I'm a contract consultant, certified in PP and QM, but having worked most steadily in MM. I'm between projects right now and I am concerned that I haven't had any real strong training for a year or two. I was scanning SAP's course offerings and saw that they are offering an SRM course for E-Procurement (Web-based Purchasing). I've spoken to several people about pursuing this course as an upgrade to my MM background, but I don't see a lot of call for it in the marketplace yet. Is this a worthwhile investment?
I have touched on EBP consulting from time to time in this monthly column. We do see some EBP jobs from time to time, but it is not what you would call a "hot" area right now. Most EBP contract work is being controlled by a handful of elite consultants with multiple EBP projects under their belts. To me, in the age of increased corporate outsourcing, the best skills niches are the ones that involve heavy-duty business process and industry expertise - the kinds of skills that aren't easily outsourced. The question is: how much of these heavy duty business skills does EBP require? On the surface, knowing how to help someone buy paperclips online doesn't really seem like a skill that requires deep expertise, and that is perhaps why most SAP consultants I know who have touched on EBP have moved on. EBP just doesn't have the same functional richness as other mySAP products like APO. (Of course, we shouldn't underestimate the "softer" change management skills that good EBP consultants need to acquire if they are going to work effectively with end-users and get them to "buy in" to online procurement).
To me, the future of EBP consulting depends on the overall success of the Supplier Relationship Management initiative that SAP is rolling out. SRM involves much more than buying paperclips - you're talking about sourcing a wide range of suppliers, collaborating on product configuration online, conducting private auctions, etc. If this type of SRM product offering takes hold, then there will be more robust business issues to really sink your teeth into as a consultant. The other consideration is whether SAP can succeed in getting companies to use its e-procurement products for more complex "direct procurement." More complexity generally means more difficult business challenges and thus more demand for seasoned consultants. For now, I would call EBP a nice niche, but it might be more valuable for where it leads you down the road than what it does for you in the near future. I would take the training that looks the most substantive and compelling to you. It may sound overly simplistic, but the SAP consultants who choose the greatest skills challenges tend to land the best projects, and to me, that principle also applies to your situation.
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