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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 JonERP.com 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.

Road Ahead for SAP Consultants 2011 - The SAP Mentor View Print E-mail

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"Discussing Vijay's "Road Ahead for SAP Consultants 2011 Blog Post - Skills Trends and Realities for SAP Professionals" (ERP Lounge #18)
Podcast Interview Date: February 20, 2011
Podcast: Listen Now!

For several years, SAP professionals have looked forward to SAP Mentor Vijay Vijayasankar's annual blog post, "The Road Ahead for SAP Consultants." In honor of this always-provocative blog post, Jon pulled together fellow SAP Mentors Vijayasankar and Leonardo De Araujo for an in-depth discussion/debate about Vijay's skills rankings for 2011 and beyond.

The result? An hour long talk that goes into detail on emerging skills in BusinessObjects, HANA and Business ByDesign, as well as how core skills like ABAP development are evolving. Topics like why SAP upgrades are not increasing demand as much as expected are also covered. The last fifteen minutes delve into the impact of community recognition to career advancement, closing with an update from Jon and Leo on the latest with the "Certification Five."

Editor's note- podcast links: This podcast references Vijay Vijayasankar's "Road Ahead for SAP Consultants 2011" blog post as well as the "Road Ahead for SAP Consultants 2010." Also noted: Jon Reed's "SAP Industry Skills Rankings" and the work of the "Certification Five," a group of five SAP Mentors advocating improvements to SAP certification that includes Jon and Leo. Also mentioned: SAP Mentor Vitaliy Rudnytskiy's "HANA: What it Means to Your Business and Your Career."

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 Highlights

1:28 Vijay on the origins of the "Road Ahead for SAP Consultants" blog post series on SCN. The first blog was read by 15,000 people - and ever since, it's been a regular feature and the subject of debate and discussion.

3:30 #1: "BusinessObjects tools will get significant traction in SAP shops." Vijay: This was the strongest theme I heard in 2010: A lot of BW shops held off on moving to BusinessObjects, but in Q3 in TechEd, I saw a lot of excitement about moving into TechEd. The one issue we continue to face is: what happens to BEx? But in 2011 we should see a lot of traction on the BusinessObjects side.

4:40 Are the numbered rankings significant? Vijay: Number one is not really number one, it's really about picking the top ten. I usually type around 10 and delete 10 from the list. For example, I deleted mobility for the year - because I think it will be another year before these opportunities hitting consultants, which can be a lagging indicator once companies start significant adoption for a product.

7:00 Leo's take on #1: It belongs in number one - SAP has sold a lot of BusinessObjects licenses and it has a lot of traction. Many customers have BO licenses and have yet to install it. But: what about folks on the classical BW releases? How much of them are going to get involved with dashboards? How much should old school hands-on consultants get hands-on in these areas?

Vijay: There is a strong opportunity for dashboards, for example, in CRM, the chance to embed reporting in transactions. It's a missed opportunity if you don't learn about it, and you can learn how to put together a simple dashboard in an hour or less. Things that we would otherwise have to write in ABAP and BSP you can do with dashboards - functional guys need to hit this opportunity. Jon: BI is becoming a skills that all SAP consultants are going to need in their tool kit, but timing that is tricky if you're a consultant.

10:26 Leo: I really believe all the functional consultants should understand BI and how it fits into the skill set. But I have a practical concern: how many of my teams should actually be trained in using dashboard? How many should I send to training? Vijay: That's an excellent question that all consulting firms are grapping with. SAP Education may need to get involved and do a survey on this: how do you train non-BI functional consultants in BI? I think a 2-3 day course for a functional consultant to learn BI would be a popular sellout. Jon: another topic for the Certification Five.

12:00 Jon to Vijay: It's not just about tools anymore, right? We're back to consultant as advisor, right? You have to understand the roadmap. Vijay: the technical roadmap is extremely important. But there's a big problem with SAP customers, they will buy things for a better bill of materials or pricing and they get another item thrown in - there's a lot of shelfware around BI that people don't use, and they are paying maintenance for it, why not use it? It's up to the consultant to advise the customer on how to make best use of BI based on how the field is evolving. But then there is also the non-SAP world of BI, other vendors besides SAP that are doing amazing things in BI, so there's a number of tools to understand. You have to know which tool works best for which situation. That's where consulting firms become invaluable, and that's where the "trusted advisor" role comes in.

