Jon Reed is an SAP Mentor and the President of – he  blogs, Tweets and podcasts on SAP skills and market  trends.

Martin  Gillet SAP  Consultant, SAP trainer and SAP MentorBelgium

Michael Koch, SAP Mentor and Independent SAP Consultant.
Working  in IT since 1990, I’ve been involved in the SAP arena since 1997. Doing  the needful.

Leonardo De Araujo has been a SAP Logistics  Functional and Technical consultant for more than 12 years. Based in  Montreal-Quebec,  Canada. 

Last year when Should you be certified?, no-one could have foreseen where that would lead. At the time, his post inflamed the passions of those who think certification is a waste of time (principally Mentors that are not certified but are doing great things) and those who see it as an absolute necessity. @blag created a brilliant cartoon, Michael Koch presented some fascinating statistics (zip download link) at an Inside Track event and Martin Gillet gave a short video interview on the topic.

The upshot of all those conversations was the formation of the Certification Five – as dubbed by SAP community leader and chief SAP Mentor wrangler Mark Finnern. The five are: Martin Gillet, Michael Koch, Leonardo De Araujo, Jon Reed and Dennis Howlett. 
Over the summer and fall of 2009, the C5 developed, agonized, refined and redeveloped a paper on the topic. To say it was a labor of love would be a stretch but all of us have a vested interest in the topic from one angle or another and that came through in our deliberations about where we believe SAP should be heading. The winter came and went over which period we trudged through the routine of batting the paper back and forth with SAP, getting feedback, hearing about what they’re doing and then refining some more. That process is now concluded and we are pleased to present the paper to the Community as our stake in the ground, a statement of our aspirations for Certification and a roadmap to where we think it should go. 

We cannot claim to have convinced SAP that our approach is one they can fully execute upon. The company says it has or is incorporating many of the things we are recommending as part of the ongoing certification program development. But there are some major sticking points over which we hold different positions, some of which we believe represent important opportunities for everyone who touches SAP in any meaningful way. 

We do not pretend that anything we’re suggesting is easy but then SAP is the company that likes to solve tough problems. Right? Even so, we don’t believe practical problems and barriers should be a reason for not taking the opportunity to set out a vision for world class service. We see that as being articulated through people who are not only great at what they do but who demonstrate that through the holding of a recognized qualification that has value in the market place. If Cisco and Microsoft can do it, so can SAP. 

To its credit, SAP is happy to take further input from the C5 around the practical ‘plumbing’ elements of the program they already have in place. We maintain our belief that SAP has to be more radical in its thinking.

To the specifics. The paper is a 55 page document entitled: SAP Certification:A Fresh Perspective.(PDF download) It is organized around four core areas:
  • Introducing the issues
  • Current state of conversation
  • Where SAP certification falls short
  • Recommendations for improving certification

In an effort to help you make a decision as to whether it is worth your time investment in reading the paper, we set out below the headline items we believe form both the heart of the arguments we make and the answers we view as both actionable and desirable.

  • Certification is perceived to bring little value to the hiring process and is not as trusted in the industry as it should be
  • Certification is slowly improving, but needs sweeping overhaul
  • The 3-tiered certification is still not available
  • Multiple choice question exams are currently the only method used to validate knowledge
  • Current certification does not recognize the process-oriented approach that ERP 6.0 is promoting
Recommended action items
  • Tie certification more closely to relevant field experience and problem solving skills, especially at the professional level
  • Establish a certification ‘influence council’ of customers, partners, and community leaders
  • Provide a timetable for the now-postponed Master level certification
  • Help customers by educating them on how to evaluate and hire SAP professionals
  • Increase LOD offerings and strengthen online exam preparation
We could have added many more items to the above list – such as the need for localized certification rather then the broader ‘global standard’ which we believe will ensure a higher quality of local knowledge – but we had to draw the line somewhere. If these topics encourage you to read then we’ve done our job.

Over-arching all our deliberations is the notion that being an SAP engineer is not something you do for a few years and then move on. More often than not, it is a lifetime’s vocation. As such we believe that being an SAP certified engineer should be viewed in the same way you might view a qualified doctor, dentist, lawyer or accountant. It should be a mark of quality, reliability and assurance that implementations are in safe hands. We think  the changes we suggest are critical to that vision, are actionable and will lead to SAP engineers not just being viewed as exemplars of quality but downright amazing at what they do.  

Other links on this topic
Over to the community. What’s your point of view? Do you agree/disagree? Have we gone far enough or is it too little? Will our ideas, if implemented, generate a positive outcome for all concerned or is it a waste of time and money? 

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  1. Jon Reed
    We hope to hear your comments – one thing I’d like to note is that the bullet points we arrived at above were done through a fun/arduous process of pure group consensus – a combination of the modern (Skype, Google Docs) and the classic (email).

    For myself, I’d like to thank Sue Martin of SAP for her detailed responses in the white paper and for her engagement with the “cert five” on a number of occasions. Thanks also go out to Chief Mentor Herder Mark Finnern who put the trust in the certification five to undertake this dialogue.

  2. James Oswald
    I don’t have much experience with SAP certification, but I know BusinessObjects certification was not nearly as pervasive as I had hoped and it only seemed to be respected by those who had it.  I’m hoping SAP will work to bring BOBJ certification up-to-speed and then carry it forward with the the rest of its offerings.
    1. Michael Koch
      HI Jamie,

      +1 on bringing BOBJ certification up-to-speed !

      re respect from those that are certified: This is something that I found out in my survey last year of 200+ SAP freelance consultants. Certification was mostly respected and valued by those SAP contractors that had to pay for the course and exam fees themselves. It was also regarded more highly by already certified consultants.

      Here’s hoping that an “up-to-speed” BOBJ certification will also rely less on Multiple Choice. At this point in time this is still SAP’s preferred way of awarding Certifications.

      Kind regards,

  3. Mark Finnern
    Hi Dennis, Martin, Jon, Michael, Leonardo,
    I am super proud of what you Certification 5 SAP Mentors have put together and worked out with SAP. For me it is a showcase of the direction of how the future of work will look like.
    Engaging with a group of passionate users to bring a solution forward to the benefit of everyone involved.
    Lots of learning and streamlining of the process needs to happen for this to have the impact it deserves.
    You are trail blazers and I am happy to have made the connections through the SAP Mentor initiative.
    Thanks so much, Mark.
    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      @mark – thanks for your kind words and for facilitating the connections we made as part of our process. Regardless of the outcome we hope we have demonstrated where SAP Mentorship can go. It is a beginning….
  4. Vijay Vijayasankar
    It is not a black and white issue – this whole certification thing. Like many other SAP issues -this also has people taking extreme issues. So I am glad these five guys took it head on – and not only did they make a clear problem statement – they also suggested well thought out answers. And look at the background of these people – it is diverse. And best of all – it was a democratic process, where the rest of us could voice our opinions and be heard.

    Now – I am very keen to hear the community input, and SAP’s response on how they are planning to use these ideas.

  5. Clinton Jones
    I like the thoughts around overhauling this process and as someone who has written their fair share of SAP ‘tests’ to get certifications I have to concur with the thinking on tiers as well as the need for a more process oriented approach to some of the ‘examination’ and certification elements.
    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      @clinton – Many thanks. What would you like to see? Help us take this forward – your contribution is valuable. We believe there is a win-win-win-win. Your thoughts?
  6. Abesh Bhattacharjee
    I think a lot has been said about how great a job you guys have done 🙂 I’ll refrain from maybe repeating the same.

    My request is a little different 🙂 Can we have the awesome Gapingvoid Cartoon used in this blog on a T-Shirt for the mentors please please please ? After all I think it totally stands for what the mentors are right ? “Totally Freakin Amazing !!!”

