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SAP SuccessFactors Professional Certification Level: What it means for customers and consultants

In Q2 2015, SAP re-launched an enhanced Professional Certification for SAP SuccessFactors applications. This certification is the gold standard for SAP SuccessFactors consultants and partners and demonstrates that a consultant has proven technical and functional expertise. Professional Certification gives customers peace of mind that their consultant has been there and done it, and isn’t a junior or learning on the job. While there is nothing wrong with having a junior or inexperienced consultant, the lead of a project should always have Professional Certification. In this blog, we’ll explore what this means to customers and consultants and look at why customers should always seek out some of the hundreds of consultants that have Professional Certification.

Some background on SAP SuccessFactors certification

Before we look at Professional Certification, it is worth briefly looking at the overall certification program in order to get some much-needed context. As covered in my popular blog SuccessFactors Training and Certification FAQ: 2015 Edition, there are two levels of certification for SAP SuccessFactors consultant:

  • Associate Certification
  • Professional Certification

Freshly trained consultants obtain the lowest level of certification – Associate Certification – after taking training and passing an exam. This is the beginning of the road towards Professional Certification. Associate Consultants – once they meet the criteria – can apply for the next and top-most level of certification: Professional Certification. We’ll dig deeper into the criteria and other aspects of Professional Certification throughout the rest of this blog.

As a side note, customers should never use a consultant that doesn’t at least have Associate Certification. Some other tips for customers can be seen in this episode of Firing Line with Bill Kutik.

What is the value of Professional Certification?

Many consulting partners and consultants value their expertise and being able to provide expertise and being able to successfully deliver implementation projects for customers. Customers often look for – and should be looking for – the best consultants available to deliver projects. This is where Professional Certification comes in.

The unfortunate truth in the marketplace is that many consulting partners – big and small – are causing big problems for customers by using consultants with only Associate Certification to implement SAP SuccessFactors software. I have seen first-hand and heard many stories about so-called “trusted brand” SAP ERP HCM on-premise consulting partners leaving customers in a mess because the consulting team had not led a project before or had not even been on an implementation before. It doesn’t matter if the consulting partner is a legacy SuccessFactors partner or a legacy SAP ERP HCM consulting partner – without the right consultants it doesn’t matter what the partner has done or wants to do, they need to have the experience. After all, you wouldn’t let a trainee builder build your dream house, so why risk your software implementation by using trainee consultants?

Whether it is a consultant, solution architect, or delivery lead – Professional Certification is what customers should be looking for to ensure that they have experienced and skilled consultants on their projects that have the right level of expertise to design and implement SAP SuccessFactors software. And there is definitely no shortage of consultants with Professional Certification in the market.

How’s it different from traditional SAP certification?

One of the major aspects of Professional Certification is that it requires SAP to validate the applicant consultant’s implementation experience with the customers of the project that are nominated. Essentially, SAP are vetting consultants for Professional Certification and this means the certification actually means something in the marketplace. This is not to say that traditional SAP certifications don’t mean anything, but it certainly does not hold the same value as SAP SuccessFactors certification.

What does Professional Certification mean for customers?

Ultimately, Professional Certification means customers can trust that they have consultants with validated experience, expertise, and customer success. By speaking with customers and having them rate the consultant, SAP can understand if the consultant really has the right breadth of experience and was able to successfully deliver customers projects.

Professional Certification also means reduced risk. By using a consultant that you know has experience and has been vetted by SAP, you know that you have a higher chance of success in your project.

With over 350 consultants that have Professional Certification (as of August 2015), this means a possible 500 projects (or more) can be led simultaneously by experienced consultants. This means every active project that is taking place today can be led by a consultant that has Professional Certification, so there really is no excuse for your project not being led by an experienced consultant.

Can I have a successful implementation with a consultant that doesn’t have Professional Certification?

Certainly it is possible, but by choosing to have an implementation delivered by consultants without Professional Certification is a gamble that leaves you open to the risk of a messy and stressful implementation or – worse – a failed project. There are many examples in the market of projects turning into a nightmare for customers because the consultants they used didn’t have Professional Certification. And you won’t know until it’s too late that your project is going down a nasty-looking path…

However, using a consultant with Associate Certification is much less riskier if they are shadowing a consultant with Professional Certification (irrespective of whether the consultant with Associate Certification is the lead or not). At the end of the day, consultants have to learn – but that shouldn’t be at the expense of your project success.

