What's Hot? SAP Skills And Pay - InformationWeek

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What's Hot? SAP Skills And Pay

A scarcity of experienced talent combined with the growing popularity of SAP's NetWeaver platform and other products has helped pump up pay considerably for SAP-related skills in recent months, according to a new report.

A scarcity of experienced talent combined with the growing popularity of SAP's NetWeaver platform and other products has helped pump up pay considerably for SAP-related skills in recent months, according to a new report.Despite the weak U.S. economy, premium pay for a dozen SAP-related skills rose between 7% and up to 30% over the last six months, and in some cases up to 57% over the last 12 months, according to a new quarterly report by research firm Foote Partners, which evaluated the pay of 22,000 IT professionals in the United States and Canada.

Premium pay is the extra compensation employers frequently add on top of base salaries of workers who have certain noncertified or certified skills, even if those skills aren't reflected in the employees' job titles.

Of the 331 certified and noncertified skills evaluated by Foote Partners, many of the skills getting the biggest boost in premium pay over the last six and 12 months were SAP-related. David Foote, president of Foote Partners, attributed the pay jump to "disconnects" between the growing demand for SAP products, such as its application and integration platform NetWeaver, especially in emerging markets like small and midsized businesses, and the scarcity of very specific types of talent.

SAP has been casting its family of products and technologies as an "ecosystem" to run businesses, and so companies deploying the software have been seeking very specific expertise -- not just technologists who understand the software, but those who also have business skills in particular vertical industries, such as retail, and functions -- like finance and accounting -- within that business.

SAP is well aware of this ever-increasing demand for talent. Earlier this year, SAP officials estimated that there is a shortage of 30,000 to 40,000 SAP experts globally. The company has been on a roll in ramping up its efforts to get more talent into the pipeline. Over the last six months, 18,000 professionals have been issued new SAP-related certifications through SAP and its partners. Those 18,000 newly certified pros include a combination of new people entering the SAP ecosystem, as well as experienced folks expanding their skill base, says Nina Simosko, global chief operating officer of SAP's education organization in an interview with InformationWeek.

That means SAP is ahead of schedule in meeting a goal set out earlier this year to have about 23,000 more SAP pros on board by the end of 2008.

To help fill the pipeline, SAP has alliances with about 900 universities worldwide, and that number will grow to about 1,000 by year's end. Over the next two or three years, the plan is to at least double that number, says Jeffrey Word, SAP VP of product strategy.

In the meantime, SAP just unveiled a new certification program to bridge one of the biggest talent gaps out there in terms of SAP-related skills. The new Business Process Expert, or BPX certification, is aimed at helping business process experts translate that knowledge into SAP configurations -- aligning business functions with the SAP technology. "It's a feeding frenzy" for this type of business process management/SAP expertise, says Word.

While these efforts by SAP to address its talent shortage are admirable, Foote says the software company can't afford to get too content with the progress it's been making so far.

"When the economy gets better, and companies have budgets to deploy [these SAP technologies], the skills shortage will be a bigger problem," Foote predicts. Once global economic conditions improve, SAP runs the risk of losing potential customers to other ERP platforms, like Oracle, if those clients anticipate that it will be too difficult or too expensive to find skilled SAP talent, says Foote.

SAP's Simosko says the company realizes it needs to continue its drive in recruiting and educating of new talent. The 18,000 newly certified professionals "are first steps" in SAP filling the skills shortage, she says. "We're trying to look at it at all the angles to fix the gap."

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