    1. Martin English
      Its a good choice isn’t it ?

      I’ve printed out Hugh’s cartoons for “cube grenades” in the past; it shouldn’t be that hard to print one on a T Shirt iron-on (ala )

      There’s a bigger version of this (the polite version) at

      You can buy it as a print from

  7. Martin English
    Hi Guys,
      Thanks for your work on this initiative (and thanks to Sue Martin and the rest of SAP for their support).

    Certification in XYZ (what ever XYZ is) is recognition of a certain level of Knowledge of XYZ.  While I understand that the many references to ‘SAP Education’ in the document are there because it is the name of the SAP group responsible for Certification, I suggest that the number references to SAP Education, classes and Learning on Demand indicate a failure to separate Certification and Knowledge (and the gaining of that Knowledge).

    Regarding the current state of SAP certification, I think Dennis nailed it in his comments :
    “in the early SAP Mentor intakes, not a single person nominated for position as a Mentor was qualified in anything SAP related!”
    i.e. NONE of the most respected community members were SAP certified !!!  While I value my certifications, I can understand why others don’t value certification at all.  The Mentors got their SAP Knowledge via experience, both with SAP and with the other tools they integrate into SAP (such as flex, google wave, etc)  By contrast, Leonardo’s suggestion that SAP certification should reflect ONLY SAP related knowledge suggests that SAP lives and runs in total isolation.  For example, implementing email from an SAP system is a pretty standard BASIS / Technical task, but it requires more than SAP specific knowledge.  Under his scenario, would it require one person with both SAP certification and MSCE certification, or two people (one of each), or a BASIS person who knows just enough about SMTP and IIS (or whatever the platform requires, maybe sendmail on Linux) ?
    This leads on to the point made by several people (encapsulated by Leonardo’s “What is what I refer to here as “SAP related knowledge”) about experience – Even determining which experience is useful (let alone more valuable) is difficult, before we get round to certifying it…. For example, I (probably) have experience on a wider range of OS / DBMS combination than most BASIS people, but by necessity they would have a deeper knowledge of their particular OS / DBMS.  How do we quantify the different value to assign to my experience versus theirs ?  Years or projects are insufficient – In either case, performing the same work 10 times is not the same as 10 years or projects of different experience.

    In chapter 4 Where SAP Certification is Falling Short, there’s a couple of paragraphs on ‘pre validating’ the people who wish to sit for Certification.  I think this makes sense, for both customers and the individual.  Without some practical experience within a particular area of SAP and how its used, Certification in that area IS pretty useless as an indicator of the individuals expertise and suitability.

    In chapter 5 Recommendations for Improving Certification, I am not impressed with the arguments for boards or subjective measurement of indviduals, for the reasons given in Sue Martin’s response. Country level certifications are not suitable for large scale implementations unless we also include a Global certification as well (instead of, for my last global implementation project, at least Australian, US, Chinese, South African and EU certifications).
    I do believe that the separate levels of certification are good, but as Sue implies in her response, it should be hard (or impossible) to professional or master certification without experience.

    Personally, I was very taken by the idea of “SAP as a Vocation”.  This rings true, both personally and when you go back to my original quote from Dennis’s comments (“in the early SAP Mentor intakes, not a single person nominated for position as a Mentor was qualified in anything SAP related!”).  In my case, and I think those Mentors that Dennis is referring to, they aren’t interested in Certification for certification’s sake.  They want Knowledge, both in SAP and in other areas, so that they can do useful valuable things with SAP.  Training and (self) education leads to that, with any certificates as a nice memento on the way.  That is alright for the individual, but what does the SAP Customer do ?  They want something similar – individuals who are committed to SAPs success because it is their vocation.

    My view is that Certification should be possible regardless of the amount of formal education, but it does need to be a measure of the Knowledge required to perform to certain levels within an SAP project. 
    * Not just SAP specific knowledge; for example, project management skills for SOME of the Master level certificates, DBMS certification for some of the Professional and Master level certifications and so on,
    * Not just Implementation skills – a system that takes 6 months to implement can reasonably expect to be running for another 72 months,
    * Not just the basics – Customers want to leverage their SAP investment to the maximum,
    * Not just the latest and greatest – Customers still want to know if the person they’re hiring knows about THEIR specific release.

    This covers some of my concerns and comments about the certification paper.  Once again, thanks everyone, for your work in putting this together.

    1. Jon Reed
      Martin, thanks for this substantive response. Our primary reason for posting this was to receive this kind of feedback. As more feedback comes in, we’ll definitely be taking a look at where the priorities are for those who have a stake in this topic. More soon….

      – Jon

      1. Jon Reed
        Martin, I think we’re in large part in agreement having read through your comments again today. Your last paragraph is a tour de force of improvements that capture the push towards truly validating quality of the consultants in question.

        We may have some differences in opinion on subjective testing criteria – we believe that at the Master level, there should be some type of more subjective evaluations of “field readiness” – and in fact without devolving into testing theory there are ways of doing this. To SAP’s credit, they seem open to some innovative ways of awarding the Master level certification and we can hope that they will share those when the Master level gets back on the timeline.

        For now, I’d be curious to know from you – in terms of the Professional level certification and what you know of it, do you think a multiple choice test alone could measure that level of SAP accomplishment? Or would more variables be needed in your view, such as, what you mentioned, related certifications? One of our key points of emphasis going forward will be to focus on this Professional level so great to have any further input on this from you.

        – Jon

        1. Martin English
          Hi Jon,
          I’ll cover briefly some thoughts I had regarding the Master Certification, and then try and cover my thoughts about HOW to test for Professional Certification.  BTW, I don’t have any real experience with certification apart from SAP Certification.

          The more I think about the current levels and what they mean, the more I think I prefer testing for a SAP Masters Certificate to a University Master’s – the candidate has taken a leadership role in the production of something new (i.e. their thesis) and is verbally examined on it, the background to it and their original research.  My concern is the practicality (I need to learn a bit more about test theory), because if you decided only 1% of current SDN members were high enough quality to become ‘SAP Masters’, you are certifying more than 20,000 people.  The numbers alone strike me as quite a challenge when it comes to providing an objective outcome while using a  ‘subjective evaluation’ (if that makes sense).

          Anyway I think I’m a bit too much of a dilettante to be a Master of anything, so I’ll have to settle for 6 or so professional certifications 🙂
          .. which leads to your original question about measuring someones suitability for the Professional Certification.

          Yes, there is a place for the old multi choice Q&A format, but being a “Professional” means more than just regurgitation.  I keep track of WHERE the stuff I need to know is (i.e. DB2v8 doco will be moving from soon now that support is ended, but many sites will still be running this – and earlier – releases of DB2). I don’t about anyone else, but this means I have more room in my brain for more of the higher-level stuff that, frankly, is more useful to my Customers.  It places me in a better position to advise my employer and our Customers about inter dependencies and prerequisites and the effect current choices will have on their future options.

          I remember many years ago, an Australian Rugby League coach comparing football facilities and teams in the US with the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team.  His opinion was that while the professional football teams had better facilities and treatment regimes, the All Blacks were a more professional team (despite, at that time, international rugby being an amateur sport).  The difference, without going into detail, was that being an All Black was a life-long commitment, that the Rugby community in New Zealand WAS New Zealand.  It was more than a vocation, it was an attitude, not just whether you got paid for playing.

          Now, sports at that level is beyond most of us (in my case, insufficient talent…), but you can take a lesson from the attitude.  Again, my personal opinion, but I think you can measure someone’s SAP professionalism by their enthusiasm for things SAP, so for a formal ‘Professional Certification’, I would consider measuring the following as a minimum, before considering how to measure a specific area of SAP expertise:

          1 Generic Computing Knowledge – I still get developers wanting to know how to display a PDF on the portal, but prevent users from downloading it (a place for multi-choice Q&A ?),
          2 Generic SAP Knowledge – I’ve met ‘respected’ BASIS Certified people who can’t read ABAP (another place for multi-choice Q&A ?),
          3 Involvement in the Community – both SDN and Live events, if possible, and perhaps with some credits for other SAP related communities and blogs,
          4 Attendance at SAP related Professional Development – requiring x hours of SAP related training in the area of certification per year to retain Certification,
          5 Attendance at NON SAP related Professional Development – requiring x hours of NON SAP related training, via SW / HW partners, per year to retain Certification,
          6 Work Experience – This needs to allows for SUPPORT Professionals to get equivalence with IMPLEMENTATION Professionals.

