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As an aspiring consultant, is it worth getting training directly from SAP?

Jon Reed faces the toughest question for new SAP'ers: How to gain experience when companies will only hire seasoned professionals.

First let me provide some background to help you with my question. I have been in a business analyst role for about 15 years, first supporting planning and logistics groups on legacy systems and more recently providing the same support on SAP and i2 products. I have about three years of experience providing support for a planning group using SAP SD and MM and manage a small group of business analysts. We also use i2 for our planning engine and forecasting, which I also support. So, my experience is with maintaining BOM's and i2 supply chain data, troubleshooting supply chain problems in i2 and SAP -- SD and MM, processing workflow, and providing some reports using Focus and Business Objects, mostly from a functional standpoint.

I think my current job is limited as far as further developing more technical SAP training and experience. My soft skills include managing a small group of analysts and project management skills from managing the end user side of the SAP and i2 implementations, as well as other projects.

I really would like to get more technical SAP knowledge, so I can add this to my functional supply chain experience and hopefully land a SAP job. I am wondering where to go from here and what modules would be best for me to learn. Here are my three main questions:

1. Where can I get more training? Should I take it from SAP directly, or any other training companies or other options, such as CBT's or books? (I am located in Silicon Valley).

2. Where should I start? Should I start with SD and MM, and learn about configuration, then go into CRM or BW? Or maybe with my i2 experience, I should learn APO -- but I don't see many jobs in APO. Should I try to get certified and in what module(s)?

3. How can I solve the catch-22 problem of needing more experience to land a new SAP job, yet having to have a job to get the experience? Do you think taking training classes from SAP directly and certification is worth the high cost?

I believe in getting training directly from SAP if you are an aspiring consultant. You want that certification and that SAP name on your resume next to your training. For your path, I would skip SD and MM and see if you can move directly into areas like CRM, PLM, or SRM. You're smart to avoid APO -- APO would be the best skills match for you, but it's too stagnant right now.

There are a range of logistical and supply chain problems that companies are tackling using SAP, and I'd try to get into the latest SAP releases and mySAP products, and stay away from traditional R/3 areas like SD and MM. You're competing with consultants who have ten years of experience in those areas, and it's hard to break in. See if you can get exposure to mySAP Business Suite, the latest and greatest "full" version of the software. If you can get skills in the latest SAP releases, no one else can have more experience there than you, since it's all very new to the market. As far as certification goes, I'm not a big believer in it. It's helpful to a point, but more as a long-term benefit that an instant "get me a job in SAP" result. It's worth the money only if you have a lot of money saved. The catch-22 I have addressed a couple of times in this batch of answers, so read on.

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