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The IT Workforce

The global IT consulting workforce is a group of professionals with a wide range of skills, backgrounds and expertise, spanning continents and cultures: but while it is varied, it is not large enough yet, and there is not sufficient diversity in representation. This is an ethical issue, but also a question of putting in place the resources needed to meet the future requirements of the industry. 

In terms of skills, the demand for SAP consultants with expertise in emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and cloud awareness has increased quickly. As businesses increasingly adopt new technologies, the need for skilled professionals who can integrate these into SAP systems has grown. This has led to a shift in the skill set required for SAP consultants, with a greater emphasis on emerging technical skills, soft skills, and strong understanding of business processes.

This post from IgniteSAP will explore these changes, and the opportunities and challenges they present for the SAP consulting workforce. We will also discuss the skills gap in the SAP consulting market and strategies and policies that stakeholders in the ecosystem must develop to bridge the gap.

Changes Over the Last Five Years

The last five years have been a period of significant transformation in SAP consulting. This has been driven by several key trends in the technology landscape, and the broader business environment.

As businesses strive to stay competitive in the digital age, there has been a sudden increase in the demand for SAP consultants with expertise in emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and automation.

Another significant trend has been the shift towards cloud-based solutions, which has reshaped the job market for SAP consultants. Those with skills and experience in cloud-based SAP solutions are in high demand, as businesses look to migrate their SAP systems to the cloud.

The IT Consulting Workforce Demographic

While IT skills are the key differentiator in the IT services market, demographic analysis reveals the untapped potential of individuals from different backgrounds to also contribute to the workforce.

The white male IT consultant is still in the majority, but this section of the workforce is not able to fulfill the increasing demand for IT skills, including SAP consulting services, and a skills gap is growing. 

While it is difficult to provide entirely authoritative statistics about the composition of the global workforce for SAP consulting services, we can offer demographic statistics for the IT workforce from various global studies, and this can give some indication of the SAP consulting workforce, due to the extremely widespread use of SAP systems in IT services for businesses and organizations.

Women and non-binary individuals constitute approximately 25-29% of the global IT workforce, and they are underrepresented in senior positions, with only about 21% of senior tech roles held by women.

In the UK, ethnic minorities represent about 25% of the tech workforce according to the Tech Talent Charter Report for 2024, and specific representation of ethnic minorities in senior roles drops to 14%.

Data from the World Economic Forum indicates similar trends globally, with ethnic minorities being significantly underrepresented in leadership roles​.

Limited access to technology for those from socio-economic backgrounds with lower incomes is also holding back the influx of IT professionals. Only 9% of tech workers in the UK come from these socio-economic backgrounds, a significant gap compared to sectors like finance and law, where the figures are higher (at 29% and 23%).

Under-representation of these sections of society is limiting the diversity of the global IT workforce, and diversity and inclusion in the workplace is crucial for enhancing business performance.

A diverse workforce brings together individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints, which encourages innovation and creativity: generating a wider range of ideas and solutions, and enhancing problem-solving capabilities​.

Companies with diverse teams are also better able to understand and meet the needs of a diverse customer base, leading to the development of more inclusive products and services​.

Research by McKinsey & Company has shown that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. For ethnic and cultural diversity, this likelihood increases to 36%​.

The Global SAP Consulting Workforce

According to IDC, the SAP ecosystem is expected to employ approximately 1.6 million people by 2024, up from 1 million in 2020.

According to SAP themselves, this year an additional 600,000 professionals will join the SAP ecosystem. Of these, 280,000 will be new consultant roles.

Initiatives by SAP and their partners, like the SAP Young Professionals Program, are attempting to address the need for an increase in the total number of new SAP consultants, but as we have seen, if SAP services are a large section of the total global IT services sector, then more diversity and inclusion initiatives are also necessary to ensure that the global SAP services workforce reaches the optimal demographic balance. 

This is not only a question of ethical considerations, but an absolute imperative if the SAP services industry as a whole is to meet its own business goals and ambitions, which are only achievable with a sufficient workforce that best represents the demographic balance of the world. 

Predictions for the Next Five Years

The ongoing digital transformation and the increasing adoption of cloud-based solutions are expected to continue driving the demand for skilled SAP consultants.

This will also open up new opportunities for SAP consultants, as businesses look for guidance in migrating their SAP systems to the cloud, and will require consultants with specialisms corresponding to their industries, who are able to help customers implement SAP systems optimized for sectors like manufacturing, online retail, and others.