          In fact, items 2 thru 6 could also be used for measuring expertise in a given area, if you prefixed them with ‘For the Module / Skill / Role being certified, …’.

          Only two out of the six items have a place for multi-choice questions, yet three of the remaining four can be measured objectively.  And correlating the first 5 items with ‘Work Experience’ would provide some verifiability of that. 

          I apologise for the ‘roughness’ of this; I’ve been multi tasking this and my paid work 🙂  I hope I’ve made myself clear – by all means, communicate with me via twitter @martin_english if you need any clarification.

          1. Jon Reed
            Martin, thanks for your thoughtful reply. That’s valuable food for thought in terms of how to beef up the Professional Level, personally one of my biggest concerns, without, as you say, needing to move into subjective testing criteria. This is a good angle and one I’ll definitely make sure we continue to think about. I have up to this point felt there was room for a minor aspect of subjectivity on the Professional level (like a problem solving essay question), but with the kind of additional aspects you are recommending, that would go a long way.

            On the Master level, I think from what I hear from SAP and from what you have said, most of us are on the same page on what we want to see at that level. The obstacles are more that the Master level has been somewhat in the slow lane of late, and we’re hopeful we can see it back in the fast lane, because as you point out there are lots of issues to tackle in terms of a verbal board review or what have you.

            Thanks for these excellent thoughts.

            – jon

  8. Holger Stumm
    I have a strong opinion about certifications:
    I belong to the category “….25 yrs of experience, countless happy customers, no certification to prove that”

    I have seen so many people in projects, who litterally can’t write a single line of ABAP nor can’t configure their module – but have the highest score on the respective certifications.

    When I am coaching project staffing on starting projects or help reviewing resumees , I recommend everybody to ignore the cert results.

    What does a certificate proves? No single qualification comes to my mind.

    1. Edward Pelyavskyy
      The certification as a goal is “Waste of Time”.

      However, the extra knowledge you are gaining while preparing for the certification is priceless.

      In your next project you may do things differently based on your new knowledge.

      To have a highest score in the certification and yet not being able to write or debug code is a known “phenomenon”.

      1. Jon Reed
        Holger and Edward: thanks for the comments:

        Holger: your comments on SAP certification as it stands now are quite common from senior practitioners and resonate with some of my own views. However, it’s our goal during this dialogue with SAP to see if we can have influence at the higher levels of SAP certification to actually validate the kind of field-tested skills you are talking about. Speaking for myself, I believe we are close to agreement with SAP Education that this should happen at the Master level certification, which unfortunately does not have a clear timetable as I understand it now. Our bigger differences with SAP Education are at the second level, the Professional level, where we believe more of the kind of experience you are testifying to can and should be validated. It’s an important discussion and your comments are vital to our forward progress.

        Edward: though I have been a critic of formal SAP certification – in particular when people get overinflated notions about what certification means (e.g. “If I pay for certification, I will have no problem getting a great SAP job”), but I do agree wholeheartedly with you that investment in self-education is a vital component to success as an SAP professional. The best SAP folks I know routinely to do invest in their skills development, though the avenues for investment vary greatly. Certainly formal training and certification can play a role here, and I believe that role will evolve as SAP certification evolves. Thanks for your comments – if you have additional points for improving upon SAP certification you can share, we’d like to hear them now or in the future.

        – Jon

      2. Michael Koch
        Holger and Edward,

        Thanks for your comments.

        The situations you are both describing show how SAP’s accreditations are seen on both sides of the “Certification fence” (certified & non-certified). I think they reflect the problems that SAP implementations will continue to face if no significant progress is made. In order for Certification to *really* succeed, deeper and more radical changes are necessary.

        The Certification 5 medium-term objective is for SAP’s accreditations to be perceived like Cisco’s and Microsoft’s. We realise that these corporations had years to establish their certification processes, but it doesn’t mean that this is outside SAP’s reach.

        Kind regards,

    2. Dennis Howlett Post author
      @holger – the problem you’re describing is well known. We have talked to SAP about this and right now there is no easy solution. One of the ways around this issue might be for SAP to grant exempt status for people in your situation – at least up to the Master level.

      It is early days so I’d ask that you bear with us as we endeavor to move the dialog forward. Better still, help us articulate with SAP the best way to help people in your situation.

  9. Steve Bogner
    This is a good & noble effort; I hope it catches on.

    I’ve been consulting a long time, as well as presenting and writing and so on – without any certification at all. I like to think I do good work. I’ve seen other consultants working, presenting & writing… and they clearly didn’t know as much as they thought they did. I like to think they *unknowingly* left things out, gave some bad/incomplete advice and so on; but who would know? Would a certification process catch that? I hope so, but it is particularly difficult to objectively classify consultants.

    One of the challenges, in my opinion, will be getting enough momentum and critical mass of consultants & customers who believe in the value and integrity of the certifications. I don’t see how it would benefit me at this time; but if more clients were requesting/requiring it, that would surely affect my opinion.

    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      @steve – you are describing the ‘chicken and egg’ problem that face many in the SAP world. On the one hand SAP certification as a measure of competence is teh suck, on the other hand how do you ‘prove’ competence without a string of projects in your resume? Not that one should replace the other.

      The key point we were trying to make is that if SAP Certification has genuine merit in the marketplace then that changes the game. Now it becomes something to which you’d wish to aspire as part of your overall bag of achievements.

      In postulating the 3-tier approach I feel SAP is going in the right direction but we don’t think this is radical enough. Hence the bullets we pulled out to illustrate how this might change value and perceptions.

  10. Nathan Genez
    I fall into both camps…  very experienced and certified in a few different areas of SAP.  I’ve found that 1) no customer cares about my certification because they see and value my experience far more highly than the certification bullets at the bottom of my resume, and 2) the certification in no way proves that i can do the job that customers need me to do.

    Outside of my personal experience with it, it’s clear that SAP’s certification has very little relevance in the employment market whether it be for full time or contract resources.  If it has any relevance at all it is to counter act someone’s obvious lack of any real product knowledge…  but that just weakens the certification itself when it becomes a way to identify those without any real experience (and therefore, customer value).

    To me, SAP has a obvious financial and leadership opportunity in front of them.  They have the best knowledge and content as a means to get people certified as well as justification to drive people towards certification.  I envision vast LoD tracks/sessions that SAP could charge $$$ for as well as provide a service to their customers who are still complaining of sub-optimal and failed implementations. 

    SAP needs to be a leader in this initiative and it doesn’t bode well that an external group has to do this for them.  They need to get their rear in gear.

    1. Jon Reed
      Nathan, thanks for your feedback. Personally, I do give SAP the nod for engaging with us and our strong takes on this. Sue Martin in particular has talked through a number of points and the effort she put into providing SAP’s responses in our white paper was no small thing.

      SAP has done a lot with certification in terms of improvements the last few years, not the least of which was organizing the exams around job roles, but in the end you and I are in agreement: there is a huge financial and leadership opportunity here for SAP, not to mention important steps that could strengthen the ability to ensure consultant quality. So we’re hopeful that this conversation will turn into bolder action steps along the lines of what we described.

