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Entering contract market after 15 years

I am looking to enter the contract market for the first time this year after 15 years with the same company. My immediate background has been hands-on Variant Configuration for the past 18 months, prior to which I worked on a 3.1 - 4.6 project in the role of Business Team lead for Engineering, defining the development requirements for Bills of Material, Material masters and the change management process. I have completed the following courses in SAP:
SAP20 SAP R/3 Overview
WGB6LO SAP 3.1 - 4.6 Delta. Intro to 4.6 SAP Enjoy.
SAP205 Basic Data for Discrete Manufacturing Part 1
SAP206 Basic Data for Discrete Manufacturing Part 2
LO090 Product data Management (PDM)
L0990 Variant Configuration

I've been concentrating on looking for VC roles, but I'm having problems finding any such roles at all. What would your advise be in terms of the direction I am looking to expand my SAP career in - should I focus on VC or try to enhance my PP background?

Whenever I get questions about the future of particular SAP skills, I always check the products menu on the SAP home page. On that page, there is no mention of either VC or PP, so that's not an especially good sign. But keep in mind that SAP's is positioning its product listings in terms of mySAP solutions, knowing full well that they have a huge amount of customers running core R/3 systems. That product list is not comprehensive - it's just a view into where SAP is heading. Your task is to make sure that you have one foot in SAP's future and another planted in what customers are using right now - not always an easy task. The good news for you is that variant configuration is one of the better niches you could have within the SD, PP, or MM modules. In the last few months, most of the jobs we've seen involving these three modules involved variant configuration, and there are more on the way. When you think about it, this makes sense - variant configuration is a huge asset in any industry where "make-to-order" products give you a competitive edge. Perhaps more and more companies are realizing that Dell's "make-to-order" manufacturing process is the way to go.

For SAP customers, one way to head towards that make-to-order vision is by "turning the lights on" with variant configuration functionality. And that functionality is complex enough to involve some expert consulting assistance, which is where you come in. The ultimate "make to order" environment involves both a well-configured back end system and a fully-integrated CRM infrastructure. After all, isn't the ideal scenario to have customers configure their own product orders online? This makes you wonder if the best direction for an SAP VC consultant might be SAP-CRM. In fact, we spoke with an SAP-CRM specialist today who confirmed this. He told us that an ideal background to break into SAP-CRM is an SD functional background, with heavy VC and Pricing skills. Of course, the problem here is one I dealt with last month, which is that SAP-CRM consulting is a bit flat, reflecting the overall challenges the CRM market is facing. Since you're also in the PP area, and you touch on logistics, you also might be able to move into the supply chain management area, perhaps into SAP's APO product. But if I were you, I would stick with a VC focus and see where that leads you. If it leads you into SAP-CRM, that might be a pretty good niche. If it leads you somewhere else, that could be OK too. Yes, SAP-CRM may not be that hot at the moment, but at least SAP-CRM appears on SAP's menu of products. All things being equal, I think I would rather be there than lurking in R/3 somewhere.

As for your difficulty finding positions right now, I'm a bit surprised to hear that, given the fairly steady - though far from spectacular - flow of VC positions we've been seeing in the last six months. Like I said to another reader this week, don't assume that your difficulty finding projects means you have the wrong skills niche. Many marketable folks are having the same problem finding work. Your bigger obstacle may be the fact that you've only worked on only one SAP project. Most SAP contracts go to consultants with experience on multiple engagements. Yes, you do have "blue chip" SAP experience with a key SAP customer, but one project, no matter how stellar, may not be enough. You may have to consider taking another "perm" job for a couple of years and seeing whether that experience helps you in the independent market later on.

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