On The Spot: Jon Reed on SAP jobs

On The Spot features a new guest expert on a hot SAP topic every month. This is your chance to get your questions answered by some of the best and brightest in the business, but hurry up: Each guest expert makes one appearance only! Kicking things off with this month's topic is SAP jobs with veteran SAP guru Jon Reed.


On The Spot features a new guest expert on a hot SAP topic every month. This is your chance to get your questions answered by some of the best and brightest in the business, but hurry up: Each guest expert makes one appearance only! Kicking things off with this month's topic is SAP jobs with veteran SAP guru Jon Reed. Next month's topic is SAP BI/BW with Gary Nolan, author of Efficient SAP NetWeaver BI Implementation and Project Management and winner of the Great SAP Leaders Among Us contest.

Submit your BI/BW questions for Gary Nolan below.


ABOUT JON REED:
Jon Reed is an independent SAP analyst who writes on SAP consulting trends. He is the President of JonERP.com, an interactive web site which features Jon's blogging and podcasting on SAP career trends. Jon has been publishing SAP career and market analysis for more than a decade. He is the career expert for SearchSAP.com's Ask The Expert panel.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

 1. The next big thing in ABAP
 2. Breaking into SAP using my HR background
 3. Becoming a techno-functional consultant
 4. U.S.-based ABAP developer getting a raise
 5. Leveraging Contract and Cost Control engineering experience in SAP
 6. Identifying the hottest SAP environment right now
 7. Tapping into the Middle East SAP boom
 8. Next steps for an experienced SD/CRM consultant
 9. Is SAP GRC a "strong niche" yet?
 10. Leveraging Basis experience for a career in SAP consulting



1. The next big thing in ABAP

I am ABAP certified, but I'm looking for the 'next big thing' to beef up my skills. What SAP technologies do you see becoming most in demand in the next few years?

-- Vikas Tripathi,
    India

If you take the hype seriously, it's all about Enterprise SOA and SAP services delivered over the Web. But we still don't have a clear picture of how significant the use of Enterprise SOA is going to be on SAP customer sites, or the level of consulting that will be needed to realize these SOA visions. It seems clear that NetWeaver is going to drive a lot of consulting needs, But it is a broad platform. If I had to pick one SAP area, I guess I would go with BI and the integration points between BI and the core functional areas of SAP. If you stay on the programming side, go for anything pertaining to SAP's NetWeaver Java stack.

-- Jon Reed



2. Breaking into SAP using my HR background

I'd like to know the steps someone can take to break into the SAP job market. I've been an HR manager for six years. I know Java and SQL and recently completed a lengthy course in ABAP. Any suggestions?

-- Will Dodge,
    Austin, Tex.

Ordinarily I advise anyone breaking into SAP to inventory their current skill set and find the relevant areas within SAP to target. In your case, there is more flexibility. I would suggest keeping your focus on the functional side of SAP, and targeting the SAP HR/HCM area, where you have the most industry background. Your programming experience could come into play also, as all good functional teams have at least one person who can sit down with the development group and "talk in code."

-- Jon Reed



3. Becoming a techno-functional consultant

I realize that NetWeaver has incorporated quite a few modules now including BI and Portal. For someone who is looking at becoming a techno-functional consultant rather than a fully technical consultant, would you recommend doing NetWeaver XI and then moving to BI?

-- Indraj Singh,
    Kenya

I don't think you need to have XI to be a good BI consultant. I know many successful BW/BI consultants who have very little XI exposure. If BI is your goal, but you want to remain a techno-functional person, I would recommend that you hone your BI skills into one particular functional area. For example, if you become a specialist in integrating FI-related data into BI and customizing financial reports within BI you might get a handle on the SEM functions like IP that are now integrated into the BW module as of BI 7.0. More often than not, you have to go where the opportunities are, and fill in the gaps later.

-- Jon Reed



4. U.S.-based ABAP developer getting a raise

I'm a U.S.-based ABAP developer (an endangered species). But I have 10+ years in the field and some management experience, so I've been able to hang on so far. My paycheck, however, has not. How can I approach the issue of a fair raise without in effect asking for a pink slip?

-- Craig Simmons,
    Boston, Mass.

ABAP professionals are in a tricky spot, but I'm not sure they are an endangered species just yet. In fact, I think your situation may be the norm: You still have work, but not at the salary that seems fair based on your depth of experience. Most employers -- at least the ones you want to work for -- have some kind of performance review in place that would allow for additional incentives if you achieve certain milestones or management levels. You have to judge the "raise question" based on your relationship with your immediate managers. If you have a good working relationship, a frank conversation about your desire for a compensation increase could get you the result you want.