      – Jon

      1. Susan Martin
        Thanks for putting the record straight on that one Jon! Nathan – as the Certification 5 says in their White Paper there are definitely still ways we can improve the certification  – but the discussion was sparked by an extensive transformation project over the last 3 years. It is obvious reading some of the comments that the subject of certification hadn’t made a blip on the radars of most Mentors in the last decade and it is therefore understandable that the changes already made have not necessarily been overly visible to this group – but SAP definitely sparked the original initiative – and in fact  achieved a very important milestone in the commitment to embracing the changes in the certification program last year – by end of 2009 more than 80 percent of our own SAP consultants were certified. Let’s hope we can continue the excellent collaboration with the Mentors to see if we can’t get similar percentages in the Mentor community 🙂
        1. Michael Koch
          Hi Sue,

          I’m also glad Jon’s emphasised once again that there was a fruitful feedback process with SAP prior to the publication of the paper.

          You wrote: “Let’s hope we can continue the excellent collaboration with the Mentors to see if we can’t get similar percentages in the Mentor community :-)”

          Agreed on the excellent collaboration! However what I’d like to point out is that as a freelance consultant myself I can only justify spending time and money on certification if there is real value for me in becoming certified. At this point in time and with the current certification process this is not given in my opinion.

          That’s why we (the Certification 5) wanted to publish our paper and highlight where we stand.


  11. Vijay Vijayasankar
    I am not certified in anything in SAP – but have taken a few courses along the way. I was never asked for certification when I was looking for a job. None of my clients have asked me if I am certified either. And doing both sales and delivery – I see plenty of customers, and I have never seen some one insist on consultants being certified in SAP. Due to all of that – I never bothered to get certified.

    Recently my wife decided to puruse Cisco certification. She has to take classes for that -and I have been through a lot of her coursework. It is nothing short of amazing – a great mix of theory and lab work. And lab work includes structured troubleshooting. I don’t think any of the SAP courses I ever took was as exhaustive in coverage of the subject from all angles.

    Cisco has a three level certification thing – with the top tier being really in demand. It is extremely difficult to get it too. Even CCNA, the entry level thing is not trivial. But with just CCNA – you will almost never get a job. You would also need to know some OS, some DB etc. This type of multi-disciplinary knowledge is valid in SAP too – except it seldom is shown as needed to the new people pursuing certification.

    Where I work, we have a comprehensive certification process as well. It needs demonstrated and documented evidence across several different dimensions, and then a panel gets to grill the candidate. It is only after this exhaustive process that we get certified. I have been through it all the way to the highest level offered – and it is quite an achievement that I felt when I finally got it. If I get that kind of a feeling about SAP certification – a feeling of “it is worth the trouble” – then I will gladly stand in line for the Master level certification.

    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      @vijay – great comment that embodies the message we’ve tried to communicate. Back in the day I was a Novell engineer (yes – it was a loooong time ago) and the same kind of thinking applied there. Getting baseline certification was table stakes. From there on it got progressively tougher but more valuable. That’s one reason that we drew the analogy to Cisco engineers. We believe that a ‘new’ SAP Certification that had the credibility of what Cisco offers would represent a very different value proposition to everyone. Hence we see it as a long term win-win-win-win.
      1. Michael Koch
        Vijay and Dennis,

        This is a great comment and confirms a lot of what’s been said about the differences with Cisco and SAP’s Certification offerings.

        One interesting thing to investigate would be the differences in structure of the consulting markets for Cisco and SAP. My assumption is that SAP’s partner market is broader and wider.

        I also think that in the SAP consulting market there is still too much reliance on “I know, you don’t”. A paradigm that has already begun to shift and is not up-to-dat anymore. What’s this like in the Cisco world?


  12. Cory Coley-Christakos
    I am following this discussion with great interest.  The number and nature of comments here proves this is a topic very worthy of conversation.  While I’m still in the process of reading the white paper (and I’ll be back with further comments), I wanted to thank all of you for this amazing contribution, which was clearly a significant effort.
  13. Jarret Pazahanick
    First of all great job by the Certification 5 pulling this together as it is very impressive piece of work. The template/model seems like it could be reused to partner with SAP on other hot button issues as well.

    I fall into both camps as I am very experienced as well as certified in SAP HCM. When I joined my first consulting company the first assignment was to get certified at the SAP Partner Academy. It is sad in a way because at that point in time the certification seemed to carry a lot more weight than today (none) though that was probably more of a product of supply and demand.

    My brother recently completed his CCIE and seeing the work effort and how his clients and collegues respected the accomplishment made it clear to me that SAP had nothing even close to its equal.

    The challenge that I see that many of the most respected SAP folks are not certified. You have to convince them the value of getting certified in the Master tier and in order to do that you have to convince customers that master certified consultants can provide additional value to them.

    I am a perfect example…..I am SAP Certified and I made a conscious effort 10 years ago to NOT go get my college Masters degree as I felt it would not add any value to my SAP career and the same thing applies at this point to me personnaly as it relates to ADDITIONAL SAP certification. I would need a strong reason to justify spending the time to get the masters certification for example. 

    I would also like SAP to attach to their SDN profile anyone that has ever been offically certified which could carry over to linkedin etc as a start. There are many people that say they are certified and are not which would be the start of the process of cleaning it up.

    The bottom line is there is lots of room for improvement as well it is in the best interest for SAP, Customers, Consultants that a bright light continues to shine on this area.

    1. Mark Finnern
      Hi Jarret,

      The coolest thing I have seen someone use the CCIE certification statistics is as a leading indicator for economic recovery or future prosperity of a country. Cisco is releasing these numbers wordwide every month. Certifications are going up, recover is just around the corner. Country with more CCIE people per capita will be more prosperous over time.  Here the article:

      That is the potential for SAP Certification too and I am glad that we are tackling it, Mark.

    2. Vijay Vijayasankar
      Just about the masters degree and whether it helps in SAP career – in my case it certainly did. When I started getting trained in SAP, specifically ABAP, I was also doing a full time MBA. It was hard to balance the two, and ABAP was way more fun than learning portfolio management and business strategy. However, the MBA did help me get my first job as a consultant, and has helped me progress in my career considerably. Guess we all have different experiences with it.

    3. Susan Martin
      Hi Jarret
      you write “I would also like SAP to attach to their SDN profile anyone that has ever been offically certified which could carry over to linkedin etc as a start.” There is good news on that front. We are currently setting up that capability and it should be available in the summer.
      All the best
  14. G Srivastava
    When Diego Maradona scored the golden goal and later interviewed said it was hands of God.
    Kudos For those people who saw SAP logon for the first time and implemented the project sucessfully then and there ;)).

    Guys who did extremly well in exam but were not able to perform in thier first project. They should learn that they have to be stronger mentally so that working on project for the first time becomes bit easier they should increase there IQ. Hope my next blog for IQ get published.

  15. Kenneth Schieffer
    As a colleague of Sue Martin here in North America, I would also like to thank the SAPMentors as well as Sue for their exceptional work.  And without repeating all of the paper’s points and recommended action items, I believe the course has been set for positively affecting the value of the SAP certification program. 

    Adding to the outstanding comments found here in the blog, I have created a similar discussion in my Education@SAP LinkedIn group for comments and suggestions from SAP’s customer and partner community.  As of this evening, there are several active discussions in the LI group regarding SAP certification.  Bottom line, I offer myself to actively work with the SAPMentors and Sue (as well as SAP Education’s other regions) to transform the suggestions and comments into positive action.

    While many of the recommendations hold value, of particular interest to me are the suggestions made around (1) tying certification more closely to relevant field experience and problem solving skills; (2) establish a certification ‘influence council’ of customers, partners, and community leaders (could this be the Education@SAP LinkedIn group??); (3) increase “ONLINE LEARNING” offerings and strengthen online exam preparation; and (4) the value of the BPX curriculum and exam (and the relationship I believes it holds to our current TERP10 curriculum and exam for functional folks).

    Again, thanks for the fine work and I look forward to next steps in the process.

  16. Matthew Harding
    Firstly let me say this is a great read about a fairly dull topic (though something many of us are very opinionated about).  Great work.
    Now just to set the scene – I’m not certified in SAP at all but I’m not saying I’m opposed to the idea either.  Also an observation, in Australia, I can’t think of anyone significant who has been certified recently that springs to mind (I could be very wrong though).  This strikes me as surprising really and I’d be interested to see the country by country view on number of certifications in the last 10 years.

