Do you wonder if a career in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) could suit you?
ERP consultants are in the Top 100 Jobs List of CNN Money.
So if you want to know if a career as an ERP consultant is what you should aim at, then this article is for you.
Let’s dive right in!
Is a Career in ERP Worth It?
When you stop to think about all of the processes that go into keeping business moving, it’s enough to give anybody a headache.
Supply chain management, manufacturing, HR, finance, procurement, marketing, and sales are only the tip of the iceberg.
Each team within the company is working with its own systems, practically blind to what’s going on with other departments.
Thankfully, ERP systems make it much easier for companies to integrate all these different teams and processes under one central system.
While that sounds great on paper, how exactly does ERP integrate all these systems?
Who implements and manages ERP, and why is it one of the fastest-growing career fields within IT, with CNN Money adding it to their Top 100 Jobs List?
Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about a career in ERP in vivid detail.
From explaining the ins and outs of ERP to breaking down the different opportunities in the field, and the skills you’ll need to thrive, we have you covered.
Let’s begin, shall we?
ERP is short for enterprise resource planning.
On a fundamental level, ERP systems integrate all the different functions of a business under one comprehensive system.
ERP systems allow everyone from management to sales and marketing to IT, HR, and anyone in between to streamline their processes and share data across the organizations.
With ERP systems, a shared database supports each department’s functions, so everybody from your accountants to your director of sales can use the same software suite to do their job.
Here are a few of the departments that can benefit from the implementation of an ERP system.
- Human resources
- Inventory management
- Project management
- Risk management
- Supply chain management
Most of these systems also offer robust automation and synchronized reporting capabilities, which can dramatically reduce the time employees spend maintaining databases and spreadsheets to ensure accurate reporting.
Many ERP systems allow staff members to pull the reports they need from one central location.
This kind of automation empowers every department within the company to do their job without having to wait for the go-ahead from other departments.
Let’s say you run an international e-commerce retailer.
An ERP system can allow orders to flow directly from the customer to your fulfillment department without being re-keyed or checked by the order entry department.
Your fulfillment team can process orders faster and more accurately, and AR can close the books more quickly.
The Evolution of ERP
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that businesses truly began to explore the powerful possibilities of ERP.
But, you may be surprised to learn that the history of enterprise resource planning starts in the 1960s.
In those early days, the concept of ERP was limited to the manufacturing sector.
Engineers built software programs to allow businesses to monitor their inventory, reconcile accounts, and offer status reports.
Over the next decade, early ERP systems evolved into Material Requirement Planning systems, allowing businesses to schedule production tasks.
Through the 80s and 90s, ERP systems and their relatives continued to grow and encompass more areas of a business, including accounting, HR, and more.
Until recently, ERP systems were prohibitively expensive, and implementation seemed to drag on forever.
These days, ERP systems can encompass practically every facet of a business.
ERPs help handle business intelligence, sales and marketing automation, e-commerce, and more.
While it was once deployed exclusively by manufacturing companies, today, there is an ERP solution for practically every business in the world.
The Growing Adoption of ERP
Don’t let the fact that enterprise is in the name fool you; today’s ERP systems are being deployed by an increasingly diverse array of businesses, including mid-sized operations and fast-growing startups.
In years past, the cost of implementing an ERP solution was so high that only enterprise-level businesses could justify the expense.
Beyond the enormous expenses, implementing a system was always a battle dragged on well beyond the project timeline.
Thanks to cloud computing and the software-as-a-service industry, the barriers to entry have practically been eliminated, making it much easier for businesses to invest in these services without breaking the bank.
A recent Flexera study revealed that 47% of respondents expect to grow their cloud spending over the next 12 months.
With more businesses adding ERP systems to help maximize their opportunities while cultivating new ones, it stands to reason that jobs managing an ERP solution are only going to become more attractive to IT professionals.
Different ERP Implementations
When it comes to ERP solutions, there are three types of software available.
Depending on the size of a business and how involved their needs are, it’s usually fairly easy for a business to identify which solution is their best bet.
Cloud ERP systems are software platforms where the system itself and all related resources are stored in the cloud.
A cloud system can be either public or private.
Public systems share IT resources across the entire platform, with other businesses that use the software pulling from common resources.
With private systems, the IT resources are exclusive to the business that owns them.
Most cloud-based ERPs allow businesses to lease only the resources that they have a use for.
