Friday, August 21, 2015

A Guide to SAP world for non-SAP Professionals

To whom it may concern as a fresher to ERP SAP :

ERP = Enterprise Resource Planning

SAP = Systems & Application in Data Processing

Thanks for your patient reading!!  Read at your pace and leisure to understand SAP world better!!

Good that you are contemplating at the same time not rushing through your decision on switching your career.

Here are some more thoughts, I wanted to share with you, based on my personal experience in the past 15 years since switching my career from being a practicing professional Accountant to become a certified SAP FICO Lead Consultant. 

This is NOT AT ALL to bemuse or frighten you, but I felt I must be frank and honest in giving you my inputs, so as to give you a fair amount of insight on the SAP world. It always appear 'other side of the fence or river is green, but you need to cross the river by foot through a bridge (if any), or swim or sail against the river's motion to reach the other side of the river/fence then to realize it's NOT always and need NOT always be green there too. 

Once you clear through the exam or get some formal training, you must be blessed royally to get 'that' right client or working environment to explore yourself the hands-on experience into a really meaningful exposure.  

In SAP or ERP terminology or jargons, that exposure is known as:

a) Implementation to roll out SAP FICO/SD/MM with or without SAP HR integration to a client who never saw SAP screen - this is called legacy to SAP 

b) Enhancing client's existing SAP R/3 to add more and more new  features to provide more functionality across various SAP modules or new generation components (that keep constantly coming from SAP) where customer is already happily using SAP Application (hoping it is a successful installation, else, with an unhappy customer who would reluctantly approve of such enhancements, because he spent millions of money, time and efforts into SAP and he cannot afford to discontinue not using SAP as an application)

c) Roll out client's SAP to more countries, or branches in a country where is already rolled out to more company codes (you know CoCode is an Organizational Unit in SAP so you can have more than one branch in a country with/without the enhanced features as seen in (b)

d) Enhancing client's system to accommodate new branches where prior enhancements were not rolled out (c) 

e) Upgrade SAP R/3 from one version to another (like 4.6C to 4.7 or 4.6C to ECC 6.0 etc. with / without a functional upgrade.  By not going for a fully functional upgrade means customer's R/3 would be upgraded technically (Basis level) so customer would be working on a new set of screens or transactions, to ensure continuous after-sales support would be available from SAP.

SAP normally does not support a released version more than a specific period.  For instance, earlier versions R/3 3.1, 4.5B etc. are NOT any longer supported by SAP hence the client is forced to go for upgrade (the italic comments in (b) above equally applies here, please be aware. 

f) Support an existing installation regardless the SAP R/3 version they are in.............with all the modules that are rolled out already. Here is what the most consultants are engaged client after client, company after company, country after country. 

Now why I took the time to go on explaining the above is, if one like new comer to SAP ends up as a fresher in (f) only above and NOT enough blessed to be engaged anywhere from (a) through (e), you can imagine the emotional or psychological imbalance he would go through for the rest of his career. 

Here the crux of the issue is - which is first 'Chicken or the Egg''.    Without a hands-on experience, nobody would give a fresher an opportunity to engage himself from (a) through (e)............... OK, one gets through (f) directly - it happens almost for 90% of candidates who envisions SAP as his career option - he must be royally blessed to have the right contacts in each Company, Client or MNC where he has people to pull him in (recommendation or internal reference factor) to be hired for a meaningful engagement in any of the roles as a Consultant, ABAP developer etc. from (a) through (e). 

Once you are happily done with (f) kind of supportive role for couple of years, you are not getting that greener postures for next one year for instance, you continue to do what you did for the past 2 years strictly in order NOT to deprive yourself of a cannot afford to sit idle at home awaiting your next engagement.  

You would have a family to support, you would have your own financial obligations, home mortgage etc.  Depending on individual circumstances, you would have adult level children who are entering college for engineering, medicine or whatever career path they want to pursue, so you cannot afford to be without a job for yourself, else, your children cannot be supported financially for their higher education. In the worst come worst case, god forbids, one enters into health issues from minor to major illnesses, which could be a result of excessive stressful decades-long career.  

So you are compelled somehow to continue where you are and you are not in a position to look for a meaningful professional career in any of the SAP termed consulting or supportive roles (a) through (f).  Got it? 

