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What are the Latest Approaches to SAP Training?

In recent years, approaches to SAP training have been pretty similar: take classes from SAP (highest prestige value) or look at some of the online training options. Online SAP training has picked up quite a bit of momentum. On this web site, we put together a directory of online SAP training options. What we found just scratches the surface of what is out there.

But there is another way to get further involved in SAP that we can credit to the "Web 2.0" phenomenon: start participating in some of SAP’s online communities. Believe it or not, getting involved in SAP’s SDN and BPX communities can actually move you closer to new project opportunities, with the chance to influence SAP’s own product development along the way.

  I have started to get more involved in the SAP BPX community myself. My podcast with Marco ten Vaanholt, Global Director of the SAP BPX community, on "Becoming an SAP Business Process Expert," has been well received, and we have another podcast coming out on getting the most out of the BPX community. As I’ve prepared for these podcasts, some compelling facts have been brought to my attention:

1. Companies are finding that they can use the SAP Online Communities to actually reduce training costs on their project teams. There were several mentions of this at TechEd and I expect that there will be more formal case studies done on this. We have also heard of many SAP customers who send their project team members out on these communities as a matter of course.

2. Mark Yolton, the Vice President of SAP’s Online Communities, recently noted that consultants have had an additional benefit to immersing themselves in SAP online communities: as a result of that participation, they had become well known as experts in their respective areas within the SAP customers. This, in turn, had played a role in landing them new project opportunities. Yolton cited the case of some consultants in India who had landed projects in the UK partially through their involvement in SAP SDN.

Now that the SDN and BPX networks have reached critical mass (one million registered members and growing), we have reached a new phase in SAP training. It used to be that SAP training was reserved for those who could afford it, or who had access to classes through their employers. Now, in addition to formal certification programs, there is enough free information out there that for the first time, we can now say that if you’ve fallen behind on SAP know-how, it’s nobody’s fault but your own.

True, there are probably other things most of us would rather do than spend the weekend surfing through SAP technical discussion boards, but the point is that we now have resources available to us 24/7 to help us move ahead with our SAP skills acquisition.

One great example of this is on SAP BPX, where community members have been working to establish the key components of the Business Process Expert skill set. Most of us realize that the SAP skill set is changing. Both technical and functional SAP professionals are going to need to evolve their skills to remain marketable. But what does that really mean?

There are a lot of clues available to this skills transformation when we hone in on the skill set of the Business Process Expert (BPE). As we identify the different aspects of the BPE skill set, from eSOA to modeling tools (Aris, Visual Composer, etc), from NetWeaver competencies to the types of "soft skills" necessary to be effective in the SAP Business Process Expert role, we start to understand how SAP is changing and how we need to change along with it to remain marketable.

SAP SDN and BPX members have been driving this discussion forward, and tools like wikis allow all registered members of the community to build on this "collective intelligence" and add their two cents.

I’m usually the first in line to criticize overhyped Internet trends and buzzwords. But in the case of SDN and BPX, I can say that this is an incredibly different SAP "ecosystem" than the one we had at our disposal in the´┐Ż’90s. Today, we have SAP solution managers and practice leads literally reading and participating in the same online discussions that we are.

Yes, it does take effort to craft a role for yourself in these communities. Especially if you are new to SAP, there may be a learning curve to taking advantage of some of these resources. But it’s getting to the point where the first thing I ask someone who is serious about improving their SAP skills is whether they are already involved in the SDN and BPX networks.

To be honest, on many occasions, I am still surprised by how little research some folks do about where SAP is headed. Now that this information is readily available online, there really are no excuses left for SAP product ignorance. When you combine that with the opportunity to get further connected to resources (and people) that can make a difference in your career path, I think it’s time to recognize that the whole approach to SAP training and self-education is getting a much-needed overhaul.

Marco ten Vaanholt talks about this trend in terms of "on demand learning," and it’s true that there are many resources on BPX and SDN that you can take advantage of "on demand," such as the SAP BPX "Business Process Expert eLearning Catalog."

But I think Marco would agree that this phenomenon goes beyond the "on demand" buzzword to simulate something more like the informal conversations we all have at bars and in airport lounges during and after SAP conferences. SAP seems to have clued in on this, and offered more informal networking spaces, such as "community rooms," on site at all conferences and events.

What we know for sure is that we often learn more in these unstructured events than we learn in formal lecture settings, where we often find ourselves drifting despite our best intentions. I think that the best online communities allow for these kinds of informal discussions to flourish around crucial topics of collective interest. SAP has come a long way in this regard, and I hope that readers of this blog realize that SAP training and education options have expanded considerably as a result.

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