SAP Watch

Jun 7 2010   7:59PM GMT

Marin County sues Deloitte: Is it really SAP’s problem?

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

Over the past couple of weeks, a pretty major lawsuit involving a so-called failed SAP implementation has been unfolding. Marin County California is suing Deloitte Consulting. What’s most interesting is the chief complaint of the claim – that Deloitte misrepresented its skills and experience, according to an excellent blog post on the topic by Michael Krigsman, who studies IT project failures.

The fact that a customer is suing the systems integrator, not the vendor, is interesting. The adage that it’s not the software’s fault you didn’t put it in right is coming into play. But, as Krigsman points out, there is obviously a certain level of guilt by association here. The question remains – what’s SAP doing to ensure that people know how to implement its software in the first place?

Last year, former SAP CEO Leo Apotheker made headlines when he suggested that more of the SIs should hire certified consultants. To be precise, here’s the quote from “Between the Lines” ZDNet bloggers.

“I don’t give a s**t if it’s Accenture or IBM. I care about the customer. I find it shocking people are walking around talking to customers and have no experience on [SAP]. [Consultants] get hired [sic]of people and have no clue. It’s annoying but that’s a fact. Let’s start by certifying people,” said Apotheker.

In that vein, Jon Reed of and a team of SAP mentors dubbed the Certification 5 — Reed, Martin Gillet, Michael Koch, Leonardo De Araujo, and Dennis Howlett -recently completed a thoughtful analysis of the certification quandary. They challenge SAP to look at some of the issues surrounding certification, and its perception. They contend, among other things, that certification is perceived to bring little value to the hiring process and is not as trusted.

As such we believe that being an SAP certified engineer should be viewed in the same way you might view a qualified doctor, dentist, lawyer or accountant. It should be a mark of quality, reliability and assurance that implementations are in safe hands,” the report reads.

It’s well-known that some of the biggest systems integrators don’t certify their consultants.

And certification seems to rarely factor into hiring decisions, according to Reed.

He recently ran some numbers on the IT-jobs website Dice to see what percentage of jobs require certification. Of the 1,700 SAP-related jobs listed that particular day, only 24 had SAP certification in the job description and only seven listed SAP certification as a requirements (five were SAP software partners).

“To me, that’s the bottom line. It’s just rarely a factor in hiring,” he said.

The Certification 5 recommends to SAP, for starters:

  • Tie certification more closely to relevant field experience and problem solving skills, especially at the professional level
  • Establish a certification ‘influence council’ of customers, partners, and community leaders
  • Provide a timetable for the now-postponed Master level certification
  • Help customers by educating them on how to evaluate and hire SAP professionals

Certification is always a touchy topic, and there are plenty of amazing uncertified SAP consultants to be sure.

But the issues that Marin County allegedly had with Deloitte aren’t going to go away. At Sapphire, my colleague Barney Beal pointed out that SAP’s pushing all of these new initiatives around mobile and in-memory. Are the corresponding skills of its workforce going to be there to keep up with SAP’s vision? What can it do to make it so?

At the “new SAP,” Reed hopes there is at least room to talk about how to ensure that.

“It kind of seems like right now, with Snabe and McDemott talking about the new SAP, a new approach to certification fits in,” Reed said. “More transparent. More responsive. More in tune with customer needs.”

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