Eursap’s Ask-the-SAP-Expert article is a feature designed to give you up-to-date information on the latest SAP news, featuring key thought leaders in the SAP space, as well as regular interviews with the best SAP consultants in the business.
This month, we feature Daniel Mateo, a highly experienced and well-respected SAP S/4HANA consultant. Daniel has gained his reputation through first class delivery of cutting-edge SAP systems across the globe and has built up an online following of over 40,000 people on LinkedIn.
Hi Daniel, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. To start with can you give us a short background about yourself and your SAP experience?
Hello Jon, thanks so much for your availability. It is my pleasure to chat with you.
I am a Project Manager with 14 years of experience in SAP, mainly in financial accounting and controlling modules (FICO), but also in logistics (MM and SD). I have participated in multiple international implementations in Europe and America, for both SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANA.
My main goal is to improve business processes for customers by using the most suitable functionalities delivered within the standard solution. Since I am willing to learn new areas in the SAP environment, I also have deep knowledge in new modules like Group Reporting, Revenue Accounting and Reporting, and even in the technical field such as SAP Leonardo, SAP UI5, AIF, SAP PO, ABAP, among others. There are always new areas to learn, especially now with the new SAP Cloud solutions.
Think back to your early days in your IT career – can you pinpoint when you first heard the acronym “SAP”?
I started in the SAP industry in February 2008, after finishing my degree in Chemical Engineering at the age of 23 years. Although my background was not related to IT, I was motivated with this area to apply analytical skills to solve complex problems. At that time, I joined an IT Consulting firm in Barcelona that looked for freshers to be trained in SAP software. For me the SAP acronym was new, and that initial training was the first time I heard about SAP. I thought it was a simple software to manage the stocks and the accounting for midsize companies. But, as I became more deeply involved, I realized the complexity of processes that can be automated and the variety of sectors this solution may cover.
After that initial training, I was assigned to a project within the public sector for hyper care support after Go-Live. I made some effort working several hours of overtime, but it was worth it to improve my knowledge and be focused to grow as a functional consultant. I have many good memories, and I still have some friends from that great experience.
You’ve worked in ABAP, FICO, SD, MM and project management over the years of your SAP career. Which area would you say has been most enjoyable and why?
Each area has multiple enjoyable and challenging tasks, and it is not easy to pick one of them. I have great memories of when I was an ABAP developer. The team was amazing, and developing custom programs allowed me to understand the basics of this software. I also fondly remember when I started as a functional consultant participating in requirement analysis meetings with the key-users – that helped me to interpret the business processes for both finance and logistics areas.
But if I need to choose one, I would go for project management tasks. In that role you get a detailed overview of all the phases of the project, identifying the risks that should be mitigated to deliver a successful solution. Sharing knowledge with the team is pretty enjoyable and realising how they are growing up during the stages of the project. In addition to that, you can be assigned to multiple types of projects and locations, always improving personal and technical skills.
Many young IT professionals just starting out in their career often ask which SAP module they should upskill themselves in. How would you answer that question?
I receive multiple messages from IT freshers asking about which is the SAP module with more job opportunities or even the best paid to start with. But I always recommend before choosing any module, to self-analyse what is the real motivation to start in that sector? And to be sure about their personal strengths, the studies done and the previous experiences in the job market.
Starting as a fresher is not easy and you should enjoy what you are doing. I met colleagues that chose SAP for having a booming market, but they quit after a few years realising that they don’t like the module chosen or even the IT sector. For that reason, it is better to start reviewing what are the areas that you can master easily, and you will be more comfortable with in the long term. In these areas, although there may be more consultants or the salary is not as expected, you will stand out easily and grow up faster achieving the planned goals.
You have worked in Spain and Bulgaria as a freelance consultant. How challenging has being a freelance contractor been over the last 18 months?
I started as a freelancer in 2015, participating in SAP international rollouts at a mass-media company. At that time, I was a bit nervous as I thought I should do all the tasks perfectly without any errors, being always focused on all the actions. However, that assignment went smoothly, and I was considered and valued like the permanent employees. After that I realised that being a freelancer allows me to choose the project and the sector that I would like to participate in and to have flexibility to decide the working days and manage the holiday periods on my own.
The last months, due to the pandemic, some projects were on hold and the SAP market, aligned with other sectors, slowed down. But it also opened new opportunities to work in remote projects all around the globe – even in regions that they didn’t used to do it. The most valuable thing is to have resilience to work in changeable environments and to be always willing to learn. In my personal situation, I haven’t stopped working and I even have more options to join some projects based in the US and Chile. That I would not be able to do it in a regular way. So, as long as you have solid experience and good references, sooner or later, you may get a suitable offer aligned with your expectations.
And would you recommend freelancing as an approach to an SAP career these days? How is the SAP contract market looking now?
I recommend freelancing as long as you have the flexibility to change projects and have some specific experience and strengths that highlights your profile. As mentioned, as a freelancer you may decide which projects, assigned days and locations you would like to participate in. Networking with valuable profiles in the sector is essential and to make sure you focus on some knowledge area that you can master and be always willing to learn about the new functionalities released in the latest versions.
Happily, the SAP market is growing quickly in the last quarter of 2021 after some months of calm. And I assume that the situation will be improving in the upcoming years, considering that many companies are still planning to migrate their systems to SAP S/4HANA. So, the next few years will bring great opportunities to encourage the SAP consultants that are up-to-date mainly in the cloud solutions.
For our readers who may be considering contracting, can you recommend some first steps they should take on their journey to being a freelancer?
The first step, before starting as a freelancer, is to analyse deeply the current job vacancies and realise which ones our profile and experience could be a suitable match for. There are many worthy opportunities, but also multiple awesome profiles available in the market.
