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Getting into SAP without much confiquration experience

Jon Reed suggests alternatives for how to get into SAP when configuration skills are lacking.

I have about 13 years of exhaustive sales experience -- including management experience -- in Japan (good communication skills too). My experience relates easily to many SCM modules and business process. Subsequently on coming to North America, in order to get into IT, I moved into Java and have about six years work experience again with good roles that could make many jealous.

Now, I want to get into SAP and got certified in SCM modules but am not getting any response at all from the market. Everyone wants to know how much SAP experience but no one cares about the functional experience. To me, an important part of SAP is the depth of actual business process understanding, and configuration is about only 20% of the complete cycle.

I was at the high end of the market during both my stints and really desperate to get into market, despite the market being hot and not getting responses. Is my age also playing a role here being in my mid 40s? What is the best approach?

It's true that SAP hiring managers expect more than just relevant functional backgrounds. They want to see a combination of a deep functional background in a relevant area COMBINED with SAP project know-how. This is the catch-22 I write about all the time in this column and the hardest one to overcome to get into SAP.

I can appreciate your frustration with this, and I would agree with your analysis that having deep business process knowledge is just as important as having SAP skills. I don't think I would agree that configuration knowledge is just 20% of what an SAP cycle involves. I'd put that percentage closer to 50%. It's the ability to help companies map functionality into SAP's tables and help them understand their configuration options that makes SAP consultants successful. Configuration skills, like it or not, are absolutely central to success as a functional SAP consultant. Yes, you want to surround that configuration knowledge with full life cycle experience, but configuration remains the key to the hire. It's better to recognize it and strategize on how to deal with it then pretend this isn't so.

As far as how to deal with this from your angle, if you read through the archives you'll see I answer questions on breaking into SAP with pretty much the same answer: you want to take advantage of your current skills and find a full-time job in an SAP environment. Even if that job doesn't focus much on SAP at first, the way to work your way into your first SAP role these days is from the inside of an SAP installation (as opposed to an outside consulting firm, which used to be the easiest way in). It requires persistence to break into SAP from the inside.

As for your age, I don't know how much of a factor it is. I would focus less on what's holding you back and more on developing a strategy that will get you the skills you want. Dedicate yourself to being the best supply chain consultant you can be. Focus on mastering best practices in supply chain management, going to SAP SCM conferences, learning all you can about SAP's SCM functionality, and building contacts. Make it a real passion and build a career around your know-how in this area, and you should find success -- if not in SAP, than in the broader field of supply chain management. You're right; SAP is just a tool to help companies implement SCM best practices. Master SAP and also master the best practices, and you should be in business.

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