So it is November 2011 now, and I want to try to present my views on what will be the hot areas for SAP consultants for next year. All the usual disclaimers apply - these are just my personal opinions, and not of my employer's. And I did not do any scientific study to arrive at these conclusions. Take it with a grain (or pound or kilo) of salt :)
1. BPC - Planning and Consolidations
By far the most traction I foresee is on BPC, with a lot of customers moving their planning applications to BPC, and some also doing consolidations in BPC. It will be a good idea to learn the 10.0 version, and take advantage of this boom. BPC is also slated to work with HANA in near future, which gets rid of some performance issues that have been seen in past projects.
2. BI 4.0
Right next to BPC is BI 4.0 in terms of market traction. SAP announced it with an overdose of fanfare, and then had to work thru months of stabilization. There are still things to iron out - but it is at a stage where I can see many customers wanting to do big projects.
3. EHS Management
This is not an area I ever had an interest in, but now I see tremendous interest in this. Environment, health and safety management does not sit in isolation, and needs a holistic approach that includes other modules like MM, and of course BI.
4. Reverse logistics
Forward logistics is one of the most commonly implemented solutions in SAP - where a company sells to a customer. Reverse logistics is the opposite where a customer returns something that you sold, and you have to replace it, repair it, service it etc. Apparently this process was not always cared for in a number of implementations and now there seems to be a renewed interest in it. Along with RMA, are areas like Service Parts planning and management.
ABAP, which was commoditized to a great extent, is definitely getting hot again. The difference is in the type of work that is done in ABAP though. The list processing, BAdI type of work is still commodity, and I don't expect that to change. The big driver I think is in the ECC implementation and re-implementation market, where some large customers are choosing to do some fresh implementations .
6. SAP HR - especially Payroll
Many SAP shops had historically chosen PeopleSoft for HR. And now I see many want to check out SAP HR again. Payroll seems to be pretty hot specifically. It is a specialized skill and needs some localization experience since there are variations for most countries, and has a higher threshold for entry for new consultants.
7. BW 7.3
I do expect to see a lot of upgrades in 2012 and it has better functionality now. Plus it is the minimum level you need to be for HANA to work with BW. It is not difficult to learn either.
8. Basis with upgrade skills and landscape design skills
Good basis guys always had a market, and 2012 should see increased demand. I expect to see many upgrade projects, and many other projects including new implementations were customers are looking for solid landscape design skills. Although I personally am not a big fan of solution manager - I should say that I am seeing significant interest in solman these days too - both from blueprinting type functionality, and also the landscape management functionality.
Some Honorable Mentions
Question with HANA is not "if" but "when". I am hesitant to say 2012 is the year where HANA will create huge demand for consulting. SAP is still evolving the product, and it now works with BW. Customers seem to be buying it too - given the statements made by SAP's Co-CEOs. However, we have only seen a handful of customers showcased at SAPPHIRE - and they seem to be running HANA as a parallel system to something else. Hopefully in 2012, HANA will mature to an extent that customers will put significant parts of their business in it. And if SAP manages to do that - 2013 should see significant HANA demand. For sure, there will be some HANA demand in 2012 as well - I just don't see it to be huge to impact a large number of consultants. But irrespective of 2012 demand - if you want to learn HANA, I suggest spending some time learning good solid SQL. Once you master SQL, HANA is not a big challenge at all.
10. SUP and gateway
Definitely an area to keep an eye on and get some good experience soon. SAP is serious about mobility, and announced an App store in Madrid. Yesterday I saw on twitter that the store was down for a day, which makes me wonder about SAP's seriousness about this. SAP's certification for apps is relatively inexpensive, but they all need to be developed in SUP to be put in the store. Since Dennis Howlett, Graham Robinson and Daniel Gravensen all wrote at length about the licensing issues on gateway, SUP etc to make it worthwhile for developers to jump into mobility - i will just let you read their pieces instead of rehashing it here. But then again - this is an area where I am very sure SAP will get it right, and hopefully this will go to top of the list for 2013.
11. ByDesign an LOB OD
There is definitely some opportunity to write add-ons and enhancements for these SaaS offerings from SAP. The question in my mind is whether there is sufficient volume for consultants at this point to jump into this. SAP is aiming to hit 1000 customers for ByD by end of this year, and they will probably do that. But 1000 is a pretty small number in my opinion, if you compare to sales force dot com etc. I also got the impression that the SDK is also going to be available only some time next year. So I will put this in "wait and watch" category for now.
So there we are - I am looking forward to hearing your opinion and analysis.