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Podcast: The ERP Lounge #3: Ranking the SAP Business Suite Skills Print E-mail
podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"3rd Edition - Ranking the SAP Business Suite Skills - Asessing the Skills Demand for CRM, SRM, SCM, and PLM, and SAP Skills that are Hot (and Not)"
Podcast Interview Date: September 9, 2009
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Welcome to the third edition of The ERP Lounge: Misadventures and Opportunities in SAP Consulting, the new podcast series from JonERP.com! The ERP Lounge is the new "long form" podcast series that features uncensored, in-depth discussions on the hard truths and real opportunities in the SAP skills marketplace. All ERP Lounge podcasts kick off with reader questions from listeners like yourself!

Join Jon Reed and Brian Trout for this 65 minute third edition as they tackle reader comments and questions and then delve into an in-depth ranking of the skills demand in SAP CRM (Customer Relationship Management, SRM (Supplier Relationship Management), PLM (Product Lifecyle Management (PLM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM). Get the insights into why some aspects of these products are hotter than others and the industry trends that are driving adoption. Also get the latest take on "SAP Skills that are Hot/and "Not." 

Note: to comment on this podcast series, or send in a question for us to answer in the next one, be sure to join our ERP Lounge Group on Linkedin and let us know what you want us to cover. If you want to subscribe to the series, get the RSS feed for The JonERP Master Blog and Podcast Feed. You can also pose questions live to Jon on his real-time @jonerp Twitter feed. The ERP Lounge podcasts are also included in the JonERP iTunes podcast feed which is updated no later than 24 hours after the podcast posts here. For the timeframe of this episode and more on the topics covered (as well as some links to topics cited in the podcast), read on. 

Podcast Highlights

(Reminder: The ERP Lounge is self-rated PG-13 for discerning adult listeners and mature young people.)

Classic lines preview:

"I always thought 'New Dimension' was a cult." (15:00)

"This is not your grandpappy's procurement process." (37:05)

"APO used to be the sexiest thing on an SAP resume. Why didn't it take off?" (37:30)

"Is cProjects the Justin Timberlake of PLM?" (47:50)

"Whether you have a Siebel or SAP background is going to be a lot less important than whether you understand process modeling, with less emphasis on whether you know where tables are located within a specific application." (53:50)

"It's the combination of passion, focus, and skills continuity that builds a sought after SAP consultant." (54:50)

I. (0:00) Opening Banter  Guys are back for round 3. They aren't old pros at this, but they are getting better. They have fine tuned the format to work in more reader feedback and hone in on the feature topic more. This edition's feature - "Ranking the Business Suite Skills," is a topic that has been long requested on JonERP.com by his Twitter followers such as openczun. (Business Suite skills are the one feature missing - until now - from the JonERP "Hot SAP Skills" section

New Sound Transitions - Jon got his act together - this edition features sound transitions - famous quotes from the cult classic "Office Space."

Brian's update: Ups and downs with clients - buyers are reluctant, economy still sluggish. Hoping to see the earmarked projects and shelfware getting some funding. In the meantime, pushing through and sticking to the program.

Jon's update: Long days in the new new economy. Trying to keep the faith and keep skills sharp. Jon has three skills workshops coming up at SAP TechEd 09 Phoenix, including a possible collaboration with the Enterprise Geeks on SAP technical skills on Thursday of TechEd week in Phoenix. Jon isn't psyched on the new Phoenix location but maybe some quality Phoenix restaurants will change his tune.

(The guys are still nt recording on Skype yet but hope to be on Skype for next month's recording).

II. (5:41) Ice Breaker - Reader Questions and Comments

- Thanks to The Enterprise Geeks who like our "long form" SAP podcast structure. Thanks guys! (and our podcasts are for tech skills discussion just as much as functional skills discussion, so all Enterprise Geeks are welcome). 

- Reader Feedback from SAP IS-U/CCS and Web Dynpro consultant Praveen Jakka, who really liked our first podcast, especially the distinction between SAP contractors and SAP consultants. He also likes the "long session" format of the podcasts and gives the thumbs up to Brian Trout as Jon's choice of co-hosts.

