Those who attended TechEd in Las Vegas last month may recall that Shai Agassi mentioned four new SAP roles in his keynote speech: consolidators, repository keepers, composers and disruptive innovators. How do these new roles tie into the current SAP ecosystem? How do you position yourself for the career sweet spot a year or two in the future? Here's the first part in a series of four where we discuss exactly what these roles mean and how to get your foot in the door.
This is a new role that has already begun to show up, but it's not quite formalized; people do it, but there are no dedicated teams yet.
"What consolidators do is look at the entire landscape of all the applications and technologies a company has," said Ori Inbar, Sr. vice president, solution marketing, SAP NetWeaver. "Then they map it to core (what helps drive differentiation with the company) and context (what you do to support existing commitments,) and start looking for ways to consolidate things."
This cuts across all layers; hardware, databases, data level, user interface level… the works, Inbar said.
As the name implies, the gist of the job is to reduce the amount of systems in use. It may seem like something of a dead-end career choice where success is rewarded with a pink slip, but Inbar says that is not the case, especially for large corporations.
"It never ends; it's an ongoing project," he said. "Every time there's a new acquisition, there's a slew of new systems entering the ecosystem. Somebody has to be there to keep things streamlined."
It can still be something of a challenge though. Would you like to be the guy telling the colleagues that the system they've been building and nurturing for years is redundant and has to go?
Still, it seems those wishing to go down the consolidator route are set for a fairly secure career path. There is no scientific answer to what skills or certifications will serve a wannabe-consolidator best, but it seems clear those with an innate sense for efficiency will have a leg up on the competition. They may not need deep business process expertise, but they'll probably have considerable system expertise.
"Classic Basis system admin people are well-positioned to evolve into this field," said Jon Reed, veteran SearchSAP career guru and VP of SAPtips.com. "Basis folks are often used to straddling the fence with architecture elements, and you can't really identify redundancies without a good grasp of the current processes in use."
System architects are also well-positioned to move in this direction, just like those working with data management and business intelligence today. Anyone who's looking at how data is filtered through the enterprise can evolve into this type of a position, Reed said. The key word is "evolve" — don't expect "consolidator" to start appearing on business cards anytime soon.
"I believe SAP is accurate in their assessment of future needs," Reed said. "Companies will want a single infrastructure in which all data resides, not a mess of apps and redundancies. Having said that, I'm not sure it will become a specialized role anytime soon. Rather, I see it becoming a Basis/sys admin add-on skill, kind of like how a Basis person evolves into the go-to guy for security issues."
Just like having those security skills in the Sys admin toolkit boosts the value of that person, the consolidation skills may become a vital edge for SAP professionals looking to move up the ranks in coming years. But for now, expect a gradual evolution rather than a sudden revolution, Reed cautioned.
"The best way to position yourself for this type of role is to familiarize yourself with the NetWeaver architecture and use your hands-on tools to grow into it," Reed said. "Enterprise application integration is a good skill to learn."
Even if you're stuck with an older, non-NetWeaver system in your current job, you can still do the homework — read books, listen to webcasts, attend conferences — since it's only a matter of time before even the most stubborn company has to upgrade. Worst case, you may have to jump ship to another company.