So, businesses aren’t on the hook for paying for functionality that they don’t need or want.
That said, businesses who rely on a cloud-based ERP pay a licensing fee on a monthly or yearly basis to the provider, which is usually determined by the number of users at the company.
Cloud ERPs are ideal for smaller businesses, startups, and mid-sized operations that don’t have the capital to invest in an in-house ERP system but would still like a system that can quickly scale with the business as it grows.
In-House ERP (On-Premise)
With an in-house system, the business owns and controls every aspect of the software.
The application runs on servers the company owns, and the software itself can either be leased or purchased outright by the company.
These types of systems allow much greater customization than you’ll find with a cloud system.
While the upfront costs of an in-house system are much higher than that of a cloud-based option, they tend to level out over time, since users of cloud-based systems must pay for the service in perpetuity.
In-house systems are ideal for large businesses that already maintain a robust IT team that can handle managing the servers and software necessary to run the ERP system.
As the name entails, hybrid systems combine aspects of both cloud-based and in-house systems.
With a hybrid arrangement, the most critical functions of the ERP are managed in-house on servers the business owns.
But, additional modules and functionality are available in the cloud.
These systems are ideal for businesses that can afford to invest in an ERP system and have the IT staff necessary to manage it without sacrificing agility or implementing new technology.
The Components of an ERP System
Having a hard time wrapping your head around everything that ERP is?
It can sometimes be helpful to think of the business as a kitchen.
Within that kitchen, there are all sorts of tools to help you cook, such as pots, pans, and utensils. You can think of an ERP system as those cooking tools.
Here are some of the different tools that go into a comprehensive ERP system.
This module covers all the basic functions of your business accounting department.
Not sure what this entails?
Think AP (accounts payable), AR (accounts receivable), cash, asset, and bank accounting, and general ledgers.
This module is often referred to as controlling or cost accounting, and it covers functions like cost centers, internal orders, product costing, and profit centers.
Controllers exist to take data from the accounting department and draw meaningful conclusions that help to inform the executive functions of a business.
Material management deals with how a business procures products or raw materials from vendors.
This module encompasses purchasing, inventory management, and more, and it can involve both local and imported parts and products.
An understanding of logistics, procurement, or supply chain management makes it much easier to wrap your head around this module.
Sales and Distribution
This module helps support the sales team by handling functions such as order inquiries, quotes, sales management, credit and debit memos, rebate handling, export sales, and more.
This module typically offers customer relationship management functionality as well to help salespeople manage and grow their relationships with customers.
Production planning covers each aspect of production, including time, labor, production time, product wastage, scrap, and much more.
This module helps to assist operations and production managers in optimizing every aspect of a business’ production capabilities.
A division of the logistics department, quality management deals with the processes relating to product and service quality through each stage of production from inception until a finished product is realized.
This component helps businesses to ensure their facilities are running optimally across each stage of production.
This module encompasses preventative and predictive maintenance, and it’s essential for businesses hoping to reduce downtime due to system malfunctions.
This component of an ERP system encompasses all of the tools that a project management team will need to thrive.
This includes WBS, network, project milestones, and project progress.
Human Capital Management
The HCM component of an ERP system encompasses several different processes and departments within a company.
Functions like time management, human relations, personnel development, payroll, and organizational structure all fall under the umbrella of HCM.
Why a Career in ERP is a Solid Choice
With the growth of cloud technology, it’s easier than ever for businesses to refine their processes and increase profits with the help of an ERP system.
As more businesses continue to adopt ERP solutions, the number of jobs in the industry are sure to grow.
Plus, ERP systems encompass so many different modules that are specialized in different areas of the business that the number of ERP positions within a given company is also increasing along with business spending on ERP solutions.
The ERP industry had revenues of nearly 36 million dollars in 2018, and that figure is projected to more than double by 2026.
As the industry grows, so grows the earning potential.
According to Glassdoor, the average ERP specialist earns a base salary of $77,245.
Depending on your skills and experience, that number can easily surpass $100,000 per year.
Is an ERP Career Path Right For You?
Here’s the thing, a job in ERP, or IT in general, isn’t for everybody.
ERP work is hard work, and some would even argue that it can be quite boring.
But for many of you, a career in ERP can be extremely rewarding, lucrative, and fun.
For people with interest in computers, engineering, or manufacturing, an ERP career is especially attractive.
