The job of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software Consultant is one of the most sought after jobs in the Information Technology Industry. Every year, top ERP Consulting and Product Development companies lookout for MBA prospects in the placement seasons. In this blog we will try to understand why companies lookout for MBA students for the role of ERP consultants.
Companies deploy ERP softwares to manage and integrate the major business functions like manufacturing, purchasing, inventory, sales, customer resource management, human resources etc. Deployment of ERP software requires understanding of the technical requirements (i.e. understanding the current software footprint of the company, custom coding/programming requirements etc.) and the functional requirements (i.e. business requirements from different departments). Accordingly, ERP consultants can be broadly classified as Technical or Functional Consultants. Typically, consulting IT companies lookout for MBA students to play the role of the Functional Consultants. In the below points we will try to see the kind of the work that is expected from the functional consultants and we will try to analyzes to how being a MBA helps in fitting into the job role.
- Understanding of Business:
Any experienced ERP consultant will always maintain that to be a good consultant you need to understand the business first. It enables the consultant to get the complete picture of the how the business runs and how different processes are interlinked. If a new solution has to be provided to the client then the entire business landscape has to be studied properly.
All MBA students have exposure to some kind of industry and business. At the same time specialized knowledge in subjects like Sales, Marketing, Purchasing, Operations, Finance etc. gives these students good insight into the departmental activities of the businesses. Companies expect the students to leverage their subject knowledge and prior work experience (if any) to quickly understand the businesses in which ERP needs to be deployed. Based on the initial study by the functional consultant, the different gaps in the existing system are determined and then the new solution is proposed.
- Understand the Functionalities of the ERP Software:
This is the second most important thing that is expected from the consultants. In order to give an optimal solution to the client, one must know the features and the functionalities of the products. ERP functionalities are not very difficult to understand and learn. As mentioned earlier, if one understands the business processes properly, then understanding of the product is not difficult. This is because ERP softwares are designed to support the business functions. For instance, a MBA Marketing Student is expected to know the normal Sales Order Cycle i.e. from Lead generation till closing the order. If one knows these business cycles then understanding the product becomes very easy.
Here, it is worth mentioning that functional consultants have the option of aligning their expertise in the product along with the subject of their specialization. ERP consultants specialize in specific areas like Distributions, Finance, Operations, Supply Chain and Planning, Human Resources etc. If there is a candidate who has specialized in Supply Chain Management (SCM) or Human Resources (HR), then he has the option of becoming an ERP SCM or HR consultant.
- Expert Communications:
This is one of the most important roles of the consultant. Consultants act as the interface between the technical team and the client. They are expected to clearly understand the requirements from the clients and then communicate the same to the technical team. Any gap in the understanding can be potentially disastrous for the project outcome.So it is very important to be constantly in touch with the clients. Consultants are expected to be assertive in their approach. Catering to all the demands from the client may not be possible at times in order to stick to project timelines. Hence, consultants are often required to withstand the pressure from the client side and ‘push back’ new requirements. Managing the client expectation is not easy and often it takes years to master the art.
Companies leverage the soft skills of the MBA students and put them in roles that require client interfacing. Also the presentation, listening, speaking and writing skills are the most sought after skills in the world of consulting.
- Project Management:
ERP consulting projects by nature are very huge and require continuous project planning and execution. Project timelines, billing hours, resources, milestones etc. needs to be tracked on an ongoing basis. Senior Consultants/Managers normally play the role of ‘Project Managers’ and lead the project execution activities of the team. Knowledge in project management is of great help while playing such roles. Often consultants are required to assist the project manager in the preparation of the plans and timelines. MBA students with expertise in project management can help the managers in design and implementation of such plans.
ERP consultants should possess good networking skills. Networking with colleagues and within and outside the organization can be very helpful tool at times. Some of the benefits of networking for the job as below:
- For ERP consultants it is of utmost important to stay abreast about the latest developments in the industry. Though ones network information is readily available.
- A good network within the organization ensures that you get to work on good projects.
- Networking with clients ensures repeat business and new opportunities.
- Getting feedback from the client helps you to understand the client satisfaction levels.
- Networking with people from the Business or the Industry helps you understand the processes better than your peers.
- It helps you reach out to people when you are stuck with a problem or need expert advice on a solution.
Consulting is a relationship-based business with the clients. Hence, maintaining the proper network ensures more business. Management schools provide a wonderful ground for students to learn the networking skills. Alumni cells, student-corporate engagements, cultural affairs, inter-college events etc. provide networking opportunities for students. Corporates expect MBA students to be good at this skill so that they can leverage it in their corporate lives after school.
Contributed by Sanjit Das ( Class of 2005, IBS HYDERABAD )