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What’s the Latest on SAP Certification and Who are the Certification 5?

Newsflash: Check out the analysis and results of the Certification 5 SAP Certification Survey

Have you ever wanted to see if a band of individuals united around a common cause could have an impact, move a mountain, get an institution much larger than you to change its tune? I know I have – I’ve been rockheaded enough to try it many times over my career, with admittedly varying degrees of success. The most recent such attempt, involving SAP certification, is a story that goes back about nine months, from the first meeting of a group that has come to be known as “the certification five.”

SAP certification is a hugely popular topic for readers, so this post is a chance to say your piece. Right now, on the SAP Community Network, you can read a blog post where the certification five lay out our viewpoints on SAP certification. There is also a link in that post to our complete 55 page white paper, which goes into detail on our positions and also includes feedback from SAP’s Sue Martin, providing SAP Education’s responses to our current stances. If you have an opinion on SAP certification, and I know many of you have a strong one, please hop over to our SCN blog post and comment there.

The comments you leave on our SCN post will have an impact on the discussions we continue to have on this topic, which will likely continue at the Sapphire events in May. So, whether you agree with our positions or have an altogether different one, please say your piece on SCN! Our project is intended to represent the views of the SAP community. Of course, with a topic as multi-faceted as SAP certification, this is not an easy thing to accomplish.

So who are the “certification five” anyway? And what do we hope to accomplish?

We are (with links to Twitter handles):

Dennis Howlett - an experienced industry blogger and consultant on social computing projects, not to mention a huge influence on my work.

Leonardo de Araujo - SAP Logistics Functional and Technical Consultant with 12+ years experience.

Martin Gillet - HCM genius, SAP Trainer, and frequent SAP Insider contributor.

Michael Koch – independent SAP consultant with deep technical and functional SAP experience.

Then there’s me, but if you’re on you need no further introduction there.

In the white paper, we describe ourselves as follows: “The ‘certification five’ are a project team of five SAP Mentors who have undertaken a dialogue with SAP Education in an effort to bring SAP certification in line with the expectations of SAP customers and SAP professionals who seek a standard of professional excellence."

Michael Koch, just posted a neat blog on his pixelbase site which talks about the diversity of our backgrounds and how that lends strength to our collaboration. Basically, we are five SAP Mentors who shared a passion we can’t shake for improving SAP certification. Unable to shake the obsession, our best option was clearly to band together and try to do something about it.

Joking aside, I think all of us take our SAP Mentor roles to mean that it’s not enough to take potshots at other people’s efforts – we must be a part of creating a newer and better SAP. The “quality isn’t job one” picture on the SCN post, by artist and edge marketing master Hugh MacLeod, makes this point vividly.

Why should I read a 55 page white paper?

The white paper is unique in its conversational format. Essentially, the five of us toiled, hashed and spit-polished our viewpoints over months, and then presented it to the rest of the SAP Mentors and SAP Education for input. The end result? A document that details our positions and includes SAP’s take on our views throughout the paper.

What are the current problems you see with SAP certification?

For the blog post, we made a point of narrowing our issues with SAP to five key issues:

• Certification is perceived to bring little value to the hiring process and is not as trusted in the industry as it should be
• Certification is slowly improving, but needs sweeping overhaul
• The 3-tiered certification is still not available
• Multiple choice question exams are currently the only method used to validate knowledge
• Current certification does not recognize the process-oriented approach that ERP 6.0 is promoting

You may have other bullet points that are not on this list – that’s exactly why your involvement is requested. Action that achieves executive buy-in requires this kind of difficult narrowing down. Another bullet not on the list that’s personally important to me is documenting customer priorities around certification and SAP hiring more systematically. I hope to update that down the line.

And what action steps do the certification five recommend?

After similar toil and narrowing, we came down to these as our top items:

• Tie certification more closely to relevant field experience and problem solving skills, especially at the professional level
• Establish a certification ‘influence council’ of customers, partners, and community leaders
• Provide a timetable for the now-postponed Master level certification
• Help customers by educating them on how to evaluate and hire SAP professionals
• Increase LOD offerings and strengthen online exam preparation

Obviously this is a “boil down” list that masks a lot of complexity. But progress often comes down to picking your spots. These are a few of ours.

Right now, SAP certification is not all it could be. But we believe in the potential of SAP certification to give SAP professionals a high bar to aspire to and customers a clear benchmark to hire from. As such, as Dennis Howlett would say, it’s a win/win/win. What can a small team of five accomplish? We don’t know. But there’s one thing we do know: it’s not really a team of five, it’s a much larger group who have impacted our thinking and spurred us to action, and that’s where you come in.

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