimization). There is enough consulting work to support an experienced consultant, but not enough for new folks in my opinion, unless their non-SAP industry background lines up perfectly.

10. SM (Service Management) - If combined with the CRM Service area, which has overlapping functionality, SM might go higher on this list. To the best of my knowledge, future development of Service functionality is taking place on the CRM Service side, so the core SM module is not something to count on in the long term, which is why it earns last place on this list. But, enough SAP customers are still utilizing it that it remains an area of some demand. SM/PM is an interesting combination, and SM/CRM may have some appeal as well. We also see plenty of SM/CS (Customer Service) requirements.

I hope this ranking of the SAP modules was taken with a grain of salt. There are successful consultants working in all ten of these areas and many more besides. But if this answer helped to give a better sense of which functional skills are in demand, then it was a fun way to do it. Let me know what you think of it.

Kevin Wilson responded... (User IP:
11/04/2008 13:01:09
Excellent article
As always, a quality article. There are a few stalwarts that I see as hot but don't pay as well because so many people are doing them.... Good old EDI and workflow is around every corner. Also SD and pricing.
Jon Reed responded... (User IP:
11/04/2008 18:24:47
thx for the comment Kevin
Hey Kevin...

Thanks a lot for the comment and the good words! Coming from a guy who runs such a great site (, it means a lot.

I'm glad you mentioned pricing, I really should have included a mention of SD-pricing in here in the SD section, because there are definitely companies that still have complex pricing issues they need outside consulting help to address within the SD module. You're right that it's not super hot, but it's still steady. I would say that while I didn't list it, it's definitely part of why the SD module finishes a strong third on my list.

As for EDI and Workflow, that's an interesting one. Again, as you said, a steady area but not a huge demand because of the amount of experienced folks out there. I'm keeping my eye on workflow/webflow stuff in general, and I may eventually add that to my technical skills rankings. EDI Workflow is probably a techno-functional skill, but I think it would fit in on my hot technical skills list, but at this po...
Raja responded... (User IP:
11/10/2008 18:26:24
what about CRM
hI Jon,
I am working in ABAP for 3 years. I am planning to switch to SAP CRM. How do you rate CRM in current market situation?
David Dawson responded... (User IP:
11/13/2008 04:18:31
Spot on
This article is spot on. I'm seeing your trends reflected in my clients needs. I would add that I have seen a large demand for QM consultants this year, but several of my clients are Pharma companies.
Jon Reed responded... (User IP:
11/13/2008 21:24:19
yes, SAP QM can be good in certain industries
David, thanks a lot for the good words. I do my best to research this stuff but it's always good to get a sign off that the info resonates with what folks like you are seeing out there. No one person can always be right about such a big market.

You make a good point on QM and pharma, and obviously I did mention that SAP QM has more success in pharma than many other areas.

This raises an interesting point in terms of health of SAP based on industry focus. That's one reason why I did these lists with some reluctance. Obviously, pharma is going to be less impacted by the downturn, than say, the automotive industry.

I actually have a ranking of SAP industry solutions planned but that's going to take some work. I have some research underway, but that should balance some of these other rankings a bit. Thanks for chiming in!

- Jon Reed -
Jon Reed responded... (User IP:
11/13/2008 21:38:00
moving to CRM
Hey Raja.

As for SAP CRM, it's tricky, because it does come down to the functional knowledge you have as well as SAP skills. The more background you have in CRM related areas, the better off you are with that as a focus. I do like SAP CRM, even in this downturn, though not as much as I like the core SAP modules. Some aspects of SAP CRM, including those tied to ecommerce, call center, and sales force automation, all seem very relevant. In a down economy, you still need that stuff. The more "fluffy" CRM stuff that pertains to marketing management and opportunity management, I don't see those areas of CRM being as successful.

I have a long piece planned on the Business Suite modules, so I'll have more to say on SAP CRM soon.

- Jon Reed -
Rohit responded... (User IP:
11/14/2008 09:27:47
Glad to know that as expected, FI/CO is still at the top of the ladder...
Surprising, I never thought HR would make it to second place, esp. considering how, many clients use peoplesoft and others...
Jon Reed responded... (User IP:
11/14/2008 18:19:34
functional list
Hey Rohit,

Thanks for the comment. Sorry that this comment functionality doesn't seem to link URLs, I may be switching. Anyhow, if you want to leave a comment with a URL, leave a comment on my Career Blog which is a wordpress plug in that has URL functionality.

But yeah, it's amazing how far HR/HCM has come for SAP. I always thought SAP would eventually get its act together with HR functionality. What I wasn't expecting was that HR would evolve from something that is more about back office into something more strategic, "HCM," with implications for talent management, recruitment, succession planning, etc. But SAP has stayed on top of that stuff as well. Plus all the Internet-based self-service functionality that has done so well with SAP ESS and MSS.

Of course, for this list, I did separate the modules out, and if we consider SD/MM/PP and maybe WM as part of an enhanced logistics area, that might be hotter than HR. These lists are more subjective than scientific but hop...
VIKAS NIGAM responded... (User IP:
12/10/2008 19:52:54
How you rank PM in your list?

How do you rank SAP PM module in the near future and in which region of the globe one can find the challenging opportunities.

Jon Reed responded... (User IP:
12/12/2008 12:22:32
PM module is number 9
Hello Vikas. If you scroll up, you'll see that the PM module is number 9 on my list. You can check out my thinking on why above. Generally I like PM in combination with other core modules, such as MM, though there are some spen/ats in PM doing well. But you must be very senior to only focus on PM. Globally, I can't say which countries have the most PM demand, but we do know that SAP is doing well in many emerging markets. I have not seen any global info on PM demand though.

- Jon Reed -
Krish responded... (User IP:
12/12/2008 23:54:16
Rank for BW/BI
Hello Jon,

What rank do you place for BW/BI Module in the list

Jon Reed responded... (User IP:
12/15/2008 21:17:43
BW/BI module ranking
Hi Krish.

As noted in my criteria, this particular list is strictly a ranking of the core functional modules. I hope to do another one on the Business Suite components soon. Note that if BI/BW was still a Business Suite app like CRM I would rank it #1 in that category of demand. Now that BI ships with NetWeaver, I consider it by default a technical skill. Of course, this isn't entirely fair, as there are some functional opportunities in BI as well. But, for the purposes of clarity on my lists, I have put BI on the technical list, where it is ranked number one. You can see that list on the hot overview page in the "news" menu item on the left hand navigation.

- Jon -

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