SAP introduces business process certification

SAP announced Tuesday at its Las Vegas TechEd conference business process expert certification, an online marketplace partnership and a new version of the Business Objects Metadata Management Solution.

The new certification is for business process management services experts, and will include sessions on strategic context, governance, methodology, technology, and service-oriented architecture. Zia Yusuf, executive vice-president, said, “We need to formalize that class of staff. It’s the people who know sales, marketing, and the business objects, but they can also connect with developers.”

It will also be offered online through the SAP’s 425,000-strong SAP Business Process Expert social network. (TechEd Las Vegas also saw the announcement of a book that was co-authored by the SAP Business Process Expert social network via wikis.)

Those wishing to get certified under the new business process certification should be able to do so within four weeks of the end of the Las Vegas TechEd conference.

Finding ERP pros and certified SAP vendors is getting harder and harder, however, according to an AMR Research report.

“SAP and Oracle application skills, in particular, are in huge demand, with service providers reporting their ERP practices continue to experience double-digit growth and strong pricing premiums relative to other IT skills,” Dana Stiffler writes in the recent “U.S. ERP Skills Gap Leaves Titans Vulnerable” report. “They tell us the packaged applications business is limited only by their ability to find, train, and place appropriate resources.”

Those resources are in short supply right now-and not just for ERP skills. Included on the list of most highly valued SAP skills, according to Foote Partners data, are: SAP Master Data Management; NetWeaver Business Intelligence / Business Warehouse; Business Objects; and SAP Human Capital Management.

For SAP, which has more severe staffing problems (some 30,000 to 40,000 experts in need) than Oracle, the news is worse: “Unless the striking variance in skills availability is eliminated,” Stiffler notes, “Oracle will become an increasingly attractive option relative to SAP.”

Beyond the SAP and Oracle sales competition, however, there is a bigger problem that on-premise software vendors face: The net effect of the skills shortage is pushing existing and potential customers to consider alternative software delivery models, Stiffler contends.

“I think what it really means long term is that people are really crying out for a different delivery model for enterprise software and business functionality,” she says. “And it’s my belief that combinations of SaaS and business process outsourcing (BPO) will eventually begin to emerge and make that gap be slightly less noticeable.”

In addition, SAP’s and Oracle’s missteps and their ecosystems’ inability to serve new customers opens the door for Microsoft’s Dynamics ERP product set. “I think [SAP and Oracle] are really vulnerable in attacking the midmarket,” Stiffler says, “and it makes Microsoft look much more attractive relative to Oracle and SAP, if there’s this big skills gap.”

SAP is hoping to lure in more allies via its new partnership with the global online open innovation marketplace, InnoCentive. The company manages a platform where businesses can post their R&D challenges to be solved by engineers, scientists, inventors, and research organizations. InnoCentive will receive a SAP NetWeaver Fund investment from SAP, which will result in increased application scaelability, and a platform where vendors can offer up solutions to business problems for cash. To kickstart the new partnership, TechEd Las Vegas will feature a pavilion where participants can try their hand at solving three tech challenges (around social networking, Web servers, and video creation for a combined prize of $25,000.

This forum will add on to SAP’s other collaborative SAP Community Network platforms like the SAP Developer Network and the afore-mentioned SAP Business Process Expert Community, which total 1.3 million members.

Also announced at TechEd is the availability of the newest iteration of Business Objects Metadata Management XI 3.0. Said Business Objects CEO John Schwartz: “Metadata is increasingly unstructured and is often contextual or media in nature. We wanted to communicate better with NetWeaver, so the master data management for NetWeaver takes advantage of Business Objects’ master data management capabilities and keep data linked, current, and trusted.”

It provides a central administration point for a variety of metadata sources, and allows IT managers to get a handle on their metadata and the relationship between them by sticking it into a unified repository.

The program includes a “metapedia,” which can translate metadata into business definitions, and improve ease navigation and data discovery. It is also fully integrated with Business Objects XI 3.0 and is generally available as of Tuesday.

–With files from Thomas Wailgum,