Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is multi-layered software that integrates all the different functions within an organization. Once deployed only in large firms and establishments with mainframe servers, ERP solutions have now become common place as special packages have been developed for small and medium enterprises (SMB).
According to recent reports, ERP market is expected to witness sales growth of 7.2% between 2014 and 2020 with estimated sales in 2020 at $41.69 bn. It is now widely used across industries – production, manufacturing, logistics, airline, shipping, retailing, medical, tourism, hospitality, transportation and banking services.
No wonder the opportunities for professional s trained in ERP is witnessing rapid growth and most often it doesn’t require complex technical or computer knowledge to be certified as an ERP professional . This is because ERP implementation is more of understanding a business process rather than software –hardware implementation and managing databases.
With large number of small and medium enterprises embracing ERP, vendors like SAP and Oracle have targeted this segment. On an average ERP consultant jobs have a salary range of Rs 8,00,000 to Rs 12,00,000 per annum but experienced professionals earn much more either as indpedent consultants or on payroll, according to Glassdoor.
Here are three broad areas to build a career in ERP
ERP is about integrating the activities of various departments in an organization and it involves every employee in the organization right from data entry operators, sales executives, clerks, accounts executives, human resources and management cadres. For entry level or end users, online training programs are provided by SAP (Learning Hub) and Oracle (Oracle University) that gives a basic awareness and skills required to work in an ERP environment.
While lower level employees may be end-users in the system just keying data or verifying information entered, professionals will be involved in more advanced level – helping the ERP solution providers to understand the operations of the organization and come up with appropriate solutions.
Human Resources (HR) consultants usually have an MBA background in HR and undergo a course in Human Capital Management (HCM) module of SAP or Oracle which are provided online or from their authorized learning centers. HR in any organization is responsible for maintenance of payroll, recruitment, compensation, training and administration. These topics are covered in HCM packages and managers have the freedom to which area to specialize in the case of Oracle training.
Once a student completes on an average of 200 hours of training, he or she may be eligible for appearing in the global certification. Sometimes, SAP, Oracle insist on domain knowledge and experience ranging from six months to two years to appear for global certification. Global certification enables an HR consultant to be employed full time in a company or work as independent consultants or trainers. HR ERP consultants are responsible for defining the structure, data requirements, configuration, processes and operations in HR module that is implemented as part of ERP.
Those with MBA in Finance or having a bachelors/masters degree in commerce can opt for Financial Accounting (FI) module, CO –Controlling (Management Accounting). There are two components in finance- one is maintain accounts and second is controlling costs. The Finance Department is responsible for cash management, maintaining ledgers, bank accounts, taxation, asset management, balance sheets, profit and loss (PL) statement and related tasks. The CO module is more attuned to manufacturing department where they have to control costs, assess the costs and work with marketing teams to improve profitability in regions where performance is lower.
Other modules in finance are investment management (IM), Treasure (TR) and Enterprise Control (EC) in SAP.
In logistics, for marketing and sales professionals, there is the sales and distribution (SD) module. This is an important function in an organization which involves sending quotations, creating sales orders, billing, and integration with inventory, finance and other departments. They are more closely integrated with Materials Management and Production Planning (PP). Some of the functional features in SD are pricing, taxation, credit management, product availability, output determination and so on. The module is suited for MBA marketing professionals, sales executives and related professionals.
Related logistics modules are: Materials Management, Production Planning and Control, Product Data Management (PDM), Quality Management, Plant Maintenance and Project System (PS) but are more suited for engineering stream.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) modules are meant for solution providers. They need to have a basic understanding of order fulfillment, sale and business processing. SAP provides solution based course developed for its CRM 7.0 EHPR release. The content convers sales, marketing, web channel, field applications, analytics, customer interaction and so on.
Some common facts about functional consultants:
- Functional consultants can be employed full time in a company which has an ERP implementation or work as functional consultants in consulting firms such as Infosys, Capegemini, Accenture where they begin as Trainee, Associate Consultant, Consultant, Senior Consultant, Team Leader and Project Manager. They will be working for different clients throughout the career.
- Functional consultancy is not about having a basic degree in marketing, finance or HR or accounting, global certification but having domain knowledge, a good understanding of business processes, good configuration skills, team player and communication skills.
- One of the key role of functional consultant is the configuration of the module which involves mapping the existing business process requirements and aligning them to SAP standards. Therefore, the key requirement of a functional consultant is domain knowledge and understanding of the business processes within the organization and how functional modules work in ERP systems.
- SAP products are provided by SAP, Oracle, Baan, Peoplesoft and other leading companies but SAP has over 60% of market share having all modules followed by Oracle. A certification by the vendor is proof of capability of the consultant – SAP Consultant, Oracle Consultant and so on.
- There is also requirement of trainers in SAP trainers in functional domains.
