SAP Watch

Jun 4 2008   4:59AM GMT

SAP’s new certification strategy

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

In the wake of a particularly contentious entry I recently posted on the value of SAP certification, SAP careers expert Jon Reed has re-opened the debate by arguing that SAP’s new three-tiered certification strategy can be of value to the SAP ecosystem.

The new tiers, according to SAP, are Associate Certification, Professional Certification, and Master Certification. Becoming an Associate is simply a matter of being tested, but becoming a Professional “requires proven project experience, business process knowledge, and a more detailed understanding of SAP solutions.” Becoming a Master “involves demonstrating an expert-level understanding of a specific area of SAP software and the ability to drive innovation and solution optimization through in-depth knowledge and vision. Certification at this level requires broad project experience, comprehensive SAP product knowledge, and the ability to create a future IT vision within complex project environments.”

SAP certification is available for NetWeaver, Enterprise SOA, CRM, ERP, PLM, SCM, Oil & Gas, Retail, SAP Business One, Small and Midsize Enterprises (SMEs), and SAP Solution Manager. Within each of these product areas, certification is available for applications, development, and technology, opening the door to everyone from development techies to business-level consultants.

If you’re going to get certified in SAP, there’s little point in getting the credential from anyone but SAP itself.  However, the mere act of becoming certified does  not immediately confer better career prospects on an aspiring member of the SAP ecosystem. The better way to approach the process, as Jon mentions in his entry, is as education, not only in the sense of learning something from certification tests but also, more enduringly, collaborating with peers at your level in order to improve yourself. Sadly, this message will go right over the heads of the tens of thousands of “freshers,” the term used in India for new technology workers, who see certification as a way to fool employers and insinuate themselves into projects. The idea is that certification allows SAP credential holders to vault past people with greater experience, which is why freshers will often pay more than a year’s wages for certification.

I don’t necessarily support SAP’s claim that becoming as Associate allows certifications holders to “Gain an externally-recognized mark of excellence that clients seek,” because it’s doubtful that potential employers are clamoring to see certifications. Experience, rather, is the name of the game. But on the whole, SAP’s marketing of its own certifications is fairly modest compared to the frankly deceptive practices of third-party certification programs operating in East and South Asia, where the message is that getting certification is tantamount to being employed in the SAP world.

In our credentials-obsessed world, it’s easy to forget that education is about improving yourself and making a long-term investment in your life and career. Sadly, people are more concerned with lying, bluffing, and cheating their way through the process. If SAP certification is approached as  a legitimate part of an educational journey, it could be very worthwhile — and lucrative. But the get-rich-quick crowd will be disappointed, and out of a lot of money, if they mistake the purpose of SAP certification.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

6  Comments on this Post

 
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  • JackDanahy
    Demir, great entry. I agree with a number of the points you have made here, especially your point that "freshers" are the ones who are most likely to overestimate the impact of certification and lose valuable money and time by misperceiving how to apply SAP certification. I also strongly agree that the only place to obtain SAP certification is from sAP itself. The exception would be for an SAP project team, where they might want to test the market in terms of whatever customized training they might need, but for the individual, it's SAP certification that carries the credibility. One thing that needs some more exploration is the higher two levels of SAP certification - in terms of what is currently available. I do believe there are some of the second professional-level certifications now available in some areas, but I'm not quite clear. And I don't believe any of the master-level certifications are yet available. Also, at last year's TechEd, I was told by an SAP rep that only the highest level, master-level, would require SAP field/project experience, but in your writeup, and in the material you quoted, it implies that the second level, professional-level, also involves, potentially, some verified field experience. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of some of these new developments in SAP certification, and encourage a dialogue the helps folks to make the right certification choices in the context of a well-thought SAP career strategy. Thanks for furthering this conversation Demir. - Jon Reed -
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  • JackDanahy
    A couple of years ago I was interviewing for spots on a team that was to install pretty much the entire SAP catalogue in a 4 tier landscape (dev, qa, regression, and prod). I was dismayed by the number of 'SAP Certified' BASIS people (or Netweaver Technical Consultants) who knew nothing about the operating system, who couldn't appreciate basic change management (i.e. test it before you go live !!), and so on. Apart from OS/DB migration, where SAP will not support the result if there is no certified migration consultant on the project, Certification are mostly a way of marketing yourself (or your company). They provide a minor use in verifying (to myself) that I know something about BASIS work, but they are no substitute for OS and DBMS and business knowledge. If you hire someone purely on the basis (sorry) of their certification, then you deseve what you get.
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  • JackDanahy
    The value of certification is most definitely in the eye of the beholder, or the employer in this case. SAP has some hard decision to make here. If there certs are too easy to get, they will have less value. These days an intermediate cert must have a lab requirement or other hands-on element so that expertise is not only understood but applied as a condition of being certified. Easy lab = less value. Rigorous lab = more value. A master-level IT cert in 2008 should have a peer review component: if you don't pass muster, go back and work on your chops until the 'masters' say you've got their touch (example: master leverl IT Architect certs from both Microsoft and The Open Group). Many of us will be watching SAP to see exactly which road they choose to follow. Ultimately SAP (and SAP professionals) will get out of it exactly what they put into it.
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  • JackDanahy
    Thanks for writing on this topic, I find it very interesting that there are planned to be "levels" of certification, this might actually differentiate individuals when resumes are being evaluated. While I strongly agree that the real measure of SAP skills comes only with experience, and is only verifiable through good references and/or technical interviews, I believe that having certifications is important. Here's why: It's incredibly difficult for an employer/customer looking for a specific skill to evaluate the capabilities of a person (unless the employer already has a person with the skills to evaluate the prospective employee, in which case they can positively verify the skills and this discussion is really moot). Having both experience and a certification on a resume can help weed through the folks that show experience but have only worked, say, as a business user or tester and have no design and configuration experience, and the "freshers" that have a certification with no experience.
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  • JackDanahy
    Accoding to myself, Certification important but , there should be levels like junior level for freshers, Middle level for 2 to 5 years experience and Master level for who most experienced , research People
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  • Raj
    I have myself been a 'fresher' to SAP market. I was aggressively told by multiple private SAP traning providers about the "benefits" of SAP certification. I am witness to blatant use of SAP certification as a bite to catch more people for training revenue of these institutes. One I passed successfully, i witnessed the harship to get into SAP market (i was personally aware of this possibility). SAP can do something to help freshers not to get carried away by such claims.
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