It is only natural to feel nervous as you transition yourself into a new role. When I started my career as a Functional Consultant, I remember associating it to the word “unknown”.
That was my first job (by this statement you could tell it was a junior position) and at that time, I honestly had no idea what SAP was. The company was recruiting for resources with a degree in Computer Science (or equivalent degree) and those that were hired were assigned to certain technologies / capabilities.
This was of course based on the interviews and background of the applicant. I mentioned that I was interested in technologies that involve finance so by the time I showed up for Day 1, I was told that my scope covers the SAP FICO module.
Thankfully, there were orientations, materials, and even classes to help get me acquainted with my role as an SAP FICO Functional Consultant. Even with ALL those resources, I couldn’t help but Google on what SAP FICO Functional Consultants do. I even Googled on SAP FICO and what it was. It stands for “Financial Accounting and Controlling” and at the time it sounded so intimidating.
I felt a lot of things: worry, fear, doubts, etc. All of which associated to the word “unknown”. Why “unknown”? It’s because I did not know what exactly to expect and if I was going to adapt to this job well.
At that point, I wanted to hear from other people and their experiences (even lessons learned or tips). Unfortunately, I did not know anyone who worked as a Functional Consultant except for the newly hired ones (like me).
As such, I decided to make this post and share some tips and lessons I find to be useful for those starting out in this career.
1. The Customer is Right
The commonly used statement is “The Customer is (always) Right”. I purposely removed “always” because honestly the customer isn’t always right. There might be times wherein you are forced to do something impossible because the customer demands it. It could be that they insist they are right even when all the system logs tell otherwise.
Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t give them the benefit of the doubt. I am simply saying that there are times wherein you need to lay out the options or even provide a solution (or analysis) in a calm professional manner.
The concept here is that you maintain professionalism and even agree on points that they are actually right on.
In the industry, it is easy to say “yes”, “it is possible”, “we can do it” but hard to say “no” or “it cannot be done”.
I get that it shows promise and is exchanged with positive customer feedback. The thing you need to keep in mind is that as a consultant, you need to deliver whatever you say is possible.
It is negative notion to tell the customer “no” and I agree with that. This is where the challenge kicks in. You need to be able to insert some sort of workaround or lay out the options in a professional manner.
Here is an example of how to say no on a lighter note:
“That is a great idea but it is not possible given the current factors: <insert factors here>. However, here are other options and their corresponding benefits: <insert options / alternatives>.”
You do not have to copy the statement exactly as it varies on the situation or scenario. The key takeaways from the example are:
- You did not flatly throw away the customers idea and deem it useless. Rather, you showed that the idea is worth something. [That is a great idea]
- You clearly explained and itemized why the idea isn’t feasible at this time. This is assuming that you do clearly point out valid reasons. [but it is not possible given the current factors:]
- After breaking the news that it is not possible given the valid reasons, you did not end the communication on a negative note. Rather, you provided a breakdown of alternative options. [However, here are other options and their corresponding benefits:]
- You are giving the customer an alternative to help solve the customers concern or problem. In addition, you are creating value to these alternatives by showing benefits. This can also be pros or cons.
That was a simple example that allows you to manage the expectations of your customer and providing substantial input amidst the negative news. This is something that you will want to work on because it is possible that you will be dealing with several clients and the pressure will be on you to deliver.
In a way it is along the lines of providing good customer service and being able to manage expectations, so it does not bite you in the end.
2. Develop Your Communication Skill
Communication is essential. You will be talking a lot – communicating with clients and colleagues to arrive at a solution. I will use the same example I used in “The Customer is Right”. In this case, effective communication is getting the RIGHT message across whilst maintaining PROFESSIONALISM.
You cannot avoid talking since this line of work entails proper communication. It can be intimidating to talk to clients face to face, through phone, even on email, etc. but it is how you improve your communication skills. It takes some time to get used to, but it is doable.
A simple way of developing this skill is by reading your emails before sending and thinking before saying something. Is there something that could be said better? Is the email too overloaded?
It helps to be careful in choosing your words and of course working on the skill through continuous communication. The last thing you want is people (or the clients) using your words against you.
It can be scary to think about now but you can associate it to false promises. If you (as a consultant) promised something, how would you feel (as a client) if it is not met?
3. Learn Basic Accounting
I wasn’t the best student at math classes (even accounting classes). My course focused on Computer Science so you would expect more programming classes. Regardless, I took up an online class in basic accounting. I want you to understand that learning basic accounting is the best step you can take for yourself.
