A Private Club for Elite SAP Consultants

Lean Works Better When Agile

January 4th, 2016

Advocates of Lean production and Agile development both want the same thing. What’s different is Agile’s much higher end-user collaboration — which great software requires.

Making software is not like making cars. When you make software you have the opportunity to ask end users for feedback on working pieces of the product as it is still being created — so the software will likely match what customers actually want. But when you make a car you have to wait until the car is finished before you can get user feedback on the actual car, not just on images or descriptions. Yes, it’s possible for customers to go on the automaker’s website or dealer and specify various options — colors, features, and design alternatives. But those options are already listed for you. That’s different than when users give software developers feedback on how to tweak the product while it’s still being worked on.

That’s what Agile’s advocates say software companies should do: leverage customer feedback during development to avoid the waste of making something customers don’t like. Manufacturers (carmakers included) obviously have the same goal; they would just have an issue adopting a method like Agile that requires frequent user feedback during production. Instead, they have adopted Lean, a methodology that optimizes production workflow. But if manufacturers can’t adopt Agile, some software developers have adopted Lean. What they’ve found is that Lean and Agile work much better together.

Two Paths Toward a Common Goal

Given that Lean manufacturing concepts originated in a car company, Toyota, and in the 1940s, it makes sense why Lean did not incorporate the Agile principles that the software industry introduced in the 1990s. Both methodologies were responses to the different needs of their respective industries and eras: one a better way to make things, the other a better way to make software. Yet, both defined success the same way — customers getting what they want with the least amount of waste in the process. Lean optimizes the workflow to achieve a happier customer faster. Agile optimizes the product by asking customers what they want early and often — thus also avoiding misdirection and waste. But because making cars is not like making software — Lean has traditionally left out the “ask customers early and often” part.

But just because Agile may not be practical for Lean car making (or other manufac¬turing), that doesn’t mean it isn’t practical when it comes to Lean software development. (That’s if you already think Lean is a good way to make better software in the first place.) In fact, you can make a case that Lean development really isn’t very Lean without Agile.

How Lean Makes Better Software

One global IT strategy consulting company that proves the case for Lean software development is Capgemini in its iSAP practice. iSAP stands for industrialized SAP. Capgemini is making the logical connection between the industrialized making of things (like cars) and the industrialized application of software, where SAP certainly qualifies. Capgemini’s insight is that for too long the focus of SAP implementations has been on configuring SAP modules — in other words, in creating a “happy” module, rather than a happy customer. With Lean, iSAP is focused on the customer and so has redefined project deliverables in terms of the customer value they bring — “order to cash” or “procure to pay,” for example — rather than as traditionally defined SAP modules, like FI (financial accounting) or GL (general ledger).

iSAP also makes heavy reuse of existing content (e.g., blueprints, configured modules, test scripts) so that it can focus on those relatively few “difference makers” — or the “acceptions” as Capgemini calls them. This is a play on “design by exception,” another key Lean concept. An acception is something that delivers on the customer’s key value proposition, rather than merely provide vanilla SAP functionality.

How Lean Gets Agile

So, if it’s clear how Lean might benefit software development — by making it more about the customer and less about the module — then the connection to Agile should also be clear. Agile answers the question, “How do you focus on the customer?” Agile assumes that customer requirements change as customers see the product develop — which means they need to see the product as it develops. It’s a simple idea: the best way to know what the customer wants is to ask the customer. And the best way for customers to really know what they want is to show them a working product (or at least a working piece of the product). That way, there’s no guessing. Without that collaboration, a lot of waste can happen — exactly what Lean advocates are looking to eliminate.

But Lean also benefits Agile. Take content reuse — a key Lean principle. The more content developers reuse, the less code there is to implement from scratch. That means sprints (coding/review iterations) can be shorter and encompass more of the end product — so users get an even better idea of what the end product will look like. Design by acception is another way Lean makes Agile more Agile. That’s because sprints are more likely to be developing something the customer actually cares about — thereby increasing customer satisfaction faster than if developers were just sprinting along making commodity code.

So not only are Lean and Agile better together, but they work especially well together in an industrial software environment like SAP, which is something of a poster child for long, costly, and highly regimented software projects. Maybe you can’t make cars this way; but SAP proves that you definitely can (and should) make software this way.

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How to Attract Elite Consultants

September 1st, 2014

If your organization has ever tried to hire consultants to staff an SAP project then you already know this: Really good SAP consultants are hard to find.

