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There is a revolution taking place across countries, business and organizations across the world. The revolution is in the use of Information Technology Tools to be used for gathering large amounts of information and scanning it to form relevant data for the organization. It is a well known fact that 21st Century is the Information Technology Century.

When we generally hear the word ‘IT’, the first things which comes to mind is that it is only for engineers. It is a myth that IT is only for technicians. In the IT industry, there are a lot of opportunities not only for technicians and engineers, but also for functional consultants.

The CA's basically consider IT field outside their domain of Tax, Audit And Financial Consultancy. But those Chartered Accountants who choose their careers in Information Technology say that IT field is the best field which they choose to make their careers with. Here in this article I will focus on the emerging opportunities for Chartered Accountants in the field of ERP.

Overview of ERP

Guys many of us who were or currently are in CA Final might have read chapter on ERP. But we being lazy brats do not consider MICS ( or for that matter ISCA) our domain of expertise and curse ICAI for burdening us with additional Computer paper. But moving into the job market many Chartered Accountants have realized that ERP is the one of the most emerging and handsomely paid field.

Now what is ERP?

ERP in simple language means software solution that addresses the enterprise needs to meet organizational goals while tightly integrating all functions of the enterprise. Any organization has many domains like Human Resources, Finance, Purchase , Sales etc and various types of softwares are run by each domain of enterprise to extract relevant data for its use. But by implementing ERP the enterprise is on "ONE SOFTWARE ONE TIME DATA INPUT POLICY".

Management concepts like JIT or ‘just in time’ have been made possible only with the implementation of supply chain management which is a part of ERP. Production department can plan the manufacturing schedule through computer on their shop floor and materials department can check the status of raw material. Sales office, which might be located miles away from the works, is also linked through computer with the material, design or production departments. Similarly, accounts as well as warehouse are also linked with others for speedy transfer of data from manufacturing shop to sales depot.

Major Players and Services

The big ERP players are SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edward and BAAN and Microsoft Dynamics.. The market is consolidating with SSA Global taking over Baan, then PeopleSoft taking over JD Edward and now recently Oracle acquired PeopleSoft in a hostile bid.

All the big IT companies are having strategic partnerships and alliances with the product vendors and provide services including implementation, upgrade, testing and support.

Chartered Accountants (CAs) are playing a key role as functional consultants in providing these services.

Implementation : Fresh deployment of ERP packages. Methodology discussed later in detail.

Upgrades : Moving to new versions of ERP having new and improved functionalities.

Support : Post-implementation maintenance of ERP. Most of the global support projects are 24 x 7 supports and highly customer oriented.

Testing : Verifying the behavior of the system in various business scenarios in a test environment and includes integration testing.

Product Development : Product vendor companies like SAP and Oracle continuously work on enhancing the functionalities of the product on the basis of feedback about new requirements from the consulting companies and customers. It also includes localisation features catering to local requirements of different countries. The updated versions of the products are released in the market after sufficient testing.

Role of CAs

Basically there are two types of ERP Consultants. One is Technical Consultant and second is Functional Consultant. Technical Consultants are basically Engineers who handle the technical side of ERP like DBA (Data Base Administrator), code revisions, generating customized reports etc whereas Functional Consultants are Domain Experts who can use their domain knowledge to customize and support ERP according to Client's business requirements.

Finance Experts like CA’s, ICWA’s, CPA’s, CS play a key role as Functional ERP Consultant in any ERP Implementation involving financials. Over the past few years many successful Finance Experts have chosen to build a career in ERP space and they are very successful and satisfied and their career growth has been on a fast track when compared to the traditional jobs both in terms of money and role. Finance Experts with good industry experience are preferred for their business process and terminology knowledge and many reputed IT companies choose to train them in-house on the vendor product to make them function as functional consultants for finance domain. In finance domain also one many choose to become specialist for a particular process like General Ledger, Fixed Assets, Accounts Payable or Receivables cycle. With the emergence of the ERP Functional consultant, established professionals such as Chartered Accountants, Cost and Management Accountants and Company Secretaries have also begun to invest considerable time and money on ERP training. People with the right technical and functional background are very highly paid, and as a techno-functional consultant, it has bright career prospects.

Quite a large number of CAs are making a significant mark and success in ERP career for last many years. They play a major role in designing the financial framework of the ERP system. It involves designing the financial structure like Chart of Accounts, Financial Books, Reporting Books, Assets Books, Accounting Methods etc to enable smooth financial and management reporting, keeping in view ease of data entry from the user perspective. Chartered Accountants with good industry experience are preferred for their business understanding. Every year many IT companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and IBM are recruiting fresh CAs from the Institute (ICAI) campus. In fact, they are the biggest recruiters in past few years. The CAs are hired as functional consultants for financial domain of ERP because of their expertise in Accounts and Finance. The demand for Chartered Accountants is constantly rising in the field of ERP because of their function technical knowledge.

An example can be taken of Oracle E-Business Suite which has following financial modules :-

General Ledger : Central Repository, Organisation Structure, Global Consolidation.

Accounts Receivables : Revenue recognition and Credit Management.

Accounts Payable : Supplier Payment Management

Fixed Assets : Asset Management.

Cash Management and Treasury : Cash Flow Analysis and Forecasting.

I Expenses : Allow employees to claim expenses through Web.

Big Companies nowadays prefer Fresher Chartered Accountants and train them on their ERPs so that they can easily handle client end customizations. Basically, a CA’s role is to study and understand the business processes and financial structure and design the most appropriate solution adhering to the regulations, compliances and reporting requirement. As a business consultant, he studies an organisation’s current business processes and matches them to the corresponding processes in the ERP system, thus ‘configuring’ the ERP system to the organisation’s needs.

The role of CAs doesn't end here. Many a times CA are also on ERP Support Team to handle further customizations according to Clients requirements. For e.g. making changes on ERP according to latest Direct And Indirect Tax Amendments.  

Skills Required

Following is skill set required by CA's going for ERP Implementation and Support projects: -

(1) Soft Skills: - Most Important of them all. Good Presentation and Communication Skills are required.

(2) Team Skills: - To enhance their careers one should be able to adjust to teams requirements. After Technical Skills what matters most is the HR Skills of the candidate.

(3) Analytical Skills:- High Degree of Analytical Skills are required to customize the ERP according to the Clients needs while taking into consideration all the legal and technical regulations.

ERP Remuneration For Chartered Accountants

ERP is one the highest paid fields for Chartered Accountants. Typically the starting salary range is from Rs 5 Lakhs and goes on to Rs 10 Lakhs depending on the competence of the candidate. Moreover there are frequent International Travel to countries in North America, Europe and Middle East as many of the ERP projects there are being implemented by Indian IT Companies. The salary increments are fat when compared to traditional domain fields of Chartered Accountants.

This field is very good for Chartered Accountants who don't want to make their careers in traditional CA fields like Audit, Tax, Financial Consultancy and want to challenge themselves to new fields where their domain expertise can be utilized to the fullest.

Any type of Comments, Views and Suggestions are welcome. Moreover if anybody is searching for any information regarding making a career in ERP, I will be more than willing to help them.

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