This trend is accentuated by events like SAP’s deadline for customer support for SAP ECC, scheduled for 2027 (and 2030 for customers with extended support).

The integration of AI and machine learning into SAP systems is set to entirely change traditional business processes. This trend has barely begun, yet already SAP has integrated AI functionality into most SAP modules in some form, in order to derive further benefits for customer efficiency and drive further value. Those SAP consultants who can acquire experience ahead of their peers will be of most value in the coming years.

As the SAP ecosystem continues to evolve, we can expect to see the emergence of new roles and skills. For instance, there will likely be a growing need for SAP consultants who specialize in areas like cybersecurity, data analytics, sustainability, and user experience design, as customers become more aware of the need for, and advantages of this emerging technologies. 

The Skills Gap in the SAP Consulting Market

Despite the high demand for SAP consultants, there is a significant skills gap.

One of the key areas where this skills gap is particularly evident is in the migration to S/4HANA, in light of the SAP ECC deadline. According to a survey from the Americas SAP User Group, a substantial number of SAP consultants are not adequately prepared for the S/4HANA migration.

The skills gap is not limited to S/4HANA migration. It extends to other emerging areas as well, such as cloud computing, AI, and machine learning. However, many SAP consultants lack the necessary skills and experience to meet this demand, due primarily to the rapid pace of technological change.

This skills gap threatens to hinder the digital transformation efforts of businesses, and limit the potential of SAP systems. It poses a challenge for SAP consultants, who must continually update their skills and knowledge to stay relevant in the changing job market.

Meeting the Demand for SAP Consulting Services

All stakeholders, from individual SAP consultants and SAP services consultancies, to SAP themselves, must undertake to increase the total number of SAP consultants, as well as encouraging existing cohorts of consultants to update their skills to be more relevant to the requirements of the changing industry. 

To address this challenge, SAP and its partners are taking proactive steps to attract, train, and certify new SAP consultants. SAP and its partners are also forging partnerships with educational institutions to develop curriculum and programs focused on SAP technologies.

The SAP digital skills initiative aims to provide a head start through opportunities for learning and certification for individuals often underrepresented in the technology sector, particularly within the SAP ecosystem, including; women, single parents, individuals with physical disabilities or neurodivergent conditions, people in remote or underserved areas lacking the economic opportunities of urban regions, and minorities facing unequal opportunities in their geographic locations, among other groups.

In light of the demographic imbalance described earlier in this post, alongside the various excellent initiatives already underway, the industry should be much more focussed on amplifying representation of women in SAP consulting, as this is the quickest and most obvious route to addressing the skills gap. 

Similarly, there should be further initiatives targeting and supporting those of under-represented ethnicities in the SAP workforce. By increasing the number of both women and non-white SAP consultants, with an emphasis on training in emerging SAP technologies, the SAP services sector will be able to bridge the gap in terms of the number of consultants, to fulfill changing requirements of SAP customers.

Another resource we have mentioned is the potential for those from lower-income backgrounds to train and become part of the SAP workforce, as they are currently less able to access these career pathways.

There must also be far greater efforts towards diversity and inclusion in leadership to drive further cultural change in the IT sector and SAP services, if we are to address the problem effectively. This can be achieved with leadership initiatives within SAP consulting companies to encourage professional development of leadership skills across a wider and more representative section of the workforce. 

For SAP consultants, particularly those outside of the predominant demographic category of white male consultants, these changes present both challenges and opportunities. If you are exploring a career in SAP consulting, take some time to research the Diversity and Inclusion policies of the companies you are aspiring to work for, you may find that some are better employers, and some have far better initiatives for supporting the career development of female and non-white employees. 

To navigate these changes and contribute most effectively to the future SAP workforce, SAP consultants as a whole must adopt career strategies that leverage technological change to their own professional benefit. This involves continuous learning, specialization, networking, adaptability, understanding business processes, and staying current on industry trends.

By strategically preparing for these changes, all SAP consultants can enhance their career progression and professional development but also contribute to the growth and innovation of the SAP ecosystem as a whole.

If you are an SAP professional looking for a new role in the SAP ecosystem our team of dedicated recruitment consultants can match you with your ideal employer and negotiate a competitive compensation package for your extremely valuable skills, so join our exclusive community at IgniteSAP.