Having clarified thus far above, I would honestly say and share with you my experience, I have almost seen all of the above............scenarios over the past 12 years since I quit my legacy job in in 2003.  I had invested almost 80% of my end of service benefits that I got from previous employer into SAP certification, and thus far have worked for about 15 clients over 15 years through 10 companies or employers.  I can call myself a Techno-Functional Consultant or Solutions Architect who can now lead a team of FICO/SD/MM/ABAP set of consultants with/without an integration of SAP with other non-SAP applications. If I was blessed enough from the beginning in any of (a) through (d) above, I would have now become a Project Manager, Associate Vice-President or Vice President, Associate GM or GM for that matter in any of the clients where I was engaged earlier. 

Thanks to my limited exposure thus far predominantly in a supportive role, with a 70:30 ratio (70% of time spent on Support and 30% time spent on actual implementation or enhancement or upgrade), after this 15 year exposure, I am now again struggling to get my next assignment.  I would for sure get one soon, it takes time.   The very same friend of mine who was with me during SAP FICO training in 2003 who got 30:70 (the opposite of my case), he is also still struggling to get a meaningful higher position in ERP Consulting. In his case, he has got age to his advantage, in my case, I am too old (52 now) to try new ventures and risk my career. 

Moreover, in your case, SAP HR is NOT installed in many places; most companies using Peoplesoft HR or other ERP brand HR in terms of HR installations, though they might be successfully using SAP for other areas like Logistics, Inventory and Warehouse Management, Project Systems, Plant Maintenance, Supply Chain Management (SD/MM), CRM, SRM, BW etc. 

That implies, with a SAP HR certification and exposure, you need to get the right client at the right time at the right place at the right compensation of your asking - all of these must go through well, God Willing, for one to get into SAP and be successful in his career, regardless if one is in his fresher level, middle management or mid-career or higher managerial role whatever it may be.

Again, sorry if you think 'I am discouraging you etc.', NOT AT ALL, when you ask me for opinion, I must be honest to share both good and bad scenarios that one may encounter.   I am sure I shared the right level of feedback with you............the ball is in your court to decide suitably depending on your individual circumstances.  I have kept in mind your background, including your family and children, and your decades-long experience in your profession in mind, before sharing my thoughts. 

However, it depends on your budget and how much you can afford for the SAP HR training followed by a certification examination?

A legitimate and authentic course through SAP AG Germany authorized training centers across India, would cost you approximate 2.2 to 2.5 Lacs (may be 3 Lacs now)  INR including exam fees.  Exam fees itself would cost you approx. 25000 to 30000 INR plus VAT (may be more).  

There are multiple offline (unofficial) training centers who teach all SAP modules, but people largely what they do is, groom themselves in one of these training centers (because cost is very cheap - around 15000 to 30000 INR per module, depending on module you choose) and you can take your own time to learn yourself and with that hands-on experience (little you get), then you search in the market, get yourself engaged in 1 or 2 assignments over 1-2 years, then you think of sitting for exam for certification.   This way, your previous training outside followed by an on-the-job actual experience would allow to clear the exam in first go. 

This way you spend around 50K INR get into SAP HR. 

I would advise you to go for official training through SAP training academy in Chennai, Bangalore or Mumbai (Bangalore is main office) and that would give you a break in career. 

In either case, you might need to spend a month or so in India to get yourself fully trained. Can you afford that break from job?

Alternately, through website, look for online e-learning courses on HR module, that may be cheaper and you can learn at your home in Riyadh safely, and once you are confident to take up the exam, you can proceed as well. Choice is yours. Online courses might be cheaper as compared to class room training at a SAP academy.

DISCLAIMER : This document has been compiled more than 2 years ago since 2014, posted in my blog in 2015, shared once in FB earlier and being shared again now, This was for a potential HR Guy to get into SAP to learn SAP HR. Similarly equate yourself with your legacy domain experience in the field of expertise like Logistics, Finance, Sales Management, Service Management, and so on.

Please keep all above into consideration, before your actual final decision. I pray God to bless you with the right wisdom, courage and knowledge in all what you do and endeavor!! Welcome to SAP world!!  Good luck!!