by Guy Couillard
March 2, 2012
From a consulting standpoint, the mid to late 1990s was a golden age. Anyone with a full lifecycle implementation under his or her belt was an “experienced SAP implementer.” If you had three or four, you were an expert, well on your way to near-guru status and hopefully a brand new, larger home (remember “that” housing market?).
It was around that time that a director of professional services for SAP in the Northeast, who like everyone else was hiring in large numbers to meet market demand, came to us with an unusual request: “We are training a lot of people in our product, but I’m concerned that we’re going to end up with configurators rather than consultants.” He asked us if we could put together an “SAP Consulting Skills” workshop that would focus “on the non-technical stuff and good bedside manners,” in his exact words
At that time, new consultants in the SAP marketplace came from three sources: business people who had implemented SAP to solve real business problems and really enjoyed the challenge; experienced IT professionals wanting to add another arrow to their quiver of skills; and newly minted university graduates ready to take on the world.
Coming from a skills development and organizational development background, we at OTA were intrigued by the request. We first started interviewing individuals identified both by peers and customers as outstanding consulting professionals in the SAP arena. It quickly became apparent that many of these successful professionals were really unaware of what they did right, but they all had a story about what DID NOT work! This proved once again that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes.
For 15 years we have continued to collect these stories and tried to distill their wisdom in workshops designed for the project managers, team leads and consultants that navigate the rocky shores of the SAP ecosystem. And a large and rich ecosystem it is, as our travels took us from Asia Pacific to Europe and all of the Americas. In that experience, we found that missing the cultural nuances of global projects could pull the rug under the best consulting advice. Of course, sharing these stories in the classroom led participants to share THEIR stories, and we learned an awful lot as well. Learning by teaching was never more true.
There are already many good books on the consulting profession, but there is relatively little that focuses on the challenges specific to SAP consulting, especially from a customer management perspective. In this column, we will try to relate the consulting classics to SAP, and supplement them with tricks from the field, all in bite-sized pieces.
For Part II of this column, please see A Pyramid of Consulting Goals
Guy Couillard, president and founder of OTA (www.ota.ca), is a consultant focusing on the management of large scale change associated with the deployment of large technology projects such as SAP. Couillard specializes in the conceptual integration of the different disciplines related to the successful adoption of IT-driven innovations, namely risk management, organizational change & knowledge management, communications and branding, value realization and program management.
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