Our contributor Vivienne Hopkins is an experienced office administrator and project co-coordinator with skills in SAP Purchasing & HR coordination. Here she takes us inside her professional life and explains how SAP has impacted her career in office administration.
History of SAP
The original concept for SAP was to provide customers with the ability to interact with a common corporate database for a comprehensive range of applications. Gradually, the applications have been assembled into modules and today many large corporations, including IBM and Microsoft, are using SAP products to run their own businesses. SAP can be easily integrated with future applications giving users a significant competitive advantage in the market. It not only helps to manage day to day operations efficiently; it also improves business insight by providing real time access to timely information.
SAP is a database / business information system used primarily by banks and financial companies. SAP stands for System Applications and Products in Data Processing.
SAP’s Business Suite is made up of five major entrerprise applications:
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – is a program made by SAP. It is a system that is tailored for any company’s manufacturing/accounting/POS/etc. requirements. In simple terms, it can be compared to how Microsoft makes Windows.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – helps companies acquire and retain customers, gain deep marketing and customer insight, and align organisation on customer-focused strategies
- Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – helps manufacturers with a single source of all product-related information necessary for collaborating with business partners and supporting product lines
- Supply Chain Management (SCM) – helps companies enhance operational flexibility across global enterprises and provide real-time visibility for customers and suppliers
- Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) – customers can collaborate closely with suppliers and integrate sourcing processes with applications throughout the enterprise to enhance transparency and lower costs
I personally have worked on the two SAP modules the Supply Chain Management (SCM) which included, VIA integration (explained below), many parts of the logistics system and the Finance Module. SAP includes components such as Financial Accounting, Controlling, Investment Management, Asset Management and Management including Human Resources. All SAP modules are massive in scope and capabilities and once you start learning SAP you will spend the next five years studying just to become barely or marginally functional.
An integrated supply chain allows manufacturers to look into business processes across multiple suppliers and across disparate platforms to follow materials and components wherever they are — expanding traditional supply chain management beyond tracking materials, information, and finances as they move from supplier to manufacturer.
I have often been asked if SAP is simple to learn. If you are an implementer, user or a consultant, then NO, you will already have SAP experience and knowledge to turn to but if you have no prior experience with SAP it may be tricky to get a feel for it. There are a lot of tricks to SAP, and likely the person that trains you will not know half of them but as you progress along, you will find that the tricks alter especially if you go elsewhere and depending on how the company has rolled it out.
With SAP you do not need to know any programming; however it would be advantageous to have a little bit of basic programming knowledge. In order to be able to utilise the system to your advantage, you would need to gain a firm understanding on the functionality, environment and how it would fit with your best business practices. I consider the SAP system simple to navigate, however, this does depend greatly on your ability to learn, and related experience.
The key to success in SAP is pursuing the area that is most relevant to your current skill set. For example: If you have a deep financial background, move into SAP Financials. However, if you are considering completing a SAP course and are having trouble choosing an appropriate SAP module and if it would be beneficial to your career, you need to consider and understand what your core strengths are, your domain knowledge and you’re programming or technical skills if any. It is my opinion that other people cannot decide this for you. I discovered SAP when I started working at Boeing Training & Flight Services. I was asked to take on the role as Purchasing Officer, had no knowledge or experience using SAP. I was given a couple of days training and from there onwards I worked through each module under my own direction and through logical thinking as I have had experience with many systems throughout my career.
Software performance is only as good as the data that is entered into it (i.e standardized data and formats). Learning SAP is relatively easy but you do need an analytical and systematic way of thinking.
There are lots of career opportunities for SAP trained people and SAP certification is an excellent way to work towards gaining rewarding, interesting and diverse roles within well renowned global companies as SAP consultants, programmers, project managers, logistic & purchasing officers and human resources officers.
Find out about SAP courses and training here