IT skills are an absolute requirement in all enterprises. They are an essential aspect of supporting business operations. There are a few IT specializations, however, that are concerned not just with the software that supports operations or processes, but with the actual processes themselves.
One such specialization is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Professionals with ERP skills are in high-demand. According to a recent survey by Computerworld, enterprise planning professionals reported a year-over-year compensation gain of five percent — the highest of respondents in all surveyed areas of IT.
So what exactly is ERP, and what skills should an ERP professional possess?
Introduction to ERP
In a broad sense, ERP refers to a set of activities that helps your organization manage its business operations and processes. In more technical terms, it’s “software that empowers a business to use a suite of integrated applications to facilitate the automation and integration of the key components of the business functions.”
You can thus consider ERP an ideal business management software system designed to ensure smooth operations in order to drive favorable results.
Now that we know what ERP actually is, we can more easily relate to what it involves — the appropriate planning and use of resources to facilitate the flow of information across business functions in order to ensure that business decisions are driven by data. ERP also helps in tracking different business resources, such as raw materials, production capacity and cash.
All in all, an ERP system is capable of operating in real time, with a common database (maintained by a database management system), to support all the applications and to provide an integrated view of the core business processes.
In short, ERP is “about managing the business and understanding how IT supports that job.”
ERP is popular choice for individuals who are completing a degree in, currently employed in, or planning to enter the fields of business and project management, operations analysis, computer software, information systems and supply chain management.
Skills Required for ERP
The ERP system enables organizations to collect, store, manage and even interpret data across all business departments or activities, such as manufacturing, supply chain, operations, finance, sales and marketing, shipping, and inventory management.
Clearly, as the support is required for numerous business functions, an ERP professional or expert needs to have a multi-faceted skill set.
While ERP professionals typically have expertise in a particular domain like sales, materials management, or human resources, they also need a strong level of cross-domain knowledge. This is crucial since data is continuously pouring in from the various processes and departments.
Moreover, an ERP consultant needs to be a master at understanding operational processes and identifying the scope for improvement through the use of integrated technology. It is crucial that they are able to understand the need for business process re-engineering and time it well, while deploying an ERP system in the organization.
This is because ERP systems will co-exist by integrating with your existing systems in your enterprise. And, for this purpose, any new ERP system deployment will involve comprehensive employee training as well as back end IT support for data analytics, data integration and ad hoc reporting.
ERP professionals need to know how the various business functions are interconnected and how technology fits into each scenario. Once they are able to do this, handling an ERP system that is beneficial to the organization will be relatively straightforward.
A successful ERP professional is a master of many trades and able to “speak truth to power.” They cannot be a “yes man”, blindly going along to get along. If they see processes that are not working, they need develop a plan to make them work correctly and then articulate support for their position. They should never tell management what it wants to hear, but rather tell what it needs to hear.
Pursuing a Career in ERP
The first step in determining whether you should switch to ERP or begin your IT career with ERP is to understand which area of ERP suits you best.
For example, if you come from an accounting background, it might be better if you strive to become a finance functional consultant. If you have extensive experience with documentation in a functional area or with super-users in another enterprise, then the role of an ERP functional consultant may be your best fit.
The same holds true if you dislike anything related to programming or coding and instead love the non-technical stuff. However, if you are an IT or computer engineer and really enjoy the technical stuff, you should probably move to the technical consulting aspect of ERP.
Perhaps you are a fresher without much in the way of experience. There may be several IT organizations that offer excellent ERP training for newly recruited employees. This can give you a feel for the particular areas of ERP that may be of interest to you. Many ERP jobs at such companies are posted on job portals, forums and with recruitment agencies.
Of course, one of the best ways to break into ERP is to have a certification. A certification is an advantage for a fresher as it shows interest in and dedication to the practice of ERP.
As an experienced professional in a non-ERP field who is planning to switch to the ERP side, a certification, coupled with real work experience, is a real plus. Experience working as an end or super-user is valuable when combined with a certification as it enhances your knowledge and helps you get your desired ERP job profile. Certification is particularly helpful if your company already, or is planning to deploy, an ERP system.
There are a number of reputable ERP certification training providers available.
SAP, a German multinational software corporation, offers a world-class ERP experience. They provide a comprehensive suite of ERP certifications. Training modules are designed to provide practitioners with specialized experience and understanding of how decisions in purchasing and materials management, operations planning, and information systems play a role in an organization success.
ERP training options are designed for practitioners at all experience levels. The certification suite is designed to enable students to select certifications that fit their experience and career goals. Delivery methods include traditional classroom instructor-led learning, e-learning, and mixed offerings. They also offer instantaneous cloud-based access to content and learning rooms.
Job opportunities abound for SAP ERP credential holders due to the large number of industries world-wide who use SAP software solutions. ERP certificate holders are qualified to work as SAP data and support analysts, d-base administrators, systems and budget analysts, and program managers.
Microsoft offers six certifications that focus on specific aspects of ERP. The certifications and their particular focuses are:
- Dynamics AX – For enterprises operating at all levels of development and conducting business in one or more multiple locations.
- Dynamics GP – Insight into individual business components such as HR and finance.
- Dynamics NAV – Industry-specific business management capabilities including supply-chain and cash flow management.
- Dynamics RMS – A retail store management package that tracks sales, customers and inventory.
- Dynamics POS – Point of sale solutions dealing with payment processing while offering business intelligence and reporting.
- Dynamics SL – Primarily for organizations that deal with projects rather than providing traditional products and services to their customers.
Probably the best training option for Indian students is Lithan Genovate — the leading education and career services provider of SAP ERP training. Lithan uses an experiential learning model combining practical academic and certification programs that extensively utilizes SAP ERP as the learning tool. They also offer comprehensive and effective placement services for certified individuals.
Lithan trains students in the chosen functional or technical ERP area and include shorter training sessions on several other SAP ERP modules. A regular suite of SAP certifications is delivered via classroom and virtual-classroom over an in-depth five-week period. Additionally, Lithan also offers a 24/7 learning hub, and online content for anytime practice. Individuals who complete the training and clear the certification exam stand an excellent likelihood of finding employment as an ERP professional.
There are of course other organizations offering ERP training and certifications that may better fit your circumstances. For additional information on requirements and objectives, contact official ERP institutes in your area and request details about their offered courses.
We hope that the above information about ERP proves useful to you. If you have any questions or comments, let me know by leaving them in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.