US needs to produce more native SAP professionals

To most people the term “SAP” is nothing more than a cryptic abbreviation.  It is far from a household name.  Few are aware of the fact that SAP is the largest business software company in the world.  Even fewer know that roughly 65% of the world’s business transactions run through an SAP system at one point or another.  In many ways, SAP software runs the business world.  And every year it runs more of it. On top of this, SAP software implementations are no longer reserved for billion dollar companies with deep pockets.  We at BestXperts have a number of customers with roughly $100 million in annual revenue that have successfully implemented SAP and are able to run their business in a sustainable and flexible way.  And once a company implements SAP it typically goes on a long-term cycle of optimization, streamlining and automation of business processes through the enhancement and use of additional functionality from SAP.

All of this means that every year businesses across the world depend more and more on the people that implement and support SAP systems.  Unfortunately, US has historically failed to train and prepare enough SAP professionals to support the demand.  As a result today’s US market of SAP professionals is dominated by immigrant workers.  Countries like India have long recognized this opportunity and have been producing trained SAP professionals in staggering numbers.

But fueling the demand for SAP professionals through a predominantly immigrant workforce comes with a price.  For one, it appears to me that the level of communication ability of an average SAP consultant in the US market is unacceptably low.  It has become the norm to hire one person to perform the technical work and another person to handle the communication with business users, especially on end-to-end implementations.

At BestXperts we have long believed that SAP professionals need to be equally versatile in technology and communication and this holds true for our solution architects, analysts and developers.  But such standards have made it incredibly difficult for us to hire new folks to join our team.  We go literally through dozens of resumes and interviews of seasoned SAP consultants each month only to be disappointed with either their depth of technical know-how or communication ability.

I believe that SAP consulting is one of the best career opportunities that a US college grad can get into today.  There is a significant shortage of native English-speaking professionals and it is only getting bigger.  The bad news is that getting into the SAP profession is very challenging.  With the exception of a few universities like CSU Chico, there are really no formal training programs available for college students to get into the field.  And in our experience the few graduates that do get formal SAP training usually have a job lined up way before they even graduate.  The demand is simply too large.

Take me for example.  I graduated from college with an MIS degree and simply got lucky by landing my first job in a company that was going through an SAP implementation.  Most of our experts either share the same story or were business professionals who were put on an SAP project by their company.  None of us had any formal SAP training prior to getting our first SAP assignment.  Such “random” approach to building SAP professionals is one of the main reasons why there is such a shortage of good communicators in the US SAP consulting space.

SAP has been working to address this problem by building the SAP University Alliance and offering a subsidized path for any university to purchase and utilize SAP software in its curriculum.  More schools need to jump on this opportunity and help close the gap for native SAP professionals in the US.

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