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I have had some discussions recently around the value of SAP certification and thought I would just jot a few of my thoughts down and share them.

SAP has been advocating for the last couple of years for consultants to be SAP certified. I have no issue with that and our organization is slowly endeavoring to have all our functional/technical people sit for the examination. With our existing people, the preparation to sit for the exam can act like a refresher and make them re-evaluate their current knowledge of the HCM module and ensure the design they offer to a client is the most appropriate and not based on their knowledge of several years ago. Of course, we also expect our people to keep up to date via blogs, webinars, conferences, etc. The concern is the people who believe that if they get Certification they will be able to walk into an SAP role.


However, would we hire someone just because they have SAP Certification? Definitely not. In my experience of interviewing people who have obtained certification, it is possible to attend a couple of weeks training, sit for an exam and pass without gaining any knowledge of the product. These people are usually bright, capable of absorbing information and completing a multiple choice questionnaire without realizing any context around what they are regurgitating. As stated above, I am not against certification, but it needs to be complemented by experience as well.


Many years ago (and I am talking R/3.0B days), if you spelt SAP when asked what you were working on, rather than saying the word sap, you were highly sought after and looked up to as a leader in the field. Finding work was not an issue. Pressing the F1 key and trying to understand some of the German that hadn’t been converted to English was the norm though. I think configuration was referred to as trial and error. But the people being employed were either experienced HR/payroll practitioners with the ability to learn or came from a background working with another payroll product.

The need for experience still holds true today. However, rather than thinking you will get a role as a Functional consultant merely because you have Certification, look at joining an organization as an end user (gaining knowledge of HCM and its legislative compliance implications, especially). Seek out roles as a Business Analyst working alongside knowledgeable, experienced Functional people and learn the complexities of good design and meeting a client’s requirements. With the way forward being in the cloud, it is more important than ever to be able to work WITH the business and guide them to achieve the best business outcome, facilitated by the system.


And finally, don’t give up. Provided you have the aptitude and the attitude you will make it and be very glad you sat for the Certification exam and passed.

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11 Comments

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  1. Luke Marson

    Hi Paul,

    Excellent blog! You touch on a number of quality points here and it is important that freshers do their homework. Blogs like this can help educate people into the paths they need in order to “break in” to the SAP world.

    It is similar to having a university degree, which only proves that you know something from an academic perspective, not a vocational or practical perspective. In a way, SAP Certification is the same thing.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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    1. Paul Fraser Post author

      Hi Luke,

      Thanks for the nice comments. it is great that people trying to break into SAP have the motivation to get Certified but they need to realise that is just a small step.I hope some of the organisations offering training don’t over promise that by completing and passing the exam you will be employable as a Functional consultant.

      Paul

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  2. Stephen Burr

    Paul,

    About a month ago I asked an almost identical question of my peers amongst the SAP UK User Group.  Small sample but interesting results.

    Results: https://twitter.com/BurrStephen/status/273721407840583680/photo/1

    At the end of the day, I believe customers will drive the importance of SAP certification. As you say, most put more value on experience and other forms of proof of knowledge than certification.  Also interesting how SFSF approach certification and whether their vision will hold up under the barrage of all the SAP consultants keen to learn SFSF.

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a (non SAP) project manager in my very first IT job as a graduate. My role was an analyst programmer but he said to me, “what ever project you are working on, try to learn as much about the business in that area that you can”. 

    Regards,

    Stephen

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    1. Susan Martin

      Hi Stephen

      would you be willing to share a bit more detail on this with me? We recently conducted a similar survey with the German User Group and agreed with the Certification and Ennablement Influence Council last week that we want to roll this out to further user groups around the world. We are toying with a few ideas about gathering more detailled feedback on the value of certification at various stages of career maturity as well as differentiating between technologies, i.e. do customers see a greater value in HANA certification than FI certification…. does it make a difference to the value where we are on the career path? Apart from the fact that I don’t want to send out the same questions again to the User Group I would also be interested to hear about the background and your views on it.

      Thanks

      sue

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  3. Harish Krishnan

    Hi Paul,

    I got my Big Break long ago, I entered a project for the first time. The customer was happy to have me, inspite of my inexperience, because of the SAP Certification. Nowadays, I do not bring up my certification at all, my experience far outweighs that piece of paper, but even so , there are people who always perk up when I mention it.

    The way somebody at the SAP Academy explained it to me long ago, was the Certification indicates that you are basically aware of the functionality provided by the product, and you have enough knowledge to explore and derive a solution for a given set of requirements. For example you would know the standard ways in which you can maintain Employee Master Data. With more and more experience, you develop a set of standard solutions to fit most requirements, or you are able to think of creative ways of meeting requirements not fully catered for by the standard.

    Clearly the importance of a certification does become diluted, when anyone can pay a certain amount, sit through the examination, and clear it. I am not sure how difficult the standards are these days, but at one time, it was not possible to clear it without going through the training course, or by having 1 or 2 years of experience prior to giving the certification exam, and therefore it was still highly thought of.

    I think, the main issue is having the Certification alone does not make you a Subject Matter Expert, and does not probably qualify you to lead projects. That sort of thing comes with experience.

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    1. Luke Marson

      Hi Harish,

      This is an interesting perspective and I’m glad to hear that someone has got some use out of SAP Certification. I think how you were explained the value of Certification is very good and shows the basic framework it gives potential consultants. However, I’m leaning towards your thoughts that certification is more watered down now than it used to be. It’s a bit like a UK University degree – so many people have one and can get one that it doesn’t really have any value any more.

      However, in some cases it takes that person who is certified to have the extra ability and mindset to know it’s just a foundation and to grow themselves in a role. You certainly seem like that sort of person.

      Best regards,

      Luke

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    2. Paul Fraser Post author

      Hi Harish,

      It’s nice to see the comments of someone who is certified and has managed to gain a role on a project. Certification is an added bonus that shows you have the drive and aptitude to go further but as you point out, the customer is usually looking for experience.

      Paul

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  4. Susan Martin

    Thanks Paul for an excellent blog! I think this reiterates well the standpoint that certification is a very good prerequisite and I like the fact that you mention the value that brings to your customers and employer on refreshing knowledge to prepare for the certification. But you are also absolutely right in that certification is not a ticket for a free ride and othr elements will continue to play an important role as well.

    Sue

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