Depending on the specialization, most ERP professionals get to build systems from the cradle to the grave and watch them come to life.
Sure, working in ERP isn’t without its share of highs and lows.
For those working on implementation, you can expect to put in long hours, some of which is spent traveling.
And was already mentioned how stressful some of those hours can be?
Plus, it’s not like they hand out Grammys to IT workers.
It may not be easy, but few things are as rewarding as seeing all your hard work pay off in the end when the system is up and running.
Preparing for a Career in ERP
As an aspiring ERP professional, the first step to a career in enterprise resource management is a four-year degree.
Most companies hiring for positions related to ERP require an MBA as a prerequisite. Today, many top universities offer a specialization in ERP as a component of their MBA programs.
If you already have an MBA, there are plenty of colleges and universities that offer certificate programs in ERP, which will provide you with the important certification you need to get your foot in the door with a career in ERP.
For current and prospective students, it’s also helpful to enter into a program that will provide training in Oracle, SAP, or both.
These two systems represent the bulk of SAP implementations, especially in the case of SAP.
An astounding 98 of the world’s top 100 most valued brands rely on SAP for their ERP systems, along with 92% of Forbes’ Global 2000 list.
There are hundreds of universities that offer a degree program with an ERP specialization, so it’s important to do your research when selecting a school.
Many schools with well known MBA programs have faculty that have worked on cutting edge of ERP systems, including the Penn State Behrend School and Georgia Southern University Parker College of Business.
Skills Top ERP Professionals Possess
Whether you’re considering an IT career, or you’re a current professional who is looking to pivot to ERP, here are the specialized skills you’ll want to polish to be successful.
While most ERP tools provide similar functionality, their interface, coding language, and overall feel can vary greatly.
SAP is by far the most popular platform in the space, but others such as Oracle, Infor and Sage are also widely used by major companies.
SAP has an enormous market share when it comes to ERP platforms.
SAP’s tools are the most popular, but they also provide many other ERP companies with the infrastructure they run on.
Behind them, Oracle controls a sizable share of the market as well.
In fact, many companies, including many of the world’s biggest rely on solutions from both Oracle and SAP.
Want to know the best strategy for landing a coveted job in ERP?
Learn as much as you can about Oracle and SAP, how businesses use their technology, and what platform-specific skills you’ll need to succeed in the fast-paced world of ERP.
The more you know about SAP and Oracle, the better off you’ll be.
Hiring managers tend to favor candidates who are already familiar with the ERP system their company uses.
Realistically, not even the most seasoned ERP professionals, have detailed knowledge of every system under the sun.
On interviews, you’ll want to stress your experience working with any applicable systems, and also underscore the fact that you’ll be able to quickly pick up any system that you may not already be familiar with.
Certifications from top ERP services providers such as SAP or Oracle can go a long way when you’re looking to secure a new position as an ERP professional.
Any career in IT requires continuous education.
As an IT professional, the industry will quickly pass you by if you don’t stay on the cutting edge of emerging technologies and systems.
Not only does continuing education and certifications ensure that your skills stay sharp, but it also illustrates an ongoing commitment to learning and excellence in your field.
Any hiring manager is sure to appreciate an applicant that shows a commitment to their field, so these certifications can be a great way to differentiate yourself from other applicants.
You’ll want to regularly take a look at your resume to remove any certifications that have aged out of relevance.
At that time, you’ll also want to consider what kind of new certifications you can add. There’s never a bad time to add new feathers to your cap!
Project management skills are usually a green light for hiring managers, signaling that a particular candidate has experience driving the boat.
Project management experience demonstrates that you’ve led a full ERP implementation or other projects which are equally technical and involved.
Candidates with experience working through the full scope of a project from soup to nuts are sure to be among the most attractive applicants for a given ERP position.
Other Skills Hiring Managers are Looking For
Beyond these critically important industry-specific skills that can help you land an ERP job, there are plenty of skills you’ll want to hone.
These skills are less specific to ERP, but they’re important to have, and they’re an easy way for applicants to differentiate themselves from other similarly skilled candidates.
At the root of practically every position in business is the need for strong communication skills.
Without an ability to fully articulate our thoughts, and absorb the information others are communicating to us, there’s bound to be issues arising from this lack of strong communication.
The first step in illustrating strong communication skills is to go over your resume and cover letter with a fine-toothed comb to make sure you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s.
