December 18, 2012

Knowledge in SAP (Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing) is a sought after skill for businesses both small and large. Yes, over 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using SAP, but SAP for Small Businesses has grown, with over 183,000 businesses now using SAP software. Perhaps even more impressive is how SAP consultants can be found anywhere in the world: SAP customers span 130-plus countries. If you’re thinking “this sounds great; I’d like to be an SAP Consultant, so where do I start?” Good question! Here are a few tipsto get you started:

Which type of SAP consultants are there? 

While there are more specific roles in SAP consulting, it comes down to essentially two areas: Functional or Technical, according to SAP analyst Jon Reed. “Of course, there can be some crossover between these two, and ideally, you will have a mix of both, but careers in SAP are about focus. Your focus is dictated by two things: the overall background of your experience, and where you want to be headed from here,” Reed said in his blog post. If you have a background in CRM (customer relationship management) or finance, the Functional route will better suit your current skills. Those with technical skills such as programming and experience in software development are a great fit for SAP technical roles.

What do I need to learn? 

Well, this depends a lot on what your current set of skills are. Sudhakar Mukkara, an SAP SD Sr Consultant through York Solutions, recommends focusing on certain SAP modules and becoming an expert in a specific one. “The more experience you can gain in that area, the more valuable you will be [as a consultant],” Mukkara said.  There are 25 SAP modules to learn, but learning (and specializing) in one or two of the most popular modules will make you more marketable. Here are a just a few popular ones: SAP Basis, SAP SD, SAP PP and SAP FI. There are even some add-on modules like SAP CRM and SAP BI (Business Intelligence) which are also popular. Be sure to research each of the modules and determine which best suit your experience and educational background.

What should I expect when I start?

SAP consultants, especially new grads just starting, will have a busy schedule so be prepared for long hours, said Dalwyn Godfrey, an IT manager who’s hired SAP consultants. “I have found in larger companies , [they] will often work long hours. I have worked on projects where the ‘new grads’ have had 80-plus hours a week at busy periods (weeks at a time) and will often have to take various intensive training courses if you get something new to work on.” Yes, the hours can be long at the start and the training is vital, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, according to Mukkara. “Once you are able to master that specific process in SAP, you can take that process and you’re able to use it at almost any business,” Mukkara said.

Aside from the software, what other skills should I learn?

Soft skills are becoming more sought after in many IT positions, and SAP consultants are no different. “People skills first, second, and always,” said Godfrey. The ability to listen, analyze and communicate effectively are skills you’ll need to present your value as a consultant. Another important skill in SAP is business writing; creating clear, concise reports plays an important part of the position. 

If you are looking for a visual display of the SAP career ladder, here is a great powerpoint on Slideshare that presents a ladder indicating all of the steps from the Consultant Trainee to Senior Director level. Have you considered a career in SAP or are you a current consultant? What are the biggest challenges to the position? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Posted By: James Sweeney

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