How to be a great SAP consultant that everyone wants to hire - Sapsharks

How to be a great SAP consultant that everyone wants to hire

Are you a SAP consultant making top dollar? Or perhaps you are an end user in SAP that wants to switch to the IT side? This guide will list some of the key elements which have helped me make more than 200k a year from around 15 years now.

A lot of people assume that as soon as you get into SAP, you are set for life, but there are a lot of challenges as well with a career in SAP.

Some try to learn SAP and then struggle with finding a job or staying with a client for a long time, while others are always in demand and even when the market is not hot, they tend to have a great job.

SAP skills

1. Configuration

Configuration is what a SAP consultant has to really know inside out. The end users do not have access to configuration (the SPRO screen) so they are dependent on the consultants to advise them.

Major business decisions are based on configuration. Once this is done correctly, the rest of the implementation becomes easy. If this is not done properly, then this won’t be a fun project.

 The detailed knowledge you have off configuration will separate you from the other consultants who know the basics.Let’s take a look at an example. Every FI consultant knows the basics of setting up the payment program(F110) by configuring the tcode FBZP, but do you really know the ins and outs of it if that is the area that you are working in?

I don’t expect you to know every single field of configuration if you are just starting out or not regularly working in that field, but when you are working in it, take time out to understand it.

If you are in a business meeting and they are discussing making a change to the way they pay or adding certain details to the vendor on the payment advice, do you know which fields affect that?

If you go through FBZP, do you understand what all the fields do? E.g. what does single payment for marked item mean?

Or what do the fields below mean? Where do they come into picture?

Sure, you don’t need to know everything and can always buy some time and get back to them, but can you speak something about that topic right now and test and confirm it later? I am not referring to the general comment of “we will test and get back” for everything. Buying time is very important as well. Check that out below.

Tips for configuration
  • Check how it relates to transactions and master data by "trial and error" in your test system
  • Click on F1 to read help on a field that you are not familiar with.
  • understand how the business is impacted


Integration 

    SAP is an ERP software. Anything you do is generally going to impact something else. Do you understand the big picture?

    For example, if you are setting up the payment methods for a new company code, do you just copy the settings from another payment method? As it is “working fine”

    Or do you talk to your business if something needs to be different.

In the field above, the foreign business partner allowed is not checked, do you know for sure that there will be no international vendors in this company code? If you know configuration(link back to the section above) you would know to check with your vendor master team on this. They can tell you if this new company code will be doing business with international vendors.

The average consultant will just wait for a ticket and then solve the issue, but a great consultant will be one step ahead and ask these questions to the business during blueprinting.

It is best if you can

Learn how to recreate integration scenarios yourself without asking the other team for help


Recreation of an issue

    No Matter how much care you take in setting up the configuration and master data, there are always going to be issues. These might be due to incorrect master data, incorrect transactions, incorrect configuration or any other reason. 

    How do you fix this issue?

    In production you will not have all the access. The user might be getting an issue in running the payment program, but you can’t even view the spool. You will just be getting a screenshot from the user. Can you go through these screenshots and email and then recreate the issue?

    If you don’t know how to recreate the issue, you end up asking the user to “try a few things in production.

    I find this approach with so many junior consultants. They keep saying, can you try this, can you try that without knowing if that will fix the issue.

    1- Replicate the issue. Check to see if the same master data exists. If the error is with vendor 50000 in company code 300, then check if this vendor exists in your Q system.

If they vendor exists, compare to see if the screens match. Perhaps, someone changed the setting of the vendor in Q, in that case, your test is not correct.

Once the master data is the same, figure out the sequence, e.g. if the user created an invoice, then made a payment, then created a check and then updated the encasement date and then voided the check and now you need to figure out how to unvoid it and remove this check from the payment document, follow the exact same sequence. 


I have followed this approach and solved issues in areas that I had no idea about. I simply took all the info from the users, saw the error and then tried a few things.

1

Learn to do this

This is the number one reason why I am able to solve issues faster than most.


Once you get the error in the Q system, you can try the suggests that you found on google, change the config back and forth and test, change the master data etc. You might have no idea about this issue, but after a few hours of testing, you will know a lot.

You had no fear in trying out these things or sounding stupid infront of anyone as this was the test system. If your company has a sandbox or dev client, try it there rather than the Q system to avoid a transport. 

I can’t emphasize this enough. Replicate issues in Q. Below is an example of how I got an issue and how I replicated it in Q.

At this point you can ask the user more questions and get the exact steps that you followed if you have no idea about this process and want to know the exact steps, but in some cases, you might be dealing with a manager who might expect you to know these things, is hard to get a hold off etc. so you want to first look at the system and try to figure out as much information as you can.

I went to Fb03 and entered the document number that the user sent me 

Then I clicked on environment and payment usage to get the invoice number.

Next I went to the production

Once I found the invoice number, I opened another session in our sandbox.I had my screen shot of the invoice and I just copied the exact same details in FB60 in the Sandbox and posted the document.

Then I went to get the payment run that cleared this invoice

Once I got that, I opened F110 to see exactly how this was setup.

