If you don't have the Enterprise Geeks on your radar then you are missing out on some of the most entertaining and incisive commentary around the SAP developer community.
If you don't know who they are then here's the usual cast: Eddie Herrmann, Thomas Jung, Dan McWeeney, Rich Heilman and Craig Cmehil - all names that should be familiar to any SCNer of more than 5 minutes acquaintance.
In their most recent podcast, Thomas Jung kicked off a debate about the quality of developers that are coming through the ranks. It's strong stuff and one interpretation might be that the 'egheads' are being a tad elitist until you hear Dan McWeeney saying in surprise that some people he's seen don't know what a debugger is about.
I would never put myself into the uber geek class of these fellows but even I know what a debugger is and how to use it. If grad students are not being taught this critical skill then quite frankly shame on our teaching institutions.
One argument that didn't get well explored centered around the drive for simplicity and how this might be impacting the teaching that students receive. It's an interesting topic about which much more could be said.
Listen to the section that runs from about 15 mins 40 secs and you'll hear Thomas say: "I am shocked at how many developers don't understand the difference between a binary file and a text file." I'm shocked as well and again, I don't come at this as someone who is an uber geek or even that great a coder but come on people, this has got to be a concern.
At around 26 min 30 secs, Eddie wonders whether there hasn't been some sort of dumbing down as tools get easier to use and Thomas then conflates that to mean that as tools get easier, the technical knowledge requirements for developers become less to the point where fundamental knowledge gets lost.
At around 28 mins, Eddie makes the observation that he sees today's ABAP forum users as lazy. Dan says: The biggest difference comes in your interest to tinker...it's a much better indicator of whether they'll be any good...Every good programmer is an incredibly good debugger."
All participants see this as a serious problem that has many facets, including the tools necessary to keep the right people.
I was particularly struck by the way Eddie Herrmann mashed up the discussion with thoughts around Certification and the Certification 5 efforts to move SAP certification forward.
In the early days of discussing certification topics, Eddie was one of the most outspoken critics of having SAP experienced developers certified. Over time, it's fair to say he has come around to the thought that if valuable then certification is something he would support.
At 47 mins 30 secs he throws in the notion of an Enterprise Geeks Certification, expanding that into a discussion of how he now sees the world: "If I'm going to pay someone hundreds of dollars to do something on SAP maybe it's a good idea to have someone who is certified?...especially if it balances the experiences and reputation and paper knowledge because anyone can memorize a book and spit it out."
At around 50 mins, Dan adds the though that if you want to find out how good someone is then ask them to show what they're doing on Github. I won't speak to the value or otherwise of such a selection process element but I can speak to what the Certification 5 Survey has revealed.
So far we have 455 completed responses following 2,466 visits. That's an 18% response rate.
There was broad representation across skills such as ABAP/developer, BASSI, finance, CRM, HR/HCM, supply chain/logistics, portal, workflow, BI, security, BOBJ and archiving/ILM.
North America, EMEA and APAC were represented by roughly 31% each with 6% coming from South America
36% respondents came from SAP customers while 34% were employed at an SAP SI/consultancy.
Experience varied as follows:
- 5%<1 year
- 7% 1>2 yrs
- 30% 3>5 yrs
- 28% 6>10 yrs
- 30% 11+ yrs
34% did not know there is a Professional and Master Level certification
64% of respondents had NOT read the C5 discussion paper
73% agree there is value in certifying soft skills.
73% say that validating advanced SAP skills cannot be accomplished by MCQ alone
87% say that providing an answer to a practical problem would be a valuable enhancement to SAP Certification
29% say that SAP Certification is not important in recruitment while 22% say it is important.
Selected qualitative answers
There were 145 qualitative answers, representing 32% of all completed surveys. Many touch upon issues that surround the C5's current thinking but which clearly hark back to the Enterprise Geek conversation Comments include:
"SAP Certification via MCQ is an insult to the disclipine of Computer Science/Information Systems. None of my higher level CompSci classes were passed only by answering multiple choice questions. Higher level computer science classes(including systems analysis) require essay style questions to test knowledge in an objective fashion. The current MCQ certification exams only promotes rote memorization of feature lists and not whether you have the ability to solve a business problem via that solution."
"SAP Certification in my opinion is not going to work because there are several SAP consultants who don't have exposure to software development practices. I mean most of them started working in SAP after attending training programs 10+ years ago. For example, a good number of BW developers would know how to create DSOs/ODSs, Cubes, mapping, transfer rules, loading etc. Most of them probably attended training programs in BW and learnt just these tasks. So yes, they would do very well if you or certification exam asks questions on tcodes, how to create objects, transfer rules etc. They may not have other soft skills(such as analzying data) needed to be successful. I am going to write a blog on this which might make this clearer."
"I believe SAP still see Certification as a way to drive Education revenue. They should see it as an investment and invest in it. This does not mean give it away - it means invest"
"Rather than a practical question to assess professional experience I would prefer to see candidates submit details of their professional experience and referees for that experience (similar to CISA, CIMA, etc)."
"Having programmed in ABAP since 1994 and made so many different solutions during this period for real difficult problems I took the ABAP certification test (most advanced) 2 years ago. I did decent prep and did know what areas to be covered etc. Now. Taking the test and only MCQ all over. Quite a few asking for totally irrelevant things like the name of the ABAP program to be able to transport a SAPScript. How RUDE! This is by no what so ever a test of my abilities. I did fail with a few %. Was I pleased - NO! I felt like someone had driven over my 15+ years of effort always adhering to the latest standards in ABAP. The cert exam cost quite some money and time to do proper prep. I was a total waste for me at that time. I highly awaiting something better from SAP to more accurately measure relevant skills that are needed. From this survey and the ongoing debate there might come something good eventually."
"It would be great if they turned back to Workflow Certification. I think, some basics skills should be proved, before someome try to enter to a certain area, for example, there are people who gets abap certification but they never worked with any development, they just studied for the exam and passed, but besides their successful exam, it doesn't mean development is the right area for them."
The survey is still open so please feels free to add your voice.
There will always be much debate around this topic and SAP will never satisfy everyone. But when put into the context of the Enterprise Geeks' latest podcast, it seems there are more nuanced arguments emerging on how SAP certification might be developed to improve what the uber geeks are effectively warning is coming: a dumbed down industry that serves no-one any good. When people of this calibre and authority speak, we should all be listening and learning.