What are the Best ERP Systems to Learn for Career Growth and Opportunities?

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: August 18, 2023

When embarking on a career in digital transformation and ERP consulting, one is presented with a multitude of technologies. A common question that I often encounter is, "Which technology is the best to learn?" This is the topic I wish to address today.

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One frequently posed question from consultants or those considering entering the field is, "Which ERP software is the best to learn?" With a plethora of systems available and various areas of specialization to focus on, determining the optimal choice can be challenging. The primary concern is which software offers the most prospective opportunities for the future. Today, I intend to discuss the top ERP systems that can enhance one's career trajectory as an ERP consultant.

SAP S/4HANA

A primary technology worth considering for specialization is SAP S/4HANA. SAP S/4HANA is not only the most prevalent ERP system in the marketplace but is also expansive, comprehensive, and versatile. Owing to its broad capabilities, many consultants often view S/4HANA as an ideal starting point. It offers a comprehensive environment to understand how ERP systems operate and provides insights into various business processes. For reference, I began my professional journey by obtaining certification in SAP 25 years ago, making it my initial focus.

However, it's worth noting some potential drawbacks. While S/4HANA promises a promising future and many large corporations will be adopting S/4HANA implementations for years, providing ample opportunities, it can also be somewhat restrictive. Due to the vast nature of the system and the magnitude of the organizations deploying it, one might find oneself concentrating on a very niche segment of an organization. This specialization can be limiting for those seeking a broader understanding of ERP systems.

In conclusion, if your goal is a more expansive grasp of ERP systems, there might be other platforms more suited to your aspirations. However, for those just beginning their journey as an ERP consultant, S/4HANA remains a considerable system for specialization.

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Oracle Cloud

Oracle Cloud is a significant ERP system utilized by numerous large organizations. While an in-depth comparison between SAP and Oracle or Oracle and other ERP systems is beyond the scope of this discussion, it is essential to note that Oracle stands out as not only one of the more substantial ERP systems but also as a more technical and flexible platform compared to SAP S/4HANA. Thus, for individuals with a technical inclination who appreciate hands-on components and development within ERP software, Oracle might be a more fitting choice compared to S/4HANA.

Like S/4HANA, Oracle promises a bright future. Many corporations, including large multinational and complex organizations, are implementing Oracle Cloud, indicating expansive growth potential in this domain. Moreover, within the Oracle consulting sector, there is typically less compartmentalization compared to the SAP arena. In the Oracle domain, consultants often gain exposure to a wider range of modules than they might with SAP or other systems on the market.

In conclusion, Oracle Cloud stands as a noteworthy technology to consider for those looking to specialize and commence their career as an ERP consultant.

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Microsoft Dynamics 365

Similar to Oracle, Microsoft D365 is a flexible solution utilized by both large and mid-market organizations. One of the attractions for consultants within the D365 domain is the opportunity to engage with mid-sized entities. This allows for a broader involvement with organizations that, while smaller than massive multinational corporations, still offer comprehensive learning experiences.

Another factor drawing consultants to Microsoft D365 is its origin. As a product developed on the Microsoft stack, many consultants find familiarity and comfort with the suite, given its integration with the broader Microsoft range of products. Furthermore, this suite has demonstrated sustained relevance and is anticipated to remain prominent in the foreseeable future, continuing its trend from the past few decades.

In conclusion, Microsoft D365 stands out as a viable ERP software option for those seeking to determine their area of focus and specialization within ERP consulting.

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Epicor

Another ERP system to consider for specialization as an ERP consultant is Epicor. One of the appealing features of Epicor as a potential career trajectory is its size. Unlike larger ERP systems, which cater primarily to immense multi-billion dollar entities, Epicor is frequently utilized by mid-market to upper mid-market organizations. It is particularly favored by manufacturing, distribution, and retail sectors. Hence, for those interested in these industry verticals, Epicor might present an excellent match.

An additional advantage of Epicor, given its smaller scale compared to giants like SAP or Oracle, is the opportunity it offers for consultants to understand end-to-end processes and workflows within the technology. This comprehensive approach might be more enticing for some, compared to a very specialized focus within larger ERP implementations.

With a promising outlook, Epicor is experiencing significant growth. The company is gaining momentum, bolstered by a new leadership team that appears poised to ensure its future success. Therefore, the realm of Epicor ERP consulting holds great potential for those aspiring to initiate a career in ERP consulting.

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Oracle Netsuite

Oracle NetSuite is a notable solution for those contemplating ERP consulting. It operates as a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solution and has been in existence for approximately 20 to 25 years. Primarily utilized by smaller to mid-market organizations, this widespread use across various industry verticals is often what attracts individuals to NetSuite consulting. Its deployment in diverse types of small and mid-sized companies offers consultants a unique opportunity to understand multiple industries.

Similar to Epicor, NetSuite also provides an opportunity to comprehend end-to-end processes across its entire suite of products. This allows for a more in-depth and comprehensive understanding of how technology can be applied within an organization.

Further boosting its appeal, NetSuite was acquired by Oracle a few years prior, an event that has significantly accelerated its growth and underscored its future potential in the ERP consulting domain.

One distinguishing feature of NetSuite is its lesser reliance on technical capabilities and its emphasis on functional skills. As a SaaS solution, the focus shifts from development and custom creation to configuration, and the establishment of processes and workflows. This leads to a more business-centric approach in a NetSuite deployment compared to the technical facets found in solutions like Oracle or Microsoft D365.

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Other Systems

In this discussion, I have outlined five potential pathways for those seeking to venture into the realm of ERP consulting. However, the landscape of ERP consulting is vast, with multiple avenues that one might explore.

One notable option is the role of a technology-agnostic consultant. Such individuals possess a deep understanding of various systems and are adept at deploying different types of technologies. For instance, if you have a strong background in project management and have experience deploying multiple technologies, you become a highly sought-after asset in the market. At Third Stage, we value consultants familiar with multiple systems. Given our technology-independent stance, we prefer consultants who have experience across various platforms, understanding the nuances and distinctions between different technologies.

Another avenue to explore is industry or functionally-focused solutions. If you have a particular affinity for a specific industry or business function like HR, supply chain, accounting, etc., there are systems tailored specifically for those areas. For instance, those keen on HR might gravitate towards "Success Factors", an HR-specific technology. Similarly, those with a passion for supply chain management might explore systems like Manhattan Associates, JDA, or Blue Yonder. This principle applies across other domains, including business intelligence, accounting, and warehouse management.

In essence, it's crucial to introspect and identify what ignites your passion. The probability is high that there exists a system perfectly aligned with your interests, even if I haven't explicitly mentioned it in this discussion.

In conclusion, whether you're embarking on a new journey in ERP consulting or contemplating a transition from your current role, the aforementioned paths might provide valuable insights into potential directions. I trust that this information serves as a useful guide for your professional endeavors.

I would enjoy brainstorming ideas with you if you are looking to strategize an upcoming transformation or are looking at selecting an ERP system, so please feel free to contact me at eric.kimberling@thirdstage-consulting.com. I am happy to be a sounding board as you continue your digital transformation journey.

Be sure to download the newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional industry insight and project best practices.

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Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Author:
Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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