Confessions of an SAP consultant

There are many aspects of the 90s that I would not want to see return. Bell-bottom jeans. Dial-up internet. Aqua’s Barbie Girl.

Another aspect of the 90s I’d like to be permanently erased from my memory is SAP, but like scrunchies, it’s back. “I’d say the SAP space is starting to feel like the late 90s, turn of the century again in terms of the volume of work,” says Geoff Vickrey, the managing partner of EY’s Americas performance improvement group. And he’s not alone: Many others are likening the current climate to those heady days of neck chokers and Adidas tracksuits.

In my case, there’s a good reason why the three letters, SAP, make my blood run cold: I was once an SAP consultant.

Admittedly, the title “consultant” was a very generous description of my abilities. I had turned up in London, a bright-eyed young graduate, only to be banished to a permanently frozen town in the north of England to implement SAP. I had no idea what it was. I spent my days desperately trying to remember what FRICEW stood for and wondering if repeated questions about BOBJs were legitimate or an HR matter. For me, SAP is synonymous with microwave meals in the office, grim out-of-town hotels, and many an existential crisis. I was there for almost two years.

Like the Spice Girls, SAP is returning in a sleek and shiny new form, along with a whole raft of other cloud ERP solutions. By buying ERP as a service over the cloud, clients benefit from much lower upfront hardware costs, leaner processes, greater security, and much more. And it seems a good time to be considering a change of infrastructure, given the huge disruption and business model change going on in just about every industry.

Consulting firms around the world are either already seeing a huge uptick in demand, or are preparing themselves for a 90s-style wave of activity. But, thankfully for the sanity of naive consulting grads across the world, it looks like the wave will be different this time. Programmes are less about multi-year implementations, and more about advising clients on the right services for their business. When firms are implementing their recommendations, they’re much shorter programmes, designed to show a rapid return on investment to clients. The chances of lengthy exile in remote locations are much, much lower.

Is that enough to tempt me back to SAP consulting? Despite the opportunities, I feel I’ve done my time. The world of ERP consulting need not fear—my head is staying firmly out of the cloud.