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The Impact of ERP@BPX - Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
Article Index
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Podcast Transcription:
The Impact of ERP@BPX: A BPX Community Podcast with Elke Simon-Keller of SAP and Nathan Genez of Serio Consulting
Hosted by Jon Reed of
Podcast Interview Date: October 14, 2008

Jon Reed: Hi, welcome to this special SAP BPX community podcast. I'm your host, Jon Reed, of and joining me today is Elke Simon-Keller, director of ERP Solution Management at SAP. We're also joined by Nathan Genez, Managing Partner of Serio Consulting. We're here to talk about the ERP@BPX community and how the resources on BPX can increase the effectiveness of SAP consultants. Elke and Nathan, welcome to the podcast.

Elke, let's start with you. For those who haven't met Elke, Elke has worked as an SAP Travel Management Consultant for SAP America for five years before moving to Shanghai, China. Since then, she's been managing the ERP Solution Management team in China, responsible for ERP rollout and market development across Asia, Pacific and Japan.

In the beginning of 2008, she began to launch different wikis and discussion forums and she recently founded ERP@BPX as part of the SAP Community Network. So, Elke, can you tell us more about the origins of the ERP@BPX community - how it came about and how it can help SAP BPX members?

Elke Simon-Keller: The Enterprise Resource Planning Community is fairly new to the SAP Community Network and it's basically a web space for everybody involved with ERP to learn about the latest developments. It's a space to come together and to exchange knowledge. The space is really run by the ERP community itself, which are both SAP employees and external SAP professionals. They are devoted contributors who are quite competent - experts actually, in their respective fields. We are trying to leverage the Web 2.0 technology; we are trying to communicate and interact with each other as opposed to just having a one way communication channel. It's more than a publishing platform. We really would like to see people interact with each other.

We do have articles and white papers published, but the weblogs are actually those which enable commenting and direct communication with the author. We do have videos, e-learning and webinars. We also have wikis out there, which are nothing less than our own SAP wikipedia for the community to share and gather their knowledge. We do find these wikis to be the best tools for keeping the knowledge up to date by involving the community at the same time. Those are all great ways to engage with the community for anyone out there who feels like being a part of the ERP community.

ERP@BPX, as I mentioned, has only been live for a few months, and we have established the main pillars of the page which you can call the front page. It's an overview of all the new and exciting contributions which are in SAP Community Network about ERP. Then we have our key topics, which include financial excellence, best people and talent or human capital management, order to cash, operational excellence. We have stuff about SAP enhancement packages for SAP ERP, upgrade to SAP ERP, market trends in ERP, and also product enablement calendars, which are free for anybody to join.

We also have a section for ERP best practices and a guide for people on how to best get started with ERP. It has really become the virtual home for everyone that is working with ERP, and it's a great resource to learn and to get in touch with the experts directly.

Reed: So, Elke, how would you suggest a current BPX member get started in the ERP@BPX area?

Simon-Keller: Well, there are actually a few ways to get started and to dip into the community. First of all, the best thing is to go out there and update your blogger profile and, with this, you can start it right away and start your own blog. Then you can dig into existing blogs that are out there, and communicate with the authors directly. Then, by browsing the discussion thread, you will find useful tips and tricks on customizing or best practices, so feel free to jump into these discussions if you feel you have something to share related to the asked topic. In addition, you may also just start your own thread as part of the discussion. Those are actually the best ways to really get engaged with the community.

Reed: Thanks, Elke. We'll follow up with you again towards the end of this podcast.

Nathan, I'd like to turn the focus on you now. For those who haven't met Nathan, he's worked throughout the FI/CO areas of SAP since about '96 and with BW since 2000. He's currently a Managing Partner at Serio Consulting; Serio specializes in the capital management areas of SAP across project systems and investment management and asset accounting. Prior to co-founding Serio Consulting, Nathan was a platinum consultant at SAP America, and I would add that Nathan is a prolific participant on the BPX Community and he's definitely made my own blogs more lively with his strong opinions and thoughtful comments.

So, Nathan, welcome and tell us a bit about Serio Consulting and your role in the SAP market.

Nathan Genez: Well, we're definitely a niche SAP consulting practice. We're dedicated to all forms of capital management. We really help customers handle how they track capital acquisitions, capital budgeting, and their ongoing monitoring of their capital records. We can do that both from the ERP site as well as at the BW, so we're a niche practice, but primarily we're all formerly with SAP. My partners are all former platinum consultants, so we're at the same time a very senior practice at that.

