Previously I wrote on the subject of finding the right SAP consultant and how you can avoid getting ripped off, or worst case, having your business wrecked. That previous article, Screening Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant, has been widely read, well accepted, and I’m seeing some changes in the marketplace. Companies are tired of being ripped off along with the lack of results or ROI from their large IT systems implementations.
At the foundation of SAP or any IT consulting is communication –, clear, concise, easy to understand communication. If your SAP candidate is unable to speak clearly, and in an understandable manner about the subject, you should immediately be suspicious. If a consultant has some three (3), five (5), or more years of experience listed on their resume and even one full-cycle project then they must have demonstrated some basic skills or they are likely a fake and a fraud.
WHY would you hire a “consultant” who has a barrier to “consulting?” And you really have to wonder about any prior ACTUAL experience they have with someone else who did hire them.
If they speak in technical “jargon” and can not “translate” that jargon to normal conversation then it is entirely possible they have never been on an SAP project. One of the key skills that every decent SAP consultant must master is the ability to help client counterparts understand and translate the SAP jargon into plain and understandable business terminology. If they lack that skill they probably lack the critical experience to help ensure your project is a success.
This is part of a series which explains the widespread FRAUD involved with SAP, Oracle, or other business software consulting. I have no issue with H1B’s, student visas, etc., but these folks should be willing to work their way up just like many hard working folks rather than wreck your business and damage the industry through fraud. For more extensive insight into the problem, AND specific methods for dealing with it, please see some of the other posts:
- Protecting Yourself from SAP Consulting Fraud (SIMPLE method to screen out the SAP FRAUDS!)
- Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant
- Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2
- A Cautionary Tale About SAP Knowledge Transfer
- Corporate and Personal Liability for Fake Consultants
- SAP Technicians or Experts
- ERP Consultants: Is the Promise of Knowledge Transfer just part of the Sales Pitch?
- Successful SAP Project Team Composition – Technicians or Experts?
- The Consultant Certification Ruckus
Important Consulting and Business Analysis Skills
- Facilitation skills
- Meeting skills
- Process mapping
- Business case (or whitepaper) development
- Problem solving
- Organizational dynamics
If these skills are weak it may be due to personality differences, interaction styles, depth of experience, or other reasons. However, if they are lacking altogether you are probably dealing with a fake. Even if the consultant who lacks these skills is not a fake, you probably do not want them on your project anyway if you expect good results. When it comes time to screen or interview them you might want to think twice if there are any type of language barriers to the employees you will be assigning to work with them.
Let’s look at them in detail one at a time:
SAP Consultant Facilitation Skills
On any large IT project, especially an ERP project which directly impacts so much of the business and organization there are:
- requirements gathering sessions,
- design sessions,
- blueprint writing,
- solution assessments,
- problem resolutions,
- fit / gap analysis,
- business process design,
- translation of SAP / ERP speak to business language,
- knowledge transfer,
- and organizational change.
The ability to communicate clearly, in an understandable manner, and to be able to translate application processes and requirements into intelligent business language is a key to these activities. How else are you going to get any kind of a decent blueprint, specification documents, or potential whitepapers explaining your options? If they are in SAPanese or other technical jargon they are virtually meaningless to a business driven project. If there are language barriers or the individual is too technical and unable to speak in plain, non-techie type language how will knowledge transfer and critical change management activities be carried out?
The ability to “extract” the key information (through facilitation skills) for all of these activities can not be underestimated. The questioning skills, the language skills, the ability to verify understanding and re-frame the issues in terms that everyone understands are absolutely vital to performing all of these key functions. On top of that, they are critical to knowledge transfer to your internal team.
Consultant and Business Analyst Meeting Skills
Strong communication skills and the ability to stay on task and on point are critical to a successful project. It is imperative to have at least fair organizational skills and strong communication skills. Without strong language specific skills it will be difficult or even impossible to understand, capture, and then summarize the key points of the meeting or to be able to keep it on point. Together with the actual meeting process there are some meetings where the key point of the meeting must be “socialized” or shopped around even before the meeting ever takes place. Sometimes you have to win over naysayers or get key supporters on board so that the meeting is more of a formal communication. You may need to understand and be able to address any legitimate objections key stakeholders may have. This requires language dependent good listening skills, and strong communication skills to be able to try to persuade, influence, and address objections or concerns. If there is a language barrier there is also some measure of an understanding barrier as well. Meetings are likely to be unproductive wastes of time.