    So first let me give some scattered comments about the document:
    . Martin Gillet’s experience were fascinating and a good insight into why things need to change.  For me, I’ve done ITIL foundation certification, and the worst thing is stressing over a question just because the answers are trying to fool you into selecting the wrong answer (ITIL is very pedantic).  In real life, answers are not multi-choice, and you can Google away if you can’t remember the right term…Certification should reflect this.
    . There’s a definite difference between functional, developer, basis, BPX, solution architect, etc; that could lead to different approaches to certification.  For the most part – certification of a technical nature is very complicated in nature…For example, if you were certified in ABAP development, does that mean you are a certified in ABAP (including OO, RFC, Web Dynpro, Module Pool, Reporting), Workflow, Enterprise Services, JAVA, BOR, BAPI, etc? In regards to this, Professional and Masters certification should definitely not be a silo-ed certification and should expect broad coverage (but not necessarily everything either).
    . I Love how Ed was from Enterprise Geeks first, then Colgate Palmolive second – Classic!
    . Field experience is definitely key to this if you are talking about Masters if not professional too.
    . In regards to SAP Revenue – If there were more of us who knew the power of SAP and how to do it in a way that does not butcher the solution and cause these catastrophic implementations that we hear about; SAP would naturally sell more.  Now if these people could be recognized properly with certification without costing an arm and a leg – then potentially we would be in a better place and implementations could look for these people to help guarantee a successful project.  If this is simply certifying SAP Mentors and others considered Best of the Best (who possibly aren’t so Collaborative to make SAP mentor) – then maybe SAP should seek these people out and offer them free certification plus refresher courses to keep them current (radical idea but maybe that is what the SAP mentor program effectively is without the mentors knowing it???).

    Okay – Now my general feedback:
    To be worth something, my belief is SAP Certification should = Review of input into proven successful SDLC projects + proven general knowledge of area of certification + customer references
    Unfortunately, the above is open to interpretation and not easy to roll-out from a SAP education perspective.  Now the radical thought I had is that in order to do this (at least for the Masters Level), we need SAP Certification consultants who are the best of the best of the best.  Basically the go-to guys for everything SAP in their certification area.  They would need to be up to speed on the latest of everything hence would be a valuable consultant; but who’s key focus is on doing certifications a few times a year.  Obviously it would involve a lot of travel for these guys a couple of times a year – but would be invaluable way of doing this (not to mention the value of maintaining these Top Guns).
    Next radical approach is that Certification should be like buying SAP software.  You pay for the certification up front at a high (but reasonable) cost, then you pay maintenance each year at a much reduced rate to give you all the latest information plus maybe online tests (I’ll support online tests for this part). This in turn, keep you current.  In short, certification is invalid after 3-4 years if not maintained.
    Another small social media idea is that from a contractor perspective; a nice feature would be that SAP highlight your certifications through dedicated functionality within linkedin…

    Anyway, good to see this thinking around certification and you never know, I may become certified one day because of all the work you guys have done.


  17. Andy Klee
    The 55 page White Paper is well worth reading as it lays out in detail the Cert5’s recommendations, and SAP’s preliminary responses to many issues. 

    I researched SAP certification previously, and haven’t returned to the topic since writing a 15 page primer in July, 2009:

    The single most important, and difficult to implement, recommendation in the Cert5 White Paper is:  “At the higher levels [Professional, Master], they should consider themselves as having demonstrated levels of skill that are genuinely recognized…such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects and accountants are recognized.” 

    SAP’s response is that SAP is not in the business of preventing people from practicing their chosen profession.  But, no one is saying that failing a certification process should prevent someone from earning a living.  The methods and rigor imposed by professional certifications (Law, Accounting, Engineering, etc.) should be investigated further.

    A second major theme emerging from a reading of the Cert5 White Paper is that very few SAP mentors (and presumably not many very experienced SAP consultants) are certified today.  If SAP ever hopes to change the perception of the marketplace that SAP certification is a ‘nice to have’, then SAP must do something about this gap.

    I would not be surprised if SAP quietly starts a program of free refresher training and certification exams for these leaders in the SAP ecosystem.  Once more mentors go through the process of becoming certified, they will probably have positive things to say about the experience, and more consultants and SAP customer employees will choose to become certified.

    My compliments to the Certification Five for their excellent work, and to Sue Martin of SAP for responding to the points raised.


    1. Tobias Hofmann
      “[…] is that very few SAP mentors […] are certified today. If SAP ever hopes to change the perception of the marketplace […] then SAP must do something about this gap.”

      That’s easy: SAP only has to change the SAP Mentor prerequisite: to be eligible you have to be SAP certified.

      br, Tobias

      1. Dennis Howlett Post author
        @tobias – if SAP wanted to do that, I’m guessing it would immediately lose some 60-70% of the Mentor base, including past DemoJam winners, participants. In that latter category, I can think of 5 off the top of my head.

        Those people are not going to go there because as currently constituted, certification offers them nothing of value.

        1. Tobias Hofmann
          “certification offers them nothing of value”

          SAP makes the rules … if to be SAP Mentors means to be certified, if would offer some value to them.

          But that’s the point: Look at lawyers, accountants, etc. They have a (more or less) independent organization that takes care of the credibility of the certification / professional. What’s missing is that SAP is offering something like this too. Only the SAP Mentors initiative is offering something similar: it has to be earned. You cannot just go and get it.

          br, Tobias

          1. Dennis Howlett Post author
            @tobias – you are assuming that Mentors derive value from being Mentors. A number of us do this purely because we have a passion for SAP. That seems to be the primary criteria for SAP to make its selection.

            You’ve missed what I said earlier. Most of the 1st intake and some of the 2nd intake are not certified in anything SAP. That’s a well understood problem in the context we’re discussing.

            SAP has indicated it wants input from Mentors at the professional and master levels. That would almost certainly be practice based.

            It’s something of a Catch-22. There is a way out but I am not going there until we know SAP wishes to pursue the line (or something close) we’d like to see. I’ve been there before. I know how this gets solved.

  18. Marilyn Pratt
    Noodling on the content of the whitepaper for some time now and thinking how interesting it would be to have some engagement with the SAP  University Alliance.  I’ve pointed one of their professors to your content here as he has just posted his own blog on formative assessment found here: Using SAP in a formative assessment strategy .
    I wonder what you all think of concepts like: “reflective practice” (where practical knowledge goes beyond theoretical).  I also recalled from my academic studies the concept of melding authentic experience with formal practice in something called “cognitive apprenticeships”.  It’s a way of maximizing informal experiential learning by anchoring it with some authentic contextualized environment so that there is the experience of real-life problem solving and collaborative activity even in the learning context.  It also dawned on me (and research bears this out) that adults are much more stressed by assessments than youths.  Which could be an additional reason why adults push back on evaluation, assessment and the general idea of certification.
    Well, I’ve blathered enough.  I hope Martin Gollogly will happen by here to comment, and if not, perhaps one of the authors of this blog can drag him into the fray.  Thanks to all who participate in this important dialogue.
  19. Martin Gollogly
    Tying Certification more directly to field skills and project experience is certainly an interesting idea as are relating problem resolution skills. Many students of the TERP10 Certification within universities are undertaking courses such as MBAs where they develop problem analysis and resolution skills and such an approach would tie in to their more consulting oriented development. The question they ask is not ‘how much do I know about SAP’ but more straegic questions such as ‘why am I using SAP’, ‘how can this help my business’ or from a pedagogical perspective ‘how can I relate this back to specific issues I have experienced or have studied – how do they fit together’.

    Using SAP in a formative assessment strategy

  20. Tammy Powlas
    I can’t believe I read the whole thing….but I did.

    First, thank you C5 for putting together a great paper; thanks TOO to Sue Martin, SAP, for her comments.