A consulting partner has told me that Professional Certification is not important. Is that true?

There are many consulting firms that do not have (m)any experienced consultants, including some of the bigger implementation partners. Unfortunately, many consulting partners are more focused on profit than customer success and are happy to:

  • Big up their consulting expertise despite not having (m)any consultants with Professional Certification
  • Pass off Associate Certification as Professional Certification
  • Use the word “certified” to give the impression that a consultant is experienced or has Professional Certification; and/or
  • Undersell the need for consultants with Professional Certification

The bottom line is that customers should always seek out consultants that have Professional Certification to lead their projects, irrespective of what a consulting partner may tell them. Unfortunately, some consulting firms have their own financial interests at heart and will talk down Professional Certification if they do not have certified consultants.

Ultimately, if a consultant does not have Professional Certification then they do not have the deep level of expertise that you need on your implementation, no matter how many projects the consultant is alleged to have been part of.

How can I verify that my consultant has Professional Certification?

Consultants are able to send verification of their certifications from the SAP Credentials Manager. All SAP SuccessFactors certified consultants – whether with Associate Certification or Professional Certification – are listed in and have access to SAP Credentials Manager. While customers do not have access to SAP Credentials Manager, consultants can send out a verification.

A secondary place to check is on the SuccessFactors Community, where a list of partner organizations with consultants that have Professional Certification is available. While this list is a good indiciator, it does not list individual consultants and doesn’t take into account consultants who are not full-time employees of a partner (i.e. affiliated or exclusive contractors, etc.). This list is available at

I recommend that customers always ask for proof of certification. All consultants can provide verification of their certifications and therefore customers can be assured that a consultant really does have Associate Certification or Professional Certification.

What are the benefits for consulting partners and consultants of obtaining Professional Certification?

Well, there is the obvious benefit of knowing that you have the right skills, experience, and capabilities to deliver projects, as well as having a competitive advantage over consulting partners that don’t have (m)any consultants that have Professional Certification. Additionally, there are other benefits that SAP offer:

  • Preferred status and promotion with Customers and internal SAP
  • Considered for HR LOB Enablement Council
  • Considered for VIP events and other Customer facing events
  • Priority status for implementation Issues (future)
  • Required for Recognized Expertise (future)

What is the criteria for obtaining Professional Certification?

As you can imagine, the criteria that consultants are evaluated by when they apply for Professional Certification is rather robust. This is to ensure relevant experience and a track record of success. SAP use the following criteria to assess candidates that apply for Professional Certification:

  • Up-to-date Associate Certification (inclusive of all Deltas)
  • Successfully implemented at least 3 projects, of which 2 out of 3 must be as the lead
  • Nominated projects must have gone live within the last 36 months
  • Customer reference: the contact email address should be with the customer’s domain
  • Named projects are not internal to Partner organization or SAP
  • At least 80% score for each section (1-5 scoring)
  • Lead role definition
  • Timelines and Business Impact
  • Experience Criteria
  • Customer recommendation

SAP defines a project as:

  • Customer implementation (not internal to Partner Organization or to SAP)
  • The scope includes one or several modules of the SuccessFactors HCM suit
  • It’s a new Implementation (first implementation of the module(s) within customer production instance)
  • Start and go-live dates are clearly defined
  • End-users are actually using the implemented solution

Upgrades, technical projects (integrations, interfaces, etc.), technical migrations, new features/quarterly release implementations, or deployment of additional population/organizations do not count as projects that will be assessed for Professional Certification level.

So I meet the prerequisites for Professional Certification level. How do I apply?

If you meet the prerequisites for Certified Professional level then you can go ahead and apply at the SAP Training and Certification Shop via the URL The S-User linked to your Associate Certification is required for login.


I have Professional Certification. Do I have to do anything else?

