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What's Jon's Take on SAP Trends in 2015?

jonerpdemojam.jpg Jon has been tackling key SAP issues (like SAP certification and HANA) since 1995. Get the latest from his blogs, YouTube channel, and iTunes feed.

Or, follow his opinionated views real-time on his JonERP Twitter Feed. Jon served as SAP Mentor from 2008 to April, 2015. 

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Podcast: Live from ASUG - SAPPHIRE NOW With (some) of the Certification Five Print E-mail

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"Special Edition - Live from SAPPHIRE NOW podcast on SAP career and skills paths, certification, and conference views with 3/5 of the Certification Five and Vijay Vijaysankar (ERP Lounge #8)
Podcast Interview Date: May 19, 2010
Podcast: Listen Now!
[PC users: "right click" to download file]
note: this is a 20 meg sound file, so it may take a minute to download

What's the latest on SAP certification? How did the Mentors fare on the SAPPHIRE floor and what did they learn in their conversations with SAP executives and ASUG members? And what are the keys to navigating a successful SAP career in the midst of technical change and skills commoditization? That's a meaty menu for a podcast! For this live SAPPHIRE NOW taping, four SAP Mentors, including three members of the "Certification Five" gathered in the Mentor meeting room to give you their best ideas (and a few off color comments) on SAP skills trends.

Recorded on a Zoom H2 portable, this play-it-loose forty-five minute podcast has gems from Martin Gillet, Jon Reed, Leonardo De Araujo (3/5 of the C5) and special guest and fellow SAP Mentor Vijay Vijayasankar. Vijay has become an key voice in the SAP community on SAP skills issues and also recently ignited a debate on SAP and Agile development as only he can. (Check out Vijay's live Enteprise Geeks "SAP-Agile Throwdown," also taped live at SAPPHIRE). 

More show notes: the Certification Five also appeared on an Enterprise Geeks SAP Certification 5 live SAPPHIRE taping and are fresh off a C5 appearance on the Friday Morning Report.

Note: to comment on this podcast series, or send in a question for us to answer in the next one, be sure to join our ERP Lounge Group on Linkedin. If you want to subscribe to the series, get the The JonERP Master Blog and Podcast Feed. Or find Jon on his @jonerp Twitter feed. The ERP Lounge podcasts are also included in the JonERP iTunes podcast feed.  

Podcast Highlights

:35 Introductions - Who you are and what you have taken from the show so far - we are halfway through day two as of this taping. P.S. "Martin is not a nugget."

2:40 ASUG and SAPPHIRE topics - likes and dislikes.

3:25 Leo: Reactions to SAP Business by Design and the SME market - as a partner, I want to understand my role. Business by Design imlementations will be different, they won't have the level of customization of All in One and ERP, but it's not going to be one size fits all either. What role will partners play?

5:55 Martin - I'm not clear about the future, in that I'm not clear how my HCM skills fit into future business models such as on demand. What is the helicopter view? Focus on HCM - how do we get there and how do I get involved and get the right training?

7:00 Certification Five topic - Where do you stand on certification? Vijay: I've never been asked if I'm certified - I have never seen an argument for the career benefits of certification that compels me to do it. IBM has its own certification program, and I'm certified at the highest level there. It's not an exam, it's a process and you go in front of a board of people. It's a long process, and it works well - I'm a fan of certification in that sense.

Leo: Dilemma - Because the customers aren't asking for it, people aren't willing to get certified. How do you break that? You need a meaningful certification model.

Martin: We've put a lot of effort to bring it to this point. We still face real challenges in this discussion - we have to move past legal issues into an action plan.

Jon: It's the question of how do you give customers something meaningful - and also how can you give SAP professionals something to aspire to as opposed to getting lost in the changing technology. We'd like to see a viable career roadmap in SAP, and certification can play a key role there.

11:40 One piece of advice to SAP on improving certification, what would it be?

Leo: We need a formula that really brings value and allows us to assess value at each level. The Professional level is where the emphasis on reworking needs to be placed.

Martin: There are plenty of good examples on the market for how to do certification right - we need to move ahead with a real action plan.

Vijay: It shouldn't be made into a volume game. A good example is PMP certification - it's a valuable certification and teaches great skills. But if you make it a volume game, it starts to lose credibility. SAP needs to remember that quality is more important than quantity.

14:30 Vijay has been disrupting the SAP-Agile conversation.

15:30 Leo's book idea: Leo is techno-functional but started on the functional side - why does he want to write a book about it? Usually there is a gap on the functional side with skills, and the tech team has to come up with functional knowledge to fill the gap - this leads to cost overruns. We need a book to help the functional people understand the technical options - how to deal with user exits, etc - you should understand ABAP and how the technical sides work.

Martin: agrees - we need to meet in the middle - BADIs, BAPIs, lots of tools to use to make the system better. We need a focus on integration - people are too locked into their own small part rather than seeing the bigger picture.

