Never change a winning team – a sporting principle that can also be applied to other areas. So should successful certification programs – like SAP certification – remain untouched? Since 1995, SAP has been conducting certification tests in its own training centers. Each year, thousands participate in training and put themselves through a challenging test, so that they can call themselves a “certified SAP consultant”. In total, more than 120,000 consultants have been awarded an SAP certificate to date.
But time doesn’t stand still, and market requirements change. While the main concern in the mid Nineties was to cover the booming demand for SAP R/3 implementation consultants and solve the Y2K problem, the demand for consultant qualification has been rising steadily since then. Today, companies are faced with new challenges: they need to develop innovative business models, take adavantage of globalization synergies, perform in an environment of mergers and acquisitions, as well as adhere to increasingly stringent corporate governance and compliance regulations.
This means that the major focus can no longer be solely on implementing new SAP solutions, but much more on integrating solutions to maximize synergies within existing landscapes. In addition, many new products, for example the SAP NetWeaver technology platform, have been added to the SAP portfolio, increasing the need for comprehensive knowledge of the possibilities of the different elements of the portfolio. All this requires the right design for qualification – and a a certification program which can provide SAP customers with the right benchmark for getting the job done.
Customer requirements point the way
The starting point for the new design was a survey of customers and partners that SAP conducted in 2006 with the help of US technology research institute ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association). The survey primarily focused on assessing satisfaction with the current certification procedure, comparing the SAP certification with services offered by other software manufacturers, and on obtaining suggestions for improvements. A remarkable 38 percent of participants provided valuable ideas. The most significant recommendations were:
- Accelerate the building of competence among the various target groups using innovative training technologies such as blended learning, which provides knowledge to learners in several media.
- Introduce several certification levels and corresponding training paths. This will enable participants to start at different levels depending on their prior knowledge and thus, to meet the requirements of “life-long learning”.
- Develop new roles such as the Business Process Expert or the Enterprise SOA Architect. By doing this both consultants and customers are able to identify and address the various industry-specific trends and future technology requirements beyond the implementation of a particular software.
- Provide task-based information for customers and partners relating to the prerequisites for the individual certification levels.
A master level certification in three steps
On the basis of these suggestions, SAP created a significantly enhanced certification program. It was presented it for the first time in the spring of 2007 at the SAPPHIRE congresses in Atlanta and Vienna. One of the most important enhancements is the multi tiered structure of the program. By offering certifications at the Associate, Professional and Master level, SAP can take into account an individual’s project experience and gives them the opportunity to continually expand on their qualifications. In addition, the new certification program focuses on roles such as the Business Process Expert or the Enterprise SOA Architect. Finally, the ease of access to these certifications has been enhanced significantly. It is now possible to become certified at any of 4,000 new test centers worldwide.
Within the new certification program’s multi tiered structure, most of the conventional SAP certifications are at the Associate level. The initial prerequisites for the test are basic knowledge of the business processes and technology. An Associate is able to implement or optimize SAP solutions as a member of a team.
The next level up is the Professional certificate, which requires at least three years’ project experience, as well as solid process knowledge and industry expertise. A SAP Certified Professional can manage subprojects independently and coach other team members.
The highest certificate is the Master. The test is suitable for individuals with between seven and ten years’ experience. A master is a recognized expert for SAP software and has well-founded, practical experience of areas such as integration, optimization, or architecture design. A master is able to create and implement a strategic vision, and to lead teams or projects.
Depending on their prior knowledge, individuals start at the relevant certification level and can build on their SAP qualifications step-by-step up to Master level as their experience grows.
Increasing number of tests on offer
SAP presently offers numerous associate tests for current solutions. By the TechEd conferences in the fall of 2007, SAP will also have a series of professional certification tests. The initial focus for the Professional level certifications will be solutions in the SAP Business Suite, such as SAP ERP or SAP CRM, in new task areas such as SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management and Enterprise Service-oriented Architecture (Enterprise SOA), Corporate Risk and Governance, and numerous industry solutions.
Information regarding the certification program can be found on sap.com/certification. In addition, Personal Certification Web Sites will be used to help individuals plan training and certification in a targeted fashion and provide personalized learning and test offerings based on individual career paths. The certification program also offers numerous benefits for those certified in SAP skills such as access to new product and services information and special discounts on learning material.
With the new program, SAP is boosting the value of its certification for all involved. Customers, partners, and SAP itself are now excellently equipped to meet the challenges of the market.