SAP Community Network is a massive online community of SAP professionals. There is a perception that there is a bias more to developers within this community and therefore the number of true functional consultants who use it does not represent the true blend of functional and technical consultants.
From a personal point of view I find this puzzling, however I only have to look at my own historic habits to see that it has not been central to my thinking throughout my SAP career. I have been a member of the community for over 5 years now and I assign around 30 minutes a day to read articles and blogs, answer questions, moderate forum boards and search for new information. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to allocate this amount of time to the community, however I am sure even the busiest Functional consultant could spend 30 minutes a week.
What is in it for me?
The first question someone will normally ask is what is in it for me? A common perception of SCN is that it is a big forum site where consultants can ask questions relating to SAP. This is a small part of what is available, however this is a good place to start. As a functional consultant myself, I started life within SCN in the forum boards. My specialist area is Finance, and this is one of the most active forum boards within SCN. There are over 100,000 questions that have been raised and this grows every day. As an experienced Functional consultant it is a good place to review other consultants opinions and solutions. SAP is a massive beast and there are a number of different solutions to achieve the same outcome. Some less experienced functional consultants can post questions, or read the questions and answers to improve their understanding of certain products and solutions.
Knowledge is power
There are plenty of functional consultants that do contribute to SCN. Some spend most of their time in the forum boards but others spread their wings to other areas. The SCN blog area is rapidly growing. There is a wide raft of subjects that are being covered by the various bloggers. Plenty of these relate to functional areas such as new functionality that is due to be released in the coming releases or detailed analysis or customer problems and how technology has been used to overcome these issues. Some of the insight here is of a high standard and provides the SCN community information they would not normally come by.
There are various types of bloggers out there, some more experienced than others and some with different reasons for blogging in the first place. Due to the sheer volume of new material being published there are filters available so you only consume material that is relevant to your personal interests and requirements.
Articles are another area that in my opinion are slightly under-used. Normally this is because some of the community members will write a blog that could be extended into an article. However articles are great. They can be customer success stories, or simple config guides for new functionality that can be confusing. They normally take the format of a “how to guide” and can be extremely useful to functional consultants.
The last main area within SCN for a functional consultant is the “wiki”. As per the name it is an online guide to products and solutions. Some functional areas have developed these further to have common forum questions linked to the wiki. These can be very beneficial to functional consultants wishing to learn about new products or solutions. It is clear that a single SAP consultant cannot know everything about all products. On a personal note I struggle to keep up and I am investing time in SCN, I can only assume Functional consultants must really struggle. As a Finance consultant, I need to know about all of the releases within the Business Suite, including industry sector solutions, enhancement packages, RDS solutions, mobile solutions, Business Object solutions and so on. There is a vast volume of information to consume and the wiki can be a great source.
So why me?
Hopefully the points raised are compelling enough for you, however some functional consultants believe rightly or wrongly that THEY cannot add any value. Everyone can add something, and having a voice and an opinion helps grow the community. There is no such thing as right or wrong. Functionality and information that you believe “everyone” is aware of may not be the case.
Reading a blog and commenting (providing an opinion) is contributing to the community. Raising questions on the forum or adding to the wiki is contributing. These are normal first steps in the community for Functional consultants. Not everyone needs to write a blog or answer questions within the forum board, but if more functional consultants did just a little bit more the user experience for all would become more complete.
So let’s collaborate, let’s work together to grow together to improve both our own personal skills but more importantly provide a better solution to our customers and the projects we work on.