First of all, elite SAP consultants are scarce — and there are a lot of boxes to check. They must have years of experience but also be up to speed on the latest technology. They have to relate well to other people, but don’t mind spending most of their life on the road, isolated from family and friends. They have to think on their feet, but also adapt well to highly structured software development projects. They should be technology experts, but also understand business. They should be SAP generalists, but also specialists when it comes to their particular SAP specialties.

Second, there are just not very many efficient ways to look for elite SAP consultants. It’s not like you can just post an ad online or with a recruiter. If you do that then, sure, you will get hundreds of résumés — but how can you tell which résumés come from truly qualified candidates and which come from candidates faking it just to get work?

It’s almost like finding a qualified SAP consultant to staff your SAP project is a miniature version of the SAP project itself — it can take a long time, it can be very expensive, and the consequences of making a mistake can be very bad — unless you know what you’re doing.

Skim the Cream

Yet, there are many organizations that do seem to know what they’re doing. Teams are appropriately staffed, tasks are properly scoped, and projects are completed on time and on budget. So what’s the secret? Here’s one: they’re not just trying to find elite consultants. They attract elite consultants. Elite consultants already know who these organizations are and want to work there. The organizations and the consultants are all part of the same networks. It works the same in any field: the elites tend to know each other and like to hang out together. They’re all part of the same “club.”

For these organizations, finding elite consultants is like skimming cream.

That’s why there is an ERPCX. We are looking to take a disorganized, ad-hoc and inefficient process that already exists and make it organized, routine and efficient. Best-of-the-best consultants and best-of-the-best clients do want to hang out together. That’s why elite consultants come to the ERPCX. They know that having a presence here (such as by posting a résumé or commenting in our LinkedIn page) puts them in elite company — because, like any elite club, we only admit the best.

But it’s also why client organizations come to the ERPCX. They know they can skim the cream. But they also know something else: just by being here puts them in a group of organizations known to hire elite consultants. That automatically makes them more attractive to elite consultants.

Knowing how to find elite consultants is good, but knowing how to make elite consultants find you attractive is even better.

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Elite SAP Consulting Is Simple as ABC

July 31st, 2014

Justly or unjustly, SAP software implementations have the reputation for being long, expensive and arduous for everyone concerned — the SAP owner, the SAP consultant, the SAP user, and (now this is really unfortunate) also the customer of the SAP owner. Even if customers of the business running SAP have no direct contact with the software, they will still suffer the effects of an overly burdensome SAP implementation. Those could include slow service, out-of-stock products, billing mistakes, purchasing snafus, wasted time spent clearing up past miscommunications — the list goes on. Unfortunately, as well, those customer problems are also the problems of SAP owners and users — in wasted time, lost revenues, damaged reputations, and missed market windows.

A lot of this grief can be traced to the basic SAP consulting model itself — something that has not changed much since the software was first introduced back in the 1990s. Amazing, isn’t it? That with all the software innovation that has gone on over all those years, the basic model for how consultants get engaged has seen virtually no innovation at all. Of course, the tools have changed, but the way teams are recruited and organized has not. (Agile is a new development, but that only works if you can find enough agile consultants — which, again, current models do not do very well.) That’s why the reputation has not changed and why people still complain about the same things they have always complained about.

Call in the All Stars!

So, let’s propose a different model. Let’s call it “asset based consulting” (ABC). In this model:

* SAP owners easily find and contract only with elite SAP consultants (the assets)
* SAP owners waste no time or money negotiating with non-assets that add no value
* SAP owners are agile based because all their consultants are agile
* SAP owners pay less travel expense (more work product is produced virtually)
* SAP owners get consultants on-demand via direct talent pool access

In essence, this model is all about delivering to SAP owners the right team, at the right time, and for the right price. It really is as simple as ABC. See for yourself . . .

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February 17th, 2013

Five Traits of a Great Virtual Consultant
February 15, 2013

Not everyone is cut out to be a great virtual consultant. But those that are often find the experience highly rewarding, both from a monetary point of view and a quality-of-life point of view. Virtual consultants get to work at home, at a Starbucks, or anywhere else they choose. They set their own hours. And in most cases they are not prohibited from working a full-time job in addition to doing one or two virtual consulting projects on the side. Handling a few virtual consulting projects successfully is also a great way to build a reputation, and therefore a good business, for yourself — which can lead to more independence and more projects.
Sound inviting? Great! But before you apply (or at least before you apply through the ERPCX) you should reflect on whether you’ve got what it takes. If being successful on a virtual consulting project can help “make” your reputation as an SAP consultant, than messing up on one (especially your first) can do a lot of harm. Like the adage says, you only get one chance to make a great first impression.
So here are the top five traits of a virtual consultant we would consider crucial (and which we will ask you to demonstrate, should you still decide to apply):

