When I graduated from college, I started my consulting career. To be specific, my technology consulting career. I stumbled upon this job without knowing any details of it and somehow I was given an offer. I promise I read the job description when I applied but none of it made sense. That’s when I started to question if my college education actually taught me anything. Now I’ve been in the consulting field for more than 6 years, looking back at the situation, I definitely wouldn’t expect the professors in school to have taught me anything I needed to know about technology consulting despite I had a minor in Management Information Systems. Ironically, a bachelor’s degree is a requirement to get a decent job, but college education does not give you a head start to succeed in your career. So what does technology consulting entail, and do you need to know how to code?
The short answer is “No”. And I’ll explain.
Technology consulting is very broad, you could be working in cyber security, data analytics, enterprise structure design, ERP implementations and so on. In this blog, I will talk about ERP implementation, which is what I do as a technology consultant.
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. For those of you who are already familiar with the concept, you can skip to the next section. But if you are scratching your head right now, hear me out. ERP is a system used by corporations to help keep track of their revenue, expenses, and report out to the public through financial reports. (ERP does a lot more than these but for simplicity, we will stick with these).
Now, let’s use ourselves as an example to understand the concept. It’s late at night and you haven’t cooked dinner yet, you just finished a long day of work. So you decide to order some curry and iced tea from your favorite Thai restaurant. A couple of seconds later, the Thai restaurant receives your order and starts to prepare your meal. Eventually, the money goes out of your pocket to the restaurant’s pocket. The actions you’ve done in this scenario represents the Procure to Pay cycle in the corporate world where you placed a purchase order (your dinner order) with a supplier (Thai restaurant) and was billed by the supplier (Thai restaurant). On the other hand, the actions the restaurant completed represents the Order to Cash process where the restaurant received a sales order (your dinner order), billed you and collected the money. At the end of the day, if you or the restaurant want to know your net income for the year, you need to keep track of all the money you spend vs. made throughout the year to report on your net income.
Now think of this on a larger scale. For a corporation, they are selling and buying on a daily basis, in turn, they would need to collect and pay their suppliers. For amazon, their daily sales order count could be in the millions and that’s when ERP comes into the play. All the transactions, whether it’s sales order, purchase order, accounts payables invoice, or accounts receivables invoice, they all get recorded in ERP. All the accounting impact that happens along with the transactions will be recorded in the general ledger. If a customer paid you $1,000, the account that represents your revenue will increase by $1,000 in general ledger. Same logic with the supplier, if you paid your supplier $500, the account that represents your expense will increase by $500 in general ledger. Eventually, the corporation can run financial reports from ERP and generate reports such as income statements, balance sheets and so on to report to the public. This process is called record to report.
I hope by now, you have a basic understanding on what ERP is. As a technology consultant who specialises in ERP implementation, I go on to projects to help the corporation transform their processes and enable the functions they would need so the clients can perform their day to day job. SAP, Oracle, Workday, Microsoft Dynamics are some of the big names in the ERP industry. These ERP have a variety of prebuilt functionalities which can be enabled by the technology consultant (me) to achieve different results. Think of an iPhone, your phone comes with standard functionalities such as the camera app, the calculator app, but you also have the ability to download additional apps to support your other needs. Similarly, you could enable parental control under settings so that everything your children do will have to be “approved” by you. Well, for people who don’t have kids, this feature is of no use. Same with ERP, the system comes with standard functionalities, but you can also configure/enable different functions to meet the clients’ requirements. Clients in the services industry will not need warehouses defined in ERP because they don’t sell physical products, but clients in the manufacturing industry definitely require warehouses defined in ERP so they can track their onhand quantity for specific products. Setting up the warehouse is just like setting up parental control on your phone, you don’t have to know how to code but you will need to know which setup screen to go to in the ERP system. You, in this case, are a ERP functional consultant.
There may be some functionalities that the clients require due to their special business operating models that the ERP system does not have prebuilt, and in those situations, you will have a team of ERP technical consultant (who also fall under technology consulting bucket) to help you code a customization to meet the clients requirements. Obviously, ERP technical consultants need to know how to code.
With that being said, you do have to learn about the ERP applications so that you know what functionalities they provide, what it can or cannot do, where to configure and what impact a configuration/setup has on the overall process. Every ERP (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Workday) is slightly different. However, when you start your career as an implementation consultant, the consulting company you work for usually will provide training to train you up.
In summary, there are options within technology consulting that don’t require you to know how to code but do give you exposure to AI, technology, and to learn about different business process areas.