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Welcome to the ERP Lounge Podcast Series - Inside the SAP Consulting Market

The ERP Lounge: Misadventures and Opportunities in SAP Consulting is Jon Reed's "special edition" podcast series featuring in-depth, uncensored discussions on the realities of the SAP skills marketplace. On this page, you can listen to (or download) any of our past episodes.

Join Jon Reed of and industry guests as they assess the SAP skills that are hot (and not) and demystify SAP market trends. You can comment on any of the podcasts (and join in the discussion) on The ERP Lounge LinkedIn group. You can also subscribe to all of The ERP Lounge podcasts as part of the JonERP Master SAP Blog and Podcast Feed. The ERP Lounge podcasts are also included in the JonERP iTunes podcast feed.

Podcast: The ERP Lounge #6: The State of SAP CRM Consulting Print E-mail

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"6th Edition - Assessing CRM Market Trends, The Pros and Cons of SAP's CRM strategy, and the Ideal Skill Set of the SAP CRM Consultant"
Podcast Interview Date: February 20, 2010
Podcast: Listen Now!
[PC users: "right click" to download file]
note: this is a 30 meg sound file, so it may take a minute to download

With special guests SAP Mentors Stephen Johannes and Vijay Vijayasankar!

Welcome to the sixth edition of The ERP Lounge: Misadventures and Opportunities in SAP Consulting. The ERP Lounge is a "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 special guests Johannes and Vijayasankar for this 65 minute sixth edition as they tackle reader questions on the CRM-Solution Manager connection, and whether SD or CRM is a better career path. Then the guys head into a market discussion on the state of CRM in an on demand world, how SAP can improve its CRM strategy, and most importantly, the keys to success as an SAP CRM professional

Stephen Johannes and Vijay Vijayasankar are both SAP Mentors, and Jon invited them on this program due to their informed and opinionated views. Basically, these guys love to talk CRM - or any key SAP issue for that matter! If you want more context for this podcast, you should also check out the "Future of CRM" webinar replay we refer to during this podcast, which was part of the SAP Mentor Monday webinar series.

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. If you want to subscribe to the series, get the The JonERP Master Blog and Podcast Feed. Or find Jon on his @jonerp Twitter feed. The ERP Lounge podcasts are also included in the JonERP iTunes podcast feed.

podcast takeaways: "The SD module is not going anywhere," "Programming in SAP CRM is NOT the same as programming in other areas of SAP," "You're hiring inferior talent when you use version requirements as an absolute requirement,""be a techno-functional "BPX" type of CRM person."

Podcast Highlights

I. (0:00) Opening Banter   

Jon's note: "Castles Made of Sand" did not tape properly during the intro, but we didn't have the rights to use the song anyway -  here's a YouTube recording of the Jimi Hendrix original. And here's a YouTube dude who did a very nice take in his bedroom. Jon chose "Castles Made of Sand" because CRM is a product area that rarely has lived up its own hype. 

Intros: Stephen works for Bunge North America, a large agricultural company. He supports the CRM 2007 implementation. They have a "lean and mean" model - Stephen is the full dedicated resource on the solution. Stephen has been working with SAP CRM since 2001 and is a CRM topic moderator on SCN. 

Vijay is a Senior Manager with IBM's SAP practice, and his focus has included CRM and BI. Vijay maintains a popular blog on SCN and is frequently chiming in on Jon's blog with challenging questions as he pushes the conversation.

(4:15) SAP Mentor Highlights: in lieu of explaining the SAP Mentor Initiative, Jon asks Vijay and Stephen to share a highlight of their experiences as SAP Mentors so far, including the aforementioned "Future of CRM" SAP Mentor Monday webinar - with another CRM webinar coming along later in 2010. The next one will hone in on the SAP CRM UI, which Stephen believes is becoming less and less a barrier to CRM adoption.

II. (10:15) Ice Breaker - Reader Questions and Comments

Each guy got a crack at a question. Question for Stephen that Jon received by direct message on his Twitter feed: You guys were talking about the CRM and Solution Manager connection, and I didn't really understand - can you explain?  Stephen explains the problems he's had with Solution Manager and how it has not, in his view, reflected CRM principles. ("It was a solution looking for a place in the customer landscape.")

(11:48) Question for Vijay - one of Jon's most popular reader career questions ever: If you had to choose a career in the SD module or in CRM, what would you choose and why? Vijay has asked himself this question a lot. There is quite a bit of functionality that has been lifted from SD and moved into CRM and made "simpler and nicer." Vijays says: "The SD module is not going anywhere."

