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Breaking into SAP from outside IT

Describing the two major ways to break into SAP

See below.

Editor's Note: Complementing the recent tips we have offered on breaking into SAP, SearchSAP expert Axel Angeli...

has some incisive advice for a SearchSAP reader attempting to enter SAP without an IT background. This advice is presented in a QA format so that you can see how Axel's reasoning develops.

SearchSAP Reader: "I want to become an SAP consultant in HR or business intelligence (BI). Which one do you recommend I should go for? I don't have any experience in IT or SAP. I am totally new to this industry.

Axel Angeli: "Sorry to tell you, but a solid study of computer science or multi-year experience in IT is a prerequisite in this business. The pioneering times are over and now you need to come in with a thorough education in order to make a career. Pure business consultants are no longer in demand and would require a proven track record of long experience as platinum expert in a certain area. An example: If you have not learned to install and configure your PC, then you are far away from what the future requires.

The SAP arena requires crossover experts -- those who understand the subject matter in depth while having worked with SAP for a considerably long time. SAP has a name for it: Business Process Expert (BPX), meaning someone who is a programming subject expert or a computer specialist with a good understanding of business processes."

SearchSAP Reader: "But I have worked in HR at management levels. I've also been involved in different companies at higher management levels. And I'm very knowledgeable in business processes. I really want to change my career and work in SAP. I was thinking BI, HR or Security. Please do make a recommendation."

Axel Angeli: "There are mainly two paths to enter SAP: start with a solid education in computing (preferred) or as an SAP power user who has worked as a business expert during a major SAP implementation. Just as you do not learn to drive just by going to driving school, you cannot learn SAP from courses. The real education takes place in practice -- in using and in doing. If you study computing, some of the practice is delivered by the university, but even taking courses you will be an SAP freshman. There are no courses that can transform an HR manager into an SAP pro. Whatever you learn will make you a junior consultant.

So the strategy in your case would be to find a job as an HR manager in a company that is planning to introduce SAP in the near future. There's no other way I can see, sorry."

SearchSAP Reader: "What do you think about SAP BI? Will I be suitable for that module? Or what about Microsoft Dynamics CRM? Because I really want to change industries."

Axel Angeli: "SAP BI is certainly not a successful path for you. This area is very overcrowded and we only need hard-core developers in this sector. SAP recently acquired Business Objects (BO) and this will be the BI technology for the future; knowing how BO works and how to implement solutions in BO will be a real advantage, but only in combination with some understanding of BI. BI courses are a waste of money if you have no job in sight that requires exactly those skills.

Microsoft Dynamics is interesting to some degree and there is certainly some demand for consultants. This is a slightly better option for you. However, I would not hire someone who lacks a diploma in computer science (or an equivalent subject) or who has not worked with the product for at least one full life-cycle.

We are still talking about learning a specific product. You have to go back and acquire basic skills first. If you want to change industries, the only serious recommendation I can make is to get a bachelor's degree in computer science. Perhaps you can do this in evening classes while continuing to work."

This was last published in August 2008

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