That hardy perennial “SAP consultant certification” is blooming again but this time in regard to independent consultants as opposed to those in systems integration firms.
Below is a link to Jon Reed’s excellent analysis of a recent survey of SAP consultants in this regard:
Past certification programs, administered by SAP, have been met with partial success at best and have been unfortunately skewed entirely to SAP technical bones and not at all toward consulting skills.
Since 1995, I have come across a lot of SAP consultants who know the software inside and out but are incapable of holding a conversation with a business person (manager level or user level). These consultants would fly through any SAP certification to date but I wouldn’t want them on my implementation team.
More to the point, what problem do we seek to remedy? If it is poor implementation results, I would have to say that consultant performance is only a subset of that problem. The SAP implementation teeter-totter includes two sides:
- Adherence to Methods/Practices
- Level of SAP Skills
- Level of Consulting Skills
- Adequate Budget
- Realistic/Tangible Goals
- Project Ownership
A few years ago, I was involved in deep research of SAP systems integrator performance based upon input from 1,502 clients of the leading SAP systems integrators (the usual suspects and SAP Consulting). Roughly two-thirds of the client respondents were project leadership or delivery team members and the remainder were training, change management, and business stakeholders for projects completed between 2003 and 2006. The results of this research were both varied and compelling. Some of the numbers mumble (it is still hard to determine true client interest in an SI’s industry focus) but other numbers scream in perfect grammar.
Some of the screaming results
An alarmingly high number of teams fail to adhere to established methods & practices; in essence, business process white-boarding and seat-of-the-pants configuration prevails far too often. (In this instance, even the best consultants may well be wasting client time and dollars).
Very few clients set tangible goals, so projects drift toward go-live, leading to “till’s empty, time’s up, might as well go live”.
Client ownership and participation in implementation project is regularly compromised by faulty knowledge transfer (attributable to both SI’s and clients).
My long-held belief is that systems integrators, not individual consultants, should be held to a certification/ratings fire. To date, they are not. Most of them tend to claim “our clients love us” but it is readily evident that they are not talking to all of their clients.
Well known “rating” systems such as the Magic Quadrant, the Forrester Wave, and others are not sufficiently based upon field input. All are founded upon a very small client sampling mixed with analyst opinion. Further, none of these rating systems cover various aspects of projects or even types of projects (new implementations, upgrades, geographic roll-outs, or optimizations. For example, one key finding in my studies is that Deloitte (240 clients reporting) is chronically challenged by new implementations but shines at all other types of SAP projects. Another finding is that Accenture (276 clients reporting) performs very admirably in large projects but causes considerable grief in small and mid-sized projects.
(FYI, an identical study of leading Oracle systems integrators was also conducted and yielded very similar results.)
I do agree that efforts to improve field performance are a necessity. In that light, I generally welcome ongoing efforts to certify SAP consultants provided:
A suitable third party (separate from the SAP organization) has a hand in such certification.
Certification addresses consulting skills and is not, as we have seen in past efforts, a conglomeration of multiple choice questions relating primarily to technical acumen.
(I will have to give some thought to the latter consideration. Consulting skills address a combination of experience, communication skills, empathy, and the like and as such are not subject to written examination.)
Further, I would like to see some sort of certification process for project managers whose role in any SAP field endeavor is of paramount importance.
All the same, if we are going to visibly improve SAP systems integration field results, I believe that we should be certifying what matters most: the systems integration firms. Maybe Gartner can replace some of the magic in the Magic Quadrant with actual field data or the Forrester Wave can include hundreds of clients hitting that beach.
Author Michael Doane runs a great site devoted to successful SAP projects. Author of several books, frequent speaker, and business to SAP alignment analyst. Visit his site for more information and insight at:
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