Is It Worth It to Become a SAP Industry Specialist?
You’ve seen it or heard it before: the SAP freelancer who has worked in the same industry for the last 10 (or more) years. Maybe you've met them, maybe you are them. They’ve been moving from contract to contract within the same vein of clients- whether it be in retail, energy or car manufacturers, the list of clients are either close competitors or producers of parallel products. They are a true SAP industry specialist
One of the benefits of working as a SAP freelancer is that you can work for different clients in different countries, gaining exposure to various types of work environments all whilst working in your trained profession. SAP is not specific to one single industry and boasts a large client portfolio that spans from SMEs to large multinational organizations.
If SAP freelancers can work anywhere and with anyone, then why do we see so many contractors continuing to work for clients within the same industry?
Sell, sell, sell as a SAP specialist
Due to the nature of freelancing, SAP contractors are perpetually in positions where they need to market their skills and experience to prospective clients. Across the board, SAP consultants work hard to ensure they complete new trainings and receive all the relevant certifications in their area of expertise. The world of SAP contracting is competitive and when consultants are faced with over a dozen rival specialists with the same certifications and experience, the distinguishing factor that will land them their next project can be hard to come by.
Many SAP contractors choose to specialize in a set industry for the competitive advantage. Work experience in the same industry as a prospective client can be the defining experience that sets them apart from other consultants in the recruitment mix.
From a staffing perspective, it is not unusual to have a client tack ‘industry experience’ on a list of candidate requirements. Often industry experience is a nice-to-have but when consultants are looking for a competitive advantage and an extra selling point to bring into an interview, it’s certainly a good place to start.
Functional know-how of SAP specialists
Prospective clients’ affinity for industry experience is driven by not only a desire to hire competitors’ talent but also to take on consultants with the functional know-how of their industry. Some of the most desirable SAP consultants are techno-functional experts with a keen ability to translate technical requirements to the business and visa-versa.
SAP is not industry-specific but understanding the business requirements and managing stakeholder interests can be. There may be similarities between a retail company and a turbine manufacturer, however, the business likely communicates differently and hold different priorities within their SAP teams and projects. Consultants coming with a strong understanding of the project and business environment will have a lead on competing candidates.
SAP Specialist's network
It can be tough to develop a robust professional network when working on intense project cycles. Developing strong professional connections and keeping track of colleagues can be challenging for even the most dedicated contractor when hours are long, the team is working towards a deadline and the subsequent transition to a new project at a new company is quick.
Because of client preference for industry experience, SAP freelancers working within a certain industry are more likely to see a revolving door of faces and thus develop a solid network of specialists within their field of expertise. This tends to happen more frequently with niche SAP freelancers working in modules like SAP IS-Oil, EH&S or FMS/AFS, however, the longer one spends in a single industry the most common connections are likely to develop.
Industry specialization is not a must in the world of SAP freelancing, in fact it can be liberating for some to change industry and company from project to project. You will certainly see or meet the SAP SD-MM consultant who has hopped from FMCG to logistics or the SAP Hybris Commerce developer who has worked for a hi-tech manufacturer and a retailer.
That being said, industry experience is becoming a nice-to-have for both clients and candidates. For those who buy into this technique of ultra-specialization, it pays off in a healthy pipeline of projects and a robust professional network.