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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."
Avoiding SAP Skills Commoditization - Keys to Differentiating Your Skills Print E-mail
jonerp_full_logo.PNGAugust 14, 2010 Bangalore intro from Jon Reed: I wrote this piece as a part of my streaming discussion on "SAP Career Strategies" with SAP Inside Track Bangalore. I envision this to be a document I return to and add additional context and links. Make sure to also examine the SAP Career Outlook 2010 which informs and fleshes out many of the concepts in this piece.

Avoiding skills commoditization is a constant challenge for most white collar professionals, and the SAP pro is no exception. Much of the work on can be seen as a guidebook for differentiation in a crowded SAP skills marketplace. This is not just an issue for junior consultants anymore. Even some senior consultants (15 years plus) are calling me to let me know that they are struggling to maintain the rates they need to continue as independents.

Of course, becoming a commodity is a matter of degrees. All of us have areas within our skills that are trending and areas where the demand for that skill is leveling off. And rates for commoditized skills don't usually disappear; they just gradually level off. But what is especially interesting for SAP professionals is how complicated the mission of differentiation has become. It's less and less a simple supply and demand issue for one particular skill. It's about having a stable core of skills and several emerging skills, but it's also about a mindset change.

It's about being in the cloud and understanding on-demand trends, it's about business intelligence and knowing how to bring actionable information to light on transactional systems, it's about being able to move across the aisle and work with techno-functional teams. It's about "greening your skills" to help companies go beyond compliance into leaner models of production. It's about agility of role (including agile development and lean know-how), but most importantly, being able to step out of the cubicle and help solve business problems. It's about being on the edge of company interaction where customers and partners live. That also means awareness of emerging UI technologies and mobile interfaces.

For that reason, it's hard to break down one key technical skill and hone in on the level of pure demand. SAP skills have become a core wrapped in concentric "skills layers" of soft skills, BPX/process skills, consulting skills, and edge trends. Focus is more important than ever, but only when that focus is networked with relevant touch points throughout the enterprise. And now more than ever, community involvement plays a key role in sustaining skills through self-education. SAP expertise is now less about solo study and more and about knowing how to plug into a community of peers.

It goes without saying that in this new era of skills commoditization, where skills are easily sourced on projects from global locations, that consulting skills are important no matter where you sit in the enterprise. Even full time, in house SAP staff need to understand the consultants mindset, and think of themselves as those who understand their companies' business model and use SAP to solve pressing business problems and ideally to open up new markets. And yes, it is about social networking, with the caveat that you must grasp the difference between organically expanding influence and chasing popularity. Paradoxically, expanding your social influence is about leaving the herd and creating your own channel and distinct perspective.

With that said, in no particular order, here are some key tactics for skills differentiation. I hope they help you stay one step ahead of commoditization. Not all of them will be appropriate for you so pick and choose. Most of them are covered in greater detail in articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos on this site.

1. Even virtuosos must be able to work in a team context. The era of the "SAP mercenary" who can move as a hired gun from project to project at "obscene" rates is over. Being a so-called "virtuoso" in a particular area of SAP can help you stand out in the market, but only if you can function well in a team goal context.

2. Pursue team lead and higher management roles. In particular, the senior hands-on team lead who still has hands in the technology but who can push a team forward can stand out.

3. Aspire to relevant "BPX-flavored" roles like the Enterprise Architect and Solution Architect on the technical side of SAP and the Business Process Expert roles on the functional side. These can be senior roles that offer a different career track for those who want to be in cutting edge project roles where skills are at a premium without moving into the classic management ladder climbing. Adding "BPX flavored" skills to your current role, where it is agile development/Scrum techniques or process modeling and end-to-end process know-how, can also have an impact. Many times there are free or open source tools that can launch a team into a creative mode in these areas, even when management buy-in is sluggish.

