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At the recent SAP University Alliances curriculum congress in Singapore Stephen Watts, President SAP APJ, called for help from universities.  He indicated that there is a large SAP skill shortage and SAP need help from universities to address this shortage.  He indicated that some projects have been delayed because of this skill shortage.  But what sort of skills is he talking about?  He also indicated that SAP only receives about 35% of their revenue from ERP systems.  This is not to say that this is not an area where skill shortages exist.  There have been some very good blogs from Art Worster

/people/arthurj.worster/blog

On the same day Paul Rosner, Vice President Business Information Systems BHPBilliton,  spoke about the type of skills his company needs.  He discussed deep technical skills supported by generic business skills (communication, problem solving etc.).  He indicated that the technical skills would get students into the interview and then the generic skills would get them the job.  The next speaker was from SAP HR Recruiting who emphasized the importance of the generic business skills.

Unfortunately too often I have seen academics focus on statements from industry relating to generic business skills in isolation.  A lot of times these skills can be developed in parallel to the technical skills through different teaching methodologies.  Also academics focus on the statement about SAP skill shortages without understanding the breadth of skills that exist in this ecosystem.

So what skills is industry after?  There is no right answer as this will vary from country to country based on the maturity of the ERP environment.  Academics in the different regions need to develop closer links with industry to understand the skill requirements.  For example I asked the BHPBilliton speaker about their projects related to ESOA and composite applications to get a better understanding of the need for these skills.  He indicated that this was not a priority for his company at the moment.  This is the 3rd largest company in the world who have been innovators with SAP solutions.   So should my staff be spending a lot of time developing curriculum in this area or are there different priorities.

I am not going to address the issue here about whether universities would be the defacto education arm of SAP.  Universities could say that it is not their problem that there are SAP skill shortages.  However they should not ignore the opportunities this provides through the initiatives SAP have put in place.  Maybe market forces will fast track a solution to the skills shortages.  Skills in demand will be rewarded appropriately so students will demand this knowledge and pressure academics to develop appropriate curriculum. 

More and more I am seeing different areas of SAP making solutions and associated tutorials available to improve skill development.  Maybe SAP will have to balance the need for skills and the need for revenue from SAP Education.  I have proposed on a number of occasions that SAP should sell their education material at a reasonable price and increase the charges for certification.  This would certainly facilitate the provision of skills. 

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  1. Tammy Powlas
    “I have proposed on a number of occasions that SAP should sell their education material at a reasonable price and increase the charges for certification.”

    I am not sure I follow why/how increasing charges for certification would help?  Are you saying that education should be less expensive but increase the cost of certification?

    It is a great post; I learned more in March about TERP10 at the Student Curriculum Congress and I think overall universities who teach the foundation of fundamental business processes cannot go wrong.

    I confess that even in grad school I grew tired of the group projects, but that is real life – finding a way to collaborate and work as a team.

    Tammy

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    1. Paul Hawking Post author
      Thanks Tammy

      I propose that SAP should provide their education materials at a reasonable price so people can attempt to teach themselves. This would reduce SAP’s revenue from class room training but it certainly increase the skills/knowledge in the ecosystem.  Often the barrier to attending SAP Education courses is the cost.  SAP can get some of this revenue back by increasing certification fees.  It would still be an overall loss of revenue.  But this has to be weighed up against the loss of revenue from sales and the risk to implementations due to lack of skills.

      SAP know the risks associated with lack of skilled resources.  Some areas of SAP have identified this as an issue and have offered free elearning, educational resources and access to systems to alleviate the skills issue.

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  2. G Lakshmipathi
    On the certification point of view, I would like to comment something.

    In a country like India, I dont know why SAP is enforcing so many rules and regulations on those who would like to appear for certification.  One such rule says

    “atleast they should have worked with the current employer for minimum period of one year”

    which I dont agree.  I know people with vast exposure to SAP but not able to appear for certification just because of the above rule.  If you ask me, I would say that overall SAP experience should be one or two years in which they are currently working which is well enough to appear for certification.

    This is parallely affecting the IT as many are demanding certified consultants.

    If really SAP would like to penetrate more into Indian market, then they should relax many rule, especially the one cited above.

    thanks
    G. Lakshmipathi

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  3. Fabio Pagoti
    In my point of view, certification shouldn’t be a good in a way that its aim would be generate revenue to SAP.

    Certification must be a guarantee that companies hire good employees and that employees are technically trained to assume a job. Is this offer unfair considering the cost of ERPs to companies and the opportunities lost with lack of good (and certified) professionals?

    In Brazil, it’s mandatory to attend a course before taking a certification. A single course is more or less 8 times (YES! 8 TIMES!!!) more expensive than the minimum wage guaranteed by law. The certification exam is almost double of this value.

    Is it strange that there is a lack of certified professionals? I don’t know anyone who will stop eat for 10 months to take a SAP certification course + exam. Neither a company that will pay 10 salaries for a academic / newly formed person.

    For each pound SAP wins with certification, training and education, it losses three in opportunities.

