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JonERP.com Hot SAP Skills Updates

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 JonERP.com 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 Business Suite Skill is the Hottest? A Special Podcast Feature from JonERP.com Print E-mail

jonerp_full_logo.PNGWhich SAP Business Suite Skill is the Hottest?
A Ranked List by Jon Reed of JonERP.com
Published: September 2009

For quite a while, we've been planning a ranked list of the SAP Business Suite skills and that list is finally here. This time, the complete review is done in podcast form, with the SAP Business Suite podcast from the ERP Lounge. So you'll want to listen to that - but we'll present the highlights from that podcast in this entry as well. During the podcast, Jon's co-host, Brian Trout, discussed his detailed BS7 skills rankings. Note that the rankings were limited to the four major "Suite" apps: SCM, SRM, PLM, and SRM.  Before we move ahead, it's also a good idea to read through our general disclaimer about the limitations of hot skills lists.

Remember as you read through these BS7 skills highlights from the podcast that too often, we talk too generically about skills needs. Skills demand in SAP is highly specialized. Even if we talk about CRM, some areas within CRM have broad needs and some have specialized needs. Just saying CRM is hot and SRM is not as hot is not very helpful, so in this feature, we're going to hone in on the skills needs of each module in turn. 

Ranking the SAP Business Suite Skills Demand

 

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 explored the discrepancies between these results during the discussion. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

SCM Skills Assessment - Why Did SRM 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.

PLM Skills Assessment - Why Did SRM 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. 

Suite Skills Analysis Wrap Up

- Common themes from the Suite skills discussion: visibility, integration, web services and collaboration platforms, and a conversion 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.

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," 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. 

There is even more content in the BS7 skills podcast itself, so make sure to check that out also.

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