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Podcast: Two Way Interview with Andy Klee on SAP Market Trends, Training, and Certification

I’ve issued a slew of podcasts over the last few years, but these days, the ones I am enjoying most are informal and unscripted. Maybe it’s just me, but I think in the ERP world we get too much overly scripted content. If you’re with me, you might enjoy this new two way podcast I taped with Andy Klee of Prior to this taping, Andy and I decided we wanted to quiz each other on SAP’s market direction in 2010, and talk SAP certification.

We also wanted to cover ERP training trends, in particular whether virtual ERP training is effective (ERP training being a specialty of ERPtips). Andy and I have both been active on the topic of SAP certification – I’ve been engaged with a team of SAP Mentors in an ongoing dialogue with SAP Education, and Andy has made some excellent contributions on the topic. Andy also warned me he would be quizzing me about the business model. Sounded fun to me – usually I’m the one putting my guests on the spot!

So here’s the thirty-five minute podcast, and if you want to see more about what we covered (as well as a podcast timeline), then keep on scrolling down. (If for any reason the player doesn’t work, you can download the podcast using the “download media” link on the right hand side).

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it’s not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on in the meantime.)

Podcast Highlights

:48 Andy to Jon: You’ve been well known in the SAP community due to the knowledge you share with the SAP community on SAP consulting skills. Have you broadened your focus in the last year or so?

2:21 Andy to Jon: What major trends do you see in the SAP market?

5:00 Andy to Jon: I’m in a program at Harvard Business School, and she says that SaaS is going to impact how services are delivered. But I don’t see a fundamental difference in the skills that will be needed to have successful ERP implementations using a SaaS model. Do you see any changes?

Jon: I do see some major changes on the technical side. For example, if you have a bunch of tenants on your service, you might put out a tweak to a release, and the company wouldn’t see any changes or have to deal with any issues with upgrading technically. So that can significantly change the technical needs. And there might be some business level configuration changes also.

7:10 Andy to Jon: I think you and I disagree about the importance of certification. I was speaking to JDE and PeopleSoft consultants, and I asked them, if they had two equally qualified applicants, and one was certified and one was not, would that be a tie breaker, and the reaction was: no. Other factors were most important. Comments?

Jon: When SAP certification works the best, it serves as a validator of field experience you’ve already achieved. Now, at the Professional and Master level, there will be validation that goes deeper than simply technical skills validation that could help companies make better hiring decisions. Believe it or not, I’ve gotten emails just this week from a couple of people who are frustrated about being certified and not being able to find a job. So there’s still an expectation gap between what people want out of an SAP certification when they are trying to break into SAP and what’s out there for them on the market.

12:38 Andy to Jon: Do you think SAP can really focus on all these different initiatives – SaaS, cloud, mobile, SME?

14:45 Andy to Jon: Let’s shift focus a bit to your own business. I’m sure the listeners are curious to know: what is the JonERP business model? How do you generate income?

Jon: Good question Andy, and a common one! People have this gut feeling that podcasts don’t make someone rich, and they’re right about that… In terms of my consulting work, most of it is helping smaller SAP service providers who have a lot of entrepreneurial grit and attitude to find a successful market play in the SAP space. Sometimes that means consulting firms, sometimes that means training and service providers, and sometimes that means third party SAP software vendors. And yes, most of them are looking to get a better understanding of how to use social networking sites for marketing, competitive analysis and trends tracking, but there are mistakes that can be made there.

For example, when we talk about the new social networking tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, too often there is an emphasis on broadcasting and not enough thought around, “How do I make an impact and join a conversation about how to solve SAP problems in a meaningful way, as opposed to just pushing product?” I help companies with their strategy around these new tools and how to better participate in the SAP community, but also be more successful with their services and make sure they’re rolling out services that anticipate the trends they are seeing. For example, the trends around analytical tools and getting more out of transactional data – those are trends that I try to help companies make the most out of.

18:40 Andy to Jon: Do you find that services and software companies that are successful in a different market, like JDE Edwards or PeopleSoft, that they can have similar success in SAP, and how does that work out?

Jon: Yes, I do run into companies who think that their success in another area of SAP automatically means success in the SAP space, and that’s not necessarily the case.

Podcast Part Two: Jon turns the tables on Andy and the two discuss ERP training trends

22:55 Jon to Andy: What do you see as the keys to good configuration level training?

Andy: The keys to make sure that the clients feel their training was worth their time is the business process focus, gotchas to avoid, and beginning, intermediate, and expert level content in a particular area of SAP.

24:55 Jon to Andy: And how do you evaluate instructors? For me, in my training experiences, the caliber of the instructor was crucial.

Andy: Agreed! We did a survey of SAP training with SAP clients, and the instructors’ teaching ability and real world experience came out as the top two factors in terms of what helps clients to get a great SAP training experience. We always do evaluations on the training we do – if we don’t get a four out of five on the evaluation, we have to look at the instructor.

26:45 Jon to Andy: You were first skeptical of SAP virtual training. How have your views evolved?

Andy: I was skeptical initially, because I couldn’t see how a student could sit in front of a screen with the speakers on for eight hours a day. The state of my thinking now is that virtual training can be somewhere between the 80-90 percent range compared to a classroom where you can interact directly. Given that you don’t have to travel for virtual training, that’s a pretty good success rate.

29:10 Jon to Andy: In your IT Toolbox blog, in your interview with Cushing Anderson of IDC, there seems to be a sea change in ERP training from technical/task focus to business process focused. Why is this change so important?

Andy: Historically, most training vendors and clients have looked at training in terms of skills gaps – “let’s offer these classes to these students and get them trained and fill those gaps.” But what’s missing is the overall business strategy, and how that is tied to the training.

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