SAP and ERP Project Process Mapping
Start to finish, A to Z, you must be able to look at a sequence of events and understand their dependencies and any gaps. This is a central skill for design, blueprinting, and business needs. Disjointed or “shoe horned” patches of activities are not sufficient to develop a working process. And you must have strong enough language skills to be able to understand the business terminology, and then translatae that into SAP terminology, and transfer that understanding to the client side participants.
Along with that you must have a decent level of insight to understand what can be enabled by technology and what are inherently manual processes. After evaluating a process the key is to be able to simplify, streamline, and automate the complex. Any comprehension or communication gap will negatively affect this ability. If there are technical development requirements do you think that language, understanding, and comprehension barriers will produce good specs for development? How will they prevent going back and forth and wasting all of the high priced developer’s or other consultant’s time?
Anyone can take the complicated and keep it that way, or worse, make it more complicated. The mark of skill AND EXPERIENCE is the ability to take the complicated and make it understandable and workable; the sign of innovation and exceptional skill is the ability to simplify.
SAP Business Case or White Paper Development
Along with blueprinting this requires a significant amount of local language specific comprehension and writing ability. If there is a language barrier you can forget about a detailed, thorough, and well-done blueprint document, business case for a scope change, or a white paper explaining the options.
How will they understand all of the issues to present the appropriate pros or cons for an issue, or to explain it correctly? How will they understand the complex inputs and outputs to translate that into formal requirements that make any sense?
Business and SAP Problem Solving
In the entire ERP space, whether it is ERP, CRM, BI, SRM, or other SAP applications the ability to understand how and where a particular business problem fits into the application space requires deep skill and experience. That requirement goes beyond what you can get through some self-directed training, a certification program, or even a single project.
Real problem solving skills require a level of knowledge and understanding of the business, the subject matter, the applicable technology together with a fair amount of creativity. Language or communication barriers will make this a difficult process.
SAP Project Change Management and Organizational Dynamics
Along with all of these activities you must also evaluate the company or organizational counterparts. These are often called “core team members” from the business. You must be able to assess the business area the application will touch on and consider the affects of certain changes on that organization. The deep understanding demands solid language skills to discern subtleties of the personalities in the organization. Where there are language barriers the ability to assess and understand the cultural dynamics will be impaired. When it comes time to evaluate the impacts of certain changes on the organization, and how much change they can absorb, this lack of understanding will create problems. Where there are gaps here I see CONsultants constantly suggesting technical fixes, new application functionality, or scope changes where the organization is not ready to absorb the change.
Conclusion on Screening and Interview Methods for the Right SAP Consultant
SAP, ERP, and other large scale IT projects are critical to your business and its functions. Done correctly you can see great results. Done in the wrong way and the results can be damaging enough to your business that you might be better off taking your budget, withdrawing the money, putting it in a pile, and lighting it on fire.
Some of these frauds can end up costing you so much that you would have been better off without the budget in the first place. Few companies recognize the amount of damage and the hidden costs on the entire project that these con artists end up creating.
One other thing to consider in all of this is if the “consultant” lied or cheated their way into the project what else will they lie or cheat you out of? How much is enough? And where will it end? Since they are clearly stealing from your company through fraudulent means, what else will they steal?
When you are interviewing, screening, or even considering your next SAP, ERP, or other Technology consultants shouldn’t you be sure you are getting what you pay those huge fees for? Carefully consider the skills you need for success, and for Business to IT Alignment and you will be much happier with developing business oriented solutions.
Additional Resources About SAP Frauds and Fake Resumes
Some of the sites that give more insight on FAKES in the marketplace:
Contact me today through our site contact form ( http://www.r3now.com/contact ), phone, or e-mail.
- communication screening methods in interview
- what other screening methods are there in project management