- There is a choice of instructor driven, e-learning and on-campus training provided by SAP, Oracle and other leading vendors of ERP.
- These vendors or their certified partners are offering courses that can be done along with regular MBA, BBA MCom, BCom, programs that enable students to be certified by the time they pass out of college. Global certification is awarded after appearing for an examination paying the requisite fees.
- Many of the applications have now moved to the cloud as on-site implementations are costly. To cater to the requirements of trained personnel on cloud applications both Oracle and SAP are providing training in cloud modules related to various functionalities
If Functional consultants define the business process, requirements and do the configuration part with the SAP/Oracle system or other vendors, it is the technical consultants who do the programming part of the job. There are three layers in an ERP system- the Application Layer, Presentation Layer and Database Layer. The Presentation Layer is the Graphical User Interface (GUI) through which end users input data, see the reports and output. Application layer is where all the programming is being done and database layer is where all the data is stored for access in real time.
The programming part of ERP is done in Java, ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming) and networking part is done by BASIS experts.
ABAP is meant for engineering graduates, MCA’s (Master of Computer Applications) but doesn’t require assembly level coding as it is a fourth generation language although language and syntax has to be learnt. ABAP is procedural and each new version is adding more object-oriented features. ABAP programmers help in creation of reports, interfaces, forms, data conversions. In most organisations, those who handle ABAP are developers or programmers. ABAP runs on SAP ABAP Application Server.
ABAP is available in two versions –
1) Full ABAP Stack and
2) Dual ABAP/JAVA stack.
The Full ABAP stack could get outdated as they were in versions price to ECC 6.00 although many companies run these systems worldwide.The Dual ABAP/JAVA Stack is shipped with the newer versions and has XI/PI, Portal and Solution Manager. Therefore, skills related to it may be in high demand, according to experts.
The system administrators in SAP are called BASIS people. They are responsible for ensuring that networking is running smoothly, all the application and application servers are installed and working perfectly. They have the added responsibility of ensuring that the Operating System (OS) and database on which SAP runs are working fine.
In simple terms, BASIS acts as an interface between database and operating system (OS). Their nature of job and operations are vast compared to ABAP.
BASIS function is a versatile, multi-tasking job in SAP requiring the professional to change roles according to the environment. They perform the role of system architects, transport administrator, batch administrator, security specialist, ABAP specialist, DDIC manager managing the SAP data dictionary, data base administrator, interface analyst and solutions specialist. Java programmers are in good demand in ERP market as most of the coding is still being done on Java which has the advantage of being open source and platform independent. It is structured and ideal for huge projects with respect to security, reliability and scalability. Java programmers will also find ABAP programming easier to learn.
So far we found two watertight compartments in ERP- technical and functional consultants. But there is a third category of professionals who are called techno-functional consultants in ERP who perform both technical and functional roles in an organization. Technical consultants working on various modules such as HR, MM, FI, CO gradually understand the business processes involved and this helps them map the scenarios apart from doing the programming part which they are already skilled at.
With changing technologies including cloud and in-memory processing (as in SAP HANA), consultants in those specific skills both in techno-functional areas are in huge demand, according to analysts. Techno functional consultants are usually related to one module where they need to have the skills of functional, Basis and ABAP. Most techno-functional consultants sought are in SD, CRM, MM, PP etc. According to Payscale.com, skills commanding high salaries are PeopleSoft HRMS, PeopleSoft Technical, Oracle Applications 11i, Oracle E-Business Suite HRM and PeopleSoft Financials.
ERP is about understanding of business processes and how it integrates with various solutions developed by vendors. Understanding the business processes and its requirements are paramount to success of ERP implementation and hence the demand for good quality functional consultants. On the other hand, much of the technology side work is done by BASIS people who handle a variety of tasks and responsibilities.
Programming skills required ERP is limited to Java, ABAP programming and hence engineering graduates may not have great opportunities unless they combine functional skill as well. ERP is a specialised area and requires domain knowledge rather than mere degree or certification to grow up in the career. New Cloud based applications and open source platforms enable quicker and inexpensive implementation of ERP which could throw up more specialised job opportunities or consulting prospects for professionals in the near future.
Existing professionals in various functional roles can enter ERP stream through various online courses and certifications thus not in any way disturbing their existing work and salaries. However, the ERP market is still evolving with new solutions and platforms. Hence, professionals need to quickly update their skills or move onto new territories to stay afloat. There is a latent demand for good quality trainers and hence many consultants are also being hired for training by consulting companies. Trainers are in demand in both technical and functional modules with the rise in number of certified training centres by major vendors. Part-time and freelance opportunities are also being advertised across India and various emerging nations.
SAP has modules for every possible application but in some applications such as HR and Financials there are other vendors who are strong contenders to the market leader. Hence, the choice of module and its leading vendor could also help consultants land in better assignments.
Here are some articles that will help you to get more detail about the ERP Career Options so just go through the link.