David Pierce, a N.J.-based consultant who works with SAP systems and pharmaceutical regulatory compliance issues, is no longer working 70 hours a week or finding $250-per-hour jobs.
Pierce isn't seeing as much green as he did in the late 1990s, but he is among those who are seeing a rebound in the job market.
"It bottomed out, and the rates are starting to work back up," Pierce said. "It was a long drift downward and it could only go up at this point."
Several SAP consultants are beginning to see their paychecks rise as the market recovers and companies search for consultants with skills in new technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID), portals and Web services.
While outsourcing jobs overseas has reduced pay in recent years for some SAP consultants, overall demand for specific skills and the small number of highly skilled consultants available are dictating the pay rates for jobs, according to Jon Reed, a SearchSAP.com site career expert and managing editor of SAPtips.com.
Many companies have reached their limits as to what they are able to outsource on the functional side, with most keeping SAP IT staff for mission critical financial and manufacturing processes, Reed said.
"There are some modest increases in corporate spending in some areas," Reed said. "If you have a particular set of SAP skills that are sought after at the moment, then you could bump up that rate."
The most successful SAP consultants are finding well paid on-site positions by staying one step ahead of their peers and anticipating the demand for a new SAP skill before it is needed, Reed said.
"It's much harder to outsource a cutting-edge ABAP programmer with experience using iViews and the Portals Development Kit, than it is to outsource an ABAP programmer who is mostly doing data conversions and R/3 reporting," Reed added.
Reed said some SAP consultants have raised their rates for the first time in several years, mainly because they have highly coveted skill sets.
"I've had some consultants tell me they're going into real estate now because they've fallen too far behind," Reed said. "You've got to keep pace with the new technologies to survive."
Mike Vaughan, an SAP consultant working for Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Apple Berry Enterprises LLC, said he's starting to see jobs open up in the financial industry. Bank consolidation is opening up new module implementations and upgrades, Vaughan said.
"I'm starting to see some recovery in the economy and things are coming back," Vaughan said. "Consultants with good communication skills who are staying on the bleeding edge of the technology will benefit in the long run."
Having a combination of ABAP programming and Java skills continues to draw clients for consultants in the field, Reed said. Many are becoming project managers, overseeing SAP migration projects and upgrades, Reed added.
"The most successful ABAP programmers are either relentless about keeping their skills right on the edge of where SAP is going technically, or they are transitioning into team lead roles," Reed said.