The answer is Yes. All consultants that have Associate Certification and Professional Certification must take and pass delta exams within 6 months of them becoming available in order to retain their certification. If a consultant does not complete the delta exam within the 6-month period, the consultant will lose their Associate Certification and any corresponding Professional Certification. Consultants -that lose Associate Certification will need to take the Core Exam again to start over

The frequency for delta exams will depend on the product for which the consultant is certified and how significant product updates are. Consultants are notified of Delta Exams becoming available via an email from Credential Manager.

Does Professional Certification exist for all SAP SuccessFactors applications?

Nearly all of the SAP SuccessFactors applications have a Professional Certification. These are listed below with their full name:

  • SAP Certified Application Professional – Cloud HCM Employee Central
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Performance & Goals Management
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Recruiting Management
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Recruiting Marketing
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Onboarding
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Compensation
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Variable Pay
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Learning
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Succession
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics & Planning

At present, Career Development Planning and Employee Central Payroll do not have Professional Certification. Additionally, Employee Central Payroll does not have Associate Certification.

Where can I get more information?

There are a number of places to get more information. The two SAP Training and Certification shop links below contain useful information, as well as the two SCN blogs:

Partners can get information from SAP Partner Edge:


The need for experience and expertise as the foundation for project success is not a new or unknown principle, and SAP provide customers with a way to identify which consultants can help to design and implement a SAP SuccessFactors solution smoothly and successfully. Consulting firms can use Professional Certification to differentiate themselves from less skilled competition and can provide aspiring consultants with a career path.

Although some consulting partners wish to downplay the need for Professional Certification, the evidence is weighted strongly in favor of Professional Certification providing evidence of proven experience and customer success. There is no reason why customers should not be seeking out these consultants and ensuring that their project will be staffed with the right resources to make sure they and their project are successful.

Also, don’t forget that you can keep up with the latest and greatest on SuccessFactors in the SuccessFactors and SAP LinkedIn group.

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  • Great job pulling all of this information together Luke. My own POV is SuccessFactors certification “could mean something” or it could follow the same route that SAP Certification did. A lot of it has to do with how much it is promoted and made aware of to SAP/SF customers. When I got my SAP HCM certification back in 1998 it was really valuable, only for partners, long waiting list and many customers asked for it, but by the early 2000’s it had didn't carry the same value. 

    I have been a advocate for SAP/SF certification as it ultimately helps customers to have experienced people (both with training and real life experience and success) to be helping implement their software. 

    On a side note I have 2 SAP and 3 SuccessFactors certification which might be another reason it is near and dear to my heart 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments Jarret. I agree with you that if SAP push the certification and customers get exposure to what it is, then it will offer real value. Having spoken to SAP, I know that they plan for a big push internally and I've given them my recommendations on how I think they can push this.

      Best wishes for 2016.


  • As always, "Energizer Bunny" Luke is on top of the story.

    Certification is the only way to take expertise out in the global world, because not everything can work by word-of-mouth, there isn't any better platform. Then if you top the expertise with actual experience (as it is doubtlessly the case for both of you Jarret Pazahanick and Luke Marson) customers can get the best.

    Cheerio, friends. Thanks, Luke.

    • Thanks Chiara! I agree and SAP's way of vetting applicants means that they are able to discover whether the applicant really has done the work they claim to. I can tell you that SAP have already rejected several applicants because they didn't meet the criteria, and that is refreshing that SAP are doing their due diligence in order to help customers to their due diligence.

      Best wishes,


  • Luke - Thanks for the great overview and promotion of our Professional certification program.  I can tell you that this program is very important to SAP, and we are placing heavy emphasis on Professional within SAP and with our Customers.   I also welcome suggestions on what additional incentives would really mean something to our Partners that achieve this level of expertise.  Thanks again and LOVE the blog!


  • Another great blog! Thorough explanation. Sounds like a rigorous process to go through but will definitely separate out the exceptional consultants.

    As a pretty techy guy, I keep flip flopping whether I should take the leap over/into the SF world. Perhaps if that day comes, I will contact you for pointers (after reading all your blogs again of course haha).

    • Chris: this isn't possible. Luke (and his suspected twin - or are they triplets?) writes high quality blogs faster than mere mortals can read them 😉

  • My heart so wants this to work!

