Some New Moves on the SAP Dance Floor – 2014 in Review

Posted on December 2014 By Judy Cole
Sap Dance Floor

​The supermarkets are stocking shelves with sweets and chocolates in festive tins, there is excitement in the air and a party on every week. It can only mean one thing…..yes it’s Christmas time and I cannot believe how quickly the end of the year has come around! So… are we wishing the year good riddance and running with open arms to the new one or are we sad to see it go?

Whichever you are doing, it is a good time for reflection. The Hr/Management person in us says it’s “balcony time”, time to get off the “dance floor”, away from the hustle and bustle where you can’t see past the first few people around you and climb up onto the quiet balcony where you can see what is really going on. Did you achieve what you set out to this year? Did your expectations and predictions come to fruition? Are your goals on track? Are you planned and prepared for the year ahead?

As a Sales Manager it is imperative to review the year and plan for what’s to come. As part of my review I like to look over whether my team has developed and improved, and whether I have too. And of course reflect on how the SAP market has been over the past 12 months. Once I know where I/we have been, it is much easier to predict and plan for what might be ahead. It would appear our SAP contractors and clients alike do the same, as the most common question I get asked is “How’s the market looking for next year?”

This time last year I wrote a similar article, stating the SAP market was changing and roles were evolving, and that people needed to adapt to become more “business facing”. While the offshore model was in full swing, I indicated there would still be plenty of work in Australia for those who worked hard and adapted to this new environment. In turn we pushed ‘adapting for change’ internally at Speller International, our own goals to add more value by becoming known as “SAP market experts” by sharing our knowledge with the SAP community and offering advice on interviewing, applying for roles, SAP market rates and much more.

So, what actually happened over the year? Compared with the previous year it was a much stronger SAP market. Maybe it was the lack of a 6 month long federal election campaign that helped get things off the ground? Maybe it was SAP Australia having a solid and stable sales team in place? Maybe it was positivity in the market? Or maybe it was a combination of all 3? I am still a firm believer that in some cases, one can talk/think themselves into a bad economy/market but on the flip side, you can also talk/think your way out of one. Last year I said I believed the best effect of SAP HANA, Cloud and Mobility on the market was the excitement and positivity it created at a time it was really needed – this year I truly believe that was the case. We experienced an air of excitement about what SAP and technology in general could offer and that had a very positive effect on the market, generating some good projects across lots of industries and reinvigorating SAP.

Let’s look at the industries…. FMCG; I struggle to think of an FMCG company in Australia who wasn’t busy doing SAP projects throughout the year. They are in full swing and show no sign of slowing down for next year, really drumming up some good work for Sydney, Melbourne and NZ contractors. SAP should thank them for single handily saving SAP APO/SCM and QM from extinction.

Utilities, another good year! Ausnet Services leading the way with possibly the biggest project in Melbourne. SA Power Networks in Adelaide are set to be busy for the coming year. Keep your eye on AGL though as they will be conducting some good projects this year… including a “highly confidential” one which may hopefully see some exciting technologies being used….but who knows!!? If you are an SAP consultant who wants to work forever and ever with no holidays or days off ever… then I would strongly suggest you get into a SAP IS U, SAP PM, PS or EAM within Utilities sector.

In previous years I would have left it there, Australia over the last 5 years being used to only a couple of industries keeping the country on its feet, but not this year! Logistics and Supply chain are busy! Mining while still busy slowed down towards the end of the year. Finance and Insurance…busy! Government…busy, busy busy. Canberra cannot get people to move there fast enough; DHS would take every SAP CRM consultant/developer in the world and Victoria government is certainly one to keep an eye on for this coming year!! Retail…busy!! So it’s safe to say 2014 was a great turn-around-year for SAP in Australia. While it started out a little quiet, it has really built-up and has put the SAP community in good stead for 2015.

As far as SAP modules and skills go, it has been a really mixed year. SAP BI/BO, SAP CRM and SAP FICO were our busiest modules, but having said that, if there were more SAP BPC and SAP APO skills around then they would be up there with the most placed in the year. There is still a major skills shortage here and we/our clients have a continuous need for good consultants. Testing and Data roles have been particularly busy which is indicative of it being a busier Projects year. Business Analysts have been sort after across all different levels and all different modules – an area which we have seen a greater increase in with the move to an outsource model.

