Saturday, January 2, 2010

What are the SAP Consulting Trends to Watch in 2010?

2009 was not a banner year for SAP consulting. That’s a nice way of saying that some consultants actually started missing airports and security screenings... okay, maybe not after what happened in Newark last night! But while the consulting lifestyle is not always a picnic, it beats riding the pine bench. However, the news was not bad for all parties. For SAP customers, it was a year to procure SAP consultants at cheaper rates. Customers also gained from the streamlining of services and creative delivery models that consultancies were compelled to pursue.

The SAP freelancer was caught in the middle of these changes, with senior consultants predictably faring better than juniors. New “virtual” consulting options brought new opportunities to the freelance community, but at reduced rates. So what can we expect from 2010?

In this blog post, the first in a two part series, I’ll review SAP market developments that should stimulate consulting demand.

No surprises here: small, focused SAP projects will carry the day in 2010. Perhaps the only exception will be large scale SAP upgrades. But even these upgrades will look nothing like the expansive projects of previous upgrade cycles.

1. “Smart Upgrades” - Upgrades to ERP 6.0 will continue, but in a targeted fashion. SAP’s classic upgrade methodology will be a reference point, but many customers will look to firms that provide a leaner upgrade model. Examples will include: fixed cost upgrades with most of the project managed virtually (group:basis being one firm that provides this type of upgrade), tools that cut the upgrade testing cycle (Panaya’s offering being the most powerful example of this), and help with specialized SAP upgrade issues like Unicode (see: With more companies managing part or all of their SAP upgrade within Solution Manager, we will see a continued emphasis on Solution Manager skills and perhaps even some service offerings structured around SolMan.

2. BI projects – Look for BI to be a major spending focus in 2010, but not just SAP BusinessObjects. When it comes to BI, SAP customers are going to do their version of coupon clipping. During these pricing comparisons, BusinessObjects will not always come out on top. Third party BI tools will have an impact on the SAP space as well. Expect most BI projects to be focused on dashboarding and the visualization of data. Upgrades to BW 7.0 and use of the Business Warehouse Accelerator to improve processing speeds will be another point of emphasis. “Give the users the data they want at the speed they expect” will be the mantra for 2010.

The only glitch? Many companies face data cleansing, integration, and master data management issues. These data-intensive projects are more complex in scope, so look for companies to try to get by without them in 2010 (or settle for the next best thing to “real time,” such as data synchronization overnight or on weekends). I expect to see more data-centric BI projects in 2011. That should buy SAP some much needed time to flesh out its own Master Data Management (MDM) offering.

3. Mobility and Visibility – Visibility of operations will continue to be a major SAP project focus. Empowering employees from the shop floor to the field service unit to access SAP remotely and input information from mobile UIs will be a priority. SAP’s NetWeaver Mobile component and the Mobile Development Kit (MDK) will get a workout in 2010. Like many “edge” areas of SAP, the development skills needed for SAP mobile development will combine ABAP fundamentals (like ABAP Objects and ABAP Workbench) with Java-based SAP competencies like Web Dynpro for Java. The NetWeaver Developer Studio, mostly Java focused, will be a preferred environment for many of these projects. Perhaps more importantly, we’ll see a continued demand for services firms (and consultants) who have an architectural grasp of SAP’s mobile landscape.

4. “Green SAP” – Sustainability will continue its growth as a services approach that combines the repackaging of traditional SAP functionality with new SAP tools like SAP Carbon Impact. (Click here for an interactive map of SAP's sustainability solutions). Although the new SAP tools may provide some new consulting opportunities, sustainability is as much a mindset shift as a skills shift. Sustainability’s key business drivers are regulatory concerns, shareholder transparency, and efficient energy consumption. With that in mind, those services firms who can present a comprehensive set of “sustainability skills” that cover reporting, data visibility, energy measurement and risk management should be in demand in 2010. That means being able to advise on SAP's latest sustainability solutions, such as the now-available Sustainability Performance Management app.

This expertise should also include SAP virtualization knowledge (to reduce burn rates on servers) as well as lean (agile) coding methodologies like Scrum. Sometimes the exact same project can be “spun” a different way. In the social media era, viral PR matters. Firms that know how to tie their clients’s energy reduction efforts into sustainability mission statements will have an edge over those who simply provide hands-on skills without connecting the sustainability dots.

5. SME - The SME market will be a focal point for SAP during 2010. With SAP's emphasis on consulting partners in that space, there will be opportunities for those firms that have industry traction and productive partner/lead sharing relationships with SAP. All-in-One, SAP’s most sophisticated SME offering, should provide the most consulting opportunities in 2010. Some R/3 consultants have adapted well to All-in-One, given the many similarities in the product.

Business One represents a whole different consulting space and will be hard for larger services firms to break into. Smaller, decentralized firms built from the ground up with low overhead should be well positioned to pick up B1 business this year (if they are SAP B1 partners). Though Business By Design should gain momentum in the second half of 2010, only those with deeper pockets should pursue ByD skills ramp up now, as the year of consulting growth for ByD looks to be 2011.

What about BPM? You may be wondering about BPM – why didn’t it make this list? Though more companies are addressing their ERP projects from a process-driven perspective (example: “how can we standardize/improve our order-to-cash systems?”) I don’t see BPM as a major consulting area for SAP shops in 2010. Two reasons: first, true process overhauls are cumbersome and time consuming – not catch phrases that will set management on fire in 2010. Second, SAP consulting demand has always peaked when there is a mature tool set to drive the consulting efforts (see: SAP BI consulting).

NetWeaver BPM is intriguing, but it’s just not ready to drive consulting growth. Until NetWeaver BPM’s tight integration with SAP comes to fruition, it may be more tempting to use a simpler tool like Gravity, the modeling tool based on Google Wave developed by SAP Australia.

In 2011, when SAP BPM is more mature, and more closely integrated with a more robust Solution Manager, then I expect to see BPM consulting have an impact. In this futuristic vision, Solution Manager would store the business processes, which would be altered on the fly in BPM and then quickly tied back into SolMan, with a minimum of manual reconfiguration or coding needed. Let’s be honest: sounds like science fiction as we head into 2010, but it might be viable by 2011. Services firms should be paying close attention to SAP’s BPX skills certification, but BPM skills investment should proceed carefully in 2010.

In part two of this blog post, I’ll look at some of the trends on consulting service delivery we should see in 2010.


Rohit Khetarpal said...

Any comment/view about sap crm?

Vitaliy Rudnytskiy said...

Very good comments in #2 about BI work. I liked especially about "the glitch". BW was always extremely weak in 2 aspects of dQPI, i.e. in support of Data Quality and Data Profiling. BusinessObjects Data Integrator can play importnat role in SAP's DW landscape if it proves to be great tool.

Muthu Ranganathan said...

SAP Enterprise Performance management would be an important part of consulting opportunties in SAP. BPC, PCM are going to be key areas

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