In September 2012, I was delighted to be asked to attend Nakisa’s first partner forum (read here for more detail) where one of the topics discussed in detail was how to re-structure their training courses in content, structure and format. We also discussed how this should form part (but not all) of the steps towards certification and the need for that award to be publicly available information – making it simpler for clients to verify consultant suitability as well as being something that Nakisa partners can confidently reference and promote.
I am delighted to see Nakisa have responded quickly, and the first 4.0 Delta courses started within weeks of the 4.0 release onto SAP SMP. Oliver Huetz, “Manager of Education Services” at Nakisa released this explanation video:
Having taken a full 3.0 Nakisa course a couple of years ago (and various others before that), I signed up and attended Nakisa’s 4.0 Delta training run for EMEA in mid-January 2013. This is my diary, thoughts and reflections on the course.
4.0 courses are being made available to Nakisa Partners until March 2013 and are advertised on the Partner Training page of Nakisa’s website.
4.0 Core Training courses (5 days) are aimed at technical consultants from Nakisa’s Partner organisations and incur a charge (see the website or speak to your local Nakisa representative). 4.0 Delta courses are open to consultants who have previously completed a 3.0 training course and currently incur no charge (you still need to register though, as places are limited). Curriculum and agendas for each course are available on the Partner Training page.
The 4.0 Delta course is a 2.5 day virtual classroom course. I attended an EMEA training course from 16-18th January 2013. The trainer was in Montreal but the participants were spread over EMEA, so the course was run at times to suit the working day in CET (6 hours time difference to Montreal, so a VERY early start for the trainer!).
To access the course, each attendee was sent a GoToMeeting login and details of an individual training environment. This training environment comprised of a virtual server pre-loaded with all of Nakisa’s applications and a set of test data. Each of us also had remote desktop access to our own allocated virtual server, so we could check the file system, restart the NetWeaver instance, etc. if required.
During the course, each attendee was on mute but you can “chat” to the trainer by typing messages into the GoToMeeting chat window. If the trainer needed to, they could unmute you or even hand over control to share your screen.
The course started with some information on what the key differences are between the service packs in 3.0, the goals of 4.0 and how the suite has evolved in 4.0. This is followed by a more detailed walk through of the changes in each application.
Next up was a look at the core capability of the AdminConsole which has been improved across the suite of applications. While OrgChart was the first to receive some “new” capabilities as part of the 3.0 service packs, these have now been extended across the other SOVN and STVN applications. The only exception to this is OrgManager, which still has limited configuration options.
As day one progressed we each completed a series of exercises on our own virtual machine which gave hands on experience of the standard applications. The exercises were based on common practical tasks such as creating your own export template, using resource bundles and visualising additional data in a details panel retrieved using an RFC call to SAP.
The second day began with a look around the validations feature (which enables you configure rules to apply to input fields) and a related configuration exercise. It then moved on to a more detailed look at OrgAudit (formerly called DataQualityConsole), first looking at the process and then the technical steps behind setting up audit rules. Rules can be created from one of the supplied 48 rule templates or by creating a new rule template. We looked at both methods and of course completed an exercise on each.
Leaving Org Visualization (SOVN) behind, we moved onto the Talent Visualization (STVN) modules, first looking at how the menus are configured in AdminConsole’s Module Designer and then looking at how forms are amended. Forms allow the system to capture user input and can write back changes to SAP. Once again exercises were used to reinforce the learning.
The final part of the content delivered by the trainer looked at how you can view detailed system information and trace remote function calls (RFC). This RFC tracing can be invaluable in assessing performance and debugging processing bottlenecks..
However the biggest challenge of the course was yet to come … an in depth “customer case study” exercise. Unlike the other exercises, which had structured steps, this exercise had only a requirements brief and some example screenshots to show what your configured solution should look like.
The morning of day 3 was set aside to complete the exercise. Most people took between 3 and 5 hours to complete the exercise. During this time, the trainer was available online to answer any questions but the aim was to do the exercise using the knowledge learnt from both the 3.0 Technical Training course (you can read my diary of that course here) and this 4.0 Delta course.
It involved building a hierarchy, designing a details panel, amending a write-back form, and using a resource bundle. I found the exercise reasonably challenging, but worked steadily through it taking most of the morning to complete it.
Once the participant completes the final exercise they are sent a link to an online exam hosted by a learning portal company. The exam consists of 20 questions, with most correct answers yielding 10 points although some questions offered more. In the variation I took the total points on offer was 220, the pass mark was 80% and you got a maximum of three attempts at the exam.
The exam contains four different types of question:
- Multiple choice (single answer) – choose the one option that applies.
- Multiple choice (multiple answers) – choose as many options as apply.
- Hot Spot – select one or more areas of the screen to provide your answer.
- Sequence – order a list of options to provide your answer.
I’d heard (and can easily believe) that quite a few people have failed this step; so it certainly isn’t just a formality. Fortunately I think my years of Nakisa experience stood me in good stead and after taking the exam on the same day I passed the exam on the first attempt.
The trainer did a good job in keeping the course engaging and reasonably paced; not easy given the virtual classroom format. They were able to answer nearly all questions quickly, but also not afraid to take a question away if required, always ensuring she came back later with the answer.
The slide deck was concise, well explained and a copy of the deck was provided at the end of the course via the learning portal.
As mentioned earlier, each attendee had their own training environment which was ideal, as nothing beats hands on experience. The exercises reinforced the learning and ranged from straightforward to the much more open and challenging final exercise. During the course, we encountered a handful of issues with the exercises, but each one was resolved and I’m sure the instructions will be revised by the next time the course is run.
The standalone environments were set up with the standard products pre-configured to use the appropriate data connections. Each attendee could also access their own virtual server directly, which was useful as most of us experienced some performance issues at some point and we could monitor and restart elements within the environment without affecting anyone else. Hopefully Nakisa will consider adding more resources to each virtual server to avoid this in future courses.
With the final day being based solely on the final (lengthy) exercise, I think the course could have benefited from a more formal end – perhaps just a chance to all get back together, re-cap and discuss the next step (i.e. completing the online exam).
I liked the online exam format and the learning portal software; particularly the variety of question styles. I also think there was a good variety in the question topics which covered both Org Visualization and Talent Visualization modules with respect to functionality, installation and configuration. However, I found quite a few of the questions ambiguous, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Again, I hope the feedback is incorporated for the next set of attendees.
Path to Certification
In 2013, Nakisa will launch its Partner Certification Programme. As Oliver explains in the video, the path to certification is from either completing a full 5 day course and 2 virtual expert classes (focussed on particular modules) OR from having previously attended a 3.0 Technical Training and completed the 4.0 Delta course. All of these courses are concluded with a configuration task and an exam, which trainees must complete (and pass) to be eligible for certification.
Candidates eligible for certification will be invited to take a final advanced certification exam.
Certified consultants will be able to advertise their proficiency with Nakisa solutions, helping to distinguish them from competing parties with no such title. A list of certified consultants will be available on www.nakisa.com.
Hopefully this will put an end to companies claiming to have certified consultants when they merely have consultants who have attended a training course. As with any walk of life, I would recommend prospective employers look for not only evidence of a candidate’s training/certification, but also their project experience.