It has been an interesting year for Project Management, we certainly had Project Management roles available but companies were especially picky on what they wanted, preferring project managers with specific SAP module experience. Rates were, and still are lower with companies preferring to pay less and get a “mid level/junior” project manager rather than a senior/experienced one.

SAP ABAP and other technical roles as a whole really did pick up in the last half of the year – still not as buoyant as it once was, but a large improvement on the previous couple of years. This is the area that has received the biggest hit; with offshore teams seemingly preferred. However while the offshore model can work, companies are realising that in-house skills are still required to QA the code and do more complex prototyping for new projects. This is a great example of how a role can evolve, with the busy people being those who embraced change and evolved their skills to match the requirements. Keep an eye out next year for large dairy and mining firms ramping up their technical super teams, preferring an on-shore approach. Being a standard ABAPer-of-old will not cut it with these teams, and many other teams for that matter. Standard ABAP/Technical roles have evolved to incorporate much more PI, Portals, Workflow, ABAPUnit, BPM and more. If you are technical and do not upskill and show some interest in current and future technologies then you will be left behind.

Training and Documentation has well and truly picked up again, we have been busiest within the SAP PM Training side which is pretty obvious given the large projects happening. We are also seeing an appetite for SAP WPB skills – with the feedback being that it is an excellent tool but it is a lot more complicated than its competition to pick up. If you get a chance to work on this, embrace it, learn it and you will find yourself highly sort after.

Our Corporate Services sector has been growing with SAP master data roles leading the way. This could be indicative of companies investing/tidying up their data to prepare for something, like a big project perhaps???

With all this happening at the end users, how are things fairing for SAP Partners?

SAP SuccessFactors has been a game changer across the more specialist HCM partners, with heaps of projects happening. However with the shorter nature of these projects, we have seen high competition and a little healthy rivalry between these guys. The work does not seem to be slowing, and as SAP Payroll has been quieter, the competition will not be slowing down either!

Among the mid tiers, I believe NTT Data have the most happening across Australia or at least the Eastern seaboard. They still drive the “higher price/higher quality” model and it seems to be working for them. They can still do no wrong with their customers; but I believe this model will only continue to be successful as long as the small to medium size projects continue to come. While NTT Data are 6000 SAP people strong globally, in Australia they are still viewed as mid-tier. I cannot wait to see whether they step up and challenge some of the “big boys” this year. They certainly appear to have the following but will they need to change their model to win some of the large projects?

Accenture are pushing a comeback in to the SAP market, and while I am sure they have never been in trouble they have been MIA from most big SAP projects over the past few years. They recently won Orica, perhaps not as much work as they would have liked, but it puts them back in the battle! I expect to be hearing a lot more from them this year *Cough ….keep your eye on AGL*. Whether you love them or not it ultimately bodes well for the SAP eco-system. There is no denying that in the past they have provided opportunities to graduates, injecting new blood into the market, something I believe has been missing over the past few years.

SAP Australia are also getting back in to the game, priming a few projects themselves; although I am not convinced it has been a strategic push from them but more a cry of help from their customers needing their hands held while they try the big move to Cloud!

So with the market looking strong, moving forward my advice to SAP contractors and employees is to make the most of it but remember to still make time for developing yourself and your skills. If the quieter market taught us anything it was to effectively cross skill…. Not” jack of all trades master of non”, instead be effective considering your expertise eg SAP BI consultants, learn to engage with the business and do your own ABAP and where possible try to understand deeper into the BW administration. Get across BO and maybe even other non SAP products, people are interested in analytics as a whole now and we are potentially heading towards a mixed technology environment; eg SAP, QlikView, Tableau. While on the topic of analytics, get across predictive analytics, with such targeted advertising going on globally, I hear that this is an area not to overlook!

Employers, you’ve had it pretty good over the last few years. As the market picks up, stay close to your employees and contractors ensuring they feel valued – they are bound to be wooed and headhunted. Communicate effectively with them regarding extensions, not leaving it to the last minute as we’ve seen so commonly in recent days.

Overall, I feel we are on the verge of a very exciting market – new projects, new technologies, new roles, new challenges all in time for the New Year. I am excited to get back on that dance floor and learn some new steps this year…. And so should you!