    Question for SAP: you indicated that you didn’t get much back from user group surveys – as an ASUG volunteer for some of the Technology communities, I would’ve definitely responded!  I am interested.

    Also, why are some areas no longer certified (SAP Workflow?)

    I have several certifications – I am a Certified Public Accountant,  Project Management Professional, and SAP certified in ASAP, FI, CO, SEM and Associate NetWeaver BW.

    I think you have to look at the motivation for certification; for me, it was to improve my education and learning, not to get a job.

    Multiple Choice Questions  – if you want the results right away, like Martin Gillet, you have to have MCQ.  The PMP test is also multiple choice.

    I like the idea of applying to take the test – you have to do this to take the PMP and CPA.  While I don’t expect SAP to audit them like the PMI does, I think it would stop those who shouldn’t take the test in the first place.  A former co-worker took an 8 week course in PMP; then she applied to take the test – my co-worker and I felt she didn’t have the hours of project management to qualify.  Evidently PMI agreed as her application to take the test was audited and she ended up not taking it.

    One of my complaints about current certification – I pay for the test, yet the card that says I passed still goes to my employer.  I do like the instant results, and taking the exams at the Pearson locations.

    I like the idea of learning on demand and self-study materials.  No way are employers going to pay the academy fees in this economy.

    I think too SAP should shy away from the SAP Instructors creating the questions  – do they have the field experience for this?

    I like the idea too, similar to CPA/PMP, of continuing education once you are certified.  For the PMP, you register the training you took (could be an article you’ve written, or a class you taught) and they either accept or reject – it’s all self-service.

    The CPA exam has essay/problem questions, but you wait forever for the results.  I think this would be tough for SAP to administer.

    I would LOVE/WELCOME more informational sessions on certification; I attended one given by Arnold Jung at SAP TechED 2008 in Las Vegas and the place was packed!  It motivated me to take the Netweaver BW test.  I can attest to the questions testing whether you know the material and have used the tool – not just from the class.

    In terms of rigorous certifications, I would rank them as follows:
    1) Engineering Calculus (oops, not certification, but the toughest thing I’ve ever successfully undertaken)
    2) CPA – 2.5 days of non-stop testing – stamina!  PASSED
    3) PMP – 4 hours of 200 MCQ; it is TOUGH – instant results…PASSED
    4) SAP certification

    Going down memory lane like Martin:
    1) ASAP certification, 1999 – open book, essay – PASSED
    2) 1999 Self-study- FI -took in SAP Philadelphia – exam was heavily proctored; didn’t get the results for months! PASSED
    3) 2000 Self-study -CO -took in SAP Boston –   exam was heavily proctored; didn’t get the results for months!  Note I was tested on Product Costing, which I have never ever used.  I agree the skills tested needs to better reflect the market.  PASSED
    4) 2003 – SEM Academy, Atlanta – 3 weeks of material crammed into 2; tough test.  Results were 6+ weeks later; my boss gave me my certification.  I e-mailed the instructor who indicated that only 50% of the class passed.
    5) 2008 – Associate NetWeaver BW – after attending Arnold Jung’s session on certification at TechED, I signed up.  I had only taken 2 classes – BW extraction and Modeling.  The rest was self-study – I had never seen Integrated Planning, yet, I still passed the test.  Results were immediately provided at the Pearson testing center.

    SAP has come a long way in certification – I look forward to future improvements.

    My thanks again to SAP and C5 for a great paper!

    1. Susan Martin
      Some great comments – thanks Tammy! I have a few comments/responses –
      “I think too SAP should shy away from the SAP Instructors creating the questions – do they have the field experience for this?” This was one of the major changes we made in 2007. Since the decision to change the certification exams from product function and feature to job-task based exams the majority of the subject matter expertise is provided by consultants with real life experience. Each exam is developed in a workshop of around 2 weeks with mostly consultants (and some instructors).

      But it is a very valid point you make around MCQs  – the experience we have is that frustration comes from waiting for results.
      “One of my complaints about current certification -I pay for the test, yet the card that says I passed still goes to my employer. I do like the instant results, and taking the exams at the Pearson locations.” – I am not quite sure why that should be but can imagine that that is closely linked to s-user constraints. I will check into that – normally your certificate should be delivered to your home address if that is the address you gave on registering through VUE.

  21. Paul Hawking

    Universities which are part of the SAP University Alliance Program (UAP) are encouraged to offer SAP certification to their students through the TERP10 course.  You may ask what is TERP10?  This is a SAP Education course based on business process integration and covers all core modules of ECC.  It is a good course but industry do not know anything about it.  Companies will send their employees to a course which focusses on a particular solution or module rather than how the modules integrate.  Accordingly TERP10 is one of the less popular SAP Education courses.

    Now we have students who have undertaken this certification and passed which should be a good skill base for being introduced to the SAP workforce.  However because industry are not familiar with TERP10 they are unaware of the skills the students have to offer.  I am not suggesting senior positions for these students but they should be embraced for junior positions.

    To put things in perspective, I have completed certification in BW, TERP10 and BPERP.  I know you are saying what the hell is BPERP.  A TERP10 variant for SAP All In One.

    Look for TERP10 on a student’s resume.

    Paul Hawking
    SAP Academic Program Director
    Victoria University

  22. John Appleby
    Hi Guys,

    I thought my thoughts as a partner and a recruiter. I run a technology capability with developers and NetWeaver technologists. Basis, ABAP and Java skills amongst others.

    When I look for a recruit, I have to say that certification is rarely a primary concern. Nor is a SAP university program. I’m not saying that they carry no weight, but they are secondary to some other aspects.

    I’m looking for people who can inspire customers, learn fast and have great relevant project experience. People who will be part of a team and a community and will live the Bluefin values. People who have qualifications which provide a basis for their skills e.g. University Degrees.

    Once people are onboard then we do have a focus on certification. Especially in ABAP and Basis I believe that self-tought technologists are fine, but armed with certification, they become excellent consultants.

    I think that SAP’s certification scheme is far from perfect, and a more relevant and measurable certification scheme would be beneficial to the consulting world.

    However if we ever get back into the situation where certified people can go straight into a job in consulting again, the world is likely to head back into trouble! Certification should be just one piece of the rounded consultant!



    1. Michael Koch
      Hi John,

      Thanks for this insight from a partner perspective.

      We’re planning a mentor meeting at SAPPHIRE in Frankfurt with Susan Martin (SAP Education) in case you’re interested.

      Kind regards,

  23. Tobias Hofmann
    Reading between the lines, looks like the main criticism is that a certification won’t result in more $$$. And this is justified that the certification just isn’t recognized in the market => poor quality of certified people.

    When I did my certification (portal) I didn’t received many theoratical questions or easy ones. Without pracitical work expirience I wouldn’t have passed. Yes, what’s missing is the possibility to focus on one area, or: why does a portal consultant have to know how to do a ABAP system update?

    When the market isn’t valueing the SAP certification you’ll have to say also: there are companies that sell certified people to the customer to win the contract and than place non-certified people there and sometimes the C-level executives don’t know this or don’t care. And when the delivered work isn’t meeting the expectatations …
    And I also had the pleasure to work with SAP consultants that were certified but just hadn’t the work experience necessary.

    MS certifications can’t be compared to SAP certifications. You can download for every MS cert a braindump. For SAP, you’ll have to learn and read some > 1000 pages. Short: you have to show some interest. And that’s good!

    So why do an SAP certification? I did mine to proof that I know what I’m doing. After several years of working with the product, you should have an independent proof that you are good at it. And one way to do so is to get certified. It’s like adding “street credibility” to your CV. If someone is applying for a job with 10 years of experience and his name doesn’t show up in SDN, SAP events, etc and he has no certification …

    Why not do a certification? If you can show that you are an expert at your area, like being an SAP mentor (btw: who are these community influencers mentioned in the PDF?). You do not have the time to learn, or, also often happening: fear. You try and fail, so you’re good at work but oficially you’re not. Instead of loosing some self-esteem people won’t try.


