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On 11/19/2010, a Twitter chat session was held between @SAPEDU (SAP Education represented by Ken Schieffer and Brian Rice) and @ARTWORSTER (Mr. Art Worster – Director, Applicability, Student Support, and Professional Specialist Acquisition at Central Michigan University).  An ardent supporter of SAP Education and Certification programs, Art’s role at Central Michigan University involves working with the MBA Concentration and SAP Graduate Certificate programs to support the Professors who teach the content; to work with corporate and individual clients; and to help to move the programs forward.

 

For those who missed the chat session, the following is a transcript:

 

Q1 – @artworster Can you tell me your background in @SAP?

 

My intro to SAP was in 1994.  I was leading BPR for a major chemical company. SAP was my transformation IT application of choice.  In 1997-1998, I did PP consulting & led a project turn-around for a small boutique.  I also started teaching WB100 for SAP America.  1998-2007, I led SAP Consulting for EDS.  I also led major transformation programs for several clients, one fixed price – full suite.  Since 2008, I have been adjunct faculty at Central Michigan University in the MBA, SAP Concentration and Graduate Cert. Program.

 

Q2 – @artworster How does @SAP certification fit into your current role?

 

MBA program has a full SAP Concentration (13 credit hours), and a SAP Graduate Certificate Program (16 credit hours).  Both include 4 graduate credit hours for a 10 day TERP10 Boot Camp that applies to the MBA curriculum as well as SAP Certification.  Curriculum includes Introduction, Configuration, BI and Financial Auditing (GRC) in addition to TERP10.

 

Q3 – @artworster In your mind, what is the value of SAP certification?

 

It represents the acquisition of a body of knowledge about how and why business processes are or can be configured various ways.  Just doing things in SAP only provides knowledge of what your experience has been, not what the potential is.  Doing is important, but real knowledge comes from “how” and “why”, not just what. Certifications of all types provide that.  Certifications should also include non-SAP when appropriate – PMI, APICS, CPA, etc.

 

Q4 – @artworster Why are you so passionate about SAP’s certification program?

 

All certification programs confirm certain levels of knowledge; SAP generally includes deeper knowledge of subject areas than some others.  To build a career in SAP, you have to continuously increase knowledge of “how” and “why”.  Certification is a key component of this.  University programs like the Central Michigan University MBA program & Graduate Certificate are also the business side of education.  Other programs are also important, since the need is for SAP, business process & methodologies knowledge.  It all contributes.

 

Q5 – @artworster What improvements would you suggest to the SAP certification program?

 

The certification levels SAP is building are important. Development of more “update” programs to keep certification current is important.  True Masters level certification must include non-MCQ testing and therefore is more appropriate for Universities to work with SAP.  Ultimately, degrees and certifications jointly awarded by AACSB accredited business schools and SAP is the Master’s level.  There is a pilot program starting in Germany that includes University Business Schools and SAP.  This should be in the US also.

 

Q6 – @artworster How do you think @SAP certification benefits a person’s career?

 

It is only a part of the puzzle. Career commitment to SAP requires career-long education and certification is part of it.  Business Process Certification (TERP10) should be a requirement for any Master’s level certification regardless of the source.  Clients should be encouraged to also train the internal business analysts in TERP10 to support on-going improvement programs.

 

Q7 – @artworster Can a person get a job without the benefit of SAP certification?

 

There are many client positions and lower level developer positions that can certainly be done without certification.  Any positions, consulting/client that deal with design of business processes & business improvement should include certified workers.  Clients should strive to have SAP leaders who have all of what would be Master’s level education and certification. 

 

Q8 – @artworster What recommendation would you make to hiring managers relative to SAP certification?

 

For consulting companies, hires should either have or be required to become certified in both their function and TERP10.  For clients, AMS types of positions rely more on what is there and experience may be able to substitute for certification.  For design programs at clients, certification becomes critical since it deals with “how” and “why” and that is not experiential.

 

Q9 – @artworster Where does SAP training fit into the certification equation?

 

For clients, department leaders (analysts & managers) need to know the functionality that is available to think of what is possible.  For consultants, after functional and TERP10 certification, SAP Training can fill gaps in knowledge of surrounding functions.  For client employees, this should be part of continuing education for promotional purposes.

 

Q10 – @artworster Lastly, what career advice do you give your students regarding SAP?