- Reader question from Twitter: The ERP Lounge blew up on Twitter a couple of times with skills topics. Steve Rumbsy, Ed Herrmann of the Enterprise Geeks, and Darin Paton got in on the banter. The question came from SAP Mentor and important SAP skills blogger Vijay Vijayasankar, who asks, "When do you hire a consulting company and when do you hire a contractor?" 

The guys respond to the question, talking about the distinctions between managed project services and the often-underrated value of the independent subject matter expert. As customers get more sophisticated and projects more streamlined, the criteria needed for consulting support help. Even the biggest SIs sometimes have to turn to independents to make their projects fly so the notion that one particular firm "has the best talent" can be misleading. Sometimes companies go for the cheaper resources to save money and overlook the impact a true subject matter expert can have. Jon gives a shout out to independents and those who aspire to that role.

The question could use even more attention and might make a good feature for a future ERP Lounge podcast.

III. (15:02) Into the Lounge - Feature Topic: Ranking the SAP Business Suite Skills Demand

Clarification #1: we used to talk about the Suite in past terminology like "New Dimensions" (was it a cult? or a cutting edge term?). At any rate, today's Business Suite is much more than CRM, PLM, SRM, and SCM. It's an architecture, a business philosophy, a new functionality delivery mechanism via Enhancement Packs - much more than just four apps. EH &S, compliance management, Duet, and more - all part of BS7. But for the purposes of today's podcast, we are only looking at the four "three letter acronym" components.

Ranking the skills demand of the four suite apps: 

Brian has them ranked: (in terms of market acceptance, maturity, and skills demand):

1. CRM (by a wide margin)
2. SRM
3. SCM
4. PLM (distant fourth)

Jon's BS7 skills reader poll results are different, in terms of the skills folks want to obtain: SCM (45%), CRM (36%), PLM (11%), SRM (7%) - out of a survey pool of 85 voters. Jon and Brian will explore the discrepancies between these results during the discussion. 

Clarification #2: we talk too generically about skills needs. Skills demand in SAP is highly specialized. Even if we talk about CRM, some areas have broad needs and some have specialized needs. Just saying CRM is hot and SRM is not as hot is not very helpful, so we're going to hone in on the skills needs of each module in turn. 

A. (20:27) CRM Skills Assessment - Why is CRM the Highest Ranked of the 4?

- CRM continues to mature, each release adds functionality. The real change has been the integration of the J2EE architecture solution with CRM 2007, and CRM 7.0 is now "all the buzz." We hear a lot of talk about CRM 7.0 upgrades these days. 

- The PCUI architecture was inefficient at best, with its need for RFCs back to the SAP system. The new web client UI for CRM is faster, more user friendly, more content driven. SAP has finally realized the full integration of the Web App Server with CRM's functionality. Security enhancements have also increased CRM traction with IDM (SAP's Identity Management solution). This allows more extension to field users.

- The main components of any CRM solution are: customer tracking (call center), service, and opportunity management/marketing and campaigns (analytic results). What kind of value did your trade promotions provide? You need more visibility, better master data. All of this is improved with SAP CRM 7.0. 

(25:33) Breaking down the skills needs in CRM: 

Technical CRM: The changes in architecture are the fundamental differences with CRM 7.0. Customers on CRM 2007 and CRM 7.0 want consultants who have worked with the UI development tools, including BSP and the Composite Appliation Framework (CAF). Many NetWeaver Developer Studio concepts are involved here, but there are nuances to understand with the transition from PCUI. Web Dynpro logic is also called into play in many cases. Presenting front-end data on the Portal brings in other technical needs. Plus there is the Basis server-side installation/upgrade of the J2EE components. These are all key skills on the technical side. 

Functional CRM: There are functional enhancements in Sales, Marketing and Service. There are also industry-related trends and content, for example, in the media and entertainment vertical, there is SAP Intellectual Property Management (IPM), a skill that is needed. There is also Incentive Compensation Management with a lot of customizable commission logic for salespeople. SAP has fleshed out a great deal of functionality. Those functional folks who understand the business processes driving this functionality should do well, but the functional changes are not as significant at the technical ones. 

And can a functional person specialize in all three areas of SAP CRM (Sales, Marketing and Service)? To a degree, yes, especially with the overlap between Sales and Service, but as this functionality continues to expand, there will be more of a need for those who have a degree of specialization within SAP CRM, as is the case for other areas of SAP. 

