The amount of data a company collects during their everyday transactions is becoming larger and larger. For many years this has been the case. It is obvious that it is no longer possible to structure a business coherently without a proper data management. For this purpose, companies use enterprise software such as SAP ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to manage their processes in different departments (logistics, human resources, sales etc.) on the software side. If the processes change, the software needs to be adaptable – i.e. customizable. This is where SAP consultants come into play. SAP consultants are IT consultants specialized on SAP products. This specialization is highly sought-after because SAP is the world market leader in the segment of enterprise software. An SAP consultant analyses the processes of a business, finds out about the necessary software solutions and finally implements this software. The implementation often includes customizing the products according to the customer’s needs.
SAP consultants work at the interface of IT and (business) economics. Due to the complexity of SAP enterprise software, a profound knowledge of IT and the specific products is indispensable. But not only the software side is important, also the hardware components such as server and data base systems need to be acquainted in order to be able to suggest the best overall product-bundle for the customer.
The (business) economics side is important because, obviously, not every company is structured the same way. Differences can be very basic like industry sector, size and number of employees but also more complicated such as enterprise structure, subsidiaries or focus on global markets. The individuality of every company – and thus every new customer – forces consultants to bring a broad understanding of business economics and enterprise processes. All processes within a specific enterprise need to be analyzed and mirrored in the software that is to be implemented. Analytical thinking is thus one of the most important skills an SAP consultant should have.
Be a Team Player
The first impression might suggest something else, however, SAP consultants are in no way loners but have to be very good team players. Consultants have to interact intensively with their customers to find out what they want and need. No consultant can dare to just go into a company, analyze what the customer might need and then implement it on his own. Implementation processes are often large projects that take many months or even a couple of years. Therefore, consultants work in large teams whose members always need to update each other and work out strategies. If a consultant is employed by a large consultant company, she is sent to one project after the other, meets with many different clients, has to adapt to new surroundings, colleagues and tasks. Consultants therefore have to adapt to new situations quickly and bring good communication skills, ability to empathize and a willingness to travel.
“SAP consultant” is not a registered job-description and therefore there is not the one straight-forward education plan. You may call yourself an SAP consultant if you feel like it. However, your customers will quickly find out if you really are what you promise. What you need in order to really become a successful SAP consultant is the mentioned set of social and professional skills and, even more important, work experience. Gathering work experience can start after for example studying in the fields of economics and informatics. Doing internships during your studies gives you a first impression of the business world out there. After that you either start your career as a junior consultant right away, or you begin as a trainee which in many cases has proven to be even more productive. You get to know the respective SAP products that you will be working with, you work in your first projects, you are given more and more responsibility and you see many different clients. Only through this kind of experience can you really become a successful consultant – in either industry. The chances to get accepted for a good job or traineeship can be enhanced by gathering experience already during your time at university. Extra curricula SAP courses and respective SAP certificates are recognized world-wide and thus give you a head start compared to applicants who leave university without any SAP knowledge. In your later career you will see how important official SAP certifications can be. Customers pay a lot more for consultants who are officially certified. And certified consultants will always be more likely to take the leading positions within a team than those without certifications.
In your career, most consultants come to the point where they have to specialize, since the outlook given above of what a consultant does is not the usual day of ONE consultant but of a team. At the end, there are three areas for consultants: Business-, Solution- and Technology Consulting. Business consultants have a focus on the business side: They analyze the mentioned structures and process of a company. Solution consultants make sure that the correct applications and systems are implemented. They have an overview in how far a certain system can be customized and at which points further add-ons need to be coded in order to meet the customer’s needs. The technology consultant is the one that finally puts everything into practice. He customizes the system and makes sure that everything runs smoothly at the end of the implementation process.
High Demand – High Salary
SAP has more than 185.000 customers world-wide, and the number is still growing. That means that new systems are implemented every day, old systems have to be maintained or updated and new solutions are being developed. Thus, the market of SAP enterprise software is very promising for graduates around the world. Consultants are sought-after like never before. This also reflects on the salaries of course. It is hard to pinpoint an average global salary for SAP consultants. But you can be sure that it is on the upper end of the salary scale – no matter where you live. Big markets for SAP are in Europe (especially Russia), America, Asia and India. So basically: in urban areas everywhere on the planet.
Gathering SAP skills while you are still at university can be the decisive factor for your career, also if you do not want to become a consultant after all. Just imagine the number of people who work with SAP products everyday – the SAP users. Having experience in using SAP software products is also a great benefit if you apply for a job at any that uses e.g. SAP ERP.
Either way, make sure to take your chance and kick-start your career by taking SAP e-learning courses and go for official and globally recognized SAP certifications.