15:02 #2 "More clients will move from EC-CS and BPS/IP to BPC, GL migrations will keep consultants busy." Vijay: to clarify, it's 7.5 for BPC. NetWeaver numbering is not my favorite topic. Leo: BPC and GL are both active in the market and there is momentum there. Vijay: the PCM solution is one of the best that SAP has acquired and it's very well integrated with BPC, so that's an area to keep an eye on in years to come, it's very usef friendly, and it has ETL tools that don't need any coding. By 2012 this should pick up steam.

18:26 #4: Learn what is possible with HANA and what is not? Vijay: I have a HANA bias, which is why it ended up so high on this list. Almost all the clients I've spoken to in my current role, where I work on in-memory, they are all convinced HANA is the next big thing. By that I mean HANA in its final look and feel, not 1.0. A few years ago, SOA was the big thing and now there are a bunch of web sites making fun of it. I hope the same thing doesn't happen to HANA. At the least, consultants should be learning what HANA can do with it. Jon to Leo: Do you buy into the HANA hype? Leo: I see the point, but it's really early in the game. I'm really fascinated by how this is going to change how what we do. 1.0 is very early for what HANA is trying to achieve, but how is this going to change the BI world. I buy into the hype, but it's early.

21:00 Jon: Assuming HANA gets traction, a couple years from now, how will consulting work change? Vijay: How did we start with BW a few years ago? In hindsight, BW was a compromise. You have to get data out of SAP and put it in different format to get something out of it. More servers, people, consulting, time delays to get information to business. If we could report straight out of the original OLTP system, a lot of this grief wouldn't have been there in the first place, we'd have near real-time information. HANA totally revolutionizes that - the speed is just one part of it. You don't need a complex set of tables for every document. In the in-memory world of the future, you don't need all these summary tables. All that will happen on the fly. It's a totally different way of thinking, a different way of modeling data, all that will get turned on its head. For consultants, I would request all my fellow consultants to spend some time understanding why in-memory databased work. There is less back-end work and focus on getting information the way you need it, which has not been SAP's strength in the past. That will change quickly, and there can be more focus on UIs and the front-end tools.

24:12 Leo: I see this changing for customers a lot. BW cubes require a lot of work around extraction - all that goes away, that's a significatn chunk of work, creating InfoCubes, and with less data replication. Simpler and quicker BI reporting with access to live transactional data, this should be an explosion of BI and reporting work.

25:00 Leo: We can talk about all these amazing new technologies, but the Business Suite still runs on ABAP. Yes, things are moving fast, ABAP today looks very different than it was in the 90s, so today it's a liablity if you don't understand object oriented ABAP, Switch Frameworks, web services. Vijay: I would urge SAP to do a survey on customer usage of ABAP, because many in the install base are still using classical ABAP. I tried writing some ABAP two years ago and got yelled at by the compiler saying "you are obsolete."

29:45 Jon: breezing through 6, 7, 8. Leo: one comment on virtualization: I really believe the moving beyond VM Ware and AWS and virtualizing SAP is going to have an impact. Vijay: Data federation is a big deal now, and I could have easily put that higher on the list. The sheer amount of data that gets moved and stored is something to make note of. Understanding these trends matter.

#9: "Wait and watch for Business ByDesign." Vijay: creating add-ons could be the opportunity. C# and ABAP both have entry points, but I put the advantage on the C#. Is it "wait and watch for 2010?" Leo: I agree...I believe this is a significant year for ByD, with customers running and a mature version and an SDK, as a result I think there will be a big number of customers signing on. I believe in the tool and it has come a long way, but until the partner platform evolves, there won't be a huge consulting need. Jon: 250 ByD customers right now, and there is a goal of 1,000 customers for the year. It's going to scale to some degree, but 1,000 customers won't be enough to push consulting demand. But there are differences: it's less about customizing the products, it's more about building add-ons. The SDK version just went live, SAP has a lot of work to do getting the word out on what that's going to take. On the functional side, you're not necessarily on the client site. You're more of an advisor than an implementer, and you're not specializing in just one area like financials. But you might have more of an industry focus. This seems like an interesting opportunity for 2012 but it may not be the consulting world of today.

