How SAP Is Trying To Fill The Talent Pipeline - InformationWeek

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How SAP Is Trying To Fill The Talent Pipeline

Last week, SAP announced new university alliances to prepare future professionals with business, tech, and soft skills needed in the rollout of NetWeaver, ERP 6.0, and other popular SAP products. This week, the company talked to me about the work under way with other third parties to help fill the talent gap now.

Last week, SAP announced new university alliances to prepare future professionals with business, tech, and soft skills needed in the rollout of NetWeaver, ERP 6.0, and other popular SAP products. This week, the company talked to me about the work under way with other third parties to help fill the talent gap now.SAP officials estimate there's a current shortage of 30,000 to 40,000 experts needed to meet the global demand for implementations and support of SAP software. And if you talk to employers looking to hire SAP talent, they'll tell you that finding these people is no easy mission.

"There are just not enough of these guys," says Jim Lanzalotto, VP of strategy and marketing at Yoh, one of the tech staffing firms hunting down SAP talent. SAP know-how is among the most demanded skills Yoh clients are seeking right now, and that's been the case for a while, he says.

What's causing the shortage? Several factors, including the aging workforce (i.e., retiring baby boomers), fewer students going into computer studies, and aggressive sales of SAP products, says Joe Westhuizen, SAP VP of business development, in an interview with InformationWeek.

"We've had 17 quarters of double-digit growth," he says of the company's revenue. "Growth is unabated. When people buy [software], they need resources to implement it."

While SAP is planning to more than quadruple the number of universities worldwide (from 900 today to 4,000 in a few years) pumping out new blood with SAP DNA for jobs in the years to come, the company also is working with other partners to develop thousands of new pros this year, Westhuizen says.

Over the last 18 months, SAP has pulled together a program team to address "ecosystem requirements," Westhuizen says. That effort focuses on "four key levers" -- marketing, education, partners, and universities -- which also often overlap, he says.

Along the lines of marketing, the software vendor has been ramping up efforts with professional organizations and other groups to get the word out that SAP is "a choice" employer to work for, and that its products are fueling in-demand professions at other companies, Westhuizen says.

To educate potential SAP experts, the German software vendor also has been expanding "blended learning" opportunities, including e-learning. "Let's not expect everyone to go to a classroom," Westhuizen says. And while we're at it, let's not expect that everyone deploying SAP products speaks German or English.

"Up until a few months ago, education was in German and English," he says. Now SAP provides educational materials in nine languages, which include Japanese, Korean, French, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.

SAP's new efforts with its 20 largest systems integration and services partners -- which include the likes of Accenture, Bearing Point, Capgemini, Computer Sciences Corp., Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Satyam, and Wipro -- aims to train (or retrain) thousands of budding SAP experts. By the end of 2008, SAP is aiming for those 20 companies to have another 23,170 SAP pros on board.

SAP thinks the goal is realistic -- during the last six month of 2007, those SAP "top-tier" partners trained/retrained/recruited about 12,000 people with SAP skills, Westhuizen says. About 65% of SAP implementations go through SAP's 20 top-tier partners, he says.

SAP's work with third parties to pump up the talent pipeline isn't limited only to its largest companies. The vendor also is helping its 3,000 second-tier companies with training and recruiting SAP experts, says Westhuizen. "We can be even more creative with smaller partners," he says. Since many of those companies are regional, recruitment and marketing effort can be tailored with local flavor.

Finally, it's not just about numbers, it's also quality of skills that SAP is addressing, says Westhuizen. The company is ramping up certification programs for three tiers of expertise -- "associates, professionals, and masters," he says. The certification campaign is to ensure that companies deploying SAP products have people with a "baseline of quality" in their SAP skills, he says.

In the first quarter of 2008, there was a 38% jump in the number of people taking SAP certification programs, versus the same time last year, he says. Also, in the last six months, there's been a 45% increase in traffic on SAP's education site, he says.

Know anyone interested in getting re-tooled in SAP?

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