2.1 SAP consultant
If you answer yes to the majority of the following questions, you should consider a career in consulting:
- Do you prefer working in various industries for multiple clients over more consistent work?
<li>Do you consider yourself independent and self-motivated?</li> <li>Are you open to traveling full-time (50-100% of the time)?</li>
SAP consultants work for a consulting firm or independently consult as a subcontractor for clients who are SAP customers. Many people find consulting glamorous because of the travel, typically higher salaries, frequent project and client changes, and the prestige of large firms. There is something to be said about advising some of the largest and most well-known companies in the world. Most people who have spent time as a consultant agree that consulting puts you on a career trajectory of fast growth. You learn an immense amount about technology solutions, client relationships, and what it takes to succeed.
Like any job, there are some aspects of consulting that outweigh the benefits for those who prefer a career in an industry. Frequent travel comes with long commutes (sometimes cross-country), early travel on Monday mornings, flight delays, hotel living, and the general inconvenience of living out of a suitcase. Others may not feel comfortable leading meetings with clients or lack the confidence to advise others. In spite of the added pressure and drawbacks with traveling, consulting is certainly a worthwhile consideration for those starting their SAP career.
Your typical work week as a consultant starts by traveling to the client site Monday morning, or Sunday night. Cross-country travelers may spend the better part of Sunday traveling to the client site. Those rare, lucky consultants on local projects get to sleep in the comfort of their own bed every night and avoid travel. While local projects are a great break from being ‘on the road’, you are often expected to work longer hours because you are not traveling and you are not able to expense meals to the client.
Consultants typically start at the client site Monday morning sometime before noon and work long days (10+ hours) before flying home Thursday or Friday night. Project timelines and go-live weekends occasionally require staying in town for the weekend. Consultants are generally expected to work a minimum of 45 hours and most work closer to 60 hours in a given week. The weeks leading up to project milestones usually require intensely long days.
As a consultant, you rely on business users and leadership to provide the requirements for the system. Based on these requirements, you can configure the system. Consultants must guide clients in making key decisions by providing information and demos in SAP (commonly called CRP’s, conference room pilots). Consultants take the lead in blueprint workshops, configuring the system, facilitating testing, providing knowledge transfer to the client, and supporting the live system.
2.1.2 Consulting career ladder
The major consulting firms follow a career ladder similar to Figure 2.1. There are variations in the names for each level between firms, but the general idea is the same. Some firms also offer a separate career ladder for those interested in specializing in a specific area of SAP instead of following the partner track. The next page describes each of the levels in the partner career ladder.
Figure 2.1: The consulting career ladder
Internships are typically full-time summer positions for undergraduate or graduate students. Some firms keep interns part time during the school year to keep connected with strong talent. Interns are usually assigned a small project management-type position on an SAP engagement. This provides them an opportunity to understand the phases of a project, how client engagements work, and explore project roles.
Interns are expected to spend a significant amount of time learning about the firm, networking with leadership, and finding where they could fit in. Interns need to focus on delivering quality assignments and work with their managers to contribute to meaningful projects. Many interns can be stuck with trivial work that leaves them feeling like they have no part in team or project success. Interns should ask for more responsibility if they have extra time and demonstrate their potential by going above and beyond expectations.
High-performing interns may receive an official offer to join the firm full-time after graduation. Some firms will require interns to interview for full-time positions, but others consider an internship a long interview for a full-time position.
As an intern, it is crucial to distinguish yourself from other candidates. Internships are a great way to see inside a company and can help you decide if you fit in with the culture and project work. Internships are also important in discovering what you are passionate about and whether your planned career path is really right for you.
The analyst level is an entry-level position for undergraduates and inexperienced consultants. The analyst role usually lasts 2-3 years before promotion to consultant. Analysts usually work in a project management role or join a functional or technical project team. They are usually paired with an experienced consultant or senior consultant and have opportunities to learn about project roles and explore different functional or technical areas.
The analyst role is a unique time in your career to explore different modules in SAP or decide that you want to pursue another technology or career path. Find formal and informal mentors to nurture your career and help you achieve your career goals.