1. Ability to work independently (highly motivated, meets deadlines, etc.)
This should not be too tough to prove. SAP consultants often work on their own even when they are employed full time by a large consulting firm. If you have that experience then you know, working independently is a lot of different even from working on a small team. The only way anyone knows you’re doing a good job is if you meet deadlines and turn in good work. Face time doesn’t count. And you can’t “BS” your way through meetings to score political points. Nor do you have the support of teammates, either emotionally or professionally. You’ve got to develop your own support system, usually through the Internet. So, show us some successful projects where you were working on your own (regardless of your employment status) and we can check this box off.

2. Uses the latest technology (good Internet connection, latest tools, etc.)
Other than a missed deadline or shoddy work, there’s nothing more frustrating for a client than being told the consultant can’t open a file or recreate a problem on his or her computer. You should have remote access to a fully provisioned SAP system (like we offer here at ERPCX), the latest development tools, and great connectivity — including screen sharing tools and high bandwidth.

3. Active in forums (like SDN, ERPCX) so you know what’s going on in the industry
Do you blog? Do you read and comment on articles published in the SDN, ERPCX or other SAP developer forums? Have you built up your own professional network using social networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter? As we said above, independent contractors have to know how to create their own support systems. They should also be highly motivated. If you’re someone who engages with your peers and has informed opinions about the latest industry trends and issues, then it’s a good bet you’re not going to need a lot of handholding. It’s also likely we won’t have to sell your skills or background very hard to clients because they (or someone they know) will know who you are already.

4. Great track record of project success
As stockbrokers say in their TV commercials, “past performance is no guarantee of future results” — but it sure helps. The key here is knowing, and also being able to say, what was so successful about the project you worked on. What problems did you solve? Were they technical or business problems? What role did you play in that success? What can the client do now that they could not do before — new functionality, faster performance, new business opportunities? At the core, a virtual consultant is a small business owner, and as a business owner you have to be able to describe what your value is to customers. No one else will.

5. Great communications skills (phone, email)
Selling yourself doesn’t end when you get a virtual consulting job. You have to sell yourself every day. Again, it’s the difference between just being a worker bee on a project and being able to truly collaborate as a professional with your customer and with other independent consultants. When you work in a team, under a project manager, you can rely on the manager to be that interface to the customer. But when you’re a virtual consultant, you have to get along with the client on your own. And if you’re working offsite, and collaborate with the client mostly through texting and email, it gets even harder. Of course, if you’ve got all the other traits on this list, then you are probably a successful communicator as well.
And we would sure like to communicate with you!

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More Knowledge = More Money

October 31st, 2011

By Herbert Goertz

It’s the law of supply and demand. Over the long run, the SAP consultants that make the most money are the ones with the most skills – especially skills that are in short supply. That’s a law that almost everyone understands. So, I am surprised to hear some consultants still complaining about low hourly rates – when I see other consultants making $80 to $100 or even more — while some SAP consulting jobs are even going unfilled.

If more knowledge equals more money, then why don’t these consultants stop complaining and just get the extra knowledge they need? It’s not like the knowledge isn’t available. I can understand why someone might not want to take three months off and spend thousands of dollars to take classes. You must consider both the out-of-pocket expense and the lost income while sitting in class. It takes a really big jump in your rate to justify that type of investment.

Another option is to simply rely on on-the-job experience to teach you what you need to know. The problem with that strategy is that companies don’t want to hire you if you don’t already have the skills they need. They’re not paying you to learn. Of course, you’ll always learn something new on almost any job. But that’s a rather random approach to learning, and what are the chances you’ll acquire the right skills you need to earn a higher rate?

A third — and better — option is to buy the SAPexperts Knowledgebase (available from the ERPCX). It only costs a few hundred dollars. You can select the skills you want to learn. And you don’t have to take time off from earning money while you do learn them. And, unlike classroom training that quickly goes out of date, the SAPexperts Knowledgebase always stays fresh with continuous updates.

The SAPexperts Knowledgebase is just one of several services the ERPCX offers to help consultants make more money. What do you think of ERPCX services? Do you know what they are?  Do you have suggestions or comments to make them better?

Click here to fill out the ERPCX Member Services Survey.

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Sell a Solution, Not Just a Skill

August 30th, 2011

No doubt many SAP consultants were watching events unfold at Hewlett-Packard last week with great interest. Former SAP and now HP CEO, Leo Apotheker, reversed a decision he had announced just last March to huge fanfare — that WebOS would be the future operating system in all HP computers and that HP would be shipping 100 million WebOS devices. One of those would be the TouchPad, launched in June.