I then went to F110 to set this up exactly the same way!

This way I know for sure that I am not missing any steps and I can be 100% sure that I have replicated the issue.

After entering the info in SBX, I cleared the invoice  and got a check number

Now I had to void it and then remove the void

I went back to production and saw the void reason on the original check and I saw that the void reason was 4, so I entered the same reason.


I have now reached the exact same situation as production

You can then go through the menu path and see if you find anything related to what you want to do or just google what you are looking for.

Note- These steps are when you are not 100% sure of the solution. If you have already fixed these type of issues in the past, then you could go straight for the solution. You should search for the solution first and then recreate the issue if you are not 100% sure that it will fix your issue or if you need test results to send to the user.

I then reset the check information



In production you will not have all the access. The user might be getting an issue in running the payment program, but you can’t even view the spool. You will just be getting a screenshot from the user. Can you go through these screenshots and email and then recreate the issue?

If you don’t know how to recreate the issue, you end up asking the user to “try a few things in production.

I find this approach with so many junior consultants. They keep saying, can you try this, can you try that without knowing if that will fix the issue.

1- Replicate the issue. Check to see if the same master data exists. If the error is with vendor 50000 in company code 300, then check if this vendor exists in your Q(insert link to system landscape here) system.

Technical skills


Technical skills are your special powers. You will need these skills for a lot of your issues.

Every company has a lot of z programs i.e. custom programs that were created by the client and not delivered by SAP. For these issues, you need to work with your abapper to fix the issue.

All the other issues could be solved by even an average consultant by trial and error and proper searching(insert link here) but the junior consultants really struggle when it comes to a technical issue.

They freak out when they see the debug screen

But the great consultants are the ones who understand how to debug(insert link here) and the things that will help an Abapper.

The abapper might share his/her screen with you while debugging and explain what is going on in the program, you should understand the basiscs of debugging(insert link here) and be able to translate that into functional and business knowledge and decide what needs to be done.

The Abapper will say table BESG-ZUONR= x. You will then translate that to why is the reference field x? Oh this should only happen for cost centers that have the department as marketing and then check that the cost center was set up incorrectly.

Basic error messages should be debugged by a very good functional consultant. Even if the entire solution can’t be found by you. You can help the Abapper in figuring out the solution.


Business knowledge

Do you just see errors and fix them by googling the error message and changing the configuration in a couple of tables mentioned on SCN? Or do you try to understand what the business is trying to achieve?

Why was the configuration setup this way? What does the company do? What is the bigger picture?

SAP is just a software to help the business run. You can be really good at SAP but if you just see everything as cost centers, profit centers, configuration tables and don’t understand what they mean to the business, you will just be the IT guy.

If you joined a project while it is in production support and the system is stable, you will be able to get by with good SAP skills alone, but the moment you are in a meeting where the director of sales talks about reporting for whole sale sites vs Co-op sites for ferc reporting and you have no idea what that means in SAP, your value goes down. 

Remember, we are talking about how to be a super star here and not just get a job where you are just solving easy tickets.

Understand what your company does, how do they make money? What are they selling? How do they make the product? What are some of the terms the business use?

When they ask you to setup a new account group, don’t just say ok and finish it. Ask them why is this being setup? They will tell you oh we bought this company and now we want to report in a different way. Ask them details about. Ask a few people till you start understanding how the data is being used.

This will help you in coming up with suggestions on how the business should be using SAP.
You could be sitting with a senior director and he/she are taking suggestions from you as you understand SAP much better than them and you understand the business and how SAP can help them.

People skills

​Would you believe that buying Rosetta stone is probably what extended my contract at a client? I ended up being there for 5 years! As an expensive contractor.
People said I was silly to pay so much for a cd, but I realized that the accounting folks I was dealing with were Chinese.

If I was just the guy who fixes their issues, they could easily say oh this guy charges 170$/hr, the other guy charges $80/hr. Even if the first guy is better, why should we keep him?

The often ignored skill in SAP is the ability to deal with people. You can be great with computers and programs, but it is finally a human who gives you a promotion or extends your project(we can revisit when robots do this in the future)

If you are just the IT guy who solves their issues, then you are just a number, the moment the budget needs to go down a little bit, you could end up on the chopping block. When they are comparing you who charges $170/hr with this other guy who charges $80/hr and you are similar in skill, it is a no brainer to keep the second person.

But once you are Mike who has 2 kids names Max and Daniel, you love the Eagles and your kids dressed up as Batman and Robin on Halloween, then it is a little different.


If you are just the IT guy who solves their issues, then you are just a number, the moment the budget needs to go down a little bit, you could end up on the chopping block.

When they are comparing you who charges $170/hr with this other guy who charges $80/hr and you are similar in skill, it is a no-brainer to keep the second person.

But once you are Mike who has 2 kids names Max and Daniel, you love the Eagles and your kids dressed up as Batman and Robin on Halloween, then it is a little different.

More often than not, people will do business with people they like.

I would learn a few phrases and then practice that with the team as I am fixing their issues.

