Eursap’s Ask-the-SAP-Expert: Natalia Singer

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 Natalia Singer, a solution advisor working for SAP in the RISE with SAP program. Natalia has almost 15 years of experience in the SAP industry, in consulting roles across Germany and Switzerland.

Hi Natalia, good to talk to you and thanks for taking the time out to chat.

Hoi, Jon! “Hoi” is a typical greeting in the Zurich region in Switzerland where I live and work. Thank you for inviting me to this interview!

To begin with, would you be able to give our readers some background information on yourself?

Well, I am an emigrant who left the home country in early 2000 and has a typical emigrant life: constantly adapting to new circumstances, different mentalities, learning foreign languages. When I moved to Germany at the age of 27, I had to re-orientate myself professionally, starting from scratch. After changing countries twice, I feel finally at home in beautiful Switzerland, and happy with what I have achieved so far.

You started out your working life in finance and accounting. How did you make the leap into IT, and specifically SAP, as a career?

IT was my passion since school days, but my understanding of IT at that time was limited to the profession of system administrator or programmer. It took a lot of time for me to understand that IT can be so much more. After finishing the studies of economics in Hamburg, Germany, I began to search for a job. I would have probably landed in accounting and finance, if it weren’t for a twist of fate which led me to an SAP consulting company where I started as a trainee.

You seem to have an unusual breadth of experience in SAP –  from finance, to security, to project management. What would you say is your strongest area and which area do you like the best?

I see myself as an SAP generalist. SAP Operations and Project Management is clearly my strongest area. I love to organise teams, define tasks within a project and set up processes. On the other side, SAP security and data protection is the topic which fascinates me a lot. The next training I am planning to take will be from this area.

You have landed what is, to many of our readers, possibly the dream role: working for SAP on one of their flagship cutting-edge programs: RISE with SAP. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be in the role?

In my previous job I had the luck to be involved in one of the first public cloud implementations in Switzerland. Me and my team found ourselves in a situation where we had to learn many things from zero. It was a challenging but also mind-changing experience. Since this time, I am an S/4HANA Cloud advocate and I firmly believe in the success of this solution. I didn’t hesitate a second to apply when I saw an open position as RISE with SAP solution advisor in LinkedIn last year. Besides, I was very curious to see what it looks like inside the SAP “kitchen”.

And give us a feel for what it is like to work for the Mothership, for SAP?

The first thing you realise when you start to work with SAP is the huge amount of information you need to digest every day. Our company therefore is a real paradise for learning addicts like me. You can take courses on almost everything: starting from programming languages, through social media management up to mindfulness programs. Last but not least, SAP encourages a culture of social engagement, which is very valuable for me and many of the colleagues who are driving or participating in various social initiatives.

Some of our readers will not necessarily be familiar with RISE with SAP. Would you be able to spend a little time giving a short background?

RISE with SAP is our solution offering existing since early 2021, still very young and evolving. It unites a modern Cloud ERP (SAP S/4HANA Cloud) with a range of other solutions and services from SAP and the partners. It’s a comprehensive package aimed at driving business innovation and gaining efficiencies throughout all business processes. The idea was to create a unique and flexible offering, with one contract from one hand, designed to fit to every company’s transformation journey, regardless of the start point or the speed of transformation.

How can our readers find out more about this exciting program?

Just visit RISE with SAP home page and don’t forget to sign up to our Swiss Cloud talk series in LinkedIn!

You’ve been involved in SAP Activate as an implementation methodology too. Can you give us an introduction to the principles of this approach?

SAP Activate is a very mature methodology first introduced at SAPPHIRE in 2015, being constantly developed since then. It is based on Agile principles (for example product prototyping, frequent validations with the product owner, iterations, and sprints).

The 3 main pillars are SAP Best Practices, Guided Configuration and Methodology.
1. SAP Best practices are the ready-to-run business processes optimised for S/4HANA including integration and extensibility features.
2. Guided Configuration is a collection of tools designed to assist and accelerate implementation projects through all project phases.
3. Methodology is a system of methods, rules and principles used for a chosen deployment model across a wide range of SAP products and solutions.

According to Credly directory there are more than 10000 certified SAP Activate Project Managers throughout the world! It is one of the most popular existing SAP certifications and this fact clearly shows the importance of SAP Activate for any SAP implementation.

Let’s speak a little bit about cloud. As someone with a unique insight into the SAP cloud arena, can you comment on the move to the cloud? Are you seeing a steep increase in interest in SAP S/4HANA Cloud instead of the more traditional on-premise options?

Yes, I definitely see an increase in customers’ interest over the last few years. Meanwhile hybrid SAP landscapes are very common, and the customers are open to implement and use cloud-based solutions. Cloud is no longer a fancy word, it’s reality.

And what do you see as the benefits for organisations in moving to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model for their ERP landscape?

Most importantly, it is the speed of innovation needed by every company to survive in this volatile world. This includes multiple releases per year, embedded analytics capabilities, industry best practices, extensibility and much more. Then, an easy and intuitive end user experience on any device and embedded user guidance for rapid adoption. And thirdly, it’s security, scalability and agility with technical operations, upgrades and system maintenance managed by SAP.

You have done a few live episodes of “SAP Swiss Cloud Talk” on LinkedIn. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

As I joined our RISE CoE Cloud Core team in summer 2021, led by Dirk Hakenes, we very quickly had an idea to explore new ways of using social media to reach out to a wider audience and to promote our solution. Dirk asked us to do some brainstorming sessions together and thus the idea of “Swiss Cloud Talk”, a series of LinkedIn live events for Switzerland’s market, was born. So far we have organised several sessions with the participation of René Fitterer in February this year, Uwe Grigoleit in March, Rouven Morato in May.

Finally, a question we like to ask all our interviewees. What advice would you give to 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?

Every beginning is tough, but if you are a person who appreciates team spirit, taking over different tasks and learning new things, then SAP consulting is the right job for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly they may seem to you, and look for a mentor who can guide you on your professional journey.

For existing SAP ECC6 consultants, I would like to refer to the quote of Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher: “Change is the only constant in life.” Stay curious, learn something new every day, and enjoy the process! This is the motto I follow every day.

Natalia Singer talked to Jon Simmonds