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We went live (big bang, broad foot print) in 1999 and are currently on 4.6C. Our internal SAP Support Team is made up of Basis, ABAP and functional roles(combination business process/technical configuration). We contract the Basis and ABAP skill sets, although the individuals reside on site with us. To date, the functional (combination) skill set has been resourced internally, however we are experiencing great difficulty filling vacancies that have arisen over the past couple of years. Some of the reasons include: This combination skill set is a scarce commodity, a significant learning curve, the existing unionized environment and associated labour relations challenges which include seniority and compensation issues. We have tried (unsuccessfully) to develop a formal succession program. In the interim, we are filling our vacancies as required with very expensive consulting resources. This 'system support' resource challenge is also creating additional challenges to leveraging the SAP investment with new or untapped functionality. We are now trying to re-design the SAP Support Model, specifically the Functional role. This may mean splitting the role into two, i.e. technical and business. It may also mean contracting out or remote out-sourcing. I would appreciate any thoughts, experiences or lessons learned you may be able to share.
I'm including your question even though it isn't really a career question because I want consultants to see how hiring managers think. I agree with you: your determination to hire consultants who combine a range of technical and functional skills is a major part of your problem. While there are a handful of consultants who can "do it all," I believe you are better off dividing those roles up. You'll get better rates and you'll have an easier time hiring. And, the results will be better. I'd rather have one outstanding Basis consultant and one outstanding FI/CO consultant rather than two consultants who straddle the fence between the two areas. SAP has too much ground to cover for one consultant to stay on top of it all. If you do divide up the roles, you can probably hire a handful of functional subject matter experts at pretty decent rates. Then, you can train your functional users (your own employees) to become super-users and learn from these on-site, senior consultants. On the technical side, once you've isolated the technical skills and divided them between ABAP and Basis, you can experiment with cheap alternatives for technical resources. However, instead of outsourcing, I would encourage you to look into hiring some of the laid off ABAP programmers who have been impacted by outsourcing trends. There are some amazing ABAP programmers and technical SAP experts out of work right now, and they will come to you with reasonable rates and will be glad to have the opportunity. You'll get highly motivated workers this way, and you'll be doing your part to soften the blows inflicted by these global outsourcing trends. I think this approach to staffing your project will make your life a lot easier, and you'll get more bang for your buck.
This was last published in June 2003

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