    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      @tobias – I suggest you are taking a narrow view. The problem we perceive is not just at the individual level but has implications to partners and customers. The structure alone doesn’t make a lot of sense if you want to start thinking about the elimination of some issues you’ve identified. It isn’t about $$$ as the first desired outcome and there is no ‘reading between the lines’ to do.
  24. Andy Klee
    I was reading the NY Times article on the “Race to the Top” contest(federal funding for state school systems).

    Teacher evaluation systems are part of the scoring, and this quote struck me as relevant to the certification discussion:

    “Although Schnur is a cheerful, modest type, there is a strain of self-righteousness that runs through the reform network. Some come off as snobs who assume any union teacher is lazy or incompetent and could be bested by young, nonunion Ivy Leaguers full of energy. And others see tying teachers’ pay to their students’ improvement on standardized tests as a cure-all. But most — especially those who have taught and appreciate how hard it is — understand that standardized tests are far from perfect, and that some subjects, like the arts, don’t lend themselves to standardized testing. They know that most teachers want to be effective and that data-based performance assessments should be combined with classroom observation and other subjective measures not only to hold teachers accountable but also to help them improve their performance.”

    That last sentence is relevant to our discussion here.  If using observation and other subjective measures can work for teacher evaluations, then why not have it be a part of the certification process as well–at least at the new Master level?

    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      It’s a point very well made Andy. The problem we’re up against is that SAP Education thinks that certification is about numbers and efficiency. Oh yes – plus being legally defensible. My argument is this: if legally defensible is one of the criteria, why isn’t SAP up to its armpits in lawsuits from the 98% who find current certification of little or no value?
      1. Susan Martin
        Dennis, our research in no way validates your opinion that 98% of 160,000 certified SAP consultants around the world find that certification is of little or no value. Just to clarify what is meant by legal defensibility  – Role delineation is a critical step in the development of a legally defensible testing mechanism. Performing a role delineation study and using the resulting data to develop exam specifications ensures that candidates are tested on critical incidents or the knowledge, skill, and abilities that are relevant to the role for which they are being certified.The defensibility of an exam is dependent upon the content validity of the questions included. Validity, therefore, becomes the most important consideration in test development. Content validity refers to the appropriateness,meaningfulness, and usefulness of the specific inferences made from test scores. It involves the establishment of the relationship between a test instrument and the KSA’s required to successfully perform the job. Test validation is the process by which a test developer collects evidence to support the types of inferences that are to be drawn from test scores. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and American Psychological Association guidelines, examinations should meet the requirements of content validity typically including:
        1. Selecting a panel of qualified experts
        2. Defining the performance domain
        3. Weighting content domains by importance to public protection
        4. Developing and validating test items that meet the content
        5. Providing a structured framework to match items to the content domain
        6. Taking steps to minimize subjective bias
        7. Setting the passing score at the appropriate level.
        1. Dennis Howlett Post author
          1. Michael Koch – as you know has conducted independent surveys on this topic which show results at polar ends of that which SAP has produced. I understand this is being revisited.
          2. Jon Reed has data from hiring surveys that say less than 2% of hirers regard certification as something of importance. Check DICE.
          3. When the Mentor program kicked off, not a single Mentor was qualified in anything SAP related.

          Those are three data points. Time and again among peers and others over the last year we have heard the same story. SAP Certification – as currently expressed – has little or no weight in the market.

          We were told – by SAP Education – that SAP certification is about getting as many people as possible SAP Certified. That sounds like a numbers game where the lowest common denominator wins. Is that acceptable in today’s market? Is that an indication of quality when expressed in those terms?

          What’s interesting to me is that at least two of the loudest voices protesting against our ideas around this topic have come a full 180. They say that if certification becomes valuable to them in their careers then they’re up for something new.

          I’m not saying that SAP should adjust its testing framework. What I am saying is it should not hide behind it. That’s what I perceive in some of the discussions. So instead of: ‘Hey, let’s find an answer,’ we get ‘Nope, can’t be done.’ Or something like that. I just don’t buy that. At least not from the company that sets itself Big Hairy Problems to solve.

        2. Vijay Vijayasankar
          Sue, Couple of questions.

          1.From SAP’s own research – what is the % of people who see value in certification?

          2. How about conducting a survey right here on SCN on the topic?

        3. Martin English
          Question for Sue and Michael (and Vijay and anyone else who wants to throw numbers about…), please think about your survey demographics –

          Are they from new or old, experienced or not SAP customers ?
          *  Based on what I’ve heard in SCN and elsewhere, new or inexperienced people value certification a lot more.

          Are they primarily involved in support or implementation ?
          *  This isn’t SAP specific but, speaking from experience, support people have a very jaundiced view of ANY certification.
             Implementation issues SHOULD have little relevance to support people. Speaking from experience again, there are days where 90% of my job (NetWeaver Technical / BASIS Consultant) seems to involve interstate / international printers working incorrectly. This was barely mentioned (if at all) in my certification exams !!

          Are they contract or permanent staff ?
          *  By definition, permanent staff have less relevance to the job market and the wants and needs of possible employers, because they aren’t out there getting a new job every 12 – 18 months.

          What about roles (functional, technical, etc) ?
          *  It is a stereotype, but technical people have less interest in what the piece of paper says you know and what you prove you know. 
            On the other hand, the value in a ‘BASIS’ person knowing about the OS / DBMS they’re running on can be invaluable, especially during outages.  However, the new certifications seem to have less emphasis on this.

          What size sites do they work on ?
          *  The smaller the site, the more chance that people have to be a jack-of-all trades.  They will have more than SAP systems to worry about.  Additionally (and this is not just an SAP issue) within each specialty there’s less chance of one or two certifications covering their entire job description.  This leads to people seeing less point, and therefore less value, in certification in general.

          What countries and cultures are they from ?
          *  This touches on the previous item, as outside the US and Europe, the sites tend to be smaller (see above). Another difference is that, from the outside, some cultures appear to value the ‘piece of paper’ more than others.  And each culture would have a different emphasis on initiative v overstepping authority, and so on.

             Of course, cultural differences can exist between organisations as well, so you get extra complexities when you have an Indian IBMer working with an Australian CSCer.  Especially if either of them have recently lost a major final to England.

          I hope this helps people think about their audience when working to market the idea of certification.  I like Dennis’s idea (in another blog or podcast) that an SAP Master should be as trustworthy in SAP as a Heart Surgeon in the Operating Theatre.  We just need to be sure we ARE talking to Surgeons / Rock Stars when we ask about the value of ‘Heart Surgeon’ Certification, and to General Practitioners when we discuss ‘GP Certification’.

          1. Dennis Howlett Post author
            @Martin – these are excellent points, extremely well made. Without going into all the detail, you are describing a situation I used to see when I was a partner in a firm of British Chartered Accountants with Tax/IT as my remit.

            Yes – I was red hot at CERTAIN aspects of tax (let’s not go there for fear of putting people to sleep) and networks/DB in IT. But, I was a lousy auditor and hated book-keeping stuff. I’d argue that what you are describing is an environment which reinforces my notion of a *professional* style of certification.

            One of the things we said during SAP discussions was that an all encompassing global certification was not a great idea – especially if you’re having to heft compliance for local tax regimes and HR requirements (for example.) It’s not a speciality unless you like knowing that stuff in 140 countries but it’s a nuance that is not catered for.

            I disagree on the distinction you are drawing between contractors and staffers at a broad level because the changes SAP has brought in the last few years and especially the move towards more end to end process ‘stuff’ changes the game. Tackling this – at least in my mind – requires continuing education. It doesn’t necessarily mean additional certification per se but some demonstration of acquired knowledge makes sense.