-- Jon Reed



5. Leveraging Contract and Cost Control engineering experience in SAP

I have 20 years experience in Civil Engineering with top MNC companies in India and abroad. Now I am considering an SAP career tying in with my past experience in Commercial issues of Civil Engineering projects. Is this a wise move at my age?

-- S.P. Raja Chandramoulie,
    India

Engineers are in an interesting position in terms of breaking into SAP because engineering training lends itself well to a range of technical areas. I've known several engineers that became very successful SAP programmers, for example. But another area where engineers are doing really well in SAP is in the area of Product Lifecyle Management. SAP PLM is not the hottest area within SAP consulting, but it is still a key part of the SAP Business Suite and your skills might lend themselves well to PLM implementations. I recommend reading up on the SAP product line and seeing which areas tie into your expertise the best.

-- Jon Reed



6. Identifying the hottest SAP environment right now

As a seasoned SAP trainer/developer I've been working specifically with R/3 4.6C PS/MM/SD modules most recently. I'm seeking a change in career direction and want to have more SAP implementation involvement in the initial stages. What's the hottest SAP environment now?

-- Sharon Johnson,
    Brownstown, Mich.

Without question, the hottest SAP environment is SAP ERP 6.0. If you can get 6.0 functional exposure, that will definitely enhance your marketability. At this point, it would be hard for you to break into implementation work at the 4.6C level, because there are so many consultants who already have 4.6C skills and so many companies in the process of moving off that platform. One thing I encourage folks to do is to figure out how many career changes or skills shifts they want to make, and then come up with a plan that allows for one shift per job change.

-- Jon Reed



7. Tapping into the Middle East SAP boom

I see something of an SAP boom here in the Middle East, but I have to wonder whether the long-term prospects make it worth investing money on SAP certification and training?

-- Sameer Ali,
    Bahrain

When companies start installing SAP, it doesn't really go anywhere -- SAP installations are multi-year engagements with additional rollouts and upgrades. So, if you are seeing a boom now, there is a decent chance that there will be good SAP work for the foreseeable future. The key is to choose an SAP career path that interests you and fits into a broader skill set. I am always a bit skeptical of investing in SAP certification. Not that I think SAP certification is a bad idea, but I think some people overrate what it can do for you. Most SAP consultants got their first experience by being at the right place at the right time. I would focus on getting a job for a company implementing SAP.

-- Jon Reed



8. Next steps for an experienced SD/CRM consultant

I am an SAP SD/CRM certified consultant. Which areas of SAP will remain hot? Should I remain within my domain or cross over? Which area in SAP NetWeaver would suit me?

-- Shiloo Patel,
    UK

The next few years, I like core functional work the best - FI/CO, HR, SD. That's because the upgrade wave should keep activity in the core areas at a high level. But once the upgrade wave is complete, I think some of the add-on components, such as CRM, will receive more attention again. I agree that NetWeaver is hot, but in general, I think functional SAP skills will command higher pay rates than technical. Now, there are some ways that NetWeaver will touch on functional areas, so you may be able to expand your marketability that way.

-- Jon Reed



9. Is SAP GRC a "strong niche" yet?

I hear a lot about SAP GRC coming strong in the market -- is this an area suited for carving out a niche?

-- Joyce Adams,
    Los Angeles, Calif.

I don't know that I like GRC as a total focus at this point, but that's only because I haven't seen it on enough job orders to recommend it as a great niche. What I have seen is many successful consultants who include compliance-related work as part of their focus, such as Financials and/or HR consultants who have an understanding of how compliance issues fit into their skill focus. So, in a nutshell, I like GRC as part of a good skill set rather than as a focus.

-- Jon Reed



10. Leveraging Basis experience for a career in SAP consulting

I am an IT professional with 10+ years experience, currently doing SAP Basis work. I know it's little late in the game to become a consultant, but I want to give it a shot. Any thoughts?

-- Abufatah Yahyanoorani,
    Chicago, Ill.

It's almost never too late to become a consultant if you have a deep SAP background. There's one tried-and-true way to determine if you are ready to become a consultant: Float your resume. The volume of responses you get (or don't get) will tell you what you need to know about the level of demand for your skills in the consulting market. What happens if you don't get a lot of responses? This can be a problem, because then you don't know what aspect of your skills you need to improve to better your chances.

-- Jon Reed


for next month's topic:

SAP BI/BW with Gary Nolan, author of Efficient SAP NetWeaver BI Implementation and Project Management and winner of the Great SAP Leaders Among Us contest.

(100 words max for questions! -- Be sure to include all information requested!)

This was first published in August 2007

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