    My head is hopeful, but sceptical. So far, every partner-related process at SAP after the SuccessFactors acquisition seemed to aim at eliminating partners, who don't have at least one full FTE to do nothing but navigating the ever changing, often contradicting and occasionally failling partner processes.

    So, with this quite comprehensive quality check in the pro certif, I see a risk it is eventually testing endurance and resources more than skill.

    But fingers crossed the recent glitches in the matrix were transition problems and it works. I'd be happy.

    Gold standard?

    For now maybe.

    But for customers to rely just on this in the long run still isn't enough imo.

    The criteria aim at what SAP wants: new implementations = new sales. At the moment that's what most customers want. Cool.

    But even, if you are now just aiming at implementing that one module: the proof is in the pudding and go live is just the starter. Will not a consultant, who's helped customers with integration in further modules and 3rd parties, built up further reporting and analytics tools, supported in consuming ongoing innovation not also make the better design choices in the initial implementation?

    Therefore, my possibly naive assumption is that this certificate will avoid the worst, but idendifying the Gold Standard will still require some smart research.

    The best consultants will always need integration skills, a good understanding of real world processes and a good deal of soft skills. Everybody with endurance and average intelligence and management skills will get the pro certif, but doesn't necessarily make a great consultant.

    It would be asking too much of customers to assess all these capabilities as part of the project reference and there would be a high level of subjectivity.

    Even as it is, I wouldn't be surprised about some highly creative interpretations of "lead" role. Where large integrators have (too) many people involved, there is a lot of wiggle room - particularly when half the customer IT team is 3rd party and the customer employees find it difficult to make that call.

    Ok, you may have guessed: certifications are not as close to my heart as to Jarret's (I did my first one after 19 years and 50+ SAP HR projects). There was a time, when out of 40 candidates the 20 with certification were sent back immediately, because experience taught me that most good consultants at the time didn't bother doing multiple choice tests (that was 98/99, so Jarret's case proofs that I would have made a huge mistake, had his application ever hit my then employer)

    By now, I have to acknowledge they are an important piece in the jigsaw. There are things they do well. And then there is more. But we couldn't go without them

    any more in SuccessFactors. In my book they can be a silver standard - or meeting half way: white gold standard 😉

  • Always appreciate your content Luke.

    Our firm has 30+ SF Certified Professionals, and presently were are sorting out the delta recert process for Learning and EC. Has anyone identified the best way to prepare? As it's a delta exam, I'd rather not have to see everyone go through the full Associate training. Do we know if the IRR's are a reasonable resource to leverage?

    Also, we've run into several issues with the Credential Manager and Certification Hub - my advice to friends would be that if you have Professional Certs expiring this quarter - start the legwork yesterday!

    • Hi Cary - There are really two options for preparing for the delta exams.  The first is to go through the delta training that is found in the Learning Hub in the applicable Academy Learning Room.  Each Academy course has a dedicated Learning Room with a "Delta tab".  The information found in the Delta Tab is a scaled down version of the what is found in the IRR information.   Our goal is to enhance and improve the delta training over the next year.

      If you do not have a Learning Hub subscription, you can use the Quarterly Release JAM Group for Partners and the IRR information found there.  In addition, we will be providing videos of the key new features and configuration relevance.  Just an FYI that the quarterly release information found on the JAM group will be eventually migrating over to Partner Edge.  We won't decommission the JAM group for a long time but our goal is to provide all the Quarterly update information on Partner Edge.  The overview I provided above can also be found on the SuccessFactors Implementation Page on Partner Edge here:  I hope this helps!

      • Thanks very much Suzanne - we did actually check out the Learning Hub, and it did seem to be (exclusively) the IRR content. So I just wanted to confirm that was sufficient for prep/focus!

      • Actually, on second thought - it looks like the 1505 Admin Guide is in the Learning Room now as well. That's a lot of material (300+ pages, plus the IRR). Will we be tested on deltas alone, or is the content of the 1505 Admin Guide fair game as well?