Reed: You've been a very active member within the BPX community, and I'm curious how this community has impacted your project work and your own pursuit of SAP knowledge.

Genez: Well, in terms of knowledge, the most important thing you've got to focus on is your connections - your colleagues, your network - and to that degree it's been helpful. I've definitely made some new connections since interacting with that area of SDN. I really consider my network to be important and vital to my personal success, if only because there's just no way I can possibly learn everything within SAP: it's just such a deep, deep application.

Anytime I have the chance to seek somebody else out there that's clearly a high caliber resource and they know their stuff in their area, I'm going to go out of my way to meet them. After a couple of my blogs or just various discussion threads, I've definitely had some offline conversations with people such as that, and that's been helpful. Those are people that can help me on my next assignment because I just can't do it all.

Then in terms of other SAP know-how, obviously SAP consulting is a very knowledge-based career and it's a very knowledge-based role, so anytime you have a chance to pick up some new information, that's a real valuable asset. In that regard, the ERP at BPX site has had some good material. I know Thomas Weiss had a really good and pretty lengthy series of blogs on enhancement packs and the switch framework, which is a new approach kind of similar to SAP support pack stacks that they came out with just a few years ago when NetWeaver 7.0 came out.

If you really want to get to be a true expert in your field, you can focus on your isolated area of expertise, but eventually customers just seem to keep coming to you with questions all over the place. If they really trust you and find you to be a credible resource, then next thing you know, they'll come to you with questions on these topics. You just can't volley them away and say well, that's a Basis issue or it's a Security issue; you've really got to have at least some awareness and knowledge of where some of these lines are drawn. So, in that regard, being able to pick up some of that information has been pretty helpful.

Reed: Nathan, when we were planning this podcast, you referred to something that really interested me which was the difference between a contractor and a consultant. I found that interesting because I tend to use the terms interchangeably. How do you see the difference and how does an SAP contractor become a consultant?

Genez: Well, in my mind, this is kind of a passionate topic because, to me, there is a big difference. First, you've got to define what these two terms are. I think the word "consultant" is just vastly overused, not just in the SAP market, but really in any form of professional services. The person who might be working in your yard is now a "landscape consultant" and somebody who plans weddings is a "wedding consultant." So it seems to be this natural upcharge or way to justify rates.

I'm really not sure what it is, but I don't think that "consultant" means the same thing today that it meant 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, you had to be a true expert: you had to have a deep, expert-level knowledge about your area - it could be engineering or accounting or medicine or, in our case, IT, the SAP arena. I think we really need to remind ourselves of the reality of that situation. In today's market, particularly in the IT market and in SAP in particular, being a consultant doesn't necessarily mean that you've achieved that level of expertise.

So, more so in the past years, SAP customers seem content to be contracting out large parts of their SAP responsibilities to contractors. Those people still have a key role in the SAP ecosystem and they are, a lot of times, responsible for a lot of the run-and-maintain responsibilities of the applications, which is certainly important, but it's not necessarily the same role that customers are coming to and they're asking advice for how to adopt an eSOA strategy, how to upgrade to NetWeaver 7.0, what they should bite off, what they should not bite off.

That kind of strategic advice for planning, the proper roadmap, getting requirements to develop an appropriate solution - those are completely different skillsets. Then the ability to actually articulate that as a strategy or plan that the customer can follow and develop real solutions, those skills are different, so it's a key point.

In terms of the significance of it, I think it becomes obvious in that if you're a contractor versus a true consultant, you don't quite have the responsibility, you don't have the visibility, the voice, the role; the customer is not going to rely on you as much. In a knowledge-based industry, everything actually gets tied to your knowledge. He who knows the most has the higher rate, the greater job security, more choice of projects, greater variation in their work, they have more challenges. It's all tied to that, so people need to keep that in mind when they're talking about those two terms.

If you are a contractor and you want to be a true consultant, the first thing you've got to do is bite off that knowledge. You've got to climb your way up the SAP knowledge curve, which is really kind of a mountain because it doesn't matter how well you articulate your answers or what your place is there on that particular project if they don't really trust that you know your area. Whether it's SD or Basis or Security, you'll just never get to that place where you'll have the bigger role, the bigger visibility with the project. You've really got to focus first on being a knowledge expert. That's hopefully where communities like BPX and ERP at BPX can help out.


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