            The cultural issue touches upon something else. Only today I saw a claim that SAP Certification in one region would *guarantee* job placement.

            As far as I am aware, the Master level is still something that’s being thought about with nothing much concrete on the horizon.

          2. Susan Martin
            Hi Martin
            that is a really easy one to answer – they were all of the above. We conducted two global surveys(one in 2006 and one in 2008) of people who had become SAP certified in the 5 years prior to the survey. If you were certified at the time I would imagine you got the chance to participate but, as we got an independent industry MR organization to do the surveys, some people didn’t realize it was us and binned it. We did however get several thousand responses and they were well spread across the globe. The MR organization we engaged gave us the exact split regionally, experience-wise etc. and yes, there were regional differences where we saw the perceived value of the certification being much higher in APJ, NA and LATAM than in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for example. Also the value perception of certification tended to diminish with years of experience – which is an obvious one based on the fact that most people certified held the “old” certification prior to the introduction of the Professional and Master level certification. But on the whole there was a trend in the right direction. 90.8% of the 2008 survey respondents judged the SAP certification program to be on a par or superior to other IT certification programs. In answer to the question “If you are a manager, how critical are professional certifications in general, and SAP certification in particular to your choice of job candidates?” 96% considered SAP certification to be critical. In answer to the question “As an SAP-certified professional, which sentence most closely describes your perspective of SAP Education’s certification program?” 79.4% said “I recognize the value of SAP certification and my organization encourages me to pursue it” 14.9% said they recognized the value but this was not supported by their company and 0.8% (not 98% as incorrectly stated in this blog)said neither the company nor the individual saw the value of SAP certification.

            1. Vijay Vijayasankar
              Interesting numbers, Sue.
              If only 0.8% of respondents said they did not see value in certification, then most of us nay sayers are totally delusional. So if these numbers are statistically valid – then it is just an unfortunate happenstance for SAP that these 0.8% of the people also happen to be the ones with the loudest mouths, constantly fussing about this in public.


              The survey was done only on people who certified, and not on the bigger sample that included non-certified people. And since only a small % of total population were polled, the results have lot of bias.

              1. Susan Martin
                It is the latter Vijay. As I said originally we surveyed all certified people – I don’t find it at all coincidental that the Mentors are primarily not certified and are the loudest critics of certification – to me that is logical – I also do not find it strange or, as you imply, statistically invalid, that the vast majority of certified people find it valuable. My reasons for citing this statistic was Dennis’s comment that “My argument is this: if legally defensible is one of the criteria, why isn’t SAP up to its armpits in lawsuits from the 98% who find current certification of little or no value?” –  Dennis refers in this statement to 98% OF SAP CERTIFIED INDIVIDUALS (who else would sue SAP?) – NOT the Mentor community…. Our independent research of certified people may not represent the opinion of the overall community and is obviously biased towards the people who have decided on certification – but it is a direct contradiction of the above statement.
                1. Dennis Howlett Post author
                  @sue – I clarifed that what I was talking about was the corollary of the Dice numbers.

                  But to the general point, I’d refer you to the many comments here from people both certified and not that are saying the same thing (broadly): “Make it worthwhile and we’re in.” Regardless of what the survey figures show, that seems to be the popular vote. Can we move on?

    2. Mark Finnern
      Hi Andy + C5,
      Wow long article and mostly about the teacher’s union and influence that Obama’s race to the top fund has on them.
      The paragraph quoted is a side comment wishful thinking by the reformers. The journalist writes “a strain of “self-righteousness” runs through these reformers” and uses the above comment to underline his point.
      Is something similar running through the C5? 😉
      “data-based performance assessments should be combined with classroom observation” It is a nice should, like I should eat less sugar. The article is short, or at least I didn’t find it, on how to get from should to a successful implementation taking limited resources into account.
      We are in the middle of changes to the SAP certification system. Some of the chances have been working now for over a year and some are just being rolled out or in development.
      A pulse check questionnaire to the SCN community may get us some needed transparency. Especially the voice of the customer would be great to hear more off.  Michael Koch’s survey was last year and focused on independent consultants. You may argue that these are one of the main customers for certification; still the audience of SCN would give us some more insight and bring the discussion forward.
      What do you think? Let me know, Mark.
      1. Vijay Vijayasankar
        A strain of “self-righteousness” runs through every one who has an opinion about a given topic – SAP, C5, you, me and others. That is true – since we are all loyal to our POVs. Question is will we embrace each other’s ideas if our POV is proven wrong?

        my $0.02

  25. Andy Klee
    How did everyone decide to attach their comments to my previous one about teacher evaluations?

    Either my previous comment was more relevant than I thought, or I’m lucky, or most likely, I’m unlucky.

    Anyway, I’ve always felt that a world class certification program, especially for a bigtime product like SAP, should involve doing a study that proves certified consultants actually perform better in the field than non-certified consultants. 

    Is this a practical suggestion?  Probably not.  And I’m sure there are people that know a lot more than I do about software related certifications that are wishing that I would stop.

    So, that’s really all I have to say at this point.  I think the mentors, the Cert5 group, Sue Martin, Mark Finnern, SAP clients, etc., are more passionate and qualified than I am to carry this forward to a solution that works best for the SAP community. 


  26. Srinivas Kari

    SAP certification isn’t valued because it doesn’t prove SAP knowledge or expertise. One way to correct this is to actually test what kind of skills are required in real word projects. viz coding and configuration skills. A two round certification is needed where the theory exam has questions that test how well a candidate has understood concepts and a practical exam where a business scenario /functional specification document is given to a candidate and he has to configure a  SAP system / write ABAP code (these could be business blueprint documents/functional specification documents from actual old projects).

    SAP should collaborate with CISCO and the test conducting agencies of some of the world’s most selective exams (CAT, IIT JEE in India, LNAT in the UK, CFA in USA etc) and come up with an exam that tests a candidates knowledge of SAP from all angles.

    The point is this: If I am a customer (Enterprise) who is going to implement SAP, I want to make sure that the consultants working on my project at least have the necessary and relevant SAP skills to implement SAP according to my business processes.

    One way to achieve this is by making the SAP certification exam test the knowledge/ areas of SAP/skills that are actually needed when implementing SAP for a customer.

    Another way of achieving this is by having a ratings/review website for SAP implementation partners, where enterprises which have implemented SAP can write reviews and rate their SAP implementation partner (eg Delloite USA implements SAP for Coca Cola USA – in this case, Coca Cola USA writes a review and rates Delloite USA based on whether the implementation addressed key business process pain points,

    improved their business processes, the business processes were mapped into SAP with minimal customization(development), the fees/rates charged, the time taken to implement the project, whether project phases (including go live) were completed on time, any improvements in the Key Performance indicators after implementing SAP, business and domain knowledge of consultants, whether go-live occurred smoothly and with minimal issues, the project implementation methodology, end user training, documentation provided etc)

    When another company that wants to implement SAP reads this review, it can then make a decision of whether they want the implementation partner (delloite usa in this case) to  implement SAP for their enterprise. After 4-5 years this would add up to a considerable number of reviews for each SAP implementation partner.

    More reviews = more verifiable are the skills of the Implementation partner to deliver a successful SAP implementation project. Because these skills are being directly verified by the customers in terms that they understand (business processes, implementation fees, project duration etc), such reviews will give other customers a picture of what to expect when hiring an Implementation partner. When a customer reads a review, they are looking for a consensus.

    While not an exact representation of actual SAP skills, knowledge and expertise, such reviews will at least empower customers to broadcast their experiences to other customers – hence the Implementation partners which hire consultants with SAP knowledge, skill and expertise are able to implement SAP according to the business processes of an enterprise and hence get great reviews. These great reviews in turn help such SI firms get even more customers.

    On the other hand, a SI firm that hire consultants with little SAP skills, knowledge and expertise will have failed implementations. The negative reviews will cause more customers to avoid such a SI firm, unless they can correct their faults and regain customers.


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