Setting up a new SAP system is often a fresh and exciting experience. Utilizing the ASAP methodology, consultants and their companies can get up and running smoothly and efficiently, mapping each company’s processes to corresponding functions in SAP and tweaking and customizing settings where needed in order to provide optimization. The company gets a brand new system, on which they receive extensive training that helps them build their efficiency and competence, and the consultant gets the reward of a job well-done. They leave the company happily humming along on its flawless new program.
If this description sounds a little too good to be true, then you have obviously worked in IT before. A smoothly running system with no bug fixes and no glitches is either a dream come true or a nightmare, depending on your philosophy regarding job security. For SAP consultants, it may sound ideal, given that it means they get accolades for their successful deployment.
And being an SAP consultant is generally a pretty nice job. You are helping businesses become more efficient and bringing them exceptional solutions for their IT needs. But another position can sometimes be overlooked by SAP professionals: maintaining already-installed SAP systems.
IT professionals often think of “maintenance” as a four-letter word. Installing a new system can be fun. The technology is new, the software is updated, the hardware hasn’t had a chance to develop the bugs associated with old age yet, and users haven’t managed to work the system into a frenzy with their requests and meddling. Installing them can be challenging, but not as challenging as figuring out what the guy 4 cubicles down managed to do to his computer this time, and perhaps far less frustrating. A new, untouched computer system is often a thing of beauty.
But that’s not what IT solutions are made for.
IT solutions, and SAP in particular, need to be used. Employees need to abuse them a bit, cause some hiccups, crash the system a few times, and test the limits. Without some use and abuse, these systems will never evolve into future generations of IT solutions that provide even more functionality and convenience.
The downside? The current systems still need to be maintained. An abused system still needs to operate, and that means there will always be a need for maintenance people, until they somehow devise an IT solution that is completely dummy-proof. That may seem like a Utopian idea, but again, start considering this in terms of job security. A few bug fixes here and there is a small price to pay for being a valued member of a company.
As someone who is or may one day be in a position where you are maintaining older systems rather than rolling out new ones, it’s important to remember that your function is just as vital, if not more important, than implementing that shiny, brand new system. With your help, a company can keep running on a cost-effective system that will last them for years, saving them excessive costs associated with constant upgrades and frequent equipment replacements. You can therefore have a direct effect on a company’s bottom line, which in turn makes you that much more valuable.
In addition, the rewards of your work continue to be seen throughout a system’s lifetime. Rather than receiving a glowing but short-lived accolade after implementation, following which you have to set out finding another client that could benefit from the SAP system, if you are able to implement on-going solutions that adjust, adapt, and maintain the existing system, you will have the potential for significant rewards on a consistent basis.
Furthermore, remember that implementation and creation of new systems is not always a road paved with gold. Companies are more likely to try and control upfront creation-related costs, which can curb how creative implementors are able to get in devising their solutions. When it comes to maintenance, however, it is possible to exercise extreme creativity when it comes to finding a cost-effective solution for keeping a system running. Additionally, companies tend to allow maintenance personnel to have more freedom and less oversight, meaning you have some real opportunities to exercise your problem-solving skills whenever there is a malfunction, or whenever you happen to hear of a feature someone is really eager to have that you can find a creative way to incorporate.
Maintenance folks have a few other direct advantages: they know more of the people that their work directly affects, and can establish longer-lasting relationships with them that could result in further opportunities down the road, meaning a wider network of colleagues. They can also spend more time learning about the underlying business that their work impacts, making them a versatile asset to their companies.
*Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn via creative commons