For SAP Consultant, Technology Isn’t Everything

Jan-Henning Krumme, head of SAP business in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland at Accenture (image: Accenture)
Jan-Henning Krumme head of SAP business at Accenture (image: Accenture)

Mr. Krumme, have you ever worked directly with code while assisting a customer?

Krumme: I have indeed; I’ve written code and built interfaces myself. I’m a practically oriented person and know what it’s like out there. I’ve been involved in a great many SAP implementations – some of them real challenges – but all in all, I’ve had more than my fair share of positive experiences.

What led you to your new position as head of Accenture’s SAP business in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (the DACH region)?

Krumme: I started working at Accenture 18 years ago and supported SAP projects from day one. I focused mainly on major companies in the automotive and mechanical engineering industries. I’ve been a senior executive at Accenture for six years now, a position in which I’ve managed SAP-related supply chain and logistics processes. I took over responsibility for all of our SAP business in the DACH region this past June. Over the years, I’ve always been on the move and to this day continue to advise a number of customers myself.

Your current position requires not only hands-on technical experience, but a solid knowledge of business, as well. How did you come by both?

Krumme: I’m a mechanical engineer by trade, which is why I’ve worked closely with related industries. I supplemented my studies with a degree in computer science, and eventually completed an executive MBA program at Accenture in parallel to my work there. This type of career path is nothing out of the ordinary at Accenture; the people who work there are generally very diverse, which keeps things exciting. We all need to have a sufficient understanding of processes, industries, and business in general. Software expertise is actually fading more and more into the background, in my opinion; for the SAP consultants at Accenture, the times when it was a purely technical subject are long gone.

So SAP implementations are no longer a technical challenge?

Krumme: Put it this way: These days, a conventional SAP implementation would no longer fail due to technology as it might have 15 years ago. Today, it’s mainly about restructuring organizations and preparing them for the changes the implementation will bring.

What technology trends are you observing in the industry? What’s moving your customers at the moment?

Krumme: SAP Business ByDesign is a big topic for us right now, as is in-memory technology. We’re already working closely with SAP in these areas, and we’re having plenty of discussions with customers about analytics and mobile computing; I might add that we were partners with Sybase long before it was acquired by SAP. Generally speaking, we’re very intent on maintaining our close cooperation with SAP on these trends. I think it’s in the interests of everyone involved – particularly our customers.

Next page: A suggestion for SAP

How is your company’s cooperation with SAP at the moment? The DACH region in particular has seen a number of organizational changes at SAP in recent months.

Krumme: We think the recent changes SAP has made in the DACH region have been highly positive. Michael Kleinemeier was just at one of our leadership meetings with Stephan Sieber, where he gave us a detailed presentation on SAP’s strategy. This kind of thing is a tremendous help in our work, of course, as well as a statement of trust. Our two companies hold regular top-level meetings to discuss specific customers and opportunities we can leverage together. As you can see, our cooperation is going very well, and we want to improve it even more in the German-speaking countries. Many more joint projects are underway in other regions; our companies can supplement one another by incorporating our particular strengths to the benefit of the customer.

How has the global economic crisis affected your company?

Krumme: The recession has also hit home at Accenture, of course, but we’ve done quite well in comparison to the rest of the industry. After two or three quarters, things began to look up again; the market has now been heating up at an incredible rate since early 2010. Just look at our employee figures: In the past few months, Accenture has added around 5,000 new positions for SAP consultants, giving us a total of 31,000 specialists. This is a clear sign that we’ve grown our SAP business and gained market share.

Investment fears have faded and customers have once again begun spending money on IT. Are they focusing these efforts mainly on new technology?

Krumme: Not necessarily. We’ve witnessed many mergers and acquisitions in recent years, and now it’s time for the resulting companies to consolidate their IT landscapes. Some of our customers use up to 20 different SAP systems, which is obviously not a long-term solution. Such companies are too inflexible and invest far too much effort in keeping these systems up-to-date and running as intended. The ability to harmonize processes is the greatest advantage of system landscape consolidation, which makes it a major target of investment. Many people say that the SAP market will eventually be saturated – that every company will be using SAP software – but saturation isn’t even an issue when you’re talking about making the SAP landscapes of our customers more agile to support their expansion into new markets and fields of business. There’s plenty of potential and work yet to be done, and not only with new technology.

Do you get the feeling that customers sometimes shy away from investing because they’re also overwhelmed by new technology?

Krumme: Right now, many companies have bigger problems than worrying about new technology, but every CIO still has to plan for the next three to five years. This, of course, means knowing which new technologies and products SAP has in the pipeline. In our role as intermediaries, we come right out and tell our customers that they have to think ahead.

Strategic discussions are surely just one of your tasks as a head of SAP business. Where do your other challenges lie, and what are your goals?

Krumme: My most important job is maintaining and increasing our current growth. There’s room for us to improve in a number of regions, and we want to leverage the potential of further industries – retail, telecommunications, energy, steel, and other metals, for example – where our presence is not yet that strong with respect to SAP. We’re also looking to advance in terms of personnel, such as in analytics. Meanwhile, another of my highest priorities is to keep expanding our partnership with SAP so that we can overcome all of our other challenges down the road.

If you could ask SAP for one thing in this regard, what would it be?

Krumme: I’d suggest that we discuss market opportunities at an early stage. When we sit down and make plans together in a timely fashion, we’re able to split up project responsibilities in a sensible way. Again, this benefits everyone – and the customer most of all. On the product side, however, I don’t think our partnership with SAP could be much better.