Podcast: Opportunities in SAP Event Management and Becoming a Thought Leader - with Kevin Wilson

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"Kevin Wilson of ERPGenie.com Explains Why SAP Event Management is the Best Kept Secret in SAP - and the Keys to Becoming a Visible Expert in the SAP Community"
Podcast Interview Date: August 21, 2009
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A handful of people in the SAP industry are distinguished by their truly outstanding contributions to the SAP community. Kevin Wilson, co-founder of ERPGenie.com and partner with Qdata USA, Inc, is one of those people. ERPGenie.com has supported the skills growth of thousands of SAP professionals. So what is the philosophy behind ERPGenie's success? And how has Kevin Wilson used those same principles to build his own SAP consulting career? What are his keys to finding a marketable niche in the SAP market and becoming a thought leader? 

Kevin remains a hands-on consultant with QData Consulting, and in recent years, he has become an expert in SAP Event Management (EM) implementations. Kevin has come to believe that SAP EM is one of the best kept secrets in SAP. But due to its powerful functionality and relevance to the "manage by exception" process philosophy, EM is not going to remain a secret for much longer. During this in-depth, 43 minute podcast, Kevin tells Jon about the opportunities in SAP EM consulting and how a range of technical and functional SAP professionals can potentially move into SAP EM work. 

Note: go to QData site for more on SAP EM.

Podcast Highlights

1:33 It's a challenge to keep a major web site up while maintaining client work - you need real motivation? So why did Kevin start ERPGenie.com, and what drives him forward? 11 years later, ERPGenie is thriving, which Kevin credits to an "abundance mentality" - share free information and update it constantly with fresh insights. Web sites like ERPGenie build goodwill and Kevin doesn't see a downside to freely sharing knowledge.

3:45 ERPGenie keeps adding new content, so what are the "must see" areas currently? Kevin cites the free online exam functionality - you can test your skills in ABAP, EDI, Workflow, XI and other areas. The questions are challenging, if you do well you can become highly ranked, receiving medals or an ERPGenie "Top Dog" status. If you've loaded your resume, your "Top Dog" status appears next to your resume on ERPGenie. Another new launch: myPIGenie.com - all NetWeaver XI/PI stuff, led by PI expert Michael Krawczyk.

5:55 Rating systems such as ERPGenie Top Dog are becoming key to hiring managers who want to make better sense of people's backgrounds. There should be increasing emphasis on consulting ratings and abilities in the years to come. Kevin knows that this can cut out the middleperson, but many middlepersons actually check out the exam scores on ERPGenie. The exams have up to 25 questions and they are very challenging. So that can be a real asset to hiring managers. Pre-qualifying job seekers online helps managers make informed decisions. There is interview functionality on ERPGenie also that can be accessed as well as the resume.

8:55 Jon probes Kevin's "abundance mentality." In this difficult market, many job seekers feel frustrated and desperate for work and are not focused on putting out positive information. So how can putting out creative and valuable SAP content help your career prospects? Kevin says marketing is crucial: there are thousands of consultants out there, so how do you get on the short list? Kevin's key is to find a niche and then market yourself. Blogs, webcasts, speaking engagements - you become known in a particular area. If you keep your knowledge to yourself it's much harder to find opportunities. People find you when you share information. Of the thousands invited to contribute to ERPGenie, only a small amount have stepped up and shared major amounts of information.

11:50 Jon thinks it goes beyond sharing knowledge to becoming a thought leader. It may sound ambitious, but if you have enough passion and focus you can get there. Through thought leadership, you can make a lasting contribution to the community. By sharing good works through such leadership, opportunities start coming your way. Does Kevin agree? Yes! QData positions its consultants as thought leaders as well. Kevin talks about consultants versus contractors. Contracts are task focused. Becoming a consultant means helping a business achieve value through thought leadership. They are the ones who do the design and the architecture, evaluate the processes, show you how to get value out of your implementation. Kevin says to take it to the next level, take that niche piece of functionality, whatever floats your boat, become an expert in it, take it out in the market and share it, and it will come back to you tenfold. (Note: for more on this topic, check out Jon's ERP Lounge podcast on "Be an SAP Consultant, not a Contractor."

13:50 The focus of the podcast: SAP Event Management. Why does Kevin think SAP EM is the best kept secret in SAP? Because every SAP customer wants it but they don't actually know they have it. SAP EM has been out there since 2004, and some major SAP customers are running it. SAP EM adds major value, and you can add it to an SAP installation to allow you manager your processes by exception. Managers want their processes to run smoothly. They have KPI related questions that transactions and master data can't answer. Even when you shift from transactions to processes, you can't always see into those processes and give you a way to manage exceptions and track those processes. There's nothing in SAP that will manager your processes and give you that kind of visibility - except SAP EM. Yes, you can try to go to BW and write fancy reports, but it won't give you the kind of info you can get from SAP EM. It's not easy for SAP to sell EM - it's a complicated solution on the back end, and it's not as straightforward to sell as SD, FI, CRM. 

