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I write this blog in response to this blog and associated comments left by the community members mostly SAP Mentors.

A consulting manager’s view according to SAP Mentor John Appleby:

Unfortunately the CVs that cross my desk are more often than not people have the useless TZHANA or TZH100 certifications. The certification in HANA devalues consultants.

TZHANA or TZH100 certifications, useless and devalues consultants? Too strong statement in my opinion. It is not true statement – see below for details – however; and even if it is true, I – who spent ~US$6,000 on training/certification in 6 months – don’t want to hear it from an SAP Mentor in a public forum.

He continues:

and I do not value certification. I value great people with great skills and customer focus. Some of them are certified. There is no correlation between great people and certification and there is a correlation between under qualified people and certification.

Since some of those great people are certified, I can’t explain why the consulting manager pre-judges the certificate as useless. Does anyone else think it is fair – specifically to people like me who spent ~US$6,000 in the last 6 months + loss of income + time/efforts investment?

SAP’s training programs and certification examinations – if attended sincerely and appropriately – would be very good resources to gain knowledge. If one believes in “knowledge is power”, then I would highly recommend SAP’s training programs. If one’s sole motive is just to get SAP job after getting a certificate, then I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’m going to tell 3 stories to illustrate how SAP’s training program helped me acquire knowledge and perform my job better.

Before I begin telling my stories, here is a brief background:

I’m an independent consultant working as Basis Administrator. In the last 6 months, I’ve attended 3 training programs and 2 certificate exams:

  1. OS/DB Migration Consultant Training
  2. OS/DB Migration Consultant Certificate
  3. TZHANA Training
  4. TZ300 Training
  5. TZHANA Associate – Certificate

Story 1: Reduction of EXP/IMP time from 48+ hours to less than 12 hours

In March 2011, I was working on BW unicode conversion project. The production system’s size was 1.1TB. The conversion took 48+ hours.

In Dec 2011, I attended OS/DB migration training program; I received the certificate in Jan ’12.

Since November 2011, I’ve been working on virtualizing the same BW system. It has grown larger since March ’11 and was 1.3TB when we migrated that DB from a server to virtualized zone in April ’12. We also upgraded the DB to Oracle 11g and took advantage of “Compress for OLTP” feature(available since 10g).

We asked for 48 hours outage in April ’12. Two days before the scheduled migration, some emergency came up and the customer suggested the migration be postponed as the business users needed the system on Sunday 8am instead of 8am Monday. At the same time, the customer also explained the need that the migration be completed sooner due to go-live of new reports in two weeks. So they asked us to explore the possibility of completing the migration before 8am Sunday. We accepted the challenge and completed the DB migration in 12 hours.

How did I reduce the runtime from 48+ hours to 12 hours?

From training program in just 3 days (+ time spent in preparing for the certification exam), I learned:

  • the availability and the usage of Time Analyzer tool
  • How to read the report generated by the Time Analyzer tool
  • Advantages of table splitting
  • How to implement table splitting based on Time Analyzer’s output
  • Running Export/Import in parallel
  • The number of available options to run export/import in parallel
  • How to choose a right parallel option for a customer
  • How to use some undocumented parameters to SAPINST
  • and more….

I certainly am not making more money due to the training program and/or the certificate I earned. However the customer thinks highly of me due to:

  • Considerable reduction in the migration time and
  • My willingness to take initiative and learn newer ways of performing tasks

They may not pay me more;however they may keep me longer. Regardless I learned something new through training program and the customer provided me an opportunity to test what I learned. As a result, not only I’ve theoretical knowledge but practical experience as well. Knowledge is Power, isn’t it?

I really wished I had attended that training program sooner.

Story 2: Designing Partitions in SAP-HANA

I’ve decided, as a result of my success with OS/DB migration training program/certificate, not to waste anytime in signing up for SAP-HANA training programs. Believe me, had I thought attending a training program was a waste of time/efforts based on OS/DB migration training, I would not have signed up for TZHANA and TZ300 training programs. First I signed up for TZHANA;enjoyed that training and am glad I attended it.

One of the slides from that training program is shown below:

HANA_Partition.png

Based on the slide shown above, I knew we shouldn’t create more partitions than the number of blades. And this blog – Great blog. John Appleby took time to explain what he learned during data load – discussed creating 26(+1) partitions in one-node server. As a result of what I learned in HANA class, I was able to ask this question:

On partitioning: I assume – based on 512GB size – you used one-blade SAP-HANA. From performance standpoint, is there any advantage(other than 2b records limit) of partitioning tables on one-blade SAP-HANA appliance? Wouldn’t this be counter-productive in some cases as CPUs now need to spend time splitting the job/scheduling/monitoring etc?

