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Outsourcing = death knell for SAP HR professionals?

I have worked with sap HR since 1999 for one company. I worked on the initial implementation and conversion. I have been fortunate enough to have received a lot of SAP training (about 8 classes). Since that time, I have basically devoted my life to SAP and in particular SAP HR. I have purchased every relevant book I could find about HR, ABAP, and SAP references and read most of them cover to cover. I belong to and participate in every relevant internet forum I can find: ABAP, HR, security, careers, and jobs.

I have recently become deeply disturbed about my career and employment prospects.

Last Friday I attended a Pacific North West chapter ASUG conference at Nike headquarters. One of the presenters was from SAP. His topic was the upgrade process for 4.7 Enterprise. He concluded his remarks by saying if we (the participants) were not examining outsourcing (particularly with moving technical resources off-shore), we had better start because our competitors were.

To me, this sounds like a death knell (especially considering how bad all the other news has been).

I hate to think about the prospect of not working on SAP, but it seems like it has no future, at least as far as employment is concerned. Please advise.
Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful question, and I'm glad you've enjoyed my SAP career web site - you're probably referring to www.mySAPcareers.com, for those readers who are wondering what site you're talking about. As for your question, you have raised one of the most important topics facing all SAP and IT professionals. Outsourcing is a trend that everyone must reckon with and be aware of. First of all, I like your approach towards being an HR professional. It sounds like you have educated yourself intensely, and paid attention to both functional and technical HR skills. As far as the future of SAP, as long as so many huge international companies are running on SAP, there are going to be careers in SAP. But, you have to be strategic and really focus on becoming "outsourcing-proof." I have written about outsourcing before, both on the mySAPcareers.com web site and on this web site, so check out my previous commentary on this topic also. But the bottom line is that outsourcing is not impacting all areas equally. It's really hitting the ABAP area hard, because companies are finding that outsourcing ABAP projects is cost-effective in many cases. Plus, you can outsource ABAP on "per project" basis. But on the system admin/SAP Basis side, outsourcing is not as workable. To outsource Basis, you would have to outsource your entire SAP infrastructure, and most companies aren't going to do that. On the functional side, outsourcing has just not taken off yet. Functional outsourcing is often called "business process outsourcing," and it's this type of functional outsourcing that companies have found more risky security-wise and generally more problematic. To put it another way, if coding is a universal language, business processes are not. Companies have NOT found that outsourcing their functional configuration has been such a good option so far. But they'll keep experimenting.

I've said this before, but I do agree that HR data will be the first functional projects to be outsourced. HR data is just less mission-critical than financial data, and less sensitive to competitors than custom manufacturing data would be. So, I do expect some core HR tasks to be outsourced. But that doesn't mean that all of HR will be outsourced in all cases. I can't read into the future for every consultant, but I do think there will be room in SAP for some expert HR consultants who are on the cutting edge of advanced HR capabilities like workforce management, compensation management, etc. And don't forget about the latest Internet-enabled HR functionality like Employee Self-Service (ESS) and Management Self Service (MSS). Then, there are all kinds of innovative ways that HR data is being linked into Business Warehouse, and some SAP users are pursuing HR data archiving initiatives. To stay one step ahead of outsourcing, you have to stay away from basic, repetitive tasks and move into more advanced areas. These are the same principles I advise on the ABAP side, and I think they will serve you well. There's no guarantee, but you would have had your work cut out for you in HR even without outsourcing. Companies just don't want to spend a lot of money on HR consulting, period, as it's not an area that pertains directly to competitive advantage. But that doesn't mean there won't be room for some elite, highly-motivated HR specialists that can really help companies optimize their HR business processes. It sounds to me like you have the motivation to become this type of person - and by mastering HR best practices, INSTEAD OF just learning about SAP HR, you will put yourself in a position to work in other settings besides just on SAP sites, giving you more fallback options if SAP doesn't work out for you. Good luck!

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