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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 #2: Cutting Through the SAP Consulting Layers Print E-mail
podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"2nd Edition - Why There Are So Many Layers in the SAP Consulting World, What a Consultant Should do About it, and, SAP Skills that are Hot (and Not)"
Podcast Interview Date: August 6, 2009
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Welcome to the second edition of The ERP Lounge: Misadventures and Opportunities in SAP Consulting, the new podcast series from! The ERP Lounge is the new "long form" podcast series that features uncensored, in-depth discussions on the hard truths and real opportunities in the SAP skills marketplace. From this point forward, all ERP Lounge podcasts kick off with reader questions from listeners like yourself!

Join Jon Reed and Brian Trout for this 60 minute second edition as they take a no-holds-barred look at the consulting layers that make it difficult for independent SAP consultants to go directly to end customers and get the rates they are seeking. Find out why these layering problems exist, what kinds of reforms should be happening, and what to do about it in the meantime. Hear Brian and Jon talk about the importance of rate transparency in consulting deals. Also get the latest take on "SAP Skills that are Hot/and "Not." 

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. For the timeframe of this episode and more on the topics covered (as well as some links to topics cited in the podcast), read on.

Podcast Highlights

(Reminder: The ERP Lounge is self-rated PG-13 for discerning adult listeners and mature young people.)

I. (0:00) Opening Banter

Chats on the (hopefully) improving economy, Brian's family vacation to Florida, and the Yankee (Jon)/Southern Boy (Brian) ERP Lounge culture clash. 

(4:10) Frito Pie - Jon, who is originally from Oklahoma, wants to know if Brian has ever had Frito Pie. Recently Jon asked everyone on his Twitter stream if they ate Frito Pie, and he got some surprising answers. There may be a TechEd Frito Pie tasting session in the works.

(5:25) Jon's ups and downs. Up: Jon was named an SCN Top Contributor in the Business Process Expert category for 2008-2009. Down: Jon's forced RSS reader march from Newsgator to Google Reader. Also: a word about this week's ERP Lounge structure of topics.

II. (7:30) Ice Breaker - Reader Questions and Comments

- Props to Ja'far Railton for feedback/suggestions on ERP Lounge podcast sound options. 

- Reader Feedback from J. Michael Peace, independent SAP Utilities Consultant, on the last ERP Lounge episode, "Be an SAP Consultant, not a Contractor.

Micheal says: "I completely agree with you regarding the specialization topic. My niche is very specific... SAP IS-U, and when I'm not a team lead over the the whole IS-U -U group then I specialize in the billing & rates functionality within IS-U.‚ I follow the concept of do one thing and do it well. Two of the few but main downfalls of being independent instead of full-time with a company from my experience is that it takes a bit more to stay on top of the latest technology trends and that you don't always have that support group to turn to for discussions. Or maybe that last one is just because I've been working remotely from home most of this year for my main client.

Too often I see people out there that say they can do it all.... CRM, EDM, Utilities, Manufacturing, SD, FICO, functional and ABAP they can do it all - but then when it comes down to actually getting it done, they end up having to call in different people that specialize in that module or area to get it accomplished. Most of the time, it's an independent consultant that specializes in that specific area.

I saw a Wendy's commercial the other day advertising their new Sweet & Spicy Asian Chicken... I thought to myself WTF?...when I want Asian food, I'm going to go to a real Asian restaurant that knows how to do it! Stick to what you're good at at Wendy's...Frostys and hamburgers! Take a lesson from In-And-Out Burger."

- Reader question: Jon and Brian answer a reader question from Varun Dikshit, SAP NetWeaver Consultant: "Jon, Fantastic first podcast! Also, very precise and excellent topic for the next one. (Thanks Varun!) I would appreciate if you guys could also talk about the 'tipping point' for a move from being an employee to an independent consultant with respect to career/experience/skill level. Keep up the good work."

III.(16:30) Pulse of the Customer - Reactions to Dealing with SAP Consulting Layers

Jon and Brian shift into the focus of the podcast with some comments from Brian on how SAP customers view the issue of "cutting through the layers" and why they get frustrated when layers exist that aren't providing value between them and the end consultant. 

IV. (19:00) Into the Lounge - Feature Topic: Cutting Through the Consulting Layers

A.(19:00) Historical Context (and the Current Dilemmas): Jon and Brian examine some history of the problem of SAP consulting layers, talk about how the Internet has impacted SAP staffing by the potential of "disintermediation," and why there are still so many problems with layering issues. 

The problem of "golf course relationships" - vendors getting access to SAP end client requirements not necessarily through ability or SAP know-how, but because of longstanding relationships with end clients. Then all other firms must go through that approved vendor, whether or not it is deserving. 

- Despite the impact of "Managed Services" on the vendor side and the resulting consolidation of approved vendors on the user side, for SAP independent consultants, applying to SAP contract openings is still "The Wild Wild West." Why contract staffing hasn't been challenged on the Internet the way perm staffing has, in terms of reducing its layers and providing direct access to end client opportunities. 

B. (28:22) Potential for Reform - Jon and Brian talk about the different ways that the Internet has the potential to create real direct client access for independent consultant, cut through the layers, and ensure that everyone in the SAP staffing transaction is adding real value.

- However, the marketplace technology (except for ratings and social network aspects) has been around a long time, so cultural/business changes are also needed. The time for those changes seems to have arrived.

C.(33:46) Practical Tips for Dealing with Layers (and the resulting hassles that can occur with watered-down rates and double-submittal of resumes)

- "Shop the field" - grill staffing firms with good questions and determine which one has the best connection to the client and most knowledge of the opportunity. 

- The problems caused by "First In" resume rules -  and how to minimize the chances of being submitted to a position by a firm that is deep in the layers and not well connected. 

- (42:07) "Expect Transparency, and be Transparent" - why it's fair game to ask for honest answers about what kind of margin a firm will make from you, and what a fair margin is for a firm that submits your resume to a client.  ($10 an hour for "pass through firms", no more than $40 an hour for the firm handling your payroll/cash payments).

- It's fair game to ask firms what value they provide and why they are charging a particular price for it, as long as you are willing to be equally upfront about your agenda (other job offers you are considering, etc). 

V. (55:00) SAP Skills That are Hot/Not - This Week's Picks

A. Hot -Supply Network Control (SNC) - increased visibility into SAP Supply Chain Management (SCM), with web service enablement/XML-based connectivity. 

- SAP Business Objects Explorer - not on job orders but coming up a lot in Jon's industry conversations in terms of a fast and affordable way of getting quick visibility into SAP enterprise data. Also: Xcelsius, including some direct interface and customization options leveraging Adobe Flex.

- BPC (based on the OutlookSoft acquisition) - now taking center stage in this area for SAP, meaning: 

B. Not - former products like EC-CS and SEM-BCS that are now giving way to OutlookSoft's superior collaboration tools and enterprise-level reporting.

VI. (58:20) Parting Shots a.k.a "Last Call" - Takeaways from the Podcast

Brian - Everyone has a different opinion on vendors and when they add value to a process. Meantime, take a deep breath, be patient, manage your career effectively and trust your gut decisions. Trust is a hard thing, it's not given, it's earned. Stay open-minded and make smart choices.

Jon - Commit yourself to positive, upfront communications, always expect transparency and be transparent. Marketplace technology may bring change, but staffing is still about relationship. Form the right ones, and you'll get onto the projects you are seeking.

Your input is welcome!: 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.





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