And John responded:

Yes a single 512gb 40-core system is what this is on. If you have >2bn rows you have no choice but to partition. Does this reduce query performance? It’s a great question that I can’t answer yet but in theory you could be correct. What I can say is that queries do use 100% of all 40 CPUs when running against 27 partitions. Next steps are to play with the data model a bit and then see what happens when we vary the number of partitons.

Would it perhaps perform better with just 2 or 4 partitions rather than monthly? That’s for another blog!

Once again, the knowledge I gained was powerful and was able to ask thoughtful questions.

Story 3: High Availability

SAPPHIRENOW ’12 demonstrated High Availability. IMO, what SAP demonstrated was not HA – they didn’t demonstrate what will happen when all nodes fail. I wouldn’t have realized it had I not attended TZ300. The training programs certainly helped me understand what is hype and what is real. My thoughts on HA are here.

PS: Since I’m traveling next 10 days with mostly no internet connection, I wouldn’t be able to respond to any of your comments promptly.

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10 Comments

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  1. John Appleby

    Love your blog and it shows how people can have different perspectives. You feel you got value and that is all that matters. I’m still going to argue with you on an few points 🙂

    1) Freedom of speech

    I take this to task on a matter of principle. I away many hats – employer, customer, Mentor, Blogger and manager. All of these – as well as the first amendment – permit freedom of speech and Mark Yolton’s comments back up how SCN values this. I recognise you might not like to hear that I believe your investment might be misplaced but that is nonetheless my position.

    2) OS/DB migrations

    I believe this is one area in which certification is useful as well as necessary, because you cannot get a migration key without it. I do question your comments on information about reducing migration time because this is well known publicly available best practice. I know about it and I am not OS/DB migration certified.

    3) TZHANA

    First, your feedback on TZHANA is the first positive feedback I have heard from customers and 20-30 other people I know that have covered it. Is it possible you feel positive about it because of your investment? Certainly within SAP it was known that this course was weak which is why it has been replaced.

    As to your question, it did prompt the question as to whether and when you need to partition but the course did not give you the real data you needed – what partitioning best practice is when there are >2bn records in a single node. I would say your training course failed you in this respect.

    4) HA

    You seem to be confusing HA and DR here but this is a genuine concern the whole. It is in the HANA roadmap.

    But to conclude, if you feel that your $6000 was well spent then that is all that matters and I am therefore unsure why you should be defensive on that basis – unless you are unsure that you got value?

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    1. Anjaneya Bhardwaj

      My opinion about certification.

      I Started my SAP Journey in October 2009. I cleared two associate level certification ABAP and PI in SAP Teched Banglore 2010 and 2011 respectively .I had not attended any training and cleared the exams.So don’t know how much help is training for people who are already working?

      I would not say that associate level exams are very easy and they do not really challange our technical knowledge as I saw many sad faces after the certification exams and it is common to see people trying it multiple times.

      I do not know how much importance does certification have on final decision to hire someone. But we see most of the companies who work in SAP space giving some preference to certified candidates over non certified ones.The usual mail from the HR department would say “SAP certification is not mandatory, but an advantage”..

      Regards,

      Anjan

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    2. Bala Prabahar Post author

      Hi John,

         2) OS/DB migrations

               I always try to acquire some level of knowledge/familiarity before signing up for a training program/conference. In the last few years, I’ve primarily worked for a single customer on almost all Basis tasks except OS/DB migration. The priority was not on reducing the time to migrate DB. We use “Redirected restore for system copies” so the runtime for OS/DB migration has never been an issue. 

           – Does this mean I was not familiar with the methods to reduce the migration time?

              No.

           – Could I’ve used well known publicly available best practice?

              Of course yes.

           – Could I’ve learned “migration time reduction techniques” in 3 days?

              No.

      Conclusion: I use training programs to learn new, (k)new technologies. I don’t sign up for training programs on new, new technologies.

          3) TZHANA

           I can’t answer why mine is the first positive feedback on TZHANA. This reminds me of a training program I attended in 1980’s. That 6-months training program was conducted for the first time in 1987 and it included Data Structures. I loved it and enjoyed that class. No one else(30 students) liked it however. And the feedback they(the corporation who conducted it) received was poor;they revised the curriculum for the next batch of students and obviously didn’t include Data Structures. Does that mean original curriculum was weak? Absolutely not from my standpoint.

           Similarly in TZHANA class, I was a bit surprised with the kinds of questions asked by the students. The questions revealed (a majority of) students’ ignorance on general DB concepts. So I’m not surprised why SAP had replaced it. The response – new, (k)new vs new,new – I provided to the previous question is relevant here.

           To your comment “training program failed” – I agree, that program didn’t teach everything in 2 days. Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

         4) HA

           Are you saying that one node failure on one node server is called DR and one node failure on two nodes server is called HA?