And what about extending SAP to mobile users via CRM? Vishal Sikka, SAP's CTO, has referred to this in recent talks. Is this something we can expect to see more of skillwise? Without question. SAP CRM 7.0's integrated architecture is a major step forward to leveraging the NetWeaver Mobile Infrastructure (MI), and providing sales teams with mobile data on the fly via handheld devices. Real-time price quotes, product configuration data - this gives the customer a more interactive experience while in the field. The technology is moving towards making that a reality. 

B. (30:33) SRM Skills Assessment - Why Did SRM Come in at Number 2?

- Why has SRM moved beyond SCM in skills needs? It's higher because when you look at the Business Suite components, CRM and SRM have a broader industry relevance. Whether you're a service company or a manufacturing company, you need to be able to manage your outside vendors, conduct auctions, use analytics to assess which suppliers are most effective. Like CRM, SRM has more cross-industry applicability than SCM.

- The MM/FI-AP ERP reconciliation of procurement is a simplistic look at vendor collaboration. SRM has much more sophisticated and dynamic capabilities. Sometimes it's products, sometimes it's services. You need intelligent bidding, which is why SAP acquired Frictionless to do true E-Sourcing. The bidding engine in SAP was nowhere near what Frictionless could offer. 

(23:30) Breaking down the skills needs in SRM:

- Brian is high on SRM E-Sourcing. Unlike SAP's classic sourcing capabilities, you can create intelligent business rules with E-Sourcing. This is much more collaborative and allows you to get the leveraged services and products you need. There is definite skills demand in the E-Sourcing area. This is an ASP driven solution that can be implemented independent of the other BS7 components. Those who understand this tool and this type of collaboration and a procurement background could do well here.

- Also: Frictionless also has relevance in other areas - John Wookey's Software as a Service (SaaS) group within SAP is also building their apps using this platform. But you need to know more than the latest tools - you need to understand the range of options with procurement - "This is not your grandpappy's procurement process." If you bring that skills mix into the market, you'll do well. 

C. (37:15) SCM Skills Assessment - Why Did SCM Come in at Number 3?

Clarification #1: Why didn't APO ever take off? At one point, APO (Advanced Planning and Optimization). APO used to be the sexiest thing on an SAP resume. Why didn't it take off?APO didn't have broad industry applicability. A large segment of the market doesn't need APO's product capabilities, which relate to manufacturing and finished goods movement. If you're a financial or health care services company, you don't need that functionality. Within those manufacturing companies, there were best of breed players in those areas APO addresses that were entrenched on customer sites and hard to root out (i2, Manugistics, and a bunch of industry vertical tools as well). Many companies had a combination of best of breed tools and weren't ready to go with SAP APO. When you get into the underpinnings of an optimization strategy, you are dealing with complex algorithms, and there is not an ROI justification for going back and changing that.

Clarification #2: SCM is no longer just APO anymore. What else is in SCM now and are there areas in demand? SAP Event Management (EM) is one area that is looking to provide a greater amount of control and visibility to goods movement in the extended supply chain process. Event Management has a lot of viability in its own right. Then there is SAP's Auto-ID (SAP AII) solution. Brian has seen this particularly in the pharma industry and others that are heavily regulated. EPedigree is one such standard that SAP can support. 

Hot skills pick in SCM: SAP's Supply Network Collaboration (SNC), which Brian thinks we'll be seeing a lot more demand for. You're getting into the extended web services logic here and how it pertains to the supply chain network environment. Knowledge of MM/PP tables is one thing, but there's the knowledge of Web Dynpro development, and understanding materials movements in a networked context. SNC is a stand-alone solution that integrates with core ERP, and this can be a good area for ABAPpers as well. SAP MII and other solutions that give visibility to the manufacturing process are also worth keeping an eye on. 

D. (45:00) PLM Skills Assessment - Why Did PLM Come in Fourth?

- PLM came in fourth due to its narrow industry acceptance and a lack of overwhelming market demand for the solution. Brian doesn't hear customers asking for this solution. Originally, the product was a split between Recipe Management, with a link to PP-PI for Process Industries, and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Now EHS is no longer part of PLM, so the demand for PLM has narrowed further. But we see the need for it in recipe-heavy industries like chemicals and food prep. The broader PLM vision of using cProjects (Collaboration Projects) and having Portal-based collaboration with multi-vendor engineering scenarios - this just hasn't materialized in a high-demand way. We see it some in Aerospace and Defense, but when you don't have that specialized needs, the further you get from that, the less demand for PLM we see. 