18:45 Would this book idea fly in IBM? Vijay: yes. Most functional guys are dependent on tech guys, this is relevant. Tech guys can only offer so much, the functional people need to be able to present requirements in the language techies can understand. It's not just for existing technologies, but for new roadmaps like BusinessObjects and now Sybase - who has a handle on this information? There is no one place to look.

Leo: On the BPX side, the role of the functional person is changing. I don't think people are aware of this. If you are expert on order to cash, you must be aware of all the options you have, including BusinessObjects tools. Are the functional folks clear on what they need to be learning on the BPX side?

20:45 Jon's first-ever Business Process Expert card - not a consulting firm trying to look cool, an actual user from a user team. They see a need for individuals who can go beyond config with process knowledge. This functional "SAP Business Process Expert liaisons with Enterprise Architects - they know enough tech to talk same language as techies but also have a handle on the process side. The challenge? They need to move into more of a process view - their expertise is a silo-functional expert - that's one reason why the functional side of the BPX skills has been slow to catch on. Jon to Vijay: you have talked about why you don't see a need for this type of functional process expert on the consulting side - something we have debated in blog threads.

22:55 Vijay: From a "client" end-user side, I can see much more validity to this kind of role. On a consultant side, you really need an expert in a given functional area. But the BPX skill set is still relevant to consultants - there are still things you need to know beyond SAP. Example: Analytics integration. These things are not readily visible in a standard transaction or across transactions. There are document flows but that's about it. That's the BPX thinking. All good consultants should come with that skill.

Leo: But should every functional person get to that point? Is it a fit for everyone? Some are really good at pricing but aren't as good at process. Discussion with Vijay and Martin on this point ensues. - "The need for an SAP Pricing person will never go away." Vijay: at IBM, we have a different designation between architect and specialist. Discussion of the functional and technical aspects of an architect - we need a better definition of some of these roles. But a cookie cutter approach is not going to work.

26:40 How should an individual invest in the right skills to stay one step ahead - we talk about next generation process modeling, meantime SAP customers are happily using Visio. You can't afford to take a skills direction that doesn't pay off for you. Leo: it comes down to opportunity and individual profile. Example: if you have BW and can configure Infotypes, ABAP is a natural choice. But going from sales to HR may not be as natural as going to SD or MM. A functional can add a lot of value to their career from the technical background, but it's not the right fit for everyone.

"Jon's SAP airport test" - Can you take a 500-600 page SAP book to an airport and enjoy it? Martin: There's a major transition change in learning, it needs to be on demand leaning. I don't care about a fancy HCM book with 1000 pages, I want to build my own book online based on my own profiles. (Guys joking: Martin is currently authoring yet another book).

31:25 "Developing expertise in the context of a community - Vijay's example of Agile development - he learned more from his blog post comments than he ever could have from a book. Martin: this is blended learning: Learning Management Systems for a combination of books, blogs, conference learning, computer based training.

32:10 Vijay: What is the chance for someone new to SAP to get into SAP to get into a new product - if you have previous SAP experience in SD does it give you an advantage, say in breaking into CRM? What would a customer or SI prefer? Leo: If you're new to SAP, it makes more sense to pursue new areas like BPM versus SD. But having previous experience in SAP is always an advantage.

34:30 Avoiding being a commodity - is there one guiding principle that you follow?

Leo: I specialize in SD and ABAP, which are among the most commodity areas in SAP - but you have to distinguish yourself and excel in order to stand apart.

Vijay: Coming from India and living here for ten year, I have a different perspective on that. Globalization is a fact, it's not going away. Someone getting money for something will make less latter, and that's not going away, but if you're in the top ten percent of your field, your job is not going anywhere. The programming world moved into an offshore model because it became repeatable. It was an established process. Some aspects of functional configuration can also be outsourced. If you do it for one country, you can do it for a number of others.

We can do blueprinting virtually - not everyone is away from the client, some are still in front of the client - the client-facing skills and industry knowledge are never going away.

Martin: I agree with Vijay- this is the human factor that is not going away. No matter where you work, you still have to look out for yourself - go to the communities - SDN, BOC, and BPX, or other online communities - Buckle up and keep looking out for new trends and ideas. Commit to your own learning curve.

39:00 Being an SAP Mentor - it's not about money, Martin: there's no triple rate, in fact you make less money because you invest yourself. Vijay: More people recognize the Mentor program than they did at TechEd last year. Leo: We have made a lot of progress with visibility and what the Mentor program is, but we still have a lot to do - when people see me in my Mentor jersey, I'm still being asked, "What is that? You on a team for that?"

41:00 Lightning Round - positives and negatives from SAPPHIRE so far.

Note: to comment on this podcast series, or send in a question for us to answer in the next one, be sure to join our ERP Lounge Group on Linkedin. If you want to subscribe to the series, get the The JonERP Master Blog and Podcast Feed. Or find Jon on his @jonerp Twitter feed. The ERP Lounge podcasts are also included in the JonERP iTunes podcast feed.  


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