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    1. Tobias Hofmann
      “In Brazil, it’s mandatory to attend a course before taking a certification”
      >> No, it is possible to take the certification directly. Not sure about freelancers, but for CLTs that are working for an SAP Partner: you can take the certification without attending the course.

      Yes, the prices are too high in Brazil when you have to pay them, but the main focus group are companies and its also expensive in Europe or USA to attend one. Looking at the average salary an SAP professional gains, paying 18660R$ for learning PI (NW_BIT_DEV_71_BR) is nothing you can pay without some help. And an SAP professional rarely gains the minimum wage of 545R$ (Brazil) or 600R$ (São Paulo).

      br, Tobias

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      1. Fabio Pagoti
        Hi Tobias! Thanks for your reply.

        I tried to contact SAP Brazil more then three times and always was said to me that it’s mandatory to take a course. Nothing was mentioned about SAP Partners.

        Even if you can take a certification working for a SAP partner, we are barely talking about those who work for medium/large consulting companies. I work for a company which for sure is in the top 5 of the biggest SAP implementations in the world and we are not an SAP Partner(of course this is not an IT company). Shouldn’t it employees take a certification without taking a SAP course? The company can handle training for itself so it doesn’t make sense to pay an SAP course for an intern or a trainee and I’m sure it is considerable for SAP revenue.

        And sure, I totally agree that a SAP professional gains much more than the minimum wage, but we are talking about those who already took SAP courses in the past or in company like me. Once you already work with SAP (and probably have a good salary) there are numerous of most effective and lower cost ways of continue learning instead of taking a SAP course. The only opportunity you lose when you don’t take a SAP course or work for a SAP Partner (again, not the majority) is being not able to have a certification. And certifications are definitely not a top priority when measuring knowlegde. In Brazil they are just nice to have for most serious companies.

        In my oppinion SAP avoids new and interested professionals to start working with it products, without any shadow of doubts.

        Do you understand my point of view?

        Guys, what do you think about this?

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        1. Tobias Hofmann
          Companies in Brazil always cite as a requirement SAP certification, but when it comes to really hiring someone this is just a plus. They know that there are not enough SAP certified professionals out there.

          The site of SAP Education USA states: “While there is no course or set of courses required in order to take a particular certification exam”
          http://www.sap.com/services/education/certification/levels/faqs/index.epx

          For Brazil they want you to take the course, but I would be surprised if SAP Brazil won’t accept someone that hasn’t attended a course before. Some courses (like SAP Portal) are simply not offered or only in São Paulo once a year, adding flight + hotel expenses, making it impossible for freelancers to attend a training.

          For customers SAP Education offers special trainings. Looking at the training site of your company (company taken from linkedin): “During 2010, 102 292 employees from developing countries received formal classroom training […] includes employees who undertook classroom training as part of our […] ongoing SAP deployment”.

          br, Tobias

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  4. Stephen Johannes
    If we forget about SAP specific training, how many people are  graduating with degrees that prepare the student for a career in information technology?  The SAP specific technology skills are easier to acquire if the student/graduate has studied a program that builds up those fundamental skills.

    Unfortuantely IT is no longer the “hot career” path and many other areas such as bio-med, health care, etc. have replaced that IT in that position.  That would definitely not help any shortage.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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  5. Tobias Hofmann
    Consulting the lists of UA universities in Brazil (http://uaaroundtheworld.informatik.tu-muenchen.de/overview%28bD1lbiZjPTEwMQ==%29/start.htm) there are 6 universities. I get 1 valid result for Rio de Janeiro:
    Barra Mansa (UBM, http://web.ubm.br/sap/).

    As there are some very large SAP customers and being based in Rio it’s interesting for me to know what SAP together with UA is doing to ensure that there are enough SAP professionals.

    As there are only 6 universities listed for entire Brazil, there is definitely not a shortage of SAP professionals. When there is no shortage, the level of teaching should be high; you have to stand out by other means.

    Looking at the UBM site, they offer pós-graduação, MBA and extensão, but the links are partly broken (ex.: http://web.ubm.br/page/curso_posgraduacao_detalhe.asp?cod=121).
    For the links working, I’ve put the teachers name in Google. After all, you cannot really teach SAP (the product, not the ERP concept) without having hands-on expertise.
    For most of them the only valid search result is the UBM site of the course, and when more info shows up, it looks like the courses are meant as a hiring tool for CSN (a large company where UBM is. So the industry <-> university link is working -> that’s good!). But this leaves the impression that the only competency you need to be a teacher is to work at CSN (ex: ERP specialist with certification in Microsoft but not in SAP).

    “that there is a large SAP skill shortage and SAP need help from universities to address this shortage”
    -> Not in Brazil, not in Rio de Janeiro.

    (Or: maybe SAP should look more closely whom they select for UA. UBM is in Volta Redonda, that’s at least 2 to 4 hours from Rio city, while many companies are located in Rio city).