Vijay explains that the two applications are not the same. SD has deeper sales functionality, and once you learn SD, then CRM is a breeze. Knowing SD can help you with CRM, so it's not a question of either/or. There may not be as many new SD projects as CRM, but the connections between the two are there. Vijay could re-apply 70 percent of his SD knowledge into CRM without having to relearn anything: pricing, output determination, sales orders - the functionality is very similar. Of course, CRM does have a nicer user experience and has new functionality in areas like marketing and trade promotions, but there are plenty of connections between the two.Bottom line: it depends on your background. If you have a strong back office order management background, SD can still be a good bet. 

III. (14:00) Market Banter - Examinging the Overall CRM Market

In order to establish the context for our feature topic on SAP CRM skills, Jon wanted to set the stage with broader CRM trends that will impact everyone in the field. So he starts by putting Stephen on the spot: 

"What is 'Social CRM' and what does the erm even mean?"

Stephen: recommends the industry standard book CRM at the Speed of Light, 4th Edition, by Paul Greenberg. There is still confusion on how vendors will apply this trend, but Greenberg defines social crm as (paraphase) "the company's response to the customer's control of the conversation." Social CRM is NOT just putting a Twitter feed out or a Facebook page or some user forms - it's about a philosophy of dealing with this shift in process and customer relationships. This is a common pitfall in CRM: getting caught up in CRM tools over improving processes.

The next question went to Vijay: 

"What do you make of the huge buzz around - are on demand solutions taking the buzz away from on premise CRM?"

Vijay: to a certain degree, they are - in areas like account management and lead management, but on demand CRM doesn't address all the functionality of SAP's on premise CRM solution.Vijay gets a variation on this question from customers frequently: "Why should I pay for a cadillac (on premise) when I just need a Chevy Malibu? (off premise)

Salespeople don't like to enter a lot of data. They want to do it all on their BlackBerries. As Vijay puts it, "SAP has historically engineered everything. Some applications don't need over-engineering - they just need to be stupid simple."

(22:50) Despite these ongoing issues, there ARE SAP CRM implementations going on. Sam Bayer of b2b2dot0 ran a survey on what SAP CRM is really being used for

"The bottom line is that most people are using SAP CRM for Service Management purposes, followed by the classic sales force automation requirements for lead and opportunity management, Not many people are using the Campaign Management functionality, and the least used functionality is Order Management."

Vijay: largely agrees with poll results: Service Management is the largest use case. Also:  Trade Promotion Management has picked up quite a bit, but Marketing Development Funds, similar functionality to Trade Promotions, has not gained as much traction.

IV. (26:40) Into the Lounge, Feature Topic: The Keys to Success as an SAP CRM Consultant

In the ERP Lounge feature segment, Jon and the guys talk about:

"What Makes a Successful SAP CRM Consultant?"

Stephen: A really successful SAP CRM consultant really understands the process you are trying to support, even on the technical side. If you're not a customer-centric consultant, it's hard to implement CRM. Both technical and functional skills matter. Some CRM processes are complicated, some are not. If you're a technical SAP person, picking up on simpler processes like activity management and sales force automation should not be tough. Other areas, like trade promotion management get more complicated.Understanding the technical limitations of SAP CRM is very important.

Jon asks Vijay about which consultants his customers like, and which ones they choke on and kick to the curb?

Vijay: If they aren't customer focused, they're out of there. Vijay shares a real life lead management example. It's one of the easiest things to configure in SAP CRM, but that's a mechanical view of the world. How can you identify leads in a systematic way? Few companies can afford huge sales forces - companies want to expand lead management into new areas like web site conversions and live chats. The functional SAP CRM consultants who can think ahead and add additional value in these area are in demand. On the technical side, companies need good UI skilled people who can help deal with separating the logic from the UI layer as companies move to CRM 6.0 or 7.0. Programming in SAP CRM is NOT the same as programming in other areas of SAP. For the aspriing developer, it's not a seamless transition to SAP CRM on the technical side.

Stephen: You have to understand the CRM data model, which goes back to the functional know-how. It's not just hard core ABAP - it's knowing things like how business partners are structured in CRM. In CRM, an activity or a service order is just a business transaction. If you're a technical consultant, you really have to understand the SAP CRM data model.

(35:30) Vijay and Stephen provide suggestions for how SAP Education can help with the process of helping SAP CRM professionals succeed - new certifications, like a new SAP CRM technical certification, would be very useful. Jon promises to share this podcast highlight with SAP Education, and Stephen sees a role for SAP Mentors in this process.