        • You can prepare the Delta Exam Topics by reviewing the 'Delta Release' documentation available in the relevant Learning Room and by selecting those topics for review in the relevant Admin Guide if you need a deeper dive about the topic/feature.

          The Delta exam will contain questions associated with some of the new features in the 1508 release (the IRR should guide you here as to what to focus on specifically) as well as some questions regarding the LMS product that are not 1508 release-specific.

          I would start by taking the IRR, identifying the 'new' topics, and then researching those in more detail in the Implementation Guide.



          • Regina - I appreciate your responses!

            I am still a little hazy on what to focus on. Specifically the bit around "as well as some questions regarding the LMS product that are not 1508 release-specific." With just the IRR and Admin Guide, I'm not sure what to study for non "1508 release-specific" questions.

            I checked the topic areas listed for the exam, but they further confuse the issue as all of the details at this link reference an exam for a 1505 Delta. Are these just typos?


            Apologies for so many questions. With 30 people to re-certify, I want to be sure they are both learning the requisite material - and leveraging their time as efficiently as possible.

          • Regina - having taken the Learning Delta (I passed), I certainly have feedback to share. Is SAP interested in collecting that feedback anywhere?

  • Something to note - I personally am having lots of trouble taking the 1508 Delta.

    As a long-standing Certified Professional, I had status well before the new rules. I'm trying to take the Delta Exam - which as I understand, is what I need to do to maintain status.

    The prereq for D-THR88_1508 is apparently hard-configured in the Certification Hub to C-THR88_1502 - and I'm not able to register. I have not taken the 1502 exam, and it certainly hasn't been shared that I need to.

    I have various tickets out, but no joy so far.

    • Hi Cary,

      We are aware of this issue and are putting a fix in place.  I just got off the phone with our Global Certification team to escalate this issue and we expect to have this fixed next week. Please be patient with us just a little while longer.  You will be able to take the Delta exam very soon as the pre-reqs will change to reflect either _1408 or _1502.



      • Thanks Regina - I did get a reply from SAP Education this afternoon that had conflicting information. They directed me to the 1502 Associate Exam.

        Appreciate the update, and would appreciate it if you could keep us informed!

        • Hello Cary,

          The Global Certification Team has confirmed that your passed status for the C_THR81_1502 certification exam is in the system and you should be able to register for the Delta exam (D_THR81_1508).  Please be sure to login to Credential Manager using the S-User ID that you used to take the C_THR81_1502 exam.

          I hope this helps.  Best of luck taking the Delta exam.  Please notify us if you have any further issues.

          Sheri Schaaf

          SAP Global Certification Team

          • Sheri,

            Thanks very much, but Credential Manager is not my issue. I'm not able to schedule D_THR88_1508 in the Certification Hub.

            I can schedule any exam in the Certification Hub with the exception of D_THR81_1505 (which I am not qualified for), and D_THR88_1508 (which I AM qualified for).

            If you could let me know who to coordinate with, I'm happy to take this out of the comments section!

      • Hi Regina,

        The same issue exist when registering for the Delta Certification for Employee Central Q2/2015 (D_THR81_1505). The pre-requisite seems to be hard configured to C_THR81_1505 in the Certification Hub.


          • Are there any plans to extend deadlines? With this being a new process, my team is having a lot of trouble getting access to systems. To even validate status, many are still locked out of Credential Manager due to mass password resets in December (tickets are in-process). The folks that are ready for next steps are not able to take the exam, due to the above pre-req issues.

          • Hi Regina,

            Do you have an update on the EC Delta Certification issue? I am still not able to register for the EC Delta Exam even when I have met the prerequisite.

            I had written to "Education North America" team in early Jan and followed up again with them but didn't get any response.

            Your help is greatly appreciated.



  • /
    • Hi Vasily - The original project term requirement was within the last 24 months when we launched Professional.  We temporarily extended the project term requirement to within the last 36 months through March 31st, 2016.   The reason for this temporary extension was to allow consultants that had built up experience while our Professional program was on hold to use those projects and apply sooner rather than later.  We do plan to revert back to the original requirement of 24 months in April.



