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Should a senior FI/CO consultant pursue SEM? (part 1)

I'm a SAP (FI/CO) consultant and have been associated with implementations since 1997. I have worked in all areas of FI (except Legal consolidation - now ECCS) and CO (except ECCS and Product Costing). My last three assignments have been upgrades from various SAP versions to 4.6C. I have also attended a couple of virtual courses on BW too.

My question is what should be the direction that a consultant in my area take and how should he go about it? There seems to be a lot of hype about SEM, but I understand that it requires BW.

Your inputs would be appreciated.

It's always good to hear from a senior SAP consultant who is trying to stay on his toes! And you're smart to think that way, because the competition for classic FI/CO functional openings is fierce. To set yourself apart from the back, you need to combine your deep SAP experience with a marketable niche. And because a hot new niche can be hard to find in a cautious market, you also need an interim strategy until you find that hot area. For a seasoned FI/CO consultant like yourself, the right interim strategy is exactly what you're doing - making sure you're a part of the latest SAP R/3 product upgrades. Over the course of the next year, that means that you should try your best to get exposure to SAP's new Enterprise Edition of R/3, as soon as it is being implemented on client sites. Even better, you could gain experience configuring and implementing the Financials component of the mySAP product - thereby gaining skills in SAP's truly Web-driven product offering.

But while continuing your core FI/CO skills exposure in the latest SAP releases is a good thing, I like your thinking about SEM (Strategic Enterprise Management). Right now, the SEM consulting market is pretty immature, and the only viable openings are being filled by a handful of seasoned SEM pros. But over time, I believe that SEM will be a promising consulting area for FI/CO professionals - especially those with strengths in the analytical side of the CO application. When you think about it, there's been a real change in the strategic importance of Financials applications. When SAP was "taking no prisoners" and conquering the U.S. with R/3 back in the mid-90s, being an FI/CO consultant was considered an extremely marketable profile. At the time, comprehensive ERP software that integrated financials, human resources, sales, and materials management was cutting edge stuff.

But now, classic ERP with classic financials is a given in most companies. This part of ERP is now frequently thought of as a "back office" system - important to the enterprise as a whole but not the focus of future investments. What companies want to do now is to find ways of leveraging the transactional information they've capture in their ERP systems. This is a long-winded way of saying that as a functional SAP consultant, the more you can move away from implementing transactional systems, and the more you can focus on implementing strategic systems that leverage that data and "open it up" via the Internet, the more valuable your expertise will be. And SEM systems are one way that you can pull the transactional information out of SAP's financial systems and aggregate it into forms that executives can really use to make "big picture" decisions.

(Continued in part 2)

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