Eursap’s Ask-the-SAP-Expert: Swapnil Sonawane

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 Swapnil Sonawane, a regular contributor to Eursap. Swapnil is a certified SAP PM/QM consultant and SAP trainer, with considerable experience across India. He is also a regular blogger and publisher of popular SAP memes on social media.

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

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

I am Swapnil Vilas Sonawane, an SAP PM (Plant Maintenance)/QM (Quality Management) Consultant with six years of experience. I’m skilled in business processes such as SAP implementation, SAP support, SAP rollout and migration projects. I am a strong consulting professional with a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E) degree in Computer Engineering from Mumbai University. I have done six end-to-end SAP S/4 HANA implementations and two SAP ECC6.0 implementations. Along with two support projects as an Application Lead Consultant, I’ve been involved with one rollout and one migration project as an SAP PM consultant and have also completed two end-to-end implementations as an SAP QM consultant.

Apart from my professional experience, I love creating relatable SAP memes. I love writing SAP related blogs, so that it can help other SAP consultants to understand new things. I love sharing my knowledge and gaining knowledge from other professionals, no matter what the subject is. Finally, yet importantly, the one thing that I cannot live without is MUSIC. I love singing and listening to music. Lately I am enjoying bicycling and hiking. And that’s all about me!

You started your career after graduating with a Computer Engineering degree. What first attracted you to a career in the SAP world?

Honestly, I had no idea about SAP after graduating from college in 2016. Then one of my best friends (Vikrant) told me about an SAP career. He briefed me about SAP, and I attended a job interview. Maybe because of my communication and moderate programming skills I got into the SAP world. Now I am enjoying it.

You’ve worked for some big consulting companies – the likes of Accenture and Deloitte. What do you think working for big organisations like that gives you in terms of experience?

Opportunities to handle some serious responsibilities, a chance to learn new things and explore. Most importantly, well-experienced professionals in the team and across the organisation are very friendly, and always there to help to learn new things and to provide support in tough conditions. In addition to this, these organisations taught me the globally followed industry standards and disciplines.

You also gained SAP S/4HANA certification in Asset Management a few years ago. Was that something you decided to pursue yourself or was it part of a project?

After entering into the SAP world, I realized the importance of SAP global certification. However, since the certification cost was so high, I could not afford to do it. Then as my financial condition became more stable, I immediately prepared and completed my certification. Obviously due to having experience by then, I had to prepare a little less than usual, as I already had quite good practical exposure. It definitely helped me a lot in successive project assignments. Therefore, I encourage all the freshers and experienced professionals to complete their SAP Global certifications. After completing my certification, I helped lots of colleagues and friends achieve the same.

You speak English, German, and Spanish. What made you decide to learn those languages, and have you found it helps in your career as an SAP consultant?

Actually, learning foreign languages is my one of my hobbies. I love to learn languages so that I can communicate with other professionals and clients. As I want to enhance my network, I tried learning foreign languages such as German, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.

I started learning German in 2015 with my brother, as he wanted to pursue his higher studies in Germany. So, I also used to read his handbooks, assignments and journals, and that is how I stared getting interest into Deutsch Sprache. Then I came to know that I have to learn German to settle in my dream country: Germany. That just boosted my interest and I started consuming YouTube tutorials, books, and discussions with some online German friends. I am planning to complete my B1 certificate this year. Similarly, I learned Spanish to communicate with Latin American clients. We communicate in English with our colleagues and clients, so in India we learn English from the age of eight and continue to learn it.

The last few years have been odd from a consultancy point of view. Now we are emerging from the lockdowns and restrictions around the pandemic, are you working remotely still or has that changed to a more “normal” on-site approach?

I think things have changed a lot in the consulting industry after the pandemic. I have been onsite for more than five of my six years of career. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to travel outside India. However, I am hoping that I will get that chance soon. Since I am working with Deloitte US-India now, most of the clients are outside India and I am working remotely.

As a part of your various roles over the last few years, you’ve been exposed to SAP S/4HANA versions 1709, 1809, 1909 and 2020. Can you give our readers a feel for the innovations you have worked with in the Plant Maintenance and Quality Management areas?

