How do I become a SAP Finance Consultant?

5 May 2010

Mark Chalfen

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Working for a strong UK SAP Consultancy I get asked that question a lot. The type of people who ask that question varies a lot and the answer can be very different. My route to working as a SAP Finance Consultant was a fairly common one, I was working in Industry for an Accounting qualification and the Company had just installed SAP (nearly 14 years ago now). The Consulting partner came and went, and once the dust settled my Company had a number of questions that they could not answer as they realised the system did not do everything they ACTUALLY required it to do. Being new and not bogged down in office politics and having no allegiance to the previous IT system, I was chosen to be part of a team to ensure the SAP solution was a total fit for my Company. After a couple of years shadowing more experienced Consultants and attending the various SAP courses it all finally made sense and I became a fully fledged member of their IT team, and a junior SAP Consultant. Since then I have worked for a number of Companies, working for dozens of different clients, in different industry sectors and countries.

Before looking at the type of character that is required, you need to look deeper into what the role of a SAP Finance Consultant. In Essence the basic role of a SAP Finance Consultant is that of a translator. You need to translate the business requirement of the Finance department, be that business process, or output of a report and turn that into a process that business users can perform in a simple easy to follow manner. This may involve liaising with technical resources to build reports, or amend existing functionality, as well as working with other SAP Functional Consultants from other modules that feed into the Finance module.

In terms of professional characteristics that are required, you either need to come from an Accountancy background - similar to my story and then get involved working as a super user, or you need some form of IT background and then you need to understand Finance. At a very high level you need to understand the core Financial business processes and the integration points with other modules and you need to know who you can influence those processes by changing the configuration inside ERP. You cannot wake up one morning and decide today I am going to be a SAP Finance Consultant - it is something that you need to work at, and you will develop over time. Working with various SAP using clients will provide you a better insight into the difference between systems, business priorities and level of bespoking. You need to use all of that experience moving forward so that you can provide the best advice possible to your current client. I have interviewed a few individuals who have passed the SAP academy for Financials but when you ask them questions relating to SAP and put the questions into a business content, they do not have the answers. My advice to similar individuals is to try and get a job with a Company who uses SAP, and work in their Finance department. By doing this those individuals should be able to understand better what they learnt in the SAP academy and over time become a useful asset to that Company.

Lastly, the world of SAP is ever changing, the Financial modules are utilised by nearly all of the Companies that use SAP. Whilst some Companies may believe their Finance modules are stable, they will always be new implementations and new functionality being implemented. Over the past few years, SAP has re-focused on the SAP Finance modules and there have been some significant changes which Companies are now looking to exploit and implement, so the future for those that know the new functionality looks bright.

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About the author

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Mark tells it straight - as an ex-boxer, what else would you expect?  Both his knowledge and experience of SAP products allow him to cut to the chase dispelling myths and hearsay.

As a result of working closely with various SAP Finance Product Management teams on product development, Mark understands these products inside out. This depth of understanding has led to him become a ‘thought leader’ in his field; after all, it is not often SAP consultants have helped shape and develop the very product they are selling.

Having such a strong relationship with SAP alongside being an SAP Mentor and Moderator means that Mark has an extensive network within SAP. For clients, this relationship proves to be a huge advantage and leads to configuration issues being resolved rapidly.

Mark has worked on short proof of concepts through to year-long multi-million pound global roll-outs. However, no matter how large or small the project, the true value Mark brings to his work is in the guidance he provides to senior stakeholders. In essence, he assists them to implement more effective processes and drive better behaviours within their finance teams.

Helping organisations transform their business with SAP S/4HANA is Mark’s current focus. The benefits of S/4HANA are numerous, including the simplification of tasks, embedded analytics and improved user engagement. Whilst the eventual move from SAP Business Suite into S/4HANA is inevitable, the journey to it is not always clear. Mark’s ability to understand an organisation’s needs coupled with his deep understanding of S/4HANA provides clarity and eases their transition.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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