Eursap’s “Ask the SAP Expert” is 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 Thomas Michael, the brains behind the much-loved SAP training site michaelmanagement.com. As CEO of the Michael Management Corporation, Thomas has endeared himself to SAP consultants all over the world. His website is a goldmine of all things SAP, including online training courses and live SAP access.
Hi Thomas, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. To begin with, would you be able to give our readers some background information on yourself?
I was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany but have been living in the US since the mid nineties. I started my SAP career as a FI consultant and quickly specialized in Asset Accounting (FIAA). I’ve done hands-on SAP consulting for 20+ years all over the world for 100+ clients. I’ve lived in Houston, TX for a while, then moved to San Diego, CA and for the last 12 years I’ve been living in the middle of Manhattan.
Your company is very well known and respected in the SAP industry. How did you come up with the idea?
We started out as a boutique consulting company for SAP’s Asset Accounting component and had tremendous success with it. Around 2007 we started thinking about developing online SAP training courses (which didn’t exist at that time). SAP’s courses were only available for in-person classroom sessions at that time. We started experimenting with a few different course formats and eventually settled on simulation courses (these are hands-on courses, as if you were logged in to a real SAP system). We created one course first and people liked it. Then we created a few more to see if there really was a demand for it. Fast forward to today and now we have over 600 courses and are the 2nd largest SAP training provider after SAP itself.
So, your target customer can be individual consultants or large organisations?
Yes, we have 2 customer segments, if you will. Private individuals that want to learn SAP or improve their current skill set, and corporate customers that subscribe to our training library for their SAP teams.
The michaelmanagement.com website boasts hundreds of SAP online courses, in addition to other popular IT course such as “Complete Excel 2019 for Beginners”. How do you manage to attract so many instructors to work for you?
We started out with just SAP courses but at the beginning of the pandemic we decided to add non-SAP courses to the catalog. Our corporate customers were asking us for courses covering work-from-home topics, managing and leading remote teams, Microsoft, Salesforce, etc. Our Training Manager Claire Albaum is doing a fantastic job finding, recruiting and onboarding new instructors all the time – which is why our catalog keeps growing and growing (fun fact: during 2021 we released a new course every workday!).
You’ve worked in an SAP training capacity with some of the biggest firms in the world – the likes of Johnson & Johnson, BP, 3M and Shell. Was it a slow burn to get your name out there originally?
I was lucky in the beginning, I guess…I specialized in SAP’s Asset Accounting component. It’s a very important part of the FI module and just about every customer has fixed assets on their books. It is also a very complicated and complex component, which might explain why it has been underserved historically. There have not been many true experts in this area in the past, which made it easier for us in the beginning to find customers. On top, I was always a very active participant in SAP conferences and enjoyed sharing my expertise as a speaker. This certainly got my name and skill set out into the market, too. And finally, I was a beta tester for SAP for many years, helping develop new releases and functionality and cementing my status as an expert in all things related to Asset Management.
Are there any new and exciting courses you are currently working on which our readers might be interested in?
Our 150+ instructors have brilliant minds and constantly release new courses on our platform. We continue to drive the development of new S/4HANA courses as well as non-SAP courses. In addition, we started developing the non-English section of our catalog with many courses in Spanish, French and German. I expect this development to continue for the next few years.
Let’s not forget that michaelmanagement.com also has a blog section running articles on anything from business soft skills to hard-core SAP news. Do you have a wide range of writers who contribute?
Yes, we have a good group of blog writers that develop content for our popular blog. In addition, many of our SAP instructors also write blogs for us on very specific SAP topics.
Which topics do you encourage blogs and articles in?
We prefer articles that teach something to the reader…something valuable that the reader can use in his/her role immediately. Our topics range from very specific or technical SAP articles to career advice and personal skills development blogs.
Since the advent of SAP S/4HANA in 2015, there is a real thirst for knowledge amongst SAP consultants. Has this been reflected in the traffic to your website and the uptake of online courses?
Yes, traffic to our site has grown steadily and exploded in the recent two years. We now get 165,000 unique users every month to our site. This is partly due to the pandemic (which drove the explosive growth in the online training industry) and the push towards S/4HANA by SAP.
You are also a member of the executive board for ERP Fixers (erpfixers.com), an on-demand assistance program for pressing SAP issues. Was that a by-product of michaelmanagement.com?
My good friend and SAP expert Paul Ovigele came up with the idea for ERPfixers.com. He noticed a gaping hole in the market for on-demand SAP consulting help. Paul built an impressive platform to facilitate the delivery of SAP expertise, remotely and on-demand, for reasonable prices.
Have you found that a typical day for you has changed drastically since the pandemic? What adjustments have you had to make as a company?
Actually, the pandemic didn’t really impact our business much because we’ve always been a remote company, even before the pandemic. So for us it was just business as usual, and we simply kept going. We did notice a strong increase in demand for our courses though.
You list your hobbies as “Maker of gin” and “drummer”. Tell us a little about that if you can?
I enjoy gin and tequila and have started making my own gin at home…it turned out pretty good and the first two batches went to a lot of my friends for taste testing. I’ve been drumming for 5+ years and play in a 80s/90s cover band called ‘No Refunds’ here in New York. We had a few gigs before the pandemic hit and put an end to it for a while. But we just started rehearsing again and are looking forward to our next gig somewhere in Manhattan soon.
Finally, a question we like to ask our interviewees. You have a unique insight into the SAP market, with a large network of consultants and organisations who use your services. What would you say would be sound advice for any new consultants just starting out in the industry? And the same question for existing SAP ECC6 consultants struggling to come to terms with SAP S/4HANA?
My biggest advice for new SAP consultants (or new SAP users) is to come to terms with the sheer scope of SAP’s functionality. SAP is very vast, very complex and complicated – you will never truly master it all. And there are no shortcuts to learning SAP either – you’ll have to put in your time, just like I did over twenty years ago. The good news is that there are so many more options nowadays for learning SAP, ranging from affordable books to online training courses, and even live access to SAP sandbox systems for practicing.
And if you are an ECC 6 consultant trying to learn new S/4HANA functionality I suggest you sign up for live access to a system and start exploring the differences in functionality. There are thousands of release notes in the system that explain the changes in S/4HANA. Also, spend some time on developing a network of SAP experts that you can rely on when you have questions. I have a group of friends that I can call with questions, especially when I need to know something that falls outside of my core expertise.