It’s also helpful to rehearse how you’ll handle the interview, so you’re able to confidently articulate yourself when the hiring manager has questions for you.
Strong Problem Solving Abilities
When it comes to ERP implementation or practically any other IT-related position, problem-solving is one of the most critical skills you can possess.
After all, more than half the job comes down to coming up with creative solutions to problems.
As an ERP professional, you’ll need to solve the problems of other teams in your organization, and also deal with solving problems on the back end of your system on a seemingly daily basis.
Problem-solving skills are a bit nebulous in the sense that they can’t really be codified on a resume.
So, be prepared to give examples of times where your skills and know-how have guided you as you solved complex problems
Piggybacking off problem-solving, resourcefulness is another skill that ERP professionals will need to have in their bag of tricks.
You may not want to hear it, but the truth is that ERP projects and implementations are like a Rubix cube. Solve one problem; new problems pop up. Often, there’s no easy way to solve any of them.
That’s where resourcefulness comes in.
Resourceful professionals are able to think on the fly and outside of the box to come up with creative ways to address the issues that are sure to pop up through the lifecycle of your ERP system.
Leadership capability is a prized trait regardless of what kind of career choice you make, and they can be especially helpful if you’re hoping to land a career in ERP.
ERP consultants usually work as part of a larger team, especially within larger organizations.
If you can demonstrate an ability to lead, not only will you be more attractive to potential employers, but you can also open doors that can take your career to new heights.
While ERP consultants are usually working “in the trenches,” there are still plenty of upper-level management opportunities for seasoned ERP pros with great leadership qualities.
Top Careers in ERP
ERP isn’t a monolith, and there are tons of different high-earning positions that are all under the ERP umbrella.
While there are many different ERP careers, they tend to fall under one of three broader categories: functional ERP consultants, technical ERP consultants, and techno-functional consultants.
ERP Functional Consultant
Functional consultants are one of the most critical links in the ERP chain. As a functional consultant, you’ll define the business process and configure the ERP platform your company is using.
These consultants usually find themselves working in ERP from other disciplines such as HR, finance and accounting, logistical management, or sales and marketing.
Functional consultants are often employed by a company for a full-time in-house role, but there are also a variety of consulting firms that staff hundreds of functional consultants.
In these roles, you’ll be able to work with a variety of different companies and clients throughout the year as you help them with their ERP needs.
Function Consultant Qualifications
Typically, functional consultants have an MBA that serves as the framework from which they build their ERP knowledge.
Those interested in a career in ERP will typically undergo courses or training in the various modules specified by Oracle or SAP.
Through these certifications, aspiring ERP professionals build the skills necessary to thrive in their positions.
Certifications are available as e-learning modules, on-campus study as part of a degree or certificate program, or with an on-site instructor.
For current students, getting certified while you’re still in school is a wise choice, since it ensures that you’ll be graduating college with the critical certifications the industry demands.
You may have noticed that we keep mentioning SAP and Oracle above all other companies and providers.
SAP maintains about 60% of the market share, with Oracle coming as the runner-up.
These two companies represent the bulk of the ERP market, and they’re generally what companies are looking to hire for.
Training from Oracle, SAP, or both, serves as proof that the consultant is well-versed in the industry-standard programs and language that are necessary to thrive as a functional consultant.
Beyond basic certification, SAP or Oracle offer global certification that requires an average of 200 hours of training to attain.
Depending on the particular module, there may also be a time component.
For example, potential applicants must be able to demonstrate two years or more of experience working within ERP.
As with any IT position, the more well-rounded your training and experience is, the more opportunities you’ll have to advance your career.
Try and expand your knowledge base when possible, and get certified in other modules that aren’t necessarily your bread and butter.
If you come from a finance background, you may want to consider other modules such as SD, QM, PDM, and others once you receive your certification for the financial accounting module.
To achieve success as a functional consultant, diversifying your knowledge base is of the utmost importance.
Domain knowledge and a well-developed understanding of an organization’s business processes are clear ways to rise to the top of your field as a functional consultant.
ERP Technical Consultant
For the coding wizards among us, a position as a technical consultant may be the best ERP consulting career.
As a technical consultant, you’ll handle the programming portion of ERP, building out the layers of an ERP system.
Any ERP system, whether it’s SAP, Oracle, Baan, or anything else for that matter, has three layers in total: the application layer, presentation layer, and database layer.