    –==–
    Even when the university was listed by the XCelsius tool it’s sometimes impossible to find any reference to SAP UA on the university site. Of course you can try the search functionality:
    IBMEC: search broken
    PUC RS: SAP = Serviço de Atendimento Psicológico

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    1. Fabio Pagoti
      I really never heard about this university (I’m from São Paulo) but I’d like to know what SAP did to create a UA with the most important universities in Brazil. From the top 100 universities here, I don’t know anyone who is in UA. I can be wrong, but I’m sure that if there are some, will be a few.

      I guess today we have a good number of SAP professionals in São Paulo. However companies still seek for really qualified ones.

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  6. Satish Talikota
    A. VARIANTS OF SAP SKILL SOURCES. RAW WORKS AS WELL !! – My Experience !!

    There are number of models adopted in Indian market to staff SAP resources. I wanted 25 SAP Consultants for a L2 support engagement, if I had gone the conventional way, the project would have gone into RED and I would have been replaced by some one else. Instead I adopted staffing through recruitment vendors. None of the resources are of Grade A per se. But I took grade B and C considering some complimentatary skills to catch up. It worked very well and was a success. Later on, we had cross skilling of these grade B abd grade C resources and they were so valuable that the client started trusting their solutioning.

    The candidates were either having good industry background and certified or with no experiance but heavy SAP Config knowledge (practised like hell) or were Key hands on users of a client who has implemented SAP…..none have straight forward implementation experiance.

    B. SAP SKILLS FOUND BY BACKWARD INTEGRATING (point of view)

    Having said that, I forsee that the future SAP Consultants will come straight from the Colleges mainly for support projects. I am surprised that Indian IT companies do not have any approach to tap the talent at college/ university level. In one of the Job interviews I mentioned this and the person acknowledged that this is a very good approach to backward integrate with the UA Insititutes. Well, its nothing but what we know of Sales Operations Planning and Demand Management concept for resourcing. For example companies do the campus hiring and then they put these freshers in training for 3-6 months and deploy on projects, all in all it takes 6-9 months for this fresher to get deployed on a billable assignment. What a waste !! Instead with UAP, the fresher is no longer fresher, he is certified by SAP and the client will be happy to have him on the billable assignment in a months time perhaps.

    C. PROJECT WORK IN ALIGNMENT WITH SAP UAP.

    The project work undertaken by the student can be in alignment with the SAP Partner company needs and professor’s guidance. This too will support the tight backward integration. Also, SAP Labs can offer projects to the Institute and once done the Service Partner / SAP Labs can hire the candidate who has so much of value generated already.

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    1. Community User
      You have provided some good observations.. you might not be aware that Victroia University in conjunction with Ganpat University will be launching their Master of Business in ERP Systems in July.  This course has been in operation for more than 10 years and has produced many industry ready graduates.
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      1. Satish Talikota
        MBA in ERP Systems with TERP 10 with specializations (technical/ functional) coupled with ASAP / RUN SAP Project Management will be the need of the hour. Good to know that Ganpat University is gearing up.

        I have gone through both the websites. This is certainly a way to go. I am sure more and more overseas and Indian Universities would collaborate and this will create a different resource landscape to cover the skilled resource gap and increase the quality of business management research and SAP Solutioning . All the best !!

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      2. Satish Talikota
        While there is focus on the young aspiring graduates in Business management there is a big chunk of Industry experianced folks across India and also in other nations that are willing to take a plug into SAP but for the lack of systematic transition they seems to stay away. I suggest that there must be some courses through University which can fast track these experianced Industry resources into SAP.

        I know a few Indian companies have taken this route by training them into SAP. They are highly successful and customer would be delighted to have these Industry process matured folks talking indepth SAP language.

        While you need fresh graduates at support level of SAP Consulting, the experianced industry folks are again very much needed at middle and senior level SAP Consulting.

        In SAP terms, you need,

        Graduates like resources @ Realization, Production Preperation, Golive and Support Phases.

        Industry experianced resources @ Project Preperation & Blueprint phases.

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  7. Jose Victor Sayo
    We are a young college in the Philippines of which Im the head of the School of Accountancy & Business of Asia Pacific College. Being an SAP functional user in 1995, I see the excellent potential for a business graduate who is SAP-literate. We have imbedded SAP in our business curriculum for the past 3 years already by having hands on exposure on the navigation thru the different core business modules of SAP using the Fly-A-Kite dataset. The benefit is APC’s graduates have the edge in the workplace as they are SAP-literate and not just IT-literate. I believe that for SAP to have more consultants they should make the learning of SAP thru the universities and colleges very affordable. Doing this would attract a lot of educational institutions to integrate the SAP learning thereby produce a lot of potential SAP consultants.

    As for the certification fee, I find quite still on the high side of the cost. I hope SAP will not make money here. Note that to guarantee continuous supply of SAP talents, the fee should be attractive for more people to take. This way you have more chances of getting more talents.

    The bottomline here is that SAP should not make the SAP education and certifcation fees as a source of income but would be better if it would be part of their CSR – corporate social responsibility.

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