Enterprise Geeks Episode 3 – The Guarantee Fairy

Is SAP the Guarantee Fairy?

Is SAP the Guarantee Fairy?

In this episode, Ed Herrmann, Thomas Jung, and guest host Dan McWeeney discuss some of the recent hot issues around the SAP development world. Topics range from early predictions about the recently announced SAP & IBM joint product Alloy to Dennis Howlett’s thought provoking topic on SAP certifications.

If you have questions, suggestions, or topic ideas for future episodes, give us a shout here. Enjoy!

Running Time: 46 minutes

Talking Points

9 responses to “Enterprise Geeks Episode 3 – The Guarantee Fairy”

  1. Ed Herrmann says :

    For some of Dennis’ further thoughts on the SAP Certification topic (and a shout out to the enterprise geeks), check out this video: http://blip.tv/file/1705651/

    A few thoughts on some of his points:

    It’s not about individuals, it’s about overall quality in SAP projects – I agree that people in their view tend to look at the debate from their own personal perspective rather than high level. This is human nature, but it is certainly important to step back and take a look at the big picture. The big SIs do indeed need to be more accountable for the projects they work on and the people they put on them. This even includes SAP consulting which is really just another SI, just with more immediate lines of communication and push for urgency. I would say that is what you actually pay a premium for when hiring them over a 3rd party. We’ve told more than one SAP Platinum consultant to hit the road. However, in the end, traditional certifications are acquired and held on an individual level, so the quality of the SIs and the SAP projects are only as strong as the individuals who obtain the certifications. As long as the topic is targeting requirements of individual certifications rather than partner certifications, it’s hard to eliminate the individuals from the conversation.
    On comparing Software Engineering to Accountants, Doctors, & Lawyers – The SAP certifications that are offered are not really theoretical in nature; they are technology specific. Most functional SAP consultants have business degrees, and most technical SAP consultants have some kind of computer science degree. Not to oversimplify the problem, but one does not have to be certified in ABAP Web Dynpro to be qualified to engineer a robust, scalable business solution. With the rate of changing technologies, being certified in these specific areas would be a never ending chase for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, with all the revenue of course going to SAP.
    Would you go to a doctor that was not qualified? – absolutely not, but I also wouldn’t ask him to show a certification for every tool he used. I would put more weight behind his experience, reputation, and success rate. This is why when you need to find a new doctor, the first thing you do is ask family and friends for recommendations. The fact that he has a medical degree is certainly important, but the necessity for it is implied.

    I certainly don’t want to wave off the concept of certifications or Dennis’ well made arguments, because from personal experience as a customer, I have certainly dealt with my fair share of wasted money, botched projects, and unqualified consultants. I actually agree on the dire need of accountability and quality improvement of what we get today from the SIs. Some of Dennis’ points are getting misconstrued because some of the cross-industry comparisons are apples to oranges. The traditional definition of certification is what I believe needs to change to actually make a difference. If vendors, SI partners, consultants, and even customers had reputation and experience based ratings (think Amazon product ratings), it would be more accurate than paper certifications sold by SAP.

  2. Jon Capps says :

    My 2 cents on certification:
    – Generally, good SAP developers are too busy to get certified. Because SAP certification is so expensive, anyone who is out of work and has time to get certified probably can’t afford it. If they work for a consulting firm, good developers will usually choose the bonus that comes with extra utilization over certification. If someone is highly utilized with a good reputation AND has a certification, they are probably super genius workaholics who can function without sleep, so hire them!
    – Sadly, I’ve been absolutely shocked at the falsified resumes out there over the years. It makes it extremely difficult for the honest resume to float to the top. With the recession, it will get even worse, unfortunately.

    I think the best candidate is someone with a strong software engineering background, with a great education and understanding of OO design, etc. to be able to utilize the wonderful new tools SAP now offers.

  3. Aleks says :

    The HR department in CP might have benefited from Duet, they do everything in Spreadsheets anyway, and are very stuburn when it comes to adopting new technology (i.e. anything but Excel).

  4. Dennis Howlett says :

    @eddie: there’s a lot in this topic and in truth the conversation has only just started. As I see it the main objections are not about certification per se but the uneven quality that results or the quality of the certification process. That’s a different issue but absolutely pertinent.

    To your 2nd point, continuing professional education of the kind Dan mentioned – would that be a solution?

    Recommendation has a lot going for it. That to me would be step 2-3.

    @jon: the cost angle is one I hear lot. That can always be addressed.

  5. Ed Herrmann says :

    @Dennis: A lot of the arguments against certifications are coming from consultants who don’t think that they need to be certified to do their job well. Not to say they don’t have valid concerns, but that’s not the concern as a customer.

    SAP should continue to offer their certifications, with careful consideration to quality and cost. But if the true goal and high level vision is to improve quality and accountability, I just don’t see it as accomplishing that goal on it’s own merit. It could certainly be part of the equation, but there needs to be more behind it. So where you would put recommendation as 2-3; I put it as #1. The good part is that we can agree to disagree because there is no right or wrong; when it comes to what you value more as a customer who is willing to pay for services, you have the right to choose what’s most important to you.

