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How much travel is expected of an SAP consultant?

Most SAP consultants were expected to travel often to customer locations in the past as the majority of customers had on premise SAP systems but that situation is changing. However travel is still a significant factor in the life of an SAP consultant.

Many considering a career in SAP consulting services rule it out due to the perception of a requirement to travel for many months to locations all over the world, and to places that they would not choose to go otherwise: putting a strain on their home life.

The belief that the lifestyle of an SAP consultant requires travel for months at a time is not necessarily true. It is possible to minimize the amount of travel for business, but not rule it out completely.

The amount of travel will depend on what type of SAP consulting services you specialize in, what type of company you work for, your level of seniority in that organization and the type and size of the projects you are working on.

This week IgniteSAP will discuss SAP consulting and travel (excluding the daily commute), and how the reality is different in each case.

We will also take a look at how travel requirements for SAP projects are changing with the widespread adoption of cloud technology and hybrid working. As working practices and technology change, the requirements for travel will be reduced, but the benefits of face to face meetings can mean that some travel is preferred by some employers.

What type of SAP Consultant Are You?

SAP roles which may require travel are: SAP implementation consultants, support consultants, and training consultants. Let’s take a look at each of these SAP consulting career paths.

Currently, SAP implementation consultants will be expected to spend a significant portion of their working life traveling: perhaps 25-50% of their time, depending on the size and type of consultancy, and the size and type of project that is carried out.

Generally speaking, implementations will require a consultant to be present at the customer’s location for at least some of the project, usually at the beginning of a project when your employer needs a senior team member to meet with the client in person, develop a clear understanding of the company’s business requirements, and scope and develop an implementation project plan.

SAP training consultants are needed on implementation projects to deliver training at client locations. The duration of this work is usually less than those managing the implementation: making up perhaps 20-30% of the their working days, depending on the size of the project and the volume of training and staff to be trained. Because of the amount of SAP training resources and remote learning provided by SAP for their clients it is possible for client team members to train and be certified in solutions at a distance, but some clients prefer a certain amount of face to face training in the context of their specific system and business context.

SAP technical consultants and support consultants may be needed to travel to the customer’s location for troubleshooting implementations, for investigating problems arising from the customer’s system, or their particular line of business, or to help install new patches, extensions, or upgrades. This is usually for a shorter period depending on the nature of the technical or support issue.

SAP developer roles are also less likely to require travel but are certainly not completely remote working positions. Another option is to work as an in-house SAP consultant which requires substantially less travel other than commuting to the same office each day.

Your Level Of Experience

Newer consultants are less likely to be tasked with travel obligations than more experienced consultants for several reasons.

Experienced SAP consultants are in shorter supply and so there is greater demand for their services.

They may be called upon to oversee an entire project from the start, or make a series of scheduled visits to the client location as the project progresses. Depending on the size of the client, they may need the SAP project manager to visit multiple locations consisting of production sites, departments, and branch offices.

The presence of a senior manager from the consultancy is important for establishing and maintaining good client relations, and it is important for someone with the requisite authority to intervene when a project is running over budget or behind schedule.

Less senior consultants may also be required to be on site for much of a project if they are being considered as potential future senior managers. Their employer may want them to shadow and support a senior consultant in order to gain experience of the whole process.

The Type Of Industry

The type of implementation project varies according to the line of business, so the amount of time spent on location will vary according to the SAP services needs of that industry.

Consultants providing SAP services for clients in manufacturing will be required to travel more often than some others because of the work involved with the combination of production planning, digital manufacturing software monitoring, the site’s production lines, supply chains, and carrying out duties like implementing extensions specific to the factory equipment.

SAP financial consultants will need to travel for a significant portion of their time to meet with project stakeholders and managers, to understand the business and its operations profoundly, and to discuss the best way to carry out SAP financial implementations according to best practice. They will also be called upon sometimes to train in-house financial teams so the client gets the most value from their investment.

All SAP consultants will also need to travel occasionally in order to attend industry conferences, to continue to train, and upgrade their own SAP knowledge, and for networking events.

Cloud Specialists

On the whole SAP S/4HANA Cloud consultants (and other cloud-based SAP solutions specialists) do not need to travel as much as on-premise consultants because cloud-based systems can be accessed from anywhere in the world, when given the authority and permissions to access the SAP system.

This means specializing in S/4HANA Cloud is and other SAP cloud services is an excellent career choice for those SAP consultants looking to work from home or in the same office each day.

But there are still plenty of occasions when an S/4HANA Cloud consultant may be required to travel.

The SAP cloud consultants may still need to meet in person with client managers and other stakeholders to discuss the project and begin the planning process by learning about the nuances of the business, and they may also need to visit multiple client locations as part of the project implementation.

The Importance of In-Person Meetings

A large part of working as an SAP consultant requires meeting face to face even though with time the technology will develop to the stage where all stages of a project, and support, can be carried out remotely.

A primary reason is trust. SAP projects can be expensive investments and clients need to be confident that they are making the right choice.

SAP consultants need to build relationships with their clients in order to be successful. This can be difficult via the phone or through video meetings. In-person meetings help SAP consultants to build rapport with their clients, understand them and their business needs, and build trust.

Attending a client’s location is also an important part of the change management process, which is a crucial part of ensuring clients get the most out of their SAP technology. Members of the team carrying out the implementation should be allocated to meet with the client’s team of SAP users: in order to train them in the new solution or upgrade. All stakeholders need to be onboard with the changes that are going to take place in the client’s IT landscape so that they accept and take advantage of all of the benefits to the business of the new system.

SAP systems are extremely complex and sometimes visual aids and demonstrations are required to make clear certain concepts and ideas. Also face to face meetings lead to easier communication because those explaining can pick up on visual cues from their listeners and know when particular aspects need further clarification.

When solving technical problems it is often easier to look at the same screen as those who use the system on a daily basis as some things will become apparent on visual inspection that the client was unaware of. Also, taking clients through the solution and its processes step by step, and in their own workplace and system, will be more useful for those with visual learning styles.

Predicting Travel Requirements

While we have established some basic ideas about how much travel to expect as an SAP consultant, the exact amount of travel required depends on the type of SAP system, SAP consultancy you work for, and your SAP specialism, among many other variables.

While the cloud revolution is developing at pace, and it is clear that many types of SAP consultant have no need to travel at all if they prefer, it is safe to assume that as with many other professions, business travel will be here to stay for some time because of the importance of face to face meetings.

There are plenty of reasons why an SAP consultant would choose to work in a way that reduces travel, including maximizing family time, and for health reasons, and it is perfectly possible to find a role working as a remote SAP consultant.

Begin by choosing an SAP specialism that tends to be more inclined towards remote working (like Cloud-based SAP solutions or developer roles) and look carefully at job descriptions and ask questions about expected travel requirements at interview when applying for your next SAP consulting position.

Though it is possible to minimize travel for work as an SAP consultant, you need to plan this carefully if that is your preference, because it is still necessary (though less with each year), and will be for some time.

If you are reconsidering your current position in the SAP ecosystem because you would like to spend less time traveling, or for any other reason, then our team of dedicated recruitment consultants can advise you on the best employers to meet your work-life balance so join us at IgniteSAP.