My SAP Activate Certification Journey
Previously, I successfully passed the SAP Activate certification. I had a couple of days available in between assignments to take the exam. It was hence the perfect opportunity to clear a certification.
Let me share a couple of notes about the experience.
I would like to share about the context, the approach I been used to prepare, the actual test and some reflections about it.
Why is this certification relevant to a Project Manager leading any SAP Product implementation?
Of course, and as anything in IT, 7 years is a long time. SAP Activate methodology has replaced ASAP and the C_PM_70 certification has been retired.
It was time to deep-dive into the new world of SAP Activate and clear the corresponding certification (C_ACTIVATE13)!
There’s sometimes a debate about how certifications are helping you become a better Manager or Consultant.
Yes, certification is not everything. Soft skills and experience are key. But I believe a certification like this one provides a confidence boost and help you deliver better on the job.
First, preparing for the certification forces the acquisition of the knowledge you need. You have an exam to pass and you’d rather not pass it twice (3 hours test time). After preparing for this test, you have tools and knowledge to make a good start.
Second, it proves to our clients that the person assigned has acquired the skills required to drive an implementation based on SAP Activate.
Third, it’s the perfect way to shift from the traditional Waterfall mindset used for years into the Agile approach. Preparing for the certification will boost your understanding of the approach and tools for an SAP Activate Agile implementation.
The key assets I’ve used have been the following:
ACT10e – This one is major. It describes everything about SAP Activate: the SAP Best Practices, Methodology, and the Guided configuration principles. It covers extensively the implementation approaches (On-Premise, Cloud, Hybrid) and the methodology variations per what you’re trying to achieve:
1. New implementation
2. System conversion
3. Landscape transformation.
The course is available online (eLearning) and gets updated frequently. The course also has some of the Agile content covered in ACT200. This is a must read for the test of course.
ACT200 – This one is available as a classroom course.
It gives the knowledge you need about Agile approach in the SAP Activate context. You’ll learn about the Agile artifacts, ceremonials, and tools. There are some questions about ACT200 in the test, although less than from ACT10e. In my opinion and from the deck only, you can acquire the necessary knowledge for the test. The experience is not as nice as the actual classroom setting but that makes the job.
What I really like in the classroom was the practice exercises. They help you better understand the key Agile concepts (e.g. velocity) or tools (scrumboard, story backlog, sprint backlog…).
So how did I prepare?
Scrum guide – I’ve reviewed the official scrum guide which is available for free here: http://www.scrumguides.org/
This synthetic (14 pages) document is covering the key concepts of Scrum: Team structure, Artifacts, and Events. I did use a highlighter to memorize key messages.
At SAP, many Project Managers (PM) have cleared the certification. Lesson learnt are being shared internally. For instance, my fellow PM Carolyn Van Beek delivered an 11 pages document which summarizes key messages from ACT10e and ACT200. Implementation partners (SI) usually have a similar internal knowledge sharing process.
Another SAP PM (Andrew Maher) delivered a spreadsheet to help memorizing the SAP Activate WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). For the exam, you need to know the sequence of tasks, deliverables and phases. You should also know where deliverables and tasks belong. I mean in which workstream they are and in which project phase (Prepare, Explore, Realize or Deploy) they are done. That’s quite a bit of content to memorize. It’s not as hard as for PMP but still if you have a photographic memory, it’ll help.
Client and partners would find the SAP Activate WBS in slides of ACT10e.
A third PM (Troy Billings) prepared a how-to guide which helped guiding my steps in preparing this exam.
Finally, I leveraged the 8 sample questions available to all in the test description page.
I also used Andrew’s Quizlet flashcards. It does not work well for me in test mode but it was still useful to review key learning points in flashcards mode.
There’s quite a bit of content indeed. To memorize, I used a (paper) notepad and wrote everything that seemed important to me. Later, I read these notes 2-3 times prior to the test.
What about the actual exam?
First, I subscribed to the certification hub and booked myself for an online exam. I enjoyed the ability to pass the test from the comfort of my home office. This is such a time-saver compared to the idea of going to a test facility. This will be particularly appreciated by the digital-nomads, those always on the road or not living close to a big city.
You really need to run the technical test days ahead of the exam. Everything was fine for me while running the test. Still, I had a surprise with Adobe Flash on the test day. My security settings blocked Flash from accessing my camera and microphone.
I had to leave the test room (before it started), apply the following FAQ settings and come back. Not a big deal but you would like to avoid this kind of stress by checking at your Flash settings beforehand.
After that and when in the test room, avoid playing with the Flash applet as on my end it was a bit buggy.
When you are in the middle of the test, you may want to push the applet and chat windows on a corner of your screen to avoid disturbance. Else you would see you face making grimaces at the questions…
A proctor will be assigned to you. He/she may change during the exam (there will be a ring from the chat window). The proctor will check at your ID and at your surroundings to make sure everything fits the rules.
As you know, there’s 80 questions. You have 3 hours and the pass-mark is currently 65%.
I was done with the questions in 90 minutes (and I took my time). I used one more hour first to review where I had doubts and second to go through all of them one more time.
During my first pass, I took note of the questions I had some doubt with in so I could go back to these. I asked the proctor if I could take notes on paper but later realize that you can set a flag on questions within the test app.
The test tool is handy as you can easily navigate back and forward between questions.
Some questions require multiple answers. However, you know how many answers are expected. The question tells you. I believe the test system forces you to select the expected number of answers. So, if there are 3 answers expected to be selected for a multiple choices question, you would not be able to move to the next if not selecting 3 answers. This is typically easier than on PMI tests.
Overall, a detailed review of ACT10e, memorization of phases and workstream content would hit the mark. ACT200 must be read but in my opinion is a bit less important than ACT10e for the exam.
Take some notes to help with memorization.
The 65% pass-mark can be achieved by most with the required preparation.
20 hours for the preparation is a good average. You may want to adjust this depending on the knowledge you already have on SAP Activate and on Agile.
Make sure to run a system test days before the exam and check at your Adobe Flash settings.
Beyond the certification, practice is key. I went through several projects with SAP Activate and I am looking forward more practice with a higher leverage of Agile concepts.
Some feedback from the field (see these reflections from John Beaumont) emphasis that Agile is not suitable to all clients and all implementation projects. In ACT200, there is some content about this. Criteria are defined to determine when Agile approach is best suitable (SAP Activate can still be used with Waterfall).
Some clients would also require a bit more formalism and documentation than Agile would call for. This would help avoid possible misunderstandings as the balance between scope/contract management and Agile can be challenging.
I hope this story will help you with the SAP Activate certification journey. Good luck!
Brice Vialle – SAP Program Manager