(39:15) Jon's monologue: So what is the best technical/functional skills mix for the SAP professional? Jon recently wrote two white papers on SAP careers on this. Jon still advises 80 percent functional/20 percent technical or vice versa. Reason: you still can't claim to do everything well in SAP. Jon recommends more of a 50/50 mix around new emerging roles that Jon and Vijay have debated around Enterprise Architect and Solution Architect. 

Stephen: Generally agrees with 80/20 skills mix if you have the luxury of that model. But there's another role that violates the model: the CRM Middleware expert. This is a 1/3 Basis 1/3 Developer 1/3 functional type, all rolled up into one person - at least the really good ones. Must know SD config, CRM config, and Basis config. Stephen himself has gradually transitioned into a 50/50 role in his company, where he does some of his own development but has moved into more of a business-focused role.

Vijay: Specialization is not going away in a hurry, even if I wish that it would. But SAP CRM is one of the few solutions where a functonal guy can make up a bunch of enhancements at the UI level without typing in a BADI or actually coding. If you're new to SAP and coming from the R/3 world, you might need to adjust though.

So how many functional areas can an SAP CRM person master?  

(44:37) Vijay: at best, two. SAP CRM is historically organized around sales, service and marketing, and I usually only see consultants who are skilled in a couple of these areas. It's not just about configuration, it's about process knowledge and industry exposure too. But in SAP CRM, it's a lot easier, using the framework-based approach, to move into other functional areas of SAP. 

Vijay's last stand (prior to his hard stop appointment at the top of the hour):

(48:21) What is the CRM-BI connection? Jon's phone broke recently, and his experience was far from satisfactory - why do companies have so little insight into customer history and behavior, even now?

Vijay: This is a crucial issue. CRM's new architecture allows for easier searching and online reports, reducing reliance on traditional unflexible reports. Also: reporting is still an afterthought on too many projects. 

Vijay's last words of advice (before we bid him farewell from the podcast taping): SAP CRM is a great place to be. If you can be a techno-functional "BPX" type of person, understanding both sides well, and if you have a broad CRM understanding beyond SAP to make a grand solution including complementary products, you'll be on the right track. If you can build such a grand solution for the customer, then you're on the right track.

(51:39) Stephen's last stand: with Vijay gone, Stephen responds to Vijay's comments on CRM BI and how reporting can be overlooked on projects. Analtyics can't be an afterthought! Stephen also explains why Master Data Management (MDM) is such an issue in CRM with duplicate records and integration.  Key challenges in CRM implementation:

1. You must have a well defined CRM process and strategy,

2. You must get your users or sales force bought into that strategy,

3. You must have an effective data strategy for your customer master so the sales force knows where to input the data. 

(56:20) Stephen goes off on SAP version number hiring practices in SAP CRM! "I honestly get furious when I see a job that says, 'must have SAP CRM 7.0 experience, cannot have CRM 2007." Recruiters who insist on this don't get it! There are huge similarities between the two releases. It all comes down to which releases you have worked on  - companies should be smart about hiring folks who have relevant experience in releases that are similar as opposed to excluding high quality applicants. "Don't get hung up on the releases, make sure they have worked on the correct related release and have a good overall background."

Jon's soapbox: "You're hiring inferior talent when you use version requirements as an absolute requirement."

(59:31) Stephen's final SAP CRM skills suggestions:  You need to learn the new UI framework. If you're an "old dog" CRM consultant and haven't got experience in the UI framework of CRM 2007 or CRM 7.0, your future on projects is limited. Also: self-education is within your grasp. Educate yourself on SAP CRM processes by reading books such as the aforementioned Greenberg's, which Jon and Stephen have both read and recommend.

V. (1:06) SAP Skills Hot and Not - Jon and Stephen riff on Jon's recent poll on JonERP visitors preference of social networking sites for SAP networking. SCN and LinkedIn scored very highly, with Twitter in a distant third. Jon was a bit surprised given how highly he values the SAP conversations that take place on Twitter. But he thinks he understands why - Twitter is more of a time commitment.

Stephen's preferences: SCN has become huge for him. LinkedIn is useful to him for individual networking, but he prefers the more dynamic SCN environment for group interactions. Stephen also strongly advises anyone in the CRM field in particular to start grappling with Twitter. It's time to learn it. Stephen already has people asking him about CRM-Twittter integration. It's not something happening in projects now, but a year from now, it will be, so time to get on top of it.

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. 



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