    To truly improve on the high level situation, all these values should be considered in a balanced rating system which includes certifications, continued education, experience, and reputation. Then the customer’s can choose what they value the most based on their current needs.

    On some projects, I need a very specific skill set (ie MDM) and someone to do some quick work. This is where I would put value behind certifications. On other projects I may need a problem solver or someone who is willing to challenge me and help on the overall design. This is where I would put more value behind reputation and experience.

  6. Brad Vanover says :

    Maybe instead of creating another education revenue stream through certification SAP should certify more institutions that actually know how to assess and quantify the knowledge, like colleges/universities. Certify the certifiers.

    Certifications could have a place in helping people get their foot in the door of the SAP market. Having started as an intern and mentoring several myself, there really isn’t much in the way of entry-level positions in the SAP world.

  7. Jon Reed says :

    Guys, this is a comment mostly to tell you how much I’m enjoying the podcasts so far! I’ve listened to the 2nd and 3rd and will definitely catch the first one soon. I really like the “informal banter” vibe, with good info shared as well on timely topics. I have been thinking about doing an informal vibe podcast on a different aspect of SAP/ERP, different than more structured podcasts I have done, and I can see from your work that it’s an excellent format, if handled well. I’m really looking forward to more from you!

    A few comments on certification and then a topic suggestion or two.

    First, in the podcast you mentioned you weren’t totally clear on the origins/purpose of Zia’s comments. What happened is that SAP’s Darren Hague encouraged SAP Mentors to show up at the PKOM (SAP Partner Kick Off) virtual event.

    I attended, and during Zia’s keynote I was struck by his emphasis on certification in the context of SAP’s stated goal of improving the quality of consultants in 2009. He made a point of saying that SAP would be strongly encouraging SAP customers to hire certified consultants. Obviously, since he was talking to SAP partners, this message was also about making sure services firms are aware of just how highly SAP values certification.

    So, I Tweeted this info from Zia, and more Tweets quickly sprung up. Dennis Howlett brought it to the SDN audience via his provocative blog entry and the rest is history. 🙂

    I wrote a bit more about this on a recent blog I did on PAC’s feedingthesapecosystem.com blog.

    At any rate, back to certification:

    Peer review: I am growing more inclined to agree with your points that a peer review ratings system (along the lines of an eBay model) would be much more powerful and effective than simply a paper test. What will be interesting will be whether this gets incorporated into certification in some way or not. At any rate, it’s an interesting thing to talk about.

    Also good to keep in mind that ASUG has launched such a system, called ASUG Edge, though with the twist that in this case, the customer rates either consulting firms or consultants. There are some pros and cons in my mind to ASUG Edge, and it’s only been running since last summer, but some further investigation of what they are learning could be instructive.

    Another point is that this last round of debate on SAP certification, while very interesting, mostly did not contend with SAP’s new three tiered certification system. Most of the opinions on certification, pro or con, were based on the traditional SAP certification which is now the lowest of the three new levels. I’m by no means an expert on the three levels myself, but I do believe it will be important to see how these different levels affect perception on certification quality and effectiveness also. My understanding is that at least on the Master level (third and highest tier), that a field work component will eventually be included in the certification.

    To me, an SAP certification that incorporated field work and peer review would be far more powerful than anything we have seen to date. On the other hand, perhaps a peer/customer review system would be totally separate from the actual certification. In that case, it could still be useful but I have a hard time imagining SAP formally supporting something like that, unless it was tied into certification in a way that did not diminish the value or significance of formal certification.

    Oh, and Ed had a good point in the comments above about how customer perception of the value of certification is more important than whether an individual consultant sees the need to be certified. I think that’s true, and I’d love to hear more from actual customers about this. Would be great to see more data about satisfaction levels with existing certification from customers who consider that during the hiring process. Along those lines, fellow SAP Mentor Jim Spath is hoping to do an ASUG survey about this, I chipped in with some of the survey questions. I think right now he’s got a support ticket out on a survey bug, good times, but hopefully more data can be gathered that will inform this discussion further. I’m sure Jim will share whatever he learns.

    Oh, and future topics: I’d love to hear more about ABAP versus Java in the SAP landscape (a meaty topic that seems to have a lot of misconceptions you guys might want to dig into), as well as anything you can share about SAP’s .Net capabilities. I don’t think we talk enough about .Net given how many SAP users run Windows. I’d enjoy hearing more about the different SAP GUI options and GUI creation tools, and which you like for different circumstances. I’m also interested in your take on SAP and Software as a Service. McDermott made some comments on SAP’s stance on SaaS recently, and he got hammered by many SaaS “true believers,” in my view somewhat unfairly, I thought his views were more nuanced than his critics did, but would love to hear your take on this.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work.

    – Jon

  8. Joseph Rhoades says :

    I have spoken to two SAP employees who are being pressured into taking the new certification exams. One took the TERP1E last Friday, the other is prepping for the ABAP exam with practice tests. Both have stated that the exams have many questions that are either trick questions or are perhaps simply bad translations from German. I had the same experience several years ago when I was first certified.

    Exams should be clear and straightforward; questions should not require two or three careful readings to determine exactly what is being asked. I encourage SAP to re-write its exams so that they are immediately comprehensible.

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