The SAP BPC (SAP BusinessObjects Planning & Consolidation) market is really heating up at the moment and I'm seeing a lot of interest from clients and prospects in this relatively new tool. As with any new tool, the real challenge is finding good, experienced consultants. This led me to thinking about what makes a good SAP BPC consultant. Here I'm really thinking about the planning side of things, consolidation being a whole new topic. I'm also focusing on the NetWeaver version of the BPC product.
Technical BPC knowledge
Actual knowledge and experience of how to configure the SAP BPC toolset does not, on its own, make you a good consultant; it is a user-friendly, well documented and straightforward planning tool. A really good consultant will have knowledge around the edges of the tool that makes the difference between a solution that works and a solution that flies, for example:
Clients want to be advised on the systems architecture they need to adopt for their SAP BPC solution. Where will reporting be performed? What options are there for connectivity with BusinessObjects reporting tools? Which operating systems are required for the BPC components? Which versions of SAP BW are compatible with which versions of BPC?
An up-to-date understanding of the various starter kits and how they can be used in different scenarios is an essential weapon in the BPC consultant's repertoire.SAP has been investing a great deal in starter kits for BPC that deliver real working content. Even if unlikely to provide all the functionality you require, they do provide you with a good springboard and a framework for your project.
Excellent working knowledge of SAP BW is essential. Clients implementing the NetWeaver version of BPC are unlikely to accept a solution that requires them to create a download file of trial balances from SAP ECC and use the Data Manager to upload it. Rather, they will want this extracted into NetWeaver BW using the sophisticated ETL tools and business content available, and then extracted automatically into BPC using the BPC Process Chain Types.
What do you do if your input schedule is taking too long to send and retrieve data? If you first reaction is to pass this problem over to the BASIS (SAP system administration) team then you fail the good consultant test immediately. A really useful consultant will have the confidence to delve into the problem, whether this be debugging through the BPC ABAP code, analysing the automatically generated SQL, analysing the integrity of the database objects, browsing through relevant SAP notes, raising OSS notes or simply raising questions on SDN.
Accounting and accounting systems
BPC projects are business, not IT, led. A BPC consultant can expect to talk directly to the FP&A team and even the CFO, so not being able to speak their language is a distinct disadvantage. It is rare to find consultants with both the technical skills and a formal accounting qualification, but they do exist. However, if you come from a purely technical background, don't be discouraged from up-skilling in this area by. For example, you can attend a CIMA foundations evening course, or simply reading up (e.g. Accounting-for-Non-accountants is a great book). The level of accounting knowledge you need for planning is not hard to achieve; I once managed to upset a whole room of accountants by claiming that accounting was "just adding and subtracting numbers, right?". Legal consolidation however, is a specialised topic, so you either need the qualification (and experience) or need to do at least one project with a very patient Group FD.
The following challenges are common to SAP BPC planning projects and will test your consulting skills:
How can you ensure that the solution makes the end users' life easier, as well as central FP&A's? How do you engage properly with the end users in the business when they probably see your project as an annoying distraction?
How do you handle disagreements and circular discussions in workshops? How do you ensure you lead your group of users in the right direction to make key decisions?
Your client may currently use a spreadsheet model and not really understand what is and isn't possible with a planning solution such as BPC. How do you get your client to the right level of understanding of the tool to ensure they are making informed decisions?
Your client will probably be expecting you to advise them on how other clients are tackling similar issues.
Your client may well have some set ideas about how to do things that simply don't make sense in BPC (or the real world!) and you'll need to sway them around to your way of thinking.
You need to be able to chair workshops effectively, efficiently question and listen and use logical and social influencing skills to navigate your way through the inevitable hurdles your project will throw up. BPC projects are not for the faint hearted!
Let's face it, it's extremely rare to find all of these skills in one person and each consultant will have their own particular strengths. However, it is possible with some motivation to bridge enough gaps to become an all-round SAP BPC consultant. Once you think you've reached that point, please send me your CV!