Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) a Red Hot IT Niche
The IT field is rarely simple. There are hundreds of acronyms for hundreds of incredibly specialized fields and skills. Amid all the confusion, it's always nice learn of a field where the roles and skills are clearly-defined and the strategy for entry is simple.
ERP is not that field.
ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is the act of automating all the bean-counting on the backside of a business; payroll, accounting, shipping, product inventory, and so forth. If every business were identical, that would be all there was too it. In reality, however, an ERP platform needs to be extremely customizable to adapt to the needs of each individual business.
That's where the ERP professional comes in.
An ERP practitioner's job is, first and foremost, to understand the ERP platform inside and out, and to be able to modify it to work with any other software or processes inside the company. This becomes a bit of a balancing act. Because most ERP platforms come with their own (ostensibly very useful) feature sets, the tech wants to customize it far enough to work with all other applications, but not so far that its own feature set becomes obsolete.
So, working knowledge of other information management systems and experience in your own platform, and you're good to go? Well, not quite. In addition to being accomplished with systems and applications, you'll also need to be good with people. ERP is all about efficiency, so you'll need to be constantly receiving and evaluating feedback to know what's working and what's not working with your system.
You'll need to know when to compromise and when to hold your ground, as implementing software will always involve "why can't it/why does it" pushback from both below and above you. Sometimes the software can bend for the business, sometimes the business needs to bend to the software, and it's your job to know which is which, and also to convince your superiors of it.
Understanding that, it makes sense that an ERP consultant can expect to make no less than $55,000 a year, and up to well over $100,000.
Getting into ERP can be difficult, though. This is not typically a job that you'll just find listed and apply to. If you're lucky, you'll be able to find a position through networking. Most likely, however, this will be a lateral move, from one position within a company to another.
If you like the company you're working for now, you may want to start paying special attention to their information infrastructure. Check to see if they have an ERP system and, if not, look into finding one. Chances are, they have one and most likely, somebody to manage it. With any luck, this will be your first opportunity to familiarize yourself with a working ERP.
Let's talk tools!
First, the familiar ones; Microsoft and Oracle both have popular ERP systems, and hold 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of the ERP market share. Microsoft's is Microsoft Dynamics GP and Oracle's is Oracle Edwards ERP.
The big name in the business, however, is the SAP ERP, which by itself holds about 25 percent of the marketshare. The rest of the market is broken up among numerous other contenders (check this document for an overview of the top contenders).
Of these three, SAP is the most flexible and, unsurprisingly, the most difficult to work with. While SAP doesn't offer certifications per se, they do have extensive training resources on their website. Older and bigger businesses will often have SAP implementations, but newer small-to-midrange businesses will typically go with one of the simpler, less robust systems.
Oracle is extremely popular, especially in terms of ERP consultant-ing. You can train on its various aspects here, but ultimately you'll want to know Oracle basics like MySQL and SQL. Chances are, you'll need to do quite a bit of coding to make sure everything's working correctly.
Oracle doesn't offer any certification specifically for its ERP, but it does have a handful of closely-related certifications for its cloud applications, which won't go amiss.
Microsoft, thorough as always, has both a number of training resources and a number of certifications for their ERP. Happy Hunting!