         1) Freedom of Speech

                My knowledge on this topic is poor so I wouldn’t be able to eloquently present my thoughts. My response: No Comments.

      Thanks for your time,

      Bala

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  2. Jon Reed

    Bala,

    I was impressed by this blog post for a particular reason: you were upset by some of the comments on the certification blog by Markus Schwarz. But instead of raising the tension by going on the warpath you wrote a blog that made your case in a well-reasoned manner without throwing anyone under the bus. Well done.

    The interesting thing about Markus’ blog post is that by citing HANA he brought another theme in besides the general value of certification. I know you are familiar with the work of the certification five as well as my own writings on this topic and you know we are trying not to undermine SAP certification but to raise it to a level of value that would truly make it a market leader. However I am stickler for a brutally accurate diagnosis of a current situation in order to improve it. That’s what was missing for me in Markus’ blog.

    Of course I was hoping he would engage further in the comments and a discussion that led to action items would ensue. Behind the scenes I have seen some signs this will happen. We shall see.

    In terms of HANA in particular, my concern was simply that the skills needs in HANA were being overhyped. And therein lies one of my major critiques of SAP certification. Too often it is overhyped, not necessarily by SAP but by sketchy third parties. Pointing to hype of skills demand can convince those new to the SAP field to get certified and they are often assured of a lucrative career. I have heard from thousands of these folks over the years and they are disillusioned, not because certification had no value, but because they were sold a bill of goods on what it could do for them. That’s why I want folks inside of SAP Edu to be extremely careful about overhyping skills demand. In my view Markus leaped to some conclusions about HANA skills demand that are not true in the field. That frustrated me.

    I want a nuanced discussion of the value of certification across the board in SAP, so the community has a better understanding of how it can help and to what extent. For those who have strong SAP experience, I do sometimes recommend certifications that can help them logically extend their skills into new areas. It’s not the only investment option but it can be a good one and that sounds like what you have described in your experience.

    Of course my concern is that with many written exams it is easy enough to get your hands on the documentation and get yourself passed without having the proper background. That gets back to some of John Appleby’s points about when certifications in HANA can add value and where they are weak. The good news is that I have seen both on backchannel and on Twitter a strong desire on the part of the HANA team, as well as John, to push this forward in order to give aspiring and senior HANA professionals access to resources and, hopefully, credentials, that advance their careers while helping customers have successful projects. To me, that’s what we want out of these debates – not to alienate each other but to bring out critical issues that SAP can take to heart and improve upon. Hopefully that’s the outcome we’ll see here.

    Finally, Anjan, to address your point on certification and hiring: I do agree that HR often likes to see SAP certifications and indeed if all things are equal between two candidates certification can function as a tiebreaker. But it’s very rare to see a company hire an individual with less project experience than another just because they are certified, unless cost is an obstacle or they want a junior level individual. In other words, it is extreme and incorrect to say that “SAP certification as a whole has no value.” (though I think it’s fair game to pick on a particular course that is especially weak). But it is equally incorrect to say it has “undisputed value,” especially when so many of the things we have pushed for, such as investment in a master level curriculum, hands-on exercises to validate Professional level skills, etc have not been achieved yet nor does there seem to be much progress towards them.

    It was the “mission accomplished” tone of that prior blog post that sparked this debate. The good news is that the debate has surfaced content that SAP can act on, and I hope we will see some action. Particularly from the HANA team I am seeing signs of follow through, though a broader result is preferred. And there, I have to wait for proof at this point. Thanks again Bala for chiming in and adding some needed context.

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    1. Anjaneya Bhardwaj

      Thanks Jon for adding up.

      I am presenting some points for working people who undertake certification.

      Somewhere I read that there is a lot of enthusiasm about the SAP certification in developing countries more particularly in India.I agree that is true up to an extent.The managers and HR internally encourage people to do the certification and they bear the cost as well if they clear in most cases .Junior level employee use certification as a tool to get into better projects inside the organization and companies use no of certified resources to get the business.I think no one would disagree that certification alone will never fetch you a good job.It is true for most of the certification in this world and true for SAP certification as well so I see nothing problematic here.Yes we can always try to make it better, better and better and if some one is working towards it then I do not expect more.

      However What disappoints me is the no of people doing Professional and Master level certification. I do not how many of Professional certification are acquired every year globally but I believe they are very less compared to Associate level.It makes me feel that people who have acquired certain level of skills- 1. They do not value certification or 2. Certification really does not have any value  for them.

      Thanks,

      Anjan .