19:50 Jon challenges Kevin to give the elevator pitch on SAP EM and sell him on its visibility as if he were an SAP customer. Example: order-to-cash. Do you know the status of that order as it flows through the system? Can you match your plan for that sales order with what's actually happening at that point in time? Most people would have to say no: we don't have that kind of visibility. They have to manage all the orders going through the system, instead of focusing on the orders that are not going according to plan. With a downturned economy, you need to save money and streamline. SAP EM allows you to manage by exception, and only manage the exceptions going through your system. This leads to real value quickly. With the extended supply chain, you don't have that visibility. You send your PO out there and hope for the best. If anything goes wrong, you don't know what's wrong. With the visibility of EM, you can see the problem immediately and take corrective action. 

23:15 Even though SAP EM may be a well kept secret, it is a stable part of some major SAP installations, including Canada Post and some huge "blue chip" SAP clients in the U.S. At Canada Post, when you are tracking your package online, you are using SAP EM. EM is not necessarily that expensive, but the bigger customers do more homework to find this kind of functionality. 

24:55 Given SAP's emphasis on process-oriented ERP, and managing exceptions through processes versus functional silos, Jon is surprised that SAP EM isn't getting pushed harder. Kevin believes that SAP is aware that they have something powerful with EM, but that have a lot of education to do around this with their sales force. 

26:15 SAP EM skills focus: SAP EM is not easy to master, but there are skills opportunities for many SAP consultants on the functional and technical side. What are these opportunities? Kevin says that EM has some excellent project work, but it's not easy. For ABAP programmers, it's a pretty big shift into SAP EM. It takes at least a couple of months to get the hang of it. Somewhat like IDOCs, there is also a configuration piece that must be done in sequence with the development. The ABAP is pretty normal, but in Kevin's training efforts, it does take a month or two for the light to go on. RFCs, BAPIs, and BADIs in ECC 6.0 are all used extensively to communicate, such as within ECC. Sales order delivery, shipment deliveries, are all in the BADIs. There are standard IDOCs to manage. If you're familiar with IDOC coding techniques it's a plus. In terms of XML and XI/PI, if you want to integrate from external sources, you can bring it in via XML or BAPIs. You can then map it into EM. There is a new standalone EM component called the Object Event Repository (OER). It's an implementation of SAP's AII (Auto ID Infrastructure) server. It's uses XML to populate EM for you. So far, it only runs one scenario but it's based on standards. There's also the BW skills piece. 

30:45 SAP EM has its roots as part of SAP SCM. But you can use SAP EM with almost any versions of SAP - you don't have to wait for the perfect ERP 6.0 project to get your hands on it. EM does operational reporting through a web GUI interface. If you don't like that GUI, you can use a Java component called the Web Communication Layer to design your own UI, so you'll need those skills in some cases. With BW, there is a way to move from EM to BW with ease without ridiculous amounts of coding. Kevin was on a client site where he configured the BW system to port EM into BW without coding, and really surprised the client. 

33:15 Clarifying the availability of EM. It's a standalone module in SCM, and has been since 2004, much like SD is a module in ECC, EM is a module in SCM. It's also an add-on as part of ECC 6.0, via a Basis plug in. It's available in TM (Transportation Management) and also via AII. SAP also provides an application interface between SAP EM and all other SAP systems, such as 4.6C, etc.

34.45 What are the functional sides of SAP EM? Are the opportunities there? Yes. Kevin has trained an SD consultant in EM, and she was able to put the specs for the programming team together and configure the parameters within the EM system.

36:00 EM project roles: ABAP developer, BI developer, Java/Web GUI developer if you want to change the UI, and the EM Solution Architect, which is the key to the implementation. You are connecting information into a database, matching planned actions and events with current actions, so you have to get it right upfront. On some teams, people can wear more than one hat. But you can't backtrack on information you need, so you need to have a good design upfront. The person who can do that well is invaluable. 

38:10 Future of EM - will adoption pick up? Kevin: it has to pick up! It is too relevant for today's economy not to do better. Yes, more marketing of the EM solution is needed, but Kevin thinks that the EM market will continue to grow. It's functionality that's "begging to be used."

39:10 The QData site has links to Kevin's podcasts, blogs, and templates on SAP EM. Kevin's team has developed a spreadsheet format to plug in the information needed and an EM developer can configure the solution. Kevin's final comments: there is pre-configured content from SAP on these processes - you don't have to create them from scratch. You can hit the ground running. 

41:40 Kevin's final parting words for consultants: there are successful and unsuccessful implementations. The difference is the people, so you want to align yourself with the good projects. Take your reputation seriously, make you you implement well - bad things get around as well as good things. Find a niche, be the best, and then market yourself. People are the key, if you excel, you will have opportunities.

Jon closes with a thank you to Kevin for the work Kevin has done with ERPGenie.