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10 desirable traits of an SAP consultant

Working with a competent SAP consultant can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth SAP implementation. Here are professional traits to look for.

Companies embarking on an arduous journey of implementing a highly integrated system like SAP ERP can ensure a...

certain degree of project success by bringing on board SAP consultants with the following traits (in no particular order):

In-depth industry knowledge: A consultant who has implementation experience in the same or similar industry can understand a company's business processes quickly and promptly deliver relevant direction and address specific pain points. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, the importance of closely monitoring shelf-life expiration dates of medicines cannot be overemphasized. An SAP consultant can propose immediate action, such as recurring inspection, also known as repeat inspection, to identify batches that are about to expire so a company can take immediate action. Similarly, an experienced and knowledgeable SAP consultant can propose a plethora of SAP standard reports and analyses available to meet a company's reporting needs instead of opting for custom-developed ABAP reports that are not only costly but also resource intensive.

Knowledge of the latest SAP technology trends: Because of the breakneck speed with which SAP is introducing new products and offerings, a major success factor for an SAP consultant is to continue learning about relevant areas of interest, and even explore and implement the latent or hidden features of existing SAP systems.

Cross-component integration knowledge: With cross-component functional knowledge and expertise, an SAP consultant can quickly identify and guide the processes that lie in the domain of other SAP components. For example, the procurement process in SAP Materials Management ends with paying a vendor for delivered goods, which is in the domain of SAP Financial Accounting. Similarly, processing a customer's sales order in SAP Sales and Distribution is considered complete on handling a customer’s payment, which is managed in SAP Financial Accounting. Cross-component knowledge allows an SAP consultant to provide visibility of end-to-end business processes.

Integrity: It is surprising that companies implementing an SAP system to provide greater process visibility and to prevent internal or external fraud occasionally ask a consultant to propose outcomes that conflict with national or international laws -- or are unethical. This includes, for example, requesting that the system handle under-invoicing to avoid customs duties or charging and invoicing customers a premium price for a product, yet supplying an inferior product. A consultant must align customers' expectations to help them understand that SAP, being a database system, records every transaction and activity that is then available for auditors to evaluate, with no option to hide the information or mislead. A consultant should never provide workarounds that support fraudulent and misleading activities.

Effective client management: With every new project, SAP consultants need to adapt quickly to the business users they will work with for the duration of the project. An SAP consultant is expected to play a central role, ensuring that a client's business processes are mapped in SAP, while at the same time aligning client expectations on what is, and is not, possible in the system. An SAP consultant also should simplify complex technical terminology so the client can understand and make important and timely business decisions.

Good presentation, communication and correspondence skills: An SAP consultant spends as much as 60% of a project's time preparing and presenting a business blueprint, conducting training, and creating end users' training documentation or aligning organizational change management processes. It is imperative that an SAP consultant be able to present confidently to a wide range of people, and also be good at clearly and comprehensively explaining business requirements.

Good documentation skills: An SAP consultant with good project documentation skills reaps great benefits when a client needs to review any decision made and agreed upon. If not documented, early decisions have the potential to create confusion.

Functional and technical skills: A functional consultant who primarily manages the business and solutions mapping in SAP needs to have decent technical knowledge to understand and communicate the programming requirements to an SAP technical consultant. Similarly, a technical consultant with decent functional and business process knowledge can deliver relevant business solutions quickly.

Effective teamwork and mentorship: Teams assemble for an SAP project and when the project  ends, they disassemble. But a successful SAP project is much more than delivering software; it's about teamwork and mentorship, where seniors and experienced team members help develop and groom a fresh breed of SAP consultants to enable them to eventually lead a project on their own.

Familiarity with SAP Solution Manager (SolMan ): Although not extensively used, the large number of tools and accelerators available in SolMan can be used to speed SAP implementation.

SAP consultants are expected to be all of the above: a master of all trades regarding SAP. At the same time, they must continue learning to remain on top of the SAP consulting field.

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