Now HP is scraping all WebOS devices, including the TouchPad, and may spin off its entire PC business. HP also bought Autonomy, a British maker of analytics software for $10.3 billion (roughly half the cash on HP’s balance sheet) at 11 times revenue. The day of Leo’s announcement HP’s stock plunged 20 percent to $23.60. In one year, the stock has declined 49 percent (versus a 3 percent gain on the S&P index). SAP stock, by the way, is up almost 20% in the past year.

So what lessons are there here for those of us who sell SAP consulting?

One lesson seems to be that the leadership change at SAP was a good thing. Another is that HP, in trying to transform itself into a software company, is also trying to transform itself into the kind of company Leo thinks he can run. He’s a software company CEO; so let’s make HP a software company — a classic case of, “if you’re a hammer, make every problem a nail.”

Rather than think about what he can do, perhaps Leo should think about what the customer wants. Today it’s all about the ecosystem, the total solution. Just last week United/Continental bought 11,000 Apple iPads for its paperless cockpit. Of course, Apple doesn’t make enterprise software — a fact that SAP consultants can exploit by making a lot existing enterprise apps tablet friendly — as well as by creating entirely new ones.

Perhaps HP could have done that for the TouchPad. Maybe by exploited its natural advantages in the enterprise space, HP could have built a mobile ecosystem of its own; one tuned to enterprise users running large HP-enabled business systems.

Bringing enterprise apps to tablets looks like a big opportunity. But whether it is or not, the real lesson is to think about giving the customer a whole solution, not just a skill. That applies equally whether you are a computer company exec or an SAP consultant.

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A Special Thank You To Our Members

August 11th, 2011

On August 19, 2008 we founded our Linkedin Group SAP Consulting Exchange (ERPCX) and started to promote our Virtual Consulting and Virtual Helpdesk opportunities. Our mission was and continues to be to help our members increase their earnings and knowledge and in doing so provide superior service to our customers. Our members span more than 60 countries, with over 1,400 members in our Linkedin group and almost 5,000 on our website. Our Country Ambassadors represent us in over 15 countries. We have provided opportunities to work in a virtual setting to many of you who have uploaded your resumes and became part of our virtual consulting team.    

Our referral partners are well known players in the SAP field including such companies as Winshuttle and Revelation Software Concepts whose innovative solutions can be promoted by our members in exchange for referral commissions.

We would like you to be more involved and become more active. Ultimately it pays. 

As a special thank you for being a member we want to offer you our KNOWLEDGEPACK for a limited time and for the drastically reduced price of $399:

  • An annual subscription to the SAPexperts knowledgebase of your choice
  • Access to our SAP Development system for the same period
  • An ERPCX email address which enables you to be part of our internal network
  • A mobile business card for the duration of your subscription
  • The use of our logo for your stationary, marketing materials, website and emails

Just login to your ERPCX account and subscribe to the knowledgebase of your choice with coupon code 5D0834.    

Our virtual consulting services are attracting the interest from SAP customers around the world. For example, we recently closed a new contract for SAP END USER SUPPORT that is provided by ERPCX members. We will also continue to bring new offerings to the SAP ecosystem, such as our recent initiatives to develop SAP mobile apps. (If you have an idea for an SAP mobile app, and would like help making it happen, please let us know. We’d love to consider it!)

So, happy 3rd anniversary and thanks to all our ERPCX members, subscribers and followers! We look forward to bringing you more great news in the months ahead!

Best regards,

Herbert Goertz, CEO

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ERPCX Signs Country Ambassadors for 14 Countries

June 7th, 2011

By Herbert Goertz

I’m happy to announce that in the first two months since we introduced the new ERPCX Country Ambassador Program, we have already partnered with our first nine country ambassadors, representing a total of 14 countries. They are:

  • Canada: Zoltan Lovei
  • Egypt: Abobakr Ghaith
  • Denmark: Thomas Ugilt Thomsen
  • Germany: Andreas Hielscher
  • Hungary: Péter Szakonyi
  • Indonesia: Ahmad Rizki
  • Netherlands: Wim Wetzels
  • Poland: Fernando Lafuente
  • South Africa: Warren Eiserman  (Angola, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Mauritius)

Congratulations to all! We select ERPCX Country Ambassadors based on their excellent knowledge of both SAP and their home countries. We welcome our first Country Ambassadors and believe they will do a great job representing ERPCX products, services and members in their local areas.

