While digital transformation has introduced no shortage of business and technology challenges for organizations, the struggle to place the right people with the right skills in the right place ranks near—if not at—the top of companies’ critical concerns.

Talent shortages have affected the IT industry for years, and they continue. Every IT discipline—from cybersecurity and networking to application development and infrastructure—appears engaged in a battle to educate, entice, attract, and retain talent.

Max Wessel, SAP’s Chief Learning Officer, concurs. “Customers I talk to say there is an SAP skills gap,” he said, adding that “we are not graduating enough university students in the old model of algebra to cover the gap. If we look at the pipeline, we see there’s already a shortage.”

Wessel, who spoke at the ASUG Annual Conference Executive Exchange Summit session in Orlando last month, added that many companies face this reality, regardless of the technology supporting their businesses. “We’re accelerating our shift to the cloud, which means we have more concurrent projects being serviced by the same number of partners, and we can’t hire enough people,” Wessel explained.

The question remains, in his words, "How do we reskill the people who are in the IT workforce we have today, and how do we address fundamentally new audiences to bring them into the workforce?" 

This sentiment was echoed by the ASUG Board of Directors, which acknowledged the issue last month during SAP Sapphire and ASUG Annual Conference. With 75% of companies reporting talent shortages in 2022, according to ManpowerGroup’s 2022 Talent Shortage Survey, it’s readily apparent that digital transformation efforts are hampered by talent gaps.

“We are all acutely aware of the skill shortages across the SAP ecosystem and beyond,” the board noted in a prepared statement. “But for us, the skill challenge feels particularly acute, especially as we drive the transformation to the cloud.”

In this context, SAP's just-announced career growth initiatives, including role-based certification for enterprise architects, open a new and important vector for directing professionals at early, mid-, and mature stages in their careers.

SAP Expands and Enhances Education and Certification Programs

In addition to making SAP learning content on SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, broadly accessible and free of charge, and unveiling a plan to make SAP Learning Hub the gateway to a reinvented premium digital learning experience, SAP is investing in expanded education for enterprise architects, one of the most in-demand roles in the tech industry today.

The stated goal of these initiatives is to upskill 2 million people worldwide by 2025 through an integrated series of certification programs, courses, and enhancements to the SAP Learning Hub. It all underscores the critical importance of bridging the skills gap within the SAP ecosystem.

In an official statement, SAP announced that "the expansion broadens the base of people who can become SAP professionals, giving more individuals a chance to advance in the competitive technology labor market and enabling employers to draw on a deeper bench of skills to accelerate digital transformation."

News of the initiative was welcomed by the ASUG Board of Directors, which hailed the certification for enterprise architects as a “real game changer” for tech professionals. "Many of us in the ASUG community have experienced good software gone wrong due to bad decisions on implementation,” the board noted in a prepared statement.

“Often, this is due to a lack of knowledge,” the statement continued. “We know that the right knowledge and certification improves results. But it's still hard for us as leaders to identify who has the right comprehensive skill sets to orchestrate major transformations, especially as we shift from implementing ECC in a data center to implementing S/4HANA in a heterogeneous cloud environment."

Certification initiatives focusing on EA professionals will be vital in integrating and aligning the technical and business requirements needed to support and sustain ongoing transformation initiatives.

Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Application Consulting (EAC), reinforced this point while expressing excitement about the certification. “This program and others like it help maintain an appropriate level of professionalism and go a long way toward mitigating the 'wild west' feeling that has existed in the past, particularly for customers trying to engage with reliable partners."

Talent Transparency Is Critical for Ecosystem Engagement

SAP’s certification initiative seeks to create a higher level of transparency as enterprises work with consultants, systems integrators, and other service providers to develop, deploy, and maintain constantly evolving enterprise applications and workflows.

As Wessel explained to the Executive Exchange audience, this initiative fits into the overarching SAP strategy for product and content innovation. “The last two years have been about reinventing our platforms so that we can reach people in the flow of work in the way they operate, and reinventing content so it can be consumed in that fashion,” he said.

The dynamic nature of the industry at large, and SAP developments in particular, make it critical for skill sets to be kept fresh and for parties working together to be aware of the competencies held by multi-organizational teammates.

"The successful interplay between the partner's team and the internal IT team chartered with implementing an SAP project depends very much on the quality of the partner people assigned to the project,” noted Greenbaum. 

“Too often, systems integrators sell [customers] the 'A-team' and deliver [instead] the proverbial school bus full of trainees," he added. "By broadening these programs, SAP is allowing its partners to deploy more qualified consultants and, in turn, allowing customers to demand well-trained consultants and know that they’ve been training using a consistent and well-designed program."

The ASUG board actively encourages current and aspiring SAP professionals to become certified. "We also ask our community to take an additional bold step by requiring your system implementation partners to staff your projects with certified enterprise architects,” the board added in its statement. “ASUG believes this will deliver a significant step up in quality and predictable project outcomes."

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