I have come across a lot of content recently around the subject of SAP Certification. To say this is a hot topic does not really make the point well enough. It has been a key talking points for many years now and I cant see the subject going away without drastic changes but that is another blog all by itself.
SAP is a truly Global product, with a Global appeal. SAP as a company has been growing by double digits for the last couple of years, and the number of products keeps on growing due to acquisitions and innovation. All this means is that the volume of work is growing as well. For every large licence sale that SAP make, there will be a large implementation project consisting of a small army of consultants. Some of these consultants, maybe internal, some may come from a SAP Partner and others could come from SAP themselves. There will be project management resources, as well as program management resources, as well as technical and functional consultants.
Geographically the maturity of the SAP market will vary. Europe and America will have a number of experienced consultants and at times the volume of consultants is more than the volume of work driving down the rates. In the UK we have noticed the contract market rates for “commodity skills” drop around 15-20% over the last 12 months for example.
How do you enter the SAP fold?
There are two common entries into the world of SAP. The first would be as a graduate or higher educated level where the employee would be joining a SAP Partner to learn SAP (normally a chosen area or product niche). There is still a strong stream of employees taking these types of roles up, and there is a clear appetite within the SAP Partner ranks to acquire talent and grow this way.
The second is the more complicated route. The employee will not be sponsored by a SAP Partner. They may have some business knowledge, however they wish to bypass the Graduate route and seek direct employment. Normally this is successful is where the employee works for a Company that is either thinking about implementing one of the many SAP products, or they currently use one or more of the SAP products and require internal assistance. Sometime business users who are using SAP want to try and work closer with SAP products in terms of configuration.
So when is the right time?
For the graduate the right time might feel like getting certified as the first part of their employment at their SAP Partner. However I am not sure this is right. Apart from a piece of paper stating the employee has passed an exam what skills can that employee over to a potential client (leading to chargeable work)? Some technical roles may just require the employee to learn a new technical skill or language, however if this cant be put into a business context the benefit of the certification is watered down. Surely the best start to their professional education is hands-on work with certification occurring once they can put the technical requirements into context with the actual consulting work they are performing.
The non graduate route is slightly more complicated. Any would-be SAP Consultant thinking of becoming certified prior to gaining a SAP based role within a Company is doing things the wrong way. It is much safer to try and secure employment and then look at education. A certified consultant without SAP consulting experience or implementation experience is not attractive to most Companies. When there are others out there with both, why would you select
someone that has no experience?
Please note the type of SAP product may sway this argument.
Having a certification in a “hot product” will be attractive, however not as
attractive as someone with the certification and the experience.
Working for a Company that uses SAP is a good place to start. You may be working for example in the Accounts department, but you wish to become a certified SAP Finance Consultant. To do this, you need to learn how to use the product as a business user. Remember if you become a SAP Finance
Consultant this is the type of individual you will be servicing and assisting. You also need to engage with the current Finance support team and understand
who they are and how they work. If you can see a viable plan to move into the team try and make the move, but you need to be honest with yourself about this if this is achievable.
There is also an option that certification is not actually valid for you. You have to question why you want to be certified. If it is to get a job within SAP Consulting, and you have one you may question the benefits of the piece of paper. From my experience most roles, especially more senior roles do not ask for certification as a requirement.The experience you will pick up over 4-5 implementations or support cycles will be more valuable than that piece of paper.
You may also need to walk away from your dreams. I have read a few blogs where consultants have gone into great details as to why they wanted to be SAP certified. One common theme, is their perceptions around being SAP Certified and the realities they faced after are totally different. I would have loved to be a footballer but due to a lack of skill I never got the chance. If someone had told me I could attend a course and I would be playing Premiership football, I might have been tempted. Hopefully I would have questioned the merits of this scheme. If it is that easy to do, why doesn’t everyone do it that way? Your career should be something that aligns to your actual skills not skills you dont have but could pick up on.