Vijay: The one ByD question I have is: is 1,000 customers worth someone trying to write apps and add-ons for? What's the long term plan for? Salesforce probably has more than 50,000 customers, so that kind of volume I can see people spending time on add-ons, but with a smaller base, I doubt it. Getting peopkle out of QuickBooks into ByD, I can see some value but is that a big deal? I'm still not too sure about the future of this product and how much it will scale. Leo: I would add that the traction will happen, but it will be a lot about deploying the standard without much add-ons from the SDK. But it is important to keep in mind this is a completely different ball game, you can't share the same resources from ByD to SAP ERP - it's very different skills. Jon: Another big change: a ByD consultant might have 6-10 assignments simultaneously. Vijay: the question is timing: when do you catch up with your competition? If you take a lot of time to hit 10,000 users, the world will have moved a lot farther by then.

39:50 #10: SAP job growth in other parts of the world. Vijay: This is in response to a lot of my friends who lost their jobs. What some of them did, and others did not do - they actually left the US market and went and capitalized on the booming SAP markets elsewhere in the world. There are opportunities there if you really want to work in SAP. Go where the opportunity is.

41:05 Jon to Leo: Any thoughts on the SME space? You're watching that market closely. Leo: for SAP to work in SME, you have to have a smart "All in One" implementation plan. You can't approach it in a large company consulting model. Another topic: for functional folks, one thing to capitalize on is that there is a need to understand what is going on with Enhancement Packs and SAP technology. There is a lot of functionality there that can be used. There's a lot of opportunity to sell this functionality to customers. Vijay: Most of my clients are looking at EhP4, and there are a lot of questions. Now consultants have a pretty solid idea of what's in the the EhPs and can work with clients to see if there is some functionality that can be activated instead of building from scratch. Leo: EhP5, Netweaver EhP2 - full support of the NetWeaver Business Client will be offered. Wed Dynpro ABAP and EhP functionality will benefit from EhP 2 of NetWeaver.

45:30 Discussion of the comment thread to the post: leaving out mobility was the most controversial decision. NetWeaver BPM? Haven't seen the adoption yet. Sustainability? SAP has its own products as well as the EH and S solution. Jon: my argument would be that all consultants need to think about greening their skills in their various areas of SAP. But I don't see a lot of uptick yet in terms of sustainability. Then there is the industry solution question. Vijay: on top of the SCN comments, I get email comments as well. Industry specialities and focus is a big deal, but it's not an easy question to answer, and I"m focused on the electronics industry so that's not my easiest answer. Jon: much of this goes back to my Industry Solutions hot skills ranking.

50:50 Discussion of Vijay's last year's "Road Ahead" blog post. Jon to Vijay: #2 on last year's was upgrade projects will pick up? Vijay: I didn't actually see a lot of people in a hurry to upgrade towards the end of last year...there was no visible trend unlike the previous year. It's not a scientific study, but that reflects what I hear. Leo: when things start to pick up, you'd expect a whole bunch of upgrades, but we haven't seen that. We've seen some upgrades, but the amount of upgrades was overestimated. A lot of times it ends up being a big support pack project with lots of testing. I don't see that materialzigina lot of time, customers often do it themselves. Jon: customers are looking for a "smart" approach, and they're more technical, focused on testing, and the business projects end up going on the wish list. Vijay: The one thing that i see is that "year of the data" was indeed probably number one for last year.

54:40 Vijay on not listing community participation on this year's list. I got a lot out of it personally, I seem to get a lot of unsolicited job offers. I think that's a good sign of community participation, and these job offers aren't based on a close look at my resume. It's based on community participation. Since I didn't see a great volume of this in 2010, it didn't make the cut. Leo: I don't focus much on recognition, but working in the community has a lot of value, and it's still under-utilized by a lot of consultants. They don't go to SCN for reference as much as they should. Jon: I don't do community work to get jobs, I do community work because it makes me better and smarter. Vijay: I'm dead opposed to points. IBM has four Mentors, and I can think of two cases, we did get some recognition within IBM for being a Mentor. So community work can impact our employers as well. Discussion of the different types of community involvement - it's not all about the points, and it's not all about SCN. Jon: SAP Mentors have debated how much SCN-related work Mentors should be doing.

1:00 Vijay to Jon and Leo: Give us a quick update on SAP Certification. Jon: Executive reorg at SAP has impacted our project, because some advocates of our certification work moved on. The new executives may be even more enthusiastic but it's made things pretty slow, and SAP wasn't moving fast to begin with. There should be the first meeting of the Certification Influence Council (CIC) this spring. But, the slow pace is a concern. Leo: I agree completely. I'm betting the first CIC meeting will happen in May at Sapphire.

 

 

 

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