I am a SAP IS-Retail consultant working for a Big 5 consulting firm over 4 1/2 years now. My areas of expertise include interfacing (designing, testing, and implementing) various 3rd party POS and Inventory Management systems with SAP IS-Retail via ALE, IDOCs and BAPIs. I have done extensive ABAP/4 development in the beginning of my career but have lost touch with hands-on development work over the years. I also have relevant experience in MM/IM, FI/CO, SD, and PP modules of SAP. Over the past few months the IS-Retail market has dried out with very few projects in the US or North America. I have some high profile clients under my belt but none of them are traditional retailers, instead they are various manufacturing and services companies with retail outlets. My question for you is what do you think of the IS-Retail market in the near future and what should my career plan be keeping in mind that I don't have any projects to apply my knowledge towards? Do you think I might be better off applying my knowledge of retail store systems to other retail applications like Retek or JDA since they seem to be the application of choice for a lot of traditional retailers?
I agree that IS-Retail is not a very happy niche in the SAP consulting market at present. The history of SAP's IS-Retail solution is not one of SAP's proudest moments, although I hear the product is turning a corner. To be fair to SAP, most ERP vendors have struggled to gain a foothold in the retail industry. In terms of your option to leave SAP to work on other best-of-breed retail applications, I'm not sure if that really is a viable option for you or not. The only way to find out is for you to apply for some of those types of positions and see how much of that experience is transferable. If you find that some of these third party retail vendors are indeed interested in you, then you have a major choice to make. I would only leave SAP if you have a good offer on the table and a drive to make a difference in the retail industry. At this point, I am always cautious about advising anyone to leave ERP for best-of-breed players. Never underestimate SAP in the long run. I notice that in the mySAP Retail promotional literature, SAP is pushing the kind of back office and supply chain integration that best-of-breed retail solutions wouldn't be able to offer. SAP may have stumbled a few times in retail, but can we really dismiss that market entirely? Another option is for you to focus more on your core MM/IM/PP functional skills, and keep the IS-Retail option open should anything promising come up. Who knows, maybe you'll even get into APO in the meantime.
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