Henrike, you came into contact with SAP during your internship. What fascinated you about it? Why did you want to establish a career in the SAP world?
I went through several internships during my studies, which brought me into contact with SAP repeatedly. SAP was a common thread throughout this time. I was a user of SAP accounting at the Warsteiner brewery, then an SAP trainer at the BMW plant in Leipzig, and finally an intern in an SAP project at MINI in Oxford. There, a fellow intern said, “You only need four hours of sleep? Then you should become an SAP consultant.” By then, at the latest, it was clear to me that I wanted to work in SAP projects. Right from the start, I liked the fact that a project is finite and that you work as a team towards a common goal. So, I applied to Accenture and was immediately offered the chance to start as an SAP FI/CO consultant in the so-called Jump Start program. This was a six-week intensive training program that prepared me perfectly for my first project.
Is the SAP world really a male-dominated domain, or is it just a cliché?
In the Jump Start program at Accenture, we had equal representation. Even in my projects, women were always fairly well represented. But just like in other fields, when women decide to become mothers, they often can’t work full-time anymore. This often leads to a higher presence of men in leadership positions. From personal experience, however, I can say that in recent years, I have frequently worked side by side with female project leaders. Similarly, in the FI/CO and HR fields, more and more women are returning to the SAP world when childcare is no longer as time-consuming.
You were a consultant at Accenture for six years and then worked for Volkswagen’s IT department. Why did you choose not to pursue a career in a corporation and opt for self-employment?
I like to decide for myself which tasks I take on. Being self-employed gives me a better chance of doing that than working for a company. If I do not like a project, I can reject it without having to justify it to a third party. At the same time, I can choose the projects that I enjoy. I do not have to ask for permission if I want to take a longer break. And if I work more than 60 hours a week, no one from the HR department will come after me – at most, my husband might (laughs).. I was concerned before starting self-employment that I wouldn’t get enough contracts. However, this concern proved to be completely unfounded. As a friend who is also a freelancer once said: There are enough projects, but you have to deliver them successfully. I can only agree with that.
Do freelancers with a focus on SAP have good opportunities, then?
Definitely. We are in a market where there is more demand for SAP positions than there are qualified SAP experts available. So, if you have gained several years of experience and successfully managed a few projects, you have excellent prerequisites to acquire SAP projects as a freelancer. I can only say that the work not only brings enjoyment and variety, but it is also very fulfilling, especially after completing a project.
You have been the Managing Partner for the SAP area at Vicoland for two months. What motivated you to join Vicoland?
I was immediately convinced by Vicoland’s concept. Vicoland can bring real disruption to the consulting business. From my experience, I can say that freelancers are not only more motivated than employed consultants but also better qualified. They can also offer more attractive daily rates than consulting firms. These are advantages that can benefit all companies that purchase consulting services through Vicoland. At the same time, they can benefit from signing one contract, as with a traditional consulting house, instead of negotiating with each freelancer individually. I also knew most of my Vicoland colleagues before I started, so I knew that I would be working with a great team.
What are your responsibilities?
The tasks can be divided into three categories: First, I talk to customers who are generally interested in Vicoland or who approach me with a specific need. I work with them to determine their requirements and envisioned solutions. Then I assist them in creating a briefing on our Vicoland platform. Based on the briefings, I search for Vicos that have the right competencies. If we don’t have any suitable Vicos on the platform, our business development team looks for suitable teams outside the platform. I then discuss with the candidates whether they are qualified for Vicoland. Last but not least, I work closely with our sales and marketing teams to help us raise awareness of Vicoland and increase our footprint in the market. This ranges from campaigns to technical articles to interviews. 😉
Can Vicos actually handle SAP enterprise projects through the platform? Or is this possibility overestimated?
The Vicoland platform offers great technical possibilities that we are unfortunately not yet fully exploiting. In many projects, there is a break between the contract and the project plan. It often goes like this: The sales director makes the contract with the CEO for the SAP implementation. Then an internal and an external project manager are appointed. In the best case scenario, they read the contract and then start putting together work packages and setting milestones based on the contract. All too often, points are lost or gaps in the contract become apparent. On the platform, it is possible to produce the contract and project plan from a single source. You can define phases, milestones and tasks, assign resources and price them, either as a fixed price or according to effort. Changes can be made easily and are marked as such in a revision-proof manner. So yes, you can use the platform to handle SAP projects: from the offer to the contract to implementation, invoicing, and payment.
Will the human cloud – and thus freelancer teams as Vicos – gain importance in the enterprise environment? If so, why?
I believe that in the coming years, more and more people will be freelancing instead of continuing to be employed. We are moving in the direction of a “Gig Economy,” as has existed in the U.S. and also in the UK for some time: Companies need support on specific topics in phases and buy-in consulting services for this purpose. SAP projects are a good example of this. Instead of approaching a consulting firm that may not be able to meet the need because it has insufficient capacity or no qualified employees, companies can work with Vicos. Vicos offer the freelancer the chance to continue to be independent and have the advantage for the company of hiring qualified teams at a better price.