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1 February 2018

SAP skills: why contractor hire is not the only option

This news story appeared in E-3 Magazine International on 1st February 2018.  Click here for the original article.

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E-3 Magazine International, SAP skills: why contractor hire is not the only option 

Article written by Simon Persin, posted in E-3 Magazine


An SAP project of any significance usually relies on a variety of highly specialised skills that, because SAP continues to grow in complexity in all areas, is increasingly difficult to meet in-house.

The default action for many organisations handling this scenario is to bring in outside expertise in the form of an SAP contractor.  However, while contractors may be the best fit for certain situations, there are some cases when an alternative approach may yield better results; the right hire could be the difference between project success and failure.


Is it really a project?

If the project has a clear start and end date, the contractor model provides staffing flexibility in a way no permanent employee can.


But if the period of time over which the SAP skills are required is not specific and defined the organisation needs to consider whether the ‘project’ is actually a business function that will require ongoing expertise.  While long-term contractors may be able to fulfil this role (and this resourcing route is often an easier sell internally) it’s rarely cost-effective.  Hiring an SAP expert on a full-time basis will increase the chance that the organisation has the right person for the job.


SAP specialisation and demand

The ideal SAP candidate/s will possess the right skills to fill the knowledge gap at the enterprise, but will also understand the business sector and may even have worked with the organisation on previous engagements.


Most of all however, they will need to be available for the term of the project.  And that’s potentially where the biggest challenge lies, particularly for skills such as SAP S/4 HANA and HANA, as well as those related to GDPR and Hybris.  Currently in-demand, these disciplines limit availability and drive up day-rates.


Wrong skills risk

Many SAP customers have an ongoing need for SAP specialists in certain key areas.

Assembling and permanently retaining an expensive team of highly skilled employees is often not an option, neither is a large team of contractors that, while it offers flexibility, is also costly.


This can lead to SAP contractors already working on a project being asked to look at areas outside their domain - purely because they are paid-for and present, not because they are qualified to do so.


But while they know the business and the project, and may well have related skills, the specialist nature of SAP increases the risk of serious errors being made. This is especially true for technologies that are still rapidly evolving, such as S/4 HANA, or projects with changing dynamics, such as with the interpretation of the GDPR.


Alternative resources

Many SAP customers work with large systems integrators who may be able to resolved resourcing issues. However, they may not have the right skillset (particularly for the newer SAP modules), and may also rely on hiring contractors to plug their own capability gaps.


Another highly viable option is the niche consultancy; while the internal approval process has traditionally been difficult to navigate, today there are more commercially innovative ways to do this.


Niche benefits

A niche consultancy that specialises in a specific area of SAP will have a pool of consultants rather than one. Many niche players also have established implementation methodologies, project management tools and processes that can accelerate the delivery of a project.


This approach is reinforced by Gartner in a report that encourages SAP customer to consider niche consulting partners for specialist, complex projects and to get the most out of existing SAP investments.


Right person, right skills, right outcome

While contractors have been a go-to project solution for many years, more innovative engagement options are available for SAP customers willing to break from tradition.


Niche consulting firms are becoming an increasingly interesting proposition, and while highly regulated businesses can find it burdensome to add new partners to the ‘approved supplier list’, the benefits of doing so can be significant.


Ultimately however it’s about appointing the right individual – whether that is an employee, contractor or resource from a large integrator or niche consultancy - with the right skills and experience to deliver the right outcomes.