  • One question I forgot to ask, Luke. When a consultant wishes to provide their credentials to a client, does the document/cert go to the consultant and then the client? I hope not!!!! I can see that being abused and certs forged. I am hoping that it is much like when you want to send proof of insurance to a client and you basically request it and it gets sent directly to the way to "man in the middle" it. 😉

    • Hi Chris,

      The consultant can send their PDF certificate or they can go to SAP Credential Manager and sends an email from the system directly to the customer.

      Best regards,


  • as a ex-customer i have question

    1 - why is registery voluntary. make no sense. would you not want people to know

    2 - why some certification expire and other not. see example

    SAP Certified Application Professional - Cloud HCM Employee Central08/01/2014SAP Certified Application Associate - SuccessFactors Employee Central08/01/201404/12/2016

    3 - why company not shown? if i as customer look for company to bring as top 2/3, i would like to see how many they have and also who available

    4 - how does certification move with consultant. the whole discussion on provisioning access etc. very confusing

    • Hello Howard,

      Let me try to answer your questions.

      1. Registry is voluntary as in some countries, Privacy of Information Acts prevents any company from sharing names and contact details without an individual's consent.  Therefore, we must allow people the choice of registry.

      2. Expiration is based on the type of Certification you have. Associate Certifications are meant for consultants who are just starting their careers and it's important that they stay up-to-date on the latest functionality of a product for the first several years while they advance their skills and eventually become 'experts' in their field.  This helps to assure customers that the consultants chosen for their projects have the foundational knowledge they need to support implementation projects.  Once you reach a Professional status of certification, you are deemed to be an expert/senior consultant who can lead projects on your own. 

      3.  Same reasons as #1

      4.  Certification is tied to the individual, not to the company he/she works for.  That means that if a certified consultant changes jobs and moves to another organization, he/she does not lose his/her certification status.

      I'm not a member of Credential Manager so I can't comment on the provisioning access discussions, but what I can say is this:

      1. Provisioning is only provided to Associate Certified consultants.  If the Associate Certified consultant lets his certification status expire without re-certifying, he will lose his provisioning rights.

      2. Professional Certified consultants do not lose provisining rights unless they leave a partner organization.

      3. Independent consultants who are self-employed, or consultants employed by non-SAP Partner organizations will not receive provisioning rights, even if they become certified.

      4. Independent consultants who are self-employed, or consultants employed by non-SAP Partner organizations cannot become Professionally Certified.

      I hope I have helped to clarify any confusion.

      Best regards,


  • Dear Luke,

    I follow your blogs regularly across various platforms. Thanks for providing another excellent blog.

    I just noted something contradictory, please give me a justifiable answer.

    The below wordings are taking from your blog :

    "What is the criteria for obtaining Professional Certification?

    One of the criteria is : Successfully implemented at least 3 projects, of which 2 out of 3 must be as the lead."

    Also you have stated "Implementation delivered by consultants without Professional Certification is a gamble that leaves you open to the risk of a messy and stressful implementation or – worse – a failed project. At the end of the day, consultants have to learn – but that shouldn’t be at the expense of your project success."

    Then how & why SAP SF is expecting consultants (without Professional certification) to implement successful projects that too as a lead role for 2 projects ?

    Because of this criteria, SAP SF is also contributing indirectly for a failed project right ?

    Thanks & Regards,


    • Hi Namsheed,

      You should shadow a project first and then lead a project with an expert who supports you. You should never just lead a project immediately after training, since the required skills, methodology, and expertise behind cloud implementations is different from on-premise.

      Best regards,


  • Great post!

    I think for young people in the workforce certification is a great way to show skills and knowledge despite not having as many years of experience as others in the field. It also allows one to let the certification speak to their qualifications on a resume/interview so that they can focus on showing the soft skills that truly set them apart!

  • Great post!

    I had questions after reading the post but were answered very well already in other comments.

    I am planning to do my SF EC certification soon. I am not employed at the moment but in my last job, I was working on an integration project as a test lead where SF was to be master application.
    Is it possible to prepare for associate certification without having access to SF to practice?


    • Hi Priyanka,

      Thanks for y our comments! You can purchase some hours on a SuccessFactors system through the Learning Hub to use with your training.

      Best regards,