We also love the enthusiasm each Country Ambassador has shown for representing ERPCX. Here is what Warren Eiserman, who among others runs SAPortals, a large South African SAP consultancy, says on his new CA blog:

“It is with a good deal of excitement that I write my first post as ERPCX country ambassador. … As someone that has been doing SAP consulting for over 10 years and being involved in the SAP industry from both and implementation and analyst perspective, I am eager to take up the challenge of ERPCX and its innovative offerings.”

Andreas Hielscher, ERPCX German Country Ambassador writes: “Thank you, Herbert, for the opportunity to exclusively represent ERPCX products in Germany, like the SAPexperts Knowledgebase and the ERPCX Virtual Bench. These are unique offerings that will address a growing demand for smarter SAP consulting that is also more cost effective.”

In the weeks ahead, we will announce other ERPCX Country Ambassador appointments. To find out more about our new Country Ambassadors, click on the Country Ambassadors link at the top of this page. And if you wish to be considered for the CA position in your country, please email us before the position is filled.

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Country Ambassadors Wanted

April 1st, 2011

By Herbert Goertz

We are excited to announce that we have re-launched the ERPCX Country Ambassador program. Each Country Ambassador is the primary SAP consultant for the ERPCX in his or her country. As such, each one is first in line to work on all of that country’s ERPCX projects. CAs also earn passive income from ERPCX commissions paid on all projects, products and services sold in that country.

We have just signed up our first Country Ambassadors. We will announce their names soon but in the meantime I wanted to give you an update on what we’ve done with the program.

By the way, if you are interested in becoming a Country Ambassador, now would be a good time to apply. That’s because there will only be one Country Ambassador for each country — and prime spots are already filling up!  So, if you are interested, please send us an email.

Why Become a Country Ambassador?

  • Each Country Ambassador is a premium member of the ERPCX who utilizes the ERPCX Virtual Bench and SAPexperts KNOWLEDGEBASE (*) products
  • Right of first refusal to work on all ERPCX projects within the CA’s home country
  • A commission on all ERPCX virtual consulting projects in that country, whether or not the Country Ambassador participates on the project
  • A commission on sales of all ERPCX products in that country including the ERPCX Virtual Bench and SAPexperts KNOWLEDGEBASE products
  • The use of the ERPCX logo on websites, newsletters and other materials
  • A country-specific website and blog within the main ERPCX website, which the CA can write in his or her local language
  • An electronic mobile business card (allows another person’s mobile device to scan your business card and update their address book automatically)
  • Exclusive rights to Country Ambassador status within the CA’s home country

Those interested in becoming a Country Ambassador should contact the ERPCX immediately since, again, there can only be one CA for each country.

(*)  SAPexperts knowledgebase is a product of Wellesley Information Services LLC in the United States and such products are sold by ERPCX to its members under a license agreement dated January 21, 2011.

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Drivers Wanted

March 8th, 2011

By Herbert Goertz

Joshua Greenbaum, at InsiderPROFILES, makes a great case when he advocates that the term SAP “end user” be replaced by SAP “driver.” His comparison to high school drivers’ ed is both humorous and on target. Every day companies across the globe hand the “keys” over to people who should know what they’re doing, where they’re going and how to get there. Joshua is right. Those people can’t just be users, along for the ride like passengers. They’ve got to be drivers.

That’s why we welcome users as members, alongside consultants and SAP customers. As we say elsewhere on this website, without users there would be no SAP consultants, no SAP customers and no SAP. We also say that the boundaries between these roles are not so clear-cut as the labels indicate. SAP customers — i.e., those individuals who sign off on SAP implementations — are almost always users too. And as for users being consultants — we all know who you are. You’re that person over in the next cubical who gets all the technical questions whenever a co-worker has a problem. (Say, wouldn’t it be nice if you could sell some of that technical know-how on the side?)

So, yes, users should be drivers; but so should customers and consultants. We all wear each other’s hats from time to time, and we should all be drivers.

The problem with calling you a user (rhymes with loser) is that nobody sees you as a driver. You’re viewed as the end of the value chain, not the central link. No wonder, as Joshua says, companies don’t spend enough money on SAP user training. That hurts companies, of course; but it also hurts you.

So start driving! Get your SAP knowledge here. Sell your technical expertise here. Got an SAP module or app you’ve developed on your own time? Sell it here. Want to build your reputation with other SAP drivers? Then post your resume here and participate in our LinkedIn discussions here

You’ve got the keys. You’re a driver. That’s why we want you.

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