I recommend you have clear deliverables on your project(s) as an analyst so you can articulate your accomplishments. You don’t want to get to a performance review and only be able to say that you were a key performer or team member that achieved XYZ. That doesn’t demonstrate your potential because there is no way to measure your achievements.
To succeed as an analyst, focus on learning the firm’s tools and methods so you can articulate their value to clients. You should also develop your network of peers and leaders on your project and in your local office or region. A great way to meet people in your organization is to lead events in your local office and join special interest groups. Finally, proactively seek opportunities to develop your consulting skills and SAP expertise.
After roughly 2 to 3 years of experience, the next level in the SAP consulting ladder is a consultant. Consultants are valuable project team members who take on an increased number of deliverables. Consultants usually work under a senior consultant who manages their work. Some experienced consultants may manage a functional sub-team which allows for a gradual transition to the next level as a senior consultant.
Consultants should continue to develop relationships with a firm and lead projects, take ownership of more work with less oversight, and build their reputation by delivering quality results. Important consultant-level skills include presenting solution options, project management, decision-making, and critical thinking. Find opportunities to lead meetings and lead internal initiatives to demonstrate your leadership potential. Consultants should also develop their mentoring skills by supporting interns, analysts, and junior consultants.
Strong consultants focus in on a few specific areas of their functional module and familiarize themselves with other modules or solutions that enhance their experience. In other words, consultants should have a major and minor in specific areas of SAP. For example, I have a deep understanding of the controlling module (major) and I am versed in the production planning and production execution module (minor). My minor in PP-PE enhances my controlling major because these modules are highly integrated.
Senior consultants usually have 4 to 7 years of experience. They manage functional project sub-teams or lead small projects. Senior consultants also begin to sell smaller-scale client work.
At the senior consultant level, you should have deep knowledge of your functional or technical area. Important skills of senior consultants include project management, coaching, leadership, and strategic decision making.
Many senior consultants are hired directly after completing their MBAs at a top-tier school. Most large firms have programs for consultants to pursue their MBA full time and return to the firm as a senior consultant. There are usually options to pursue a part-time MBA while a full-time employee as well. I have not found that an MBA degree is necessarily mandatory at any level, but it is usually recommended for senior consultants looking towards a promotion to manager.
Managers typically have about 7 years of experience with SAP and several years of experience leading small teams. They are often functional or technical leads of small project teams and oversee senior consultants and consultants. Their work can include selling client engagements, managing project budgets, hiring team members, overseeing team deliverables, and working closely with the client team lead.
The manager level is a senior role in the firm that requires handling difficult situations with clients and team members, coaching team members, and occasionally representing the firm at executive-level meetings.
Managers usually spend about a quarter of their time on project pursuits where they attempt to sell new work. They are generally less hands-on with the technology and provide guidance and coaching to team members. Managers also spend a considerable amount of time working closely with client leadership to manage issues and drive decisions.
Senior managers lead larger project teams or are project managers. They often lead sales pursuits from beginning to end working closely with partners. Senior managers are respected senior leaders in the firm and are specialized in an industry, functional, or technical area. Senior managers are very hands off with the technology and provide guidance to managers, senior consultants, and consultants.
Partners and principals are different titles for shareholders in the firm. Directors are on the same level as partners and principals, but are not firm shareholders. Partners, directors, and principals (PPDs) are focused on selling client engagements. There is a lead PPD on each client project.
2.1.3 Consulting salaries
Consulting is attractive to many people because the salaries are typically much higher than similar roles at SAP customer sites. It is important to weigh all benefits of a job offer and understand the difference in expectations.
Consultants are often paid more because of their SAP expertise, technical or business skills, and to make up for some of the inconveniences of travel. Consultants must also be business consultants and use technology to drive change.
As an entry-level analyst at a customer location, you may not be required to lead meetings and give presentations to large audiences. Consultants generally have higher levels of expectations that command higher salaries.
SAP positions, consulting or industry, are also usually higher paying than other software skills like Java because of the higher demand for SAP skills. You will also find that there is a significant difference between a technical SAP salary and a functional SAP salary. According to the Glassdoor.com, the U.S. national average for SAP consultant salaries is about $71,700 as of 2016.
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