 

SAP, as a career, requires the same type of discipline that other highly technical functions require, like CPA, etc.  If you marginalize your education, you marginalize your value, and you marginalize your potential for reward.  It is always about the business, so including business education in SAP, like MBA or undergraduate electives is crucial.

 

Thank you @artworster for taking the time to chat about @SAP certification. You can view the transcript here – http://bit.ly/SAPEDU

 

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If you are interested in participating in a future Twitter chat with @SAPEDU, send your topic and its value to the Education community directly to Ken Schieffer at Kenneth.schieffer@sap.com.

 

Finally, please join SAP Education at any of our social media channels:

Education@SAP LinkedIn group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1856570

SAPEDU Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/sapedu

SAP Education Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SAP-Education/133385273383060

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  1. Jon Reed
    Guys, thanks for sharing the Twitter chat with us. Twitter chats sometimes come and go without record so it’s good to see them later.

    Arthur, you bring an interesting University perspective into the SAP certification mix. I believe one of SAP’s greatest strengths around certification is it increasing ties to the University Alliance programs, so it’s good to see that continuing.

    I had some issues with a couple of the comments in the chat – realizing of course that it’s difficult in 140 character Tweets to give nuance to issues.

    My responses here are my own and not of the Certification Five that I’m a part:

    “Any positions, consulting/client that deal with design of business processes & business improvement should include certified workers.”

    I agree with that in theory, but right now, SAP’s certification curriculum largely does not address the cross-functional process issues you are talking about. The BPX certification begins to tackle this, as does the TERP 10 for those who are new to the SAP field, but most of the certifications don’t yet. It’s an ambitious project but I can’t see how you can recommend SAP certification for sophisticated “process expert” validation yet. I totally agree with students taking TERP10 but I hope readers understand most SAP certifications are not process-oriented but are module-role-specific.  My goal talking to SAP Education is to get certification to the point where it does accomplish these things, but in my view, recommending it now for process skills validation on actual job sites is premature. 

    “Clients should strive to have SAP leaders who have all of what would be Master’s level education and certification. “

    Agreed. However SAP needs to finalize and publish more of its Master level skills progression roadmap before we can really assess what it will be able to do. The good news is that as you say, there are some pilot efforts underway.

    In terms of improvements to SAP certification, you mention: “True Masters level certification must include non-MCQ testing and therefore is more appropriate for Universities to work with SAP.”

    I think we can all agree on that and SAP certainly does as well. Where we have had vigorous debate with SAP is our strong contention, validated by our own survey data, that the Professional level of certification (validating that 5-7 year SAP professional) also requires more than multiple choice to validate SAP field experience. Recent indications are that SAP is coming around on this point though nothing is finalized. If you believe in moving beyond multiple choice I would hope you would also see the importance of doing that at the Professional level.

    My most recent research indicates that even at the Associates level multiple choice may not be getting it done in all cases, but that’s another discussion. Right now the crux of the MCQ discussion is still happening at the Professional level.

    ” To build a career in SAP, you have to continuously increase knowledge of “how” and “why”.  Certification is a key component of this.”

    My view is that “SAP Certification should be a component of this.” It is in some cases, but I can assure you that many of the finest SAP experts out there, the most senior subject matter experts and SAP Mentors, have either never been certified or have much older certifications that aren’t relevant anymore.

    When we talk with them as the C5, by the end of our discussions and heated debates they are almost always open to the possibility of certification in the future, but with an asterisk: it has to have a direct impact on their professional growth and career. Until then, many of the most senior and accomplished SAP pros will hold out on getting certified, and pushing them to get certified “because it is important” won’t get it done. They need to see market validation.

    On the happier side, most if not all of those I talk to are hungry for this kind of skills roadmap and all are open to professional education – especially when it is on-demand, flexible around their schedule, and relevant to what projects need.

    It goes without saying that the convergence of process skills, mobile technology, business analytics, data visualization and in-memory is changing the game and what companies are going to need from SAP pros once again. Not to mention the different needs of the Business ByDesign SaaS skill set. I sincerely hope the curriculum can keep up.

    Thanks for the interesting chat.

    – Jon

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    1. Arthur J. Worster
      Hi, Jon and thank you for the note on the interview the other day.  I think this can be a good forum for discussion of the issues that you bring up (both for yourself as well as much for the Cert 5).  First of all, let me say that I see my views expressed in the interview as being complimentary to those of the Cert 5, but from a different perspective.  My background is in business, managing large SAP programs as a business consultant, and building and leading a global SAP consulting practice designed from a business perspective.  In my world, I am trying to wade through the inventory of SAP consultants and managers to find the right people to help me derive business benefits from SAP.  If I were strictly interested as a consultant, in figuring out where to invest my dollars and time to build my career, I expect that I would have a somewhat different view of the subject of certification and would likely see it more as the Cert 5 paper does, at least in some aspects.

