Enterprise Applications: The New Job Market 

Author: Johnson Gill, Director Outsourcing at AbacusConsulting

With college degree enrollments of 352,303 and university enrollments of 741,092, according to Bureau of Statistics survey, it’s heartening to see how the hope of education fails when one finishes graduation and starts looking for a “good job” in vain. With little knowledge of what employers require in terms of skill and education most of parents send their children to colleges and universities hoping that they will become source of income to the family and will be able to keep the family together financially in coming years.

Most coveted and sought after schools, for long, have been Medical and Engineering Colleges and while every one longs to become doctor or engineer, not everyone gets there. When they are out of options, some start thinking about pursuing an MBA, others about Computer Sciences, others about Accounting and yet others about just getting any degree that can get them a Bachelors or Masters qualification. With little support available in schools and colleges about career advice, students start running after degrees here and there like headless chicken. Even when one has selected the right degree, given the market demand and what employers are looking for, quality of education determines to a large extent whether or not one will get a job or a good salary. Lets take MBA as an example, in last 5 years hundred of schools have started MBA program and they have sprouted like mushrooms all over the place. Some in small houses in busy streets and worn out buildings, others in relatively better locations and reasonably good infrastructure and very few in top of the line cutting edge infrastructure spreading hundreds of acres with all the modern facilities a business school must have. Quality of education is also as varied as quality of location, infrastructure and faculty of these MBA schools. With recent down turn in job market even the best business schools in Pakistan have not been able to fully employ all of their graduates. 

While doctors, engineers, chartered accounts, teachers etc have been more known to general population of Pakistan information technology (IT) education in general and Enterprise Resource Planning(ERP) education in specific has been hidden from many. Recently, I was talking to one of my very well educated friends about ERP certification and was surprised to see that he didn’t even know what ERP means. 

The world of enterprise application has been full of opportunities for those who know the magical land but it has been invisible to a large educated population in Pakistan. Let me show you two of the largest kingdoms in this magical land of enterprise applications.

It’s the world where world giants like Oracle and SAP rule with kingdoms of their own. Oracle has annual revenues of $35.6 billion, 380,000 customers, spans over 145 countries, has 108,000 employees and a network of 14 million developers community. SAP has annual revenues of $12.5 billion, 176, 000 customers, spans over 50 countries and has 54,000 employees. These two are beyond all doubt two formidable rivals in the world of enterprise application.One can see a war of territories, new domains and expansion of wealth. Oracle has been on this spree for last 5 years spending $40 billion buying about 78 companies. While SAP has relied more on internal growth with last noticeable acquisition being Business Objects the business intelligence software, but recent buy out of Sybase for $6 billion last year and recent bid to buy Success Factor for $3.4 billion seems to be the start again. Oracle has been much more aggressive in acquisitions strategy and seems that spree is not going to end any time soon. This world of ERP applications and war of ever extending the portfolio has many allies that have joined these giants to not only help make these applications better, to deploy them at organizations that desire them and to integrate them with other applications. There are thousands of partners around the global that sell and deploy these applications. So opportunities are immense whether inside these principal organizations, or at customers or at the partner network that deploys these enterprise applications.

The question remains what is the key to enter this land of opportunities? Developing the skill is the barrier to entry and not a very easy one for that matter to cross. But the skill is the key itself. Lets take Oracle for example. Whether you take development track, or database track or applications track, you’re in the game of big business. In applications you can choose from Financials, Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management, Human Resources Management and several other applications.

Unlike doctors, or engineers or lawyers where you need to have specific certifications or exams in the country you want to practice in these certifications have global recognition. Experience in one country counts in another, experience in one industry counts in another. With every cycle of deployment you are becoming more valuable no matter where in the globe that experience was gained.

Enrichment of knowledge is another dimension to these skills. If you are financials expert you will have get to deploy financials applications in all industries whether that’s banking, or FMCG, or manufacturing or distribution or an airline. You will get to experience different industries, which will enrich you experience and knowledge. Once you have entered the game of big business you can diversify into different applications like CRM and SCM etc because you have learned the baseline. 

Let’s look at magnitude of job opportunities. Pakistan itself presents number of opportunities. Oracle has more than 1100 clients in Pakistan including some of the largest organizations in Pakistan starting from Mobilink, Telenor, to public sector organizations.

Below are the results from one of the job portals that give glimpse worldwide opportunities.

Country

Jobs as of 7th Dec 2011

UAE

472

Bahrain

10

Saudi Arabia

211

Kuwait

40

UK

13433

Norway

246

France

8427

Denmark

136

Sweden

515

India

8113

North America

43353

Total

66843

Let’s take a closer look at Middle East job market in ERP applications. Middle East doesn’t produce many of their own resources in certified enterprise application consultants and are always looking for consultants from abroad. Having closer affinities with Pakistan, Middle East to be a better job destination for job seekers in Pakistan. Most of knowledge workers in Middle East come from India since India produces about 70,000 consultants in Oracle alone. These knowledge workers can potentially become one of the biggest source of foreign remittances to Pakistan. While a labor worker get only a minimum wage in middle east skilled knowledge workers with ERP deployment experience can make anywhere from 25,000 to 35,000 dirham a month. This is the world of big business which has created hundreds of thousands of jobs for people around the globe. Enterprise application industry has grown at 8.5% to reach $245 billion in 2010 according to a Gartner report and it can definitely create job opportunities for Pakistani professionals.

If such are the job prospects why we do not see people running after these certifications? That answer brings me to my earlier contention that students and professionals in our country are not aware of the big world of enterprise applications. Greater the awareness among our students and professionals about what are the global prospects of this valuable skill more people will strive to acquire it.

Cost of acquiring this skill is another barrier that many find hard to cross even among those who are aware of this valuable skill. Private and public sector organizations need to work together to promote this in Pakistan and following are some of the suggestions to think about:

  1. Career counseling should be institutionalized so that students can make more informed choices about their career.
  2. ERP Partner organizations need to play a more active role in this and collaborate with colleges and universities in Pakistan to educate them about prospects in this growing economy. Once the awareness among students has increased, they would be able to make better career choices.
  3. Also given the high cost of these certifications Government of Pakistan needs to look at ways of subsidizing these certification so they can be made more affordable for people at large. Also while some can afford this education it needs to be made affordable through government subsidizing for them and support partners who are legally administering these certifications.
  4. Partner organizations of SAP and Oracle also need to create alliances with enterprises in Pakistan and aboard so that certified professional can be placed in different organizations for internship and full time jobs.
  5. Efforts need to be made both by public and private sector to promote our skilled employees abroad so that jobs can be created through collaboration.