I didn’t learn it so that my project gets extended. I simply learned it as I like dealing with people. When a person speaks your language, there is a barrier that is broken.

They started seeing me as their friend. They were impressed that I was able to speak quite a few phrases whereas they are struggling to teach their kids Chinese in the U.S.

Work becomes a lot easy when you can throw in a few smiles/jokes in your stressful day.

When you walk into someone’s office and you notice a picture of them with their kids, ask them their names, where they study and build a rapport with them.


Go for lunch with them and talk about sports and movies.


The next time you are delayed in solving an issue, that person is not going to copy your boss and email you asking about why you messed up, they will send you an instant message on chat and say hey buddy when can we get this done?

Documentation

Have you ever fixed an issue and then had to fix the same one again after a few months and had no idea how you fixed it?

You are not alone. I used to do that so often and then spend a lot of time trying to figure it out again!

I then changed to documenting all my issues!

Every client I go to, I maintain a onenote note book

I have different modules as different sections

And each issue is a separate note

When I get an issue with something, I just type it in the search box to see if I encountered it previously.

Even if I don’t have the exact issue, I will refresh my memory on this topic as I could be revisiting it after a while.

The notes that you enter should be very detailed. When you read them again after 2 years, it should still make sense. Insert all the screenshots, things you tried and what was the eventual fix.

All your documents should be in one place where you can easily search it.

 Use a cloud based tool like google docs or dropbox rather than an external hard drive.

I used an external hard drive for a while and I rarely search in it and as my documents kept going up, it was harder to search.

Now, I can apply filters and quickly find the document I need.

Search

Why would you try to figure something entirely on your own in the 21st century?

Isn’t google an extended part of our brain? Every other day people ask me hey which table is this field in? What does error z1352 mean? A lot of times I don’t know the answer and guess how I find it?
I google!

Of course, we can’t just find the first hit on google and assume that the answer applies to us, we need to be able to distinguish the garbage answers from the ones that apply to us.

This isn’t rocket science, but first do a search on the error message. If that doesn’t work, add the text to the search. 

Search on sap community(formerly scn and sdn)and ittoolbox.

You can do this directly through google

By typing for e.g.

Fz003 site:sap.com



Are you searching for the overall process or do you just need help with a certain error?

If you are searching for the overall process, then you can search in help.sap.com.


Number of skills

You are the project manager of project which needs to go through a budget cut. You have the option of either getting rid of Steve who is amazing at FI, but doesn’t know much about CO or you can get rid of Tom which is great at FI and also good at CO?

The project managers have to make this call a lot of times and if you are just a one trick pony, it is hard to survive in the SAP world.

In One project you might need to be an expert in Treasury and in another project you might need to be a guru in Fixed Assets.

You could say I specialize in Treasury and not touch Fixed Assets and go look for another project, but why would you do that?

Why not spend some extra time in the evenings, take some courses and learn Fixed Assets. Even if you pay $1500 for the course and your project is extended by another 3 months where you make 10K per month, isn’t the ROI worth it?

In order to do this you have to have an attitude to constantly keep learning. You can easily get comfortable on the job since your primary skill is enough, but things can change anytime on a project.

Track the number of skills you have and ensure that that number keeps going up every year.

Excel and powerpoint skills- If you don’t know how to use excel properly, you will end up hours googling how to do certain functions.

You load a bunch of assets and a lot of them fail and you need to compare your load file with the assets that were loaded. How can you do this quickly?

Did all the fields you loaded get over to SAP? Are some values different?

Before you load your file in SAP, can you insert certain formulas in the file to see where the file could fail?

You might know how to do things the long way and you can get by with that if you have a lot of time on the project and the files are small, but when the files become huge, you can’t manually keep going through the file. You need a quick way to get the results.


When you get known on the project as an excel ninja, it can help you get into a conversation with the seniors at your company. You could be in a meeting where someone brings up the topic of how to reconcile something and you volunteer to help out with it and create it quickly or help your boss in creating a report for her boss.

All of a sudden you made your boss look good in front of her boss! You just earned yourself some brownie points.

I don’t want you to become an excel guy only now. You are an SAP guru, but you also have other skills that will help the company when it is required.

Check  out the links below to read more about nice SAP skills.

S/4 HANA

SAP Vendor invoice management(VIM)

SAP JVA

SAP PRA

Powerpoint

This is your chance to impress. Don’t just put in some boring slides where you just read 5 ugly bullet points


instead, you can be known as the creative guy by using slides like these. You boss is probably going to send this across to the senior management. You want to hear replies like wow that presentation was awesome.

We are used to looking at cool graphics and colors on instagram and facebook, why make professional presentations boring?

Take a look at some of my slides for recent meetings

Doesn’t this infographic make it easier to read the data?

Let's recap
  • Learn configuration 
  • Understand integration points with other modules
  • Can you recreate an issue in Q?
  • you should at east be able to do basic debugging
  • Understand the business scenarios
  • Document your issues
  • Learn how to search properly
  • sapsharks says:

    Do you have any tips?

    Let me know if need help in any particular area

  • >