SAP FICO or any SAP-Finance related areas will deal with Finance. Now, I was able to use what I’ve learned in my degree to my career but there is a huge advantage for those who understand basic financial accounting.
Personally, there is a limit to knowing the technical side of things. To be a well-rounded consultant, learning the basics (even the process) gives you an edge. Why? It is through this that you will understand your clients, scope, and the impact that SAP gives.
Your clients may raise concerns (for example) on depreciation: “How is depreciation computed in SAP? What if we purchase a new equipment and haven’t used it yet? Is there a way to control the computation?” This scenario can realistically happen and if you understand the concept behind it, it will be easier to navigate through the system or maybe even provide an answer.
4. Learn SAP Financial Accounting
I personally found that by learning basic accounting, I was able to associate it with SAP Financial Accounting thereafter.
Believe me when I say the concepts and processes learned from basic accounting can be linked to SAP functionalities. It can be confusing to dive directly into SAP without understanding the basics.
SAP provides efficient accounting, so it helps to understand how basic accounting works. After learning Financial Accounting, you can move on to Managerial Accounting or the CO side.
Basic Accounting > SAP FI > SAP CO
5. Take Notes
Everyone starts somewhere. Starting out in this career can be tedious especially if you have so many tasks, deadlines, and even learnings along the way.
One way to cope with that is to take notes. Decide on a repository and/or document where you can keep track of these commitments and learnings.
That way, you always have something to go back to in case you forget something.
6. There is No Shame in Being Curious and Asking Questions
Curiosity can fuel your learning. If you are genuinely curious about something, this is your chance to research, experiment, and even ask questions.
Throughout my career, I found that curiosity was one of the big factors that aided in skill improvement.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or research. You would be surprised to realize that these curiosities and linked learnings will be quickly recalled in the future.
7. Do the Configurations and Testing
There is no better teacher than you yourself applying the learnings. How do you apply these learnings? It is through actual configurations and testing. Applying / doing is better than simply reading.
By doing the actual configurations and testing, you will encounter bugs, errors, even missing data. This might sound like a bad thing but it gives you first-hand experience of the issues. This experience adds to your skill.
By encountering these issues, you are exposed to other factors that you (possibly) haven’t considered. In the future, you would already know these factors and in turn work to avoid them in an efficient manner.
8. One Task at a Time
It can be daunting to have multiple tasks lined up.
If you are tempted to do multiple tasks at a time, I highly suggest that you work on them one at a time. You can sort them according to urgency or priority.
It depends on your preference, but my personal take is that focusing on one task at a time gives quality results.
When I tried working on multiple tasks at a time, I tend to lose my trail of thought for the other. Take note this is different from executing a report and doing something else while you wait for it to load. That is manageable on my part. The multitasking is doing 2 or more active tasks at the same time and garnering “okay” results.
As a beginner, it helps to focus on one thing, digest (understand) it, and move on to the next.
9. Explore the Back End – If you have background in computer science or any programming course
The code never lies. The advantage of having knowledge in programming is that you can read code. ABAP isn’t exactly taught in all schools but if you have basic programming knowledge, I am sure you can manage to read the back end or code.
If all else fails, you can go to SE30, enter the SAP program, and read away. It helps to explore the back end, so you are acquainted with the conditions of the program and how it behaves.
It is not always a straightforward approach (especially if it is a standard or badly coded program), but the code itself can give you true insight. Debugging can also be your best friend when you’re stuck in a rut.
If you do not have background in programming, it is okay. If you are willing to learn, you can search for free learning resources. Alternatively, you can seek help from an ABAP colleague who can help interpret it for you.
At the end of the day, the program behaves the way it is programmed to behave. That is a pretty solid way of confirming the behavior of a feature / program when needed.
10. Have Patience
If you have read my previous posts, you would know that I say it is not feasible to become an expert overnight. It takes experience, time, and a lot of learning.
Have patience with yourself and understand that it is okay to be confused about certain concepts. Keep levelheaded and have faith that you can improve on it in time. 🙂
- The Customer is Right
- Develop your Communication Skill
- Learn Basic Accounting
- Learn SAP Financial Accounting
- Take notes
- There is no shame in being curious and asking questions
- Do the configurations and testing
- One task at a time
- Explore the back end – If you have background in computer science or any programming course
- Have Patience
I hope this helped. Good luck! 🙂
☕ Coffee Corner: Do you have more tips or have some experiences you want to share? Please feel free to comment down below.