SAP SuccessFactors certification sets off firestorm

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy September 28, 2014
SAP SuccessFactors certification comes under fire as the company introduces a new associate level certification. Consultants far from happy.

BizX - via Alan Lepofsky, Constellation Research
SuccessFactors BizX - via Alan Lepofsky

We've been here before. In 2010 to be precise. Back then, five SAP Mentors - of which I was one at the time - compiled a research based 55 page report (PDF - no firewall) on SAP certification. Our conclusions and recommendations at the time were clear: SAP certification as it was, does little to demonstrate competence in delivering SAP projects. We proposed that SAP evolve its certification to embrace the notion of 'master' professionals, those who can demonstrate excellence in the field. SAP fought us on that one, claiming it wasn't feasible to come up with a certification that would be widely accepted. We disagreed and garnered plenty of support from in-field consultants.

Fast forward to today and Pazahanick believes the recent update on SuccessFactors certification is a step backwards.

In sharply worded comments to the announcement, Pazahanick notes that while existing certifications will run out, the new certification will be based upon out of date versions:

As SuccessFactors releases functionality every 3 months (and some of the certification materials lag 1-2 year behind) my certification that I take in July 2015 will be on an "old release" buy August 2015.  Has SAP/SF REALLY thought this all through.

I am one of the few with multiple SAP HCM certifications and multiple SuccessFactors certifications and I can tell you is that SuccessFactors was the program you should have been modeling after.

If that wasn't bad enough, Pazahanick is far from satisfied with the replies coming from the mothership's representative:

Regina there is no WAY any SAP or SuccessFactors customers DEMANDED SuccessFactors change their certification as 95% are just learning what SF certification means given the changing names earlier in the year (Associate/Professional) and have a very poor opinion of SAP certification in general (notice that under 2% of SAP jobs in North America ask for certification yet the number in SF is very high under the current program).

Is there such a thing is "treating SAP partners different than SF Partners" as they all have been migrated to being SAP Partners but understand the cloud is different than OnPrem yet I guess SAP can only do a one size fits all approach to training which is sad.

"SAP Certification is the industry standard" - Where are facts to support this statement. Cisco is the industry standard and several others. Whenever there is a survey on IT Certifications in Demand SAP hardly ever registers.

To me this whole thing feels like a way to grow SAP Education revenue and in such a way that will ultimately hurt customers.

Whether he is right or wrong in his assumptions, Pazahanick's assessment is not a million miles away from what we found back in 2010. What's more perplexing is that other commenters are far from clear what this new certification really means. Some are assuming that SAP has inserted another layer - associate - into the certification equation. That seems to be borne out in comments on a LinkedIn group where one person says the new certification is designed to demonstrate a 'minimum competence.' That's not the case. The associate designation came in last year. What's concerning is the manner in which this certification is being applied.

Others on the LinkedIn group are making comments that hark back directly to criticisms that were the original trigger for our 2010 research. This from someone new to SAP SuccessFactors:

...while SAP/SF recommends you take the training, doesn't sound like you have to. Brings to mind all of the "paper MCSEs" that came out about 15 years ago when that exam became cool to have in your resume. Turned out lots of people who could take the exam but didn't know Windows software from actual windows.

My take

I'm not going to comment on the economics of this topic. We have known for some years that SAP education has fallen off the radar as a revenue line item. It's now a rounding error in the accounts for all practical purposes.

Of greater concern is the apparent re-emergence of a well known problem that contributes to project failure: certify newbies, shove them into the field and hope for the best. It doesn't work and undermines the value of experienced consultants.

We have been hearing for some time that SAP has absorbed SuccessFactors into the SAP way of doing things. If this is a recent example then it is strange that SAP hasn't apparently taken the best of what SuccessFactors has on offer and improved it. At least not in the minds of consultants who are deeply experienced in SAP HR.

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