Yes, things have changed a lot in PM and QM as the SAP S/4 HANA versions upgrade. We now have many Fiori apps in the Fiori Launchpad, flexible workflows, “My inbox” for notifications, and other innovations. I have also written a blog regarding the ‘My Inbox’ app of Fiori Launchpad – please check it out on Eursap here. SAP introduced Asset Manager Application for Plant Maintenance. Also, there are so many new Fiori apps in Quality Management.

In your opinion, how has the implementation of SAP changed over the years? Presumably, there is much more emphasis on the methodology used – Activate. Can you tell our readers a little about the Activate methodology?

Activate methodology provides the freedom of parallel configuration and demonstration. It is very much the favourable approach for the SAP consultant and the business. Here, SAP consultants can configure and develop the object and demonstrate immediately to the user, so there is a very small chance of misunderstanding and confusion. I’m sure readers are already aware of the phases of the activate methodology (if not, please check out this Eursap blog on the subject). I really feel it is very user friendly and makes project timelines very achievable if we adhere to it.

Let’s turn to your presence on social media. Many of our readers will have seen your SAP memes on LinkedIn and via Eursap updates. Is your intention to bring some humour and light-hearted relief to what can be a pretty dry and serious subject?

Yes, I think as an SAP consultant we go through a number of situations and scenarios. Therefore, I just try to put it in a sarcastic and hilarious way. Sometimes it is simply humorous and sometimes it is factual, but what I really enjoy is that people relate to it and react to it.

What gave you the idea to begin posting memes around SAP?

I still remember that one night when I was falling asleep and one meme hit into my head. That was probably my first meme. Therefore, I immediately put it on paper and posted on Facebook. You can see this first SAP meme below. I later created an Instagram account with the name ‘SAP.NIL0’.

It was very popular, hitting more than 1,000 likes and many more shares. Then I thought I really have good ideas about SAP related memes! But I didn’t create and post a meme about it as I thought people might not like it – because it is my profession and how can I make fun of it? But then I realised that it is not just me but all the other SAP consultants around the globe who are feeling the same way.

Therefore, I created a Facebook page and started posting my SAP memes on it. Eventually it got more and more likes, followers and shares. Then I started seeing my memes on LinkedIn and Instagram, and even on WhatsApp groups. My friends and colleagues used to show me the meme which was one I had created. They used to laugh and share their thoughts with me, which was very satisfying for me.

It helped me a lot to reach out to more and more professionals who are SAP consultants or who wanted to be SAP consultants. I feel very fortunate that I could guide so many professionals about SAP through my memes. Then, after sharing SAP memes on LinkedIn, I came across Eursap and approached Daniel Patel. Eursap provided me the wider platform to showcase my talent regarding SAP by posting my memes and blogs. Here are some of my well-known SAP memes.

It seems like there is a strong move in the marketplace to move towards the SAP S/4HANA Cloud. In your various consultancy roles have you seen any of this trend?

Yes, we know that ECC6.0 will be obsolete shortly. Many of the SAP clients are going for SAP S/4HANA on Cloud. Moreover, there is huge demand of migration projects across industries from SAP ECC6.0 to SAP S/4HANA Cloud. As per my experience, SAP S/4HANA is much more reliable than SAP ECC6.0. I feel in the future, there will be many more S/4HANA greenfield or brownfield implementations.

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?

I would like to advise new SAP consultants that there is no shortcut in the SAP world. Yes, SAP certification is an advantage – but please do not be under the impression that it is just enough for any type of SAP project. There are various business processes and requirements that you may come across in the course. Therefore, it must be remembered that SAP is an ocean that we have to keep exploring – and learning. There is a huge difference between theoretical and practical knowledge in the SAP world. The primary goal of SAP consultants should be to provide the best possible solution and customer satisfaction.

For the SAP ECC6.0 consultants, SAP S/4HANA is much like SAP GUI+ Fiori Launchpad. Therefore ECC6.0 knowledge will be the base for SAP S/4HANA, however there are many more technical changes that you will have to explore.

Swapnil Sonawane talked to Jon Simmonds