4. Pursue the "hardest" of the soft skills. Being able to pull business requirements out of users who aren't as familiar with SAP is one such skill. Soft skills are gaining more and more traction in SAP as we realize it's not only about being someone who is easy to approach and get advice from. Soft skills can encompass SAP project methodologies, cultural change management, and in particular, the ASAP methodology with BPM enhancements (ASAP 7.0).

5. Head into new technical areas, ideally those that extend logically from your core skills. Chasing hot areas doesn't work, but ensuring you are on the latest versions and platform extensions for your area matters.

6. Solve business problems. Know how to quantify how you have saved your company money or built new revenue streams, and add this quantified information to all resumes and online profiles such as LinkedIn. Being able to quantify your impact and articulate that (even if it is team impact more than individual impact) is becoming a key SAP career skills.

7. Understand end-to-end business scenarios in an industry-specific context. Knowing your industry across multiple projects and combining a skills focus with a process-based and workflow-driven understanding of how you fit into your company (or client's) business strategy is vital.

8. Move to the "edge of the enterprise" and excel in roles that require extensive interaction, collaboration, and requirements gathering with customers and partners. Be the go-to person who knows the social and business tools that enable that collaboration.

9. Use the "power of pull" to pull in filtered SAP information in your focus area on a regular basis. Apply that information into your project of continual self-education. People are spending too much time worrying about pushing their agenda in a broadcasting sense and not enough time "listening" and developing a context for their work through the powers of online pull.

10. Before going "social," identify the areas in SAP you are truly passionate about and develop ways of sharing content pertaining to that area (blogs, videos, workshops, free open source programs).

11. If you "go social" to build your community network online, do it with a purpose. Don't chase popularity, focus on influence through relationship building with peers that push you into the most interesting topics and new areas to explore. No mindless retweeting and reblogging and adding to the noise. Average content doesn't stand out anymore, exceptional content does. That content should stem from areas of your expertise where your passion for the topic shines through. "Social" really only works if you are social with a purpose that drives your involvement across online communities, whether it's SCN or LinkedIn or Twitter or an online user group. "Personal branding" should not be an obessive end goal but an organic byproduct of purposeful online community building and content sharing.

12. Consider "productizing" your knowledge into bonafide SAP solutions, whether books, software programs, or starting a services firm that uses intellectual property (like training manuals) to differentiate. Decide whether to sell or give away such content on a case by case basis. Giving away content tends to build market and brand awareness, selling products is best done in the context where there is already a "free" community foundation of your work in place.

13. In the midst of economic insecurity, clinging to a job doesn't work. What works better is taking on bold projects that re-inspire our courage creativity, often with collaborators (like my work with the Certification Five), inside and outside of the workplace. Use those projects to build your industry reputation beyond company walls, making you less dependent on one employer.

14. Build your online presence in a manageable way over time, so that you are rarely put in a position to post "I'm available" on your LinkedIn profile. If you interact in a consistent way and help others by giving our free information of value, offers should come to you and you can take pro-active steps rather than putting up a "I need work" sign.

15. Adopt the "share the value" mindset of the "free" Internet era. That means: don't hoard all your intellectual property. Share some of it freely, don't offer only paywall teasers and frustrating partial solutions. Offer a full solution to give companies a chance to truly gain a piece of value from you. When you do so, they'll be back for more.

16. Don't shrink at the sight of adversity - adversity is everywhere right now. Use adversity to hone your business model and dispassionately evaluate your approach by showing you what is not working and make adjustments.

17. Consider lifestyle adjustments to make costs of living more compatible with virtual consulting. Between offshore trends, remote consulting, and emerging on demand consulting models, there are more and more opportunities to work from home or from a local center. Sometimes this work is not cutting edge, other times, in the case of SaaS consulting (such as Business ByDesign) it will be. Often it means managing multiple clients, sometimes at competitive rates, but often, remote consulting rates are lower. A streamlined lifestyle can go a long way towards making the new economics of consulting manageable and freeing up time and resources for essential skills transitions.


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3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."


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