SAP Watch

Feb 23 2009   4:55PM GMT

Is certification the ticket to a more successful SAP implementation?

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

I recently spoke with a company with a unique story — they were actually growing their landscape supply business despite the recession. They credited their SAP Business One software with helping them do so.

But when I asked Bamboo Pipeline about any problems it experienced with the software, its one gripe was a common one — the ERP implementation took twice as long as the company was told it would.

The sentiment is consistent with a recent report by Panorama Consulting Group. Of the more than 3,000 companies surveyed, 93% said their ERP implementations took longer than they expected and 65% indicated that they went over budget. Companies named lack-of employee buy-in and lack of the proper ERP skills as the two main culprits for ERP implementation problems.

Our readers have been lending some interesting advice on how to avoid ERP implementation failures, in response to a recent blog post, “What’s the real trend in failed SAP projects?” The blog questioned who was really to blame for the recent Shane Co. and Select Comfort SAP ERP implementation failures — the software, the system integrators or the company’s management.

Ensuring that you have the right skills on your project team is cited in multiple responses. In that light, SAP’s announcement this week that it will focus on increasing the quality of its workforce — largely through pushing SAP certification — is quite interesting.

RITESHBHUSHAN wrote that it may be easy to blame the offshore or Indian system integrators for the failures, but organizations need to be ready for how challenging an ERP implementation can be. His advice included forming an authentic and proven PMO (project management office) in charge of the implementation, and not relying on a makeshift project team.

SAPNANO advised customers to “look at a firm that does not bring in a new rep/evaluation every time they come in your door. DO NOT look just for price. What needs to happen is to have strong management who is willing to look at the quality of the SI team and employees, do a strong review of their quality and not to let them dictate by putting low caliber labor on-site or off-site just to have sheer numbers, as this would be terrible.”

Is SAP certification the way, or at the very least a way, to better ensure qualified people will be working on a project? Is it one way to help stem ERP implementations from going over budget or over schedule?

7  Comments on this Post

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  • Shaamel
    I have read many forums and blogs where the experienced (so-called and uncalled) consultants lash out at those who request for details on Certification. There can only be two reasons for their disgruntlement - a) They find many who have been certified - go up the career ladder with lesser consulting experience b) These so called experts are too afraid to take up certifications since they know that their forte lies in those few projects that they have dealt with - whereas the certification encompasses all aspects of Business Processess and configuration aspects that can be applied across to all quarters of their different projects. And mind getting certified is not that easy - even for the senior consultant. I strongly believe that many a project could have either been implemented ahead of time or for that matter avoided being stalled if the right skilled workforce (SAP Certified Consultants) had been on board.
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  • Jbiscobi
    Very interesting Shaamel. Any tips on certifications that you've found particularly valuable?
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  • Bev
    Sap certification is basically knowing how to use the software. It provides limited skills in designing and implementing an efficient solution. This normally comes from solid hands on experience both from a business perspective as well as SAP implementation experience. 90% of SAP consultants lack good business experience resulting in certain cases poor SAP implementations. Poor SAP projects are sometimes caused by trying to implement a legacy old fashion way of doing things, the SAP consultant with poor business experience normally will not question this approach because they do not have the know how to counter-act this approach. Most consulting partners will not question this approach of implementing as per legacy in order not to rock the boat and get their billable hours. Two years ago I was approached by Managing Director (automotive parts manufacturer) to look at their SAP system that is productive for 8 years. The MD was very upset due to the endless Euro's spent by IT to upgrade and build custom solutions , sick and tired of consulting partners coming and going. The bottom line was that the company continued to have high inventory and poor on time customer delivery performance (50%) ; therefore making too much of the wrong thing. The usual approach by consulting partners was to come in and do some fancy add-ons, custom reports ect.. but never making a difference. In order to re-design we started from scratch, two teams : a SAP expert in production (and SCM) and good manufacturing expert (not SAP). We eventually found that 50% was a SAP problem and 50% was related to good old manufacturing methods. This created the ideal synergy to optimize SAP and change manufacturing methods, then only did we make a difference. Example; it is not a SAP problem if it takes 8 hours to do a change over of tooling, it is a SAP problem if we plan without considering change over of tooling and finite capacity of key manufacturing resource's
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  • Williame
    I have always looked at SAP certifications as a way for medium of junior level consultants to help “stand out” in the market place. Or if you are “new” to a sub-module. I think clients feel like they are taking less of a chance on the resource if they are certified. Recruiters use it when negotiating the rate with a consultant. During the last recession I recall more press/interest on certification. Once the recovery was over and demand went up you did not hear much about certification. I have worked with consultants who are certified and those that are not. It’s a mixed bag – you have to look beyond the certification. The certification provides knowledge on how to use the product within a single context. The real word is totally different – each client is unique. How many people have you worked with that were great in the classroom but could not apply the knowledge in the “real” world? At this point – 15 years of SAP consulting I don’t know what the cert would do for me. I have 13 years of financial/management accounting experience prior to SAP without an accounting degree. Would sitting for the CPA exam or getting a degree in accounting help me at this point? At the end of the day it’s the ability to craft quality, flexible, repeatable business solutions. SAP is just a tool in the toolkit – just 10% of what ERP consulting is. If we were implementing Lotus Notes as an ERP system you would still have the other 90%. Lucky for me that I can rely on my experience and references.
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  • sapsecurity28
    hi, i would want to agree somewhat with BEV. sap certification provides you useful and insightful knowledge on how to use the software. it however cannot replace hands on experience, as much as i know personally, that it is very valuable. i am a SAP certified security and authorization consultant, with 5years experience, and i for one know that getting certified, added big time to my knowledge, and improved and made more meaningful, my hands on experience. agreeing also with Shaamel, it isn't easy getting certified, even for those who have up to 10years of experience. when i got certified in South-Africa, people in my class who had far more years of SAP hands on experience than me, failed the certification exam. i also agree with BEV that, whatever SAP consultant you are, it is very important to understand the business of your client, the job functions and activity areas, before commencing your work. also i for one, will not mortgage my knowledge of delivering the best quality implementation, following SAP's best practice, on the altar of not rocking the boat,or just to preserve my daily rate. i'd rather walk than accept to do a sham job. chumy
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  • SCMcertified
    Only those without a degree or certification feel it is not necessary. I have been certified / currenlty am certified / will continue to certify with new versions because it does help. Clients are looking at this more and more these days. They want more for their money and with less projects and more consultants on the bench, they can be picky.
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  • Chtch
    Recenly introduced Professional level certification may distinquish SAP professionals from the crowd because it's mostly based on EXPERIENCE and have much wider scope than Associate-level certification, which can be easily obtained after 3-5 days SAP training class completion.
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