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    2. Bala Prabahar Post author

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks for your kind words. I still vividly remember the discussions I had with you and Vijay over phone regarding a blog I wrote last year. Both you and Vijay helped me understand the beauty of blogging. In less than 5 minutes of our discussions, you mentioned I should argue at the intellectual level, not emotionally. While writing this blog, I kept asking this question: Am I writing emotionally or intellectually? Due to travel plans, I had a very limited time to write and didn’t want to repeat last year’s mistake. And I’m glad you liked my blog. That speaks volumes about the outcome of our discussions last year. Thanks for your great mentorship:)))

      And regarding other points you mentioned on certification/HANA, we’re on the same page. You’ve already covered all points eloquently in C5 report, other blogs on this topic and in response to this blog. Wish you(us) good luck in making progress in implementing your team’s(C5) recommendations.

      Thanks for your time,

      Bala

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  3. Ravi Sankar Venna

    Unfortunately, some people think they are over smart. Giving a generic statement on Certification is very easy in nature, but they will never pass a Certification. They should happily suggest the list of all such useless certifications to SAP to close down. If HANA itself is not matured product and the people are still struggling to learn the fundamentals, how can somebody expect experts in the market? If HANA is useless certification, then, why SAP is pushing a lot for this certification? Why people are going mad for this one? I know the “Certification” is not everything, but they should have thorough hands-on experience and client facing skills. Any skills cannot be developed in a day or two? In some cases it may take years altogether. You cannot simply blame the certification itself. If that is the case, then SAP should find out the reason why the substance is very low. One way you are pushing the certificates into the market and the another way if you are calling them as useless, nobody will appreciate the double standards.

    Many Thanks,

    Ravi

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  4. Tom Cenens

    Hello Bala


    I think it’s great that you wrote this blog post as it gives another view on the whole discussion around training and education.


    My first question to you is: if you could put a price on the training/certifications you have done in the past six months, what would you price it? Do you believe the price is justified?

    In my opinion SAP shouldn’t be building revenue out of education and certifications. Why not? By not building up revenue you would enable much more persons to attend these trainings and get certified.

    Something I haven’t heard yet or missed somehow is the fact that if you get a training and you get certified and then spent the next year doing things that are not related to that training/certification you might already have forgotten half of it or more. What I would suggest is make the certification very cheap or even free of charge and make the certifications expire on a yearly base. Why would you do that? That way those who are certified actually have to proof they still have the knowledge that was required to pass the certification. In my opinion it would add more value to the certifications themselves. This along with other changes of course such as hands-on etc.

    It’s dangerous to generalize of course that’s also what I want to avoid. I’m sure that training and certification can be useful. Do you learn something if you take it seriously? Yes. Does it give you a competitive advantage compared to others? Sometimes it does but there are more pointers out there besides “Knowledge is power” that matter.

    How useful is a full blown genius, a rare expert that has no team spirit, cannot collaborate with others, fails to communicate properly and is constantly suspecting others that they try to bring him down when he has to work together with a whole team to complete a project? Does he have the knowledge? Sure he does. Does his presence make the team perform better? Most likely not.

    For me that’s my interpretation when Jon is referring to “great people” I think about special persons who not only have a certain knowledge level on what they are doing but who are also capable of capturing content very quickly, persons who see things, have ideas, have team-spirit, persons who are trust-worthy, have the best intents and love what they do. I could keep going but I would say the X-men that want to make the world a better place.

    I  like the fact that you highlight a course like OS/DB migration. You really value the training and that’s great. I’m pretty sure there are trainings from SAP that are useful and that help the trainee get knowledge that would otherwise be hard to find and I do believe the OS/DB migration course is a useful course to take. Glad to see someone highlights the positive side of training and education in this context.

    Why do so many SAP Mentors react to the education and training related blog posts? Because they are so passionate about SAP and what shows from the comments is the willingness to help and collaborate with SAP. They are not out on a crusade or anything. I always saw the SAP Mentors as X-men, they are special in their own way and they want to make the world a better place. Starting with SAP.

    Best regards

    Tom

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    1. Bala Prabahar Post author

      Hi Tom,

      You raise very good points. To your question, “Do you believe the price is justified?” , yes it is justified in my case. In other words, I don’t regret my $6000 investment.

      Your point on technical skills versus soft skills is great. Technical skills alone is not going to help any team. That’s why the certification alone shouldn’t be used in hiring decisions. That is just one of several other factors.

      As you know, I believe there is a lot of room for improvement in SAP education/certification space and we all know, all of us(including SAP education) will win when we make attempts to improve it.

      And your statement “…that help the trainee get knowledge that would otherwise be hard to find…” explains why I believe in attending the training program. I attend training programs because the information covered in the training program is not readily available to the public;very hard to find and time consuming. Rather than spending 6 months to learn using publicly available but hard to find information, I would prefer investing x dollars to learn that stuff in 2-5 days.

      Thanks for your time,

      Bala

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