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Does SAP or JD Edwards have a more promising future, especially internationally?

I am a MBA graduate with a specialization in marketing and marketing communications. I also have more than two...

years of work experience.

I am thinking of studying either SAP or JD Edwards and going into consulting. I have been reading up on both of them and I am a little confused as to which one to go with. Also what modules should I take with my marketing background? Please advise me.

What trend do you see for the future? Where is the market heading with respect to ERP implementations? I am also planning to move out of the U.S. and get some international experience in the future. I am thinking of working in Asia. Is SAP a better option for me? I know that SAP is more expensive to implement and, therefore, as a functional consultant I would have limited possibilities overseas.
To some extent, the answer to your question hinges on the differences between market share (where SAP clearly rules) and typical customer profile (where JD Edwards is more likely to afford access to the much bigger, but less well-penetrated, medium-sized business market). I'd urge you to search the Web for information about how both companies are doing in the Asian-Pacific market, if that's where you want to work. But also, I'd encourage you to seek out and plumb information resources outside those companies (local business publications, targeted issues of global business publications like the Financial Times, Economist, Fortune, Business Week and so on) to see how they view those markets and your two players of choice as well.

Most business experts agree that ERP is becoming increasingly important, so that while it's now a fixture in enterprises, it's starting to make headway in medium-sized businesses and in smaller governmental and non-profit organizations that otherwise meet statistical definitions of medium-sized business operations. Thus, you've picked a nice growth market at which to aim yourself, and you should probably continue to pursue your research further.

That said, with a degree in marketing and marketing communications, I have to assume you may not be interested in delving into the technical side of these platforms. Unfortunately, both organizations tend to view non-techie types as salesperson fodder, but don't really design too many other roles for such people into their programs. Thus, you'll want to dig into their training offerings and the various job roles that they do support for interested parties before committing too much more time and effort to your line of thinking. You may have to revisit the technical/non-technical divide and jump to the other side if you really want to pursue a career with either one of these platforms. My experience in the business world has been that it's easier for someone with prior technical experience to move into non-technical roles for complex, technically sophisticated products/environments -- which definitely includes both SAP and JD Edwards -- than it is for non-technical people to truly understand what they're dealing with, even in non-technical roles.

When it comes to choosing between SAP and JD Edwards, you'll have to decide whether you'd rather work for a market leader where job opportunities are bound to be more limited but also more stable and probably better compensated, or for a market grower where job opportunities may be more numerous but will also come and go with greater frequency. It's a classic risk-reward tradeoff, and you'll have to weigh your tolerance for risk and stress against the need for rewards in all their various job-related forms.

I hope you find this information helpful, but I would also urge you to identify and talk to practicing professionals in both camps to find out more about what it's like to work with and around these ERP environments.

Good luck in your future planning and decision making,
--Ed--

This was last published in September 2004

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