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The New SAP Paradigm: Adapt And Re-skill

by Jimmy Cherian, SAP Head, APAC, Volvo IT Services August-2015

Volvo IT is a global organization and part of the Volvo Group. With heritage in the complex and demanding automotive industry the company is today delivering information technology to several major corporations and organizations which includes the Volvo Group, Volvo Car Corporation, SCA, Assa Abloy, and the City of Stockholm.   

        In today’s tech savvy, digital and connected world, there has been a paradigm shift in the way companies conduct business. It is the same in the world of SAP. SAP provides cutting-edge product, tools and solutions like Mobile, Cloud, HANA, Predic­tive Analytics and other innovative solutions for businesses to transform themselves and remain competitive in an increasingly cost-challenged environment where more is required with less. 

Given this scenario, shortage of skilled resources in these technologies is a major risk to a company. And, to overcome this challenge, businesses have to up-skill, cross-skill, and multi-skill their workforce to help themselves transform.

Skills Required Today

It is imperative that a company’s resources have a sound understanding of both IT and business. Gone are the days when knowledge of SAP was associated with a couple of roles and expertise in a few areas. Now, with the advent of new SAP solutions, technologies, architectures, applications, and the resultant connected environment, many more roles and skills are required in SAP. These include:

  1. Architects - The need of the hour is a talent pool that can architect SAP and non-SAP solutions on-cloud, on-premise, mobile, or a Big Data-based solution.
  2. Project Managers - I strongly believe that a SAP project should be managed by a Project Manager who has his or her roots in SAP.
  3. Business Experts - These are the experts that know and understand end-to-end processes pertaining to a particular industry.
  4. Functional Experts – These are the experts who understand not just specific modules, but the entire process chain, for example, the order-to-cash
  5. Technology Experts - The need of the hour today is expertise in different technologies, applications, design patterns, and architectures.
  6. User Experience Experts - Gone are the days when a SAP screen is what SAP, the company, designed. In today’s world, it is important to understand and design applications based on what users need andexperience.
  7. Data Scientists and Data Modellers - With data getting accumulated in organizations, it is important to have experts to analyze data, explore data structures, and turn these into intelligent information that the business can use.
  8. Web Technology Experts - With Internet being an integral part of our lives, applications have to be Internet oriented, taking into consideration the various standards, techniques and rules.
  9. Integration Experts - These are the ones who can seamlessly connect systems and applications that enable businesses function in a tightly integrated manner.
  10. Support Specialist - With applications and processes changing constantly, there is a need to have a specialist who can analyze, manage and implement these changes.
  11. Infrastructure Experts - With innovations taking place in infrastructure, there is a need to constantly architect and design infrastructure that address these innovations.
  12. Mobile Experts - With mobiles being the gadget of choice today, it is not surprising that businesses are also going mobile. Therefore, organizations need experts who can build enterprise mobile applications.
  13. Application Lifecycle Managers - Managing the lifecycle of an application requires a 360 degree perspective, a specialist who can focus on the application lifecycle.
  14. And, Test Experts, Documentation Experts, Trainers and OCMs, Information Security Experts, and many more.

These skill sets should be looked alongside various types of projects that businesses take on –greenfield implementations, add-on implementations, global template development and roll-outs, migrations, consolidations, business process extensions to new areas and technologies, application support, and so on - each of which requires a different combination of skill sets.

As you can see, all these requirements pose a challenge to even well-established businesses. So, what should organizations do? The only way out is to adopt a constant and non-stop approach to competency development. Organizations should find new and innovative ways of building competency, rather than resort to traditional training methods.

Key Challenges to Re-Skilling

  • Inadequate budget allocated for learning and development
  • Shorter technology cycles
  • Higher demand on employees, leading to high attrition
  • Innovation not enjoying high priority

Effective Re-skilling

The journey towards re-skilling to ensure that anorganization succeeds should start from the top. Organizations that are innovators and early adopters are able to visualize changing requirements and take appropriate steps. Obviously, skill requirements will differ from one organization to another, as will the strategies and approaches.

However, following is a list of general tasks that organizations can perform irrespective of the individual business’ requirements:

  1. Chalk out a defined career path for each resource
  2. Establish a centre of excellence
  3. Establish communities of practice
  4. Encourage shadowing
  5. Promote mentoring (and reverse mentoring)
  6. Continuous coaching
  7. Facilitate factory visits under employee exchange programs

In summary, it is not enough for organizations to recognize the need to re-skill, but also identify the requirements and set up a long-term and continuous process all of which are required to succeed in the volatile world of SAP.