I have attended many SAPPHIREs during my 17-year career at SAP, but SAPPHIRENOW 2012 in Orlando was a really great event; they just get bigger and more impressive every year. The agenda was well represented by the hottest topics of interest to SAP, our customers, and our partners. And the topics neatly tied in to SAP’s five market categories of Cloud, Mobile, Applications, Analytics, and Technology & Database. Watching the executive keynotes, it became clear to me that SAP is putting a lot of innovation into the market across all five of these areas. This in turn means that many people will need to be ramped up, re-skilled, or up-skilled. And our ecosystem needs to be prepared to support this in order to be a force multiplier. So every time I heard about our new innovations and focus areas, that translated immediately into the following question in my mind: what does SAP Education need to do to really support this growth from a customer and partner enablement perspective?
HANA Skills Are in Demand
For me, the biggest topic at this year’s event was HANA, and this was mirrored in many of the interactions I had with other SAPPHIRE attendees. Reflecting on the conversations I had with customers and industry analysts, HANA was a dominant topic. One analyst told me that as he was researching the value of certain SAP skills in the North American market, he discovered that the best paid SAP skills in North America at this time are HANA skills. While this shows that there is significant demand, there is not yet a comparable supply of HANA trained professionals to meet that demand. This is clearly something which we at SAP Education want to tackle. We want to up-skill many more people in this critical area of HANA and fill the resource gaps in the market. SAP Education is continuing to expand our HANA curriculum even as I write this blog. We have released a complete offering for both the modeling role and the administration role, including certifications, which are basically two sides of the same coin in the area of HANA. And given the big push on this topic, the timing couldn’t be better.
Eye-Openers from Customers
During this year’s SAPPHIRE, I also spoke with some big customers who had a large number of SAP specialists in their ranks. They were all concerned about how they can keep the skill sets of their people upgraded flexibly and in a scalable way. This was a big topic for customers, which was something of an eye-opener for me, as I expected this to come primarily from partners. We also gained a lot of traction with customers around the SAP Learning Hub offering which provides 24×7 access to the learning curriculum from SAP Education. We originally introduced the SAP Learning Hub to the market in order to help our partners to be up-skilled in a very scalable way. But this offering also seems to be very appealing to the large customer, so we agreed on quite a few demos and presentations as a follow-up to our SAPPHIRE discussions. We’ve also lowered the entry barrier for the SAP Learning Hub, so the minimum number of users is now 300; this makes the offering very appealing for large customers. So while the SAP Learning Hub is still offered primarily to partners, it was never actually restricted to that audience, so we will continue our discussions with customers and look for ways to get them engaged in it as well.
The Value of Certification is Undisputed
One thing that I noticed which was really different from last year’s SAPPHIRE was the prominence of the certification topic. From the perspectives of customers, partners, and also internally, the need and value of certification seems to be undisputed. Whereas last year, our focus was more around evangelizing certification, this year was more about creating transparency and guiding the demand so people had an understanding of where to get the certification the need. The popularity of certification is also shown in our adoption numbers, which I believe is a direct result of the many innovations which are now coming to the market, where a host of new skills are needed. People are starting to realize that quality assurance really starts with inspecting skills in the market.
Collaboration with Partners
I also had many conversations with partners, and they see quite a lot of improvement in the ways in which they work together with SAP in general and especially with SAP Education. Our partner program has been in place for well over a year now, and that means we have dedicated stakeholders not only in the regions but also globally. This is something which is very much appreciated by the bigger partners who need that level of focus and dedication. We got a lot very of positive feedback from them, and they pointed to the strong results of this improved collaboration; this can be seen in such areas as joint planning exercises and proactively tackling the task of upgrading the workforce together.
One of my main take-aways from SAPPHIRENOW 2012 is this: in general, the market understands our offering and is very accepting of the direction that SAP Education is going with regards to increasing elearning and the move towards more flexible consumption models. As we continue to expand our offerings to meet the demands of the market, it’s becoming increasingly clear that customers and partners are discovering that SAP Education is essential to their success.