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What Value Does the CIO of Roche Place on SAP Certification? (Podcast Excerpt)

I have been part of many debates on the value of SAP certification over the years. I expect these debates to intensify this year, as SAP places increasing value on certifications while at the same time dealing with some unresolved and important questions on whether (and how) certification can truly address the skills needed for project excellence.

The recent certification discussion which began on Twitter and carried over to Dennis Howlett’s provocative blog entry on SDN (which yielded more than sixty comments at last look) is another indication of the boiling point that this topic has reached.

  And yet there is a need for more: more data on SAP’s new three-tiered certification levels, more data on how other ventures such as ASUG Edge has attempted to do peer or customer evaluations of consultants, and more than anything, more data from SAP customers on how they perceive the value of SAP certification. Without that data as a benchmark, how can we know what needs fixing?

I’ve been working with another SAP Mentor to help procure more SAP customer feedback on SAP certification and I look forward to sharing it soon.

But for now, I’d like to share a four minute excerpt I edited from a blogger session I participated in with Jennifer Allerton, CIO of Roche. I was very impressed with Allerton‘s knowledge and candor. I only wish we had the opportunity to discuss the certification part in more detail, but there were some carnivorous bloggers in the room; each had their own agendas. The discussion on certification got cut off, and then we were able to return to it later. This wasn’t ideal for taping purposes. So, I patched together an audio file that captures the whole four minute conversation on skills and certification without interruption.

You can listen to (or download) the SAP certification audio excerpt (click to listen, right click to save).

Soon, I will publish a transcription of the entire segment.

But for now: here’s what you are hearing on the audio file:

First question: me. I ask Allerton about the SAP skills she looks for in consultants and how important certification is to her hiring. Allerton talks about how important it is for her team to be able to “cherry pick” the consultants they want from the systems integrators, and that this creates some awkward dynamics as the SIs don’t necessarily want to part with their best people on one project.

Allerton goes on to talk about how much she likes the Microsoft certification and that she would welcome, by implication, SAP putting forth a similarly effective certification.

The next question is from Ed Herrman of (a great new SAP podcast series). Ed is also an SAP Mentor who works with Colgate Palmolive. He asks Allerton to elaborate on why she likes the Microsoft Engineer certification so much. Allerton would like to see SAP certification head into the same direction. In her experience, Microsoft certification “is a good indicator of the quality of the people we will hire.”

So I stepped in and asked the looming question: “So have you found that SAP certification is indicative of the quality of SAP consultants?”

Allerton’s answer, which spoke volumes in two words: “Not yet.”

The fourth question came from Prashanth Rai of the CIO Reinvented Blog, who asks Allerton if they take SAP Community Network reputation or participation into account. Allerton responds by saying that they focus more on their own criteria for the kind of experience they are looking for.

Roche’s ability to “hand pick” consultants based on a savvy understanding of the skills they need is not necessarily typical of all SAP customers. But in my experience, those firms that do have this kind of sophistication rarely view SAP certification as a key criteria for hiring. I would suspect that less sophisticated firms, not as confident in their ability to assess SAP talent, would take SAP certification more seriously, for better or, some would say, for worse. I look forward to sharing more certification stories and data as we get more input from other SAP users.

Listen to the entire Roche interview: Michael Krigsman of ZDNet taped this entire 25 minute blogger discussion, and he has now posted it in a blog entry entitled Roche CIO on SAP, consultants, certification, and system integrators.

On a closing note, fellow podcasters might find it amusing to know that I was testing out my new Zoom H2 during this recording for on site taping. The taping sound quality was excellent, but the file saved was a CD quality wav file, and I tapped out my entire sound card in 24 minutes. The file size was 250 megs. Panic ensued, but I was able to pull it on my laptop and eventually whittle it down to the 2 meg mp3 size you can download above.

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