Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant

The article was called 3 Ways to Sabotage Your Next SAP Consultant Hire and it was based on a trimmed down version of a “Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant” article that I created for ASUG. Since this is such an important topic, and one that I am very passionate about, I thought there would be interest in the SAP Community in seeing all seven of the tips.

A successful SAP implementation is determined by a number of factors, and these days it often requires bringing in an outside expert to help achieve your goals. Selecting the right consultant is critical: It can mean the difference between success and failure, and those projects that realize business benefits and ROI – and those that fail miserably. The following seven tips will help ensure you hire the right consultant for your SAP project.

1. Seek the Right Skillsets – The first step in finding a consultant is to understand the specific skill set you are looking for. The SAP product suite is broad, and consultants tend to have very narrow areas of expertise. One of the common traps I see SAP customers fall into is that they always assume that large software integrators or their preferred vendors will have the SAP expertise that they need. While this is typically true in the core areas of SAP, it is not always true when it comes to the newer SAP modules, the latest product releases or for industry-specific modules, when you are typically better off to work with a niche consulting company, independent consultant or SAP directly.
Bottom Line: Ensure you know what you are looking for and don’t always assume that your existing vendor has consultants with that skill set.

2. Where to Search – There are many successful, albeit unconventional, methods that I would recommend to help find the right consultant. One example includes tapping your personal network, your company’s network, existing consultants that you trust, ASUG, SAP Community Network, Linkedin, SAP Expert publications authors, industry experts, industry analysts and SAP Mentors. The SAP industry can be small when you are looking for consulting resources, and most of the true industry experts will be very happy to help you find the right consultant if you reach out to them.
Bottom Line: There are a lot of different ways you can find the right consultant, and you should use several of them to ensure a good candidate pool.

3. Review the Resume – An SAP resume should be used only to determine whether an individual is interview worthy. Although it is easy to fall into the trap of finding the perfect candidate “on paper,” you should never base a hiring decision on a resume alone. There are a few basic steps you should follow when reviewing the resume:

a. Does the individual have the skill set and experience you are looking for?
b. Is there any inaccuracy or inconsistencies within the resume?
c. Does the resume match the individual’s LinkedIn or other online profiles?
d. What information does searching on individual’s name turn up via search engines?
e. Is the individual asking questions on SAP’s Community Network or answering questions and contributing?
f. Do you know anyone who has worked with individual in the past and can provide some feedback?

Bottom Line: A basic review of the resume will help ensure that you are only interviewing candidates that are well qualified.

4. Check on the Consulting Experience – Consultants working on your SAP project must have previous implementation experience and the proper skill set you are looking for. Experienced SAP consultants should be able to translate between business language and “SAP speak” in such a way that everyone can easily understand. If they have difficultly doing this, you should be concerned and question their experience.
Bottom Line: It is important that consultants have the experience you are looking for, since the last thing you want is to pay for someone to learn on the job.

5. Set Up a Technical Interview – Doing a technical interview can often be a daunting task, since the reason you are hiring a consultant is because you don’t have internal SAP expertise in the specific area. Here are a few basic steps you should follow:
a. Involve business and IT members on your interview team.
b. Set up an internal pre-interview meeting, lay out the specifics of the engagement and offer a script for everyone to follow.
c. Involve a technical IT resource or consultant that you trust to ask some specific SAP technical/functional questions.
d. Only ask questions that you have an understanding of the right answer.
e. Ask how they would solve an actual issue that will be part of the scope of work.
f. Never use any of the SAP interview questions that are easily found on the internet.
Bottom Line: The goal of the technical interview is to get a comfort level that the consultant has the necessary SAP technical skills and business understanding to be a valuable team member.

6. Look for Good Communication Skills – Communication skills are a critical aspect of any engagement, though they are often overlooked. The consultant should be able to express himself clearly as well as understand what both the business and IT team are saying. You will want to find a consultant who avoids technical jargon, is easy to understand and has good listening skills.
Bottom Line: Good communication skills will be needed during requirement gathering, the implementation, in meetings, presentations, training, knowledge transfer and several other important tasks.

7. Always Check References – It is surprising to me how many consultants get hired without any reference checks. You should always check the references for any new consultant, even from a preferred vendor, as there are too many consultants in the industry who don’t have the necessarily skills to be successful.
If you don’t hear back from the references, then that should be a red flag: In my experience, customers are happy to give references for good consultants.
Bottom Line: Reference checks should always be done to verify the consultant and there’s an added benefit: They can be a great way for you to network with new companies using SAP.