After doing some interviews and identifying that there are high chances to be hired, I would recommend reviewing with legal and accounting advisory companies to understand the steps to set up as a freelancer. Depending on the country, the process may involve more paperwork and keep more legal obligations than as an employee.
Once those steps are clear, don’t think twice and move forward! You will always have the chance to become an employee. As Marie Curie said “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.’
Your most recent roles have been in SAP project management. Do you think it is important to have a background in SAP before becoming an SAP project manager, or is it possible to do so using only project management skills and experience?
As an SAP Project Manager, it is important to understand the capabilities of the solution, to be able to analyse the alignment of the available standard functionality with the business requirements. However, Project Management involves much more than technical knowledge, and it is not mandatory to have a deep knowledge in the solution, as long as the specific tasks are assigned to valuable consultants.
Some of the key points of a successful implementation are to analyse and identify the risks at earlier stages and maintain clear and straightforward communication with all the participants involved in the project. It is essential to organise workshops periodically with the business stakeholders, to keep them involved and discuss each of the processes using a demo in the new system to be aligned with the requirements.
Let’s move on to SAP S/4HANA. I notice you have done some work recently on group reporting. This area has undergone huge changes in SAP S/4HANA since the ECC6 days. Can you give our readers an overview of the changes you have seen?
Group reporting is the new consolidation solution for SAP on the S/4HANA platform delivered on the 1809 release. It provides functions for group accounting and management reporting by supporting process control, data collection, data quality control, consolidation, and reporting.
SAP positions Group Reporting as their new, strategic solution for all customers who want a future-oriented, complete solution for consolidation. Much is invested in the SAP S/4HANA 2021 release in giving this new solution all the functionality, power, and experience of all other SAP consolidation solutions such as BPC. It is available as a cloud and an on-premise version, and it runs directly on the financial data in the SAP S/4HANA system.
The main features available in that solution compared to SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) are:
● Direct access to legal and management accounting from the universal journal, without needing any ETL or external interface.
● Customers can perform consolidation and planning activities in a single application and in real-time, having a detailed perspective of the business at any point in the period.
● Introduces Financial Statement (FS) Items, replacing the Group Chart of Accounts. The setup and maintenance of FS Items are managed inside Group Reporting, which means the Operating Chart of Accounts is not affected.
● Rule-based eliminations, validations, and reports by desired breakdown items are shared for both local and group closing activities, having a significant granularity of data.
See Eursap’s blog about group reporting here.
How important do you see keeping your SAP certifications up to date, especially now employers are more and more likely to require SAP S/4HANA knowledge and experience?
I consider that it is essential to have certifications to validate that you have knowledge in this area and understand the crucial points of the corresponding processes or methodologies. As each year there are new functionalities available in the SAP solutions, keeping your certifications up to date makes you trustworthy to the companies and it shows that you are willing to learn new areas to improve the relevant business processes.
The knowledge acquired in each of the certifications, together with previous professional experience, allows us to apply the best approach to focus on any process of SAP implementation. I consider that each of the professional certifications available in the market is useful in its area, and to understand when it can be applied to each section of the knowledge in the daily tasks.
We notice that you have recently spoken at the SAP Inside Track events at Barcelona and Fortaleza. Can you give us an overview of the topic of your lecture? Is there a link available for users to catch up?
I participated two years in a row in both SAP Inside Track events. The last one was the SIT Barcelona, just a few days ago on 26th November 2021. I always feel very comfortable in them as the organising team for both locations is very friendly and focused on having successful lectures. In addition to that, I am glad to share valuable knowledge with the great SAP community.
The lectures are mainly related to the new features in SAP S/4HANA solution within FICO modules, showing the process flow in the system. The last lecture that I participated in was related to the Universal Cost Allocation functionality to transfer periodically costs from sender objects to receiver objects in very simple and user-friendly Fiori Apps. The link to download the presentation is available in https://www.sitbarcelona.com/team/daniel-mateo/ and the video in https://youtu.be/AWjgjPvJliI.
Another lecture that I joined weeks ago was about the Revenue Accounting and Reporting module in SAP S/4HANA that makes it easier to comply with the IFRS15 rules about revenue recognition processes in contracts with customers in Fiori Apps. You can find the video lecture in the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P77QkdSuKU
You’ve also published several blogs on various sites – what topics do you cover in your blogs and who is the audience you are aiming at?
I have posted some blogs in Michael Management and SAP Tribe websites related to similar areas of knowledge as the lectures that I participated in for SAP Inside Tracks events. The posts are about the newest functionalities in the FICO areas for SAP S/4HANA within Group Reporting, Universal Cost Allocation and Revenue Accounting and Reporting. I consider that those processes are not yet implemented in the companies and SAP is investing to improve them. I expect that in the near future these processes will be key to the understanding of FICO Consultants. After posting the blogs and sharing the lectures with the community, I got several requests about training consultants in these new areas.
Those posts are mainly focused on FICO consultants that have some previous experience in the standard functionality of the ERP. In my LinkedIn profile I also post daily content generated by other SAP experts from my network that I found interesting to share, to have that knowledge accessible for all, on an ongoing basis.
Finally, one question we always ask our experts: what advice would you have for new SAP consultants just starting out or established SAP consultants facing new challenges?
Based on my experience, I always recommend IT freshers put some effort into learning new skills in order to have further opportunities in the current demanding job market. SAP is continuously releasing new functionalities and improving current transactions and Fiori apps. For that reason, it is essential to keep updated on participating in challenging projects or self-learning with multiple platforms available.
Also, don’t be scared to take risks, since that is the best way to grow in this challenging but rewarding sector. As the proverb says, “rough waters and deep seas make great captains”.