      Now, that being said, let me respond to your comments, not to refute, but to expand on the complimentary views. 

      “Any positions, consulting/client that deal with design of business processes & business improvement should include certified workers.”

      I agree with your points on this, however, would cautiously disagree with the conclusion.  I have always thought that the lack of cross-functional components of functional (or technical for that matter) certification programs end up producing deep, narrow skill sets that are difficult to integrate into a design team.  I agree that it could be possible to incorporate these components into standard cert courses, but suggest that it would be stronger to include TERP 10 (as it evolves) into the program at some point. Remember that I am a business person looking at the world as it is and trying to figure out how to construct a team with the best chance to achieve business results.  Today we have TERP 10, we don’t have the other aspects that the Cert 5 recommend.  I am dealing with what is there and even if SAP Certification programs never evolve (which they, of course, will), I would still look to people with Business Process Certification for my program, which today is TERP 10.  Beyond that, then, I still have to construct a team of functional experts who can work with my process people to design optimal business processes, and even with the limitations, I still believe that someone certified in a function generally has more in-depth knowledge of that function than MOST non-certified consultants.  Remember, I said that without certification, the business still has to determine that the consultant can do the job, as we both know some non-certified folks can.


      “Clients should strive to have SAP leaders who have all of what would be Master’s level education and certification. “

      I think that we both agree on this, and with the Cert 5.  I believe that Master’s level certification should involve a combination of SAP and Higher Education as we are teaching business skills and management, not just SAP.  I also think that grading rubrics are more flexible in academia than they would likely be with SAP, so that tools like independent research, writing papers and essay questions could be used more broadly.  I believe that the German pilot, my program at CMU, a new program at the University of Scranton and the IT/Business curriculum at Victoria University in Melbourne are all part of this evolution. 

      “Clients should strive to have SAP leaders who have all of what would be Master’s level education and certification. “

      Much of the same applies here as with the last comment.  I think that to make the use of non-MCQ a more thorough conversation, I would start at the end point and move backwards.  As I indicated, I would personally advocate that Master’s certification require detail learning (where MCQ are probably appropriate to some extent), evaluation of experience (a lot of questions here for either SAP or Universities unless it could be evaluated by some sort of paper or thesis in an MBA program), and evaluation of a combination of technical and business knowledge that Universities are probably better prepared to deliver. As you move backwards from here to Professional and then Associate, MCQ is at least a larger component of the programs.  That is not to say that other evaluation methods would not be more thorough and meaningful, but only if one were assured that the grading methods were accurate and consistent – otherwise the program becomes suspect.  This is really the issue, and again Universities are in a better position to use non-MCQ evaulation methods.

      ” To build a career in SAP, you have to continuously increase knowledge of “how” and “why”. Certification is a key component of this.”

      I think that your comment here really gets to the crux of the issue.  I agree with you comment that: “many of the finest SAP experts out there, the most senior subject matter experts and SAP Mentors, have either never been certified or have much older certifications that aren’t relevant anymore.”  The problem is that these are for the most part people who are able to figure these things out for themselves, see processes and not bits and bytes and have integrated business and technical knowledge.  This is hardly the group that you can use to staff an entire project, due to the relatively small number, availability and the cost of staffing with very senior people when we need a blend.  I cannot and will not denigrate the ability of top consultants to develop deep and comprehensive skills without formal certification.  At the same time, I cannot in good conscience attribute this ability to new consultants in general – not because of lack of interest or dedication, but because not all of these processes are intuitive. 

      My summary is that SAP education, for those who would aspire to make a career out of it, has to be built upon all of the above and an abiding interest in continuous learning and personal growth.  This is really not so different than any other profession.  We need to continue to build our education and certification programs while we also strive to select teams of consultants who have the most advanced combination of business and applications skill sets to construct teams capable to deriving business benefits.  I continue to believe that certification for most consultants is one component of this and that certification should be used as one criterion (not an elimination criterion) to evaluate the value that individual consultants can bring. For today, TERP 10 is the certification that I would look when constructing teams to deliver ROI with SAP, in addition to the other skill sets we have discussed.   

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