- Sometimes in the music industry, a band has some success and then someone breaks off solo and has their own career. Is cProjects the Justin Timberlake of PLM? Brian thinks that's a fair comparison, though cProjects may not like the analogy. But we have seen a wider use of cProjects functionality, with uses like pipeline management. 

E. (49:25) Suite Skills Analysis Wrap Up

- Common themes from the Suite skills discussion: visibility, integration, web services and collaboration platforms, and a convergence between technical and functional skills. The platform and Suite functionality is really converging, and the need for deep business process know-how across the board gives these discussions a BPX context. When you bring the NetWeaver tools and lay them over these Suite products, there is a convergence of techno-functional skills needs. When we look at business processes that extend beyond the enterprise, we think of BPM tools, and the need to have tools that are not proprietary or that have an SOA framework that allows for interoperable collaboration. 

- So are CRM, SRM, PLM, and SCM, fading from view? Is this the end of the standalone Suite, with more fluidity in end-to-end processes? Is integration of core modules and Suite components more important now than just having standalone CRM skills, for example? Brian sees this a bit differently. He thinks it's the industry specialization and know-how that will be the key here, with SOA tools making everything more flexible. So you want to be able to connect industry tools and functionality with core ERP software. You need to understand how those processes are driven within your industry and how the tools can connect, often via web services. Whether you have a Siebel or SAP background is going to be a lot less important than whether you understand process modeling, with less emphasis on whether you know where tables are located within a specific application.

(54:15) BIG OL' FINAL DISCLAIMER: Even though we stand by our Suite skills rankings, that does NOT mean that someone should just chase what's hot and not pay attention to their own strengths. There are successful consultants across all these areas. If you're a PLM expert or have a PLM/engineering background, chasing CRM because it's hot makes no sense. It's the combination of passion, focus, and skills continuity that builds a sought after SAP consultant. Just because Brian Trout said that CRM was the hottest area doesn't mean you should abandon an area where you have a competitive advantage and really understand the tools and industry. That's what we call "market insulation," where you have a viable track to stay invested in. 

Bonus: SAP is finally pulling these Suite products into a standard naming convention (7.0) and how it matches with the core ERP solution. There is still a lot of shelfware to be implemented, hopefully we'll see more action as the market picks up. 

IV. (57:27) SAP Skills That are Hot/Not - This Week's Picks

A. Hot - Brian: CRM 7.0, web development, web services knowledge, Basis folks who can drive J2EE stack upgrades for Business Suite 7.0 components, anyone who understands the IDM solution, in the consolidations space, it's BPC Outlooksoft (SAP clients transition from Hyperion). Industries that are showing momentum: Utilities, Oil and Gas has had a spike. Jon: SAP EM (a recent podcast goes into that), SAP MII (another JonERP podcast gets into that), SAP's Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI), and Universal Worklist, another component to SAP's modern workflow management infrastructure. 

B. Not - If it's out of sight, it's out of mind. You don't want to become a commodity, LSMW being an example. Commodity versus value-add skills are a key distinction. Native BEx development is not hot either. It's going to be all about SAP BO soon. 

V. (1:02) Parting Shots a.k.a "Last Call" - Takeaways from the Podcast

Brian - "Keep your chin up, stay positive, we're gonna turn the corner on this market, cross your fingers."

Jon - "This is a difficult business environment and a challenging one, but when I see success in this economy, both with individuals and companies, I see a certain level of creative reinvention, an ability to find a passionate focus and push it out there in a pro-active way. Even if the phone isn't ringing off the hook, it's doesn't mean you are on the wrong track."

Your input is welcome!: To comment on this podcast series, or send in a question for us to answer in the next one, be sure to join our ERP Lounge Group on Linkedin and let us know what you want us to cover. If you want to subscribe to the series, get the RSS feed for The JonERP Master Blog and Podcast Feed. You can also pose questions live to Jon on his real-time @jonerp Twitter feed.

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