The presentation level, also known as the Graphical User Interface (GUI), is what the end-user uses to input data and run and customize reports.
Below that, all of the programming is done in the application layer, and then the database layer is where all of the company’s data is stored to be accessed on-demand.
ERP Techno Functional Consultant
Those of you who are torn between these two paths, or have the skills necessary to thrive in either role may find the position of techno-functional consultant to be best for them.
As the name entails, techno-functional consultants bridge the gap between functional and technical consulting, handling both roles at once.
These consultants tend to have skills concentrated in a particular module, and then they learn the business processes involved with the company as a whole, which helps them to master other modules over time.
As the ERP landscape continues to evolve, thanks to innovations like cloud computing and in-memory processing, techno-functional consultants find themselves in exceptionally high demand.
Functional skills such as Basis, ABAP, business processes, and Java are all required to thrive in this role.
Other ERP Careers
While these three career paths are most common for ERP professionals, there are plenty more careers that leverage ERP skills.
As an aspiring professional, you’ll likely work for several years as a junior consultant.
Junior consultants may specialize in any of the consulting roles we described above.
These ERP rookies will have the opportunity to build upon the foundational skills they already possess while getting the experience they need to reach the next level in their ERP consultant career.
After years of working in the trenches in a consulting role, many ERP veterans transition into a teaching career, instructing ERP professionals of the future on the systems that they’ll one day control.
ERP instructors can find positions within higher learning institutions and also with companies like SAP and Oracle.
Beyond teaching roles, there are plenty of positions within companies like SAP or Oracle that provide support and service for different ERP systems.
Director of ERP
Some larger organizations have dedicated ERP teams that often feature a dozen or more consultants working to maintain and update their company’s ERP platform.
Within these companies, ERP pros will also find a variety of different management opportunities, in roles such as Director of ERP development or Director of ERP operations.
ERP analysts are great problem solvers who work tirelessly to solving the IT-focused issues of an organization.
An analyst is usually tasked with generating company reports, troubleshooting systems, and performing daily maintenance, such as maintaining EDI processes.
ERP Implementation Specialists
If you’re the type of person who loves to build things, you’ll thrive in a career as an ERP implementation specialist.
These professionals are in charge of installing ERP systems for businesses and getting them up and running.
In most cases, they are employed by the company that designed the ERP software, and the position involves tons of traveling to different businesses throughout the world.
ERP Software Development
Finally, development wunderkind may find that a position as an ERP software developer is the best fit for them.
Software developers are employed by companies like SAP or Oracle, and their job is to improve existing products while developing new modules for different departments within a company.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably realized that there’s a near-endless amount of information to absorb when it comes to a career in ERP.
Read on for some answers.
What is the Best ERP Career?
It’s tough to definitively say that any ERP career is better than any other.
The best ERP career for you will depend on your skills, experience, and what you’re interested in.
Besides, most ERP careers offer fairly similar earning potential.
Since money doesn’t really come into this equation, the best ERP career for you is any position you have the skills to thrive in that you also enjoy doing.
What is an ERP Consulting Career?
ERP consulting encompasses so much of the ERP landscape that it’s difficult to pin down what a career as an ERP consultant is.
There are three types of ERP consultants, and most ERP professionals work in one of those three roles.
Depending on the role, an ERP consultant may handle the development, customization, implementation, or coding of an ERP platform.
For techno functional ERP consultants, they may have their hands in virtually every process the company’s ERP is responsible for.
Is ERP Consulting a Good Career?
How much you’ll enjoy a career in ERP depends largely on your skills and interests, but objectively speaking, ERP consulting is a great career.
ERP consultants have great earning potential, with senior consultants regularly earning $120,000 or more per year.
The field is also growing, and more businesses are expected to expand their ERP spending in the coming years.
If you’re excited by the idea of a career with great earning potential in a growing field, ERP consulting could be perfect for you.
How to Start a Career in ERP?
If you’re thinking about ERP as a career, there are quite a few things you can do to put yourself in a prime position.
A bachelor’s degree is required, and an MBA is preferred.
You’ll also want to attain as many of the certifications offered by SAP or Oracle as possible to demonstrate your ability as an ERP consultant.
As ERP adoption grows, so does hiring, so you should have no trouble getting your foot in the door as a junior ERP, even if you don’t have a wealth of experience to pull from at first.