Private meets public: developing the next generation of SAP specialists
There’s been a reported shortage of skilled SAP specialists since time immemorial… or at least as early as 2008. Even back then, highers up at SAP itself were looking at ways of addressing the problem – ranging from better recognising the specific skills that customers needed, to actually developing them.
David Foote, co-founder and CEO of Foote Partners LLC, addressed SAP directly, stating: “I speak regularly to about 600 users of your product in Canada and the U.S. By and large, they are very happy customers, but they have a problem ... I can summarize it in four words: experienced, skilled SAP talent. They want to add additional products; they want to scale upward, but they are having a lot of trouble finding experienced people to do it…these are people who have money and simply cannot find experienced people when they need it.”
Despite almost directly tackling the problems faced today, this quote actually comes from TechEd in 2007. So why are we still addressing issues that should have been addressed a decade ago? How can we attract the right talent towards SAP?
They say that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. It’s clear that the current efforts made to beat the skills shortage have so far have fallen woefully short of the mark.
So, let’s break down the current market status.
Today, too few specialists exist within the IT and technology field as a whole. Of those that exist, a majority are pursuing careers in cybersecurity – often branded as the ‘sexy’ career choice for IT specialists. Cybersecurity is undoubtedly an essential for business continuity, but without a healthy influx of new tech talent, this pulls specialists away from other areas of business that desperately need it – SAP, for example.
For individual businesses with SAP requirements, what’s needed in the short term is a more attractive offering to lure specialists away from the cybersecurity specialism. For this, the traditional strategies on attracting and retaining millennial talent come into play, as well as various staff retention schemes and returner-attraction policies. With a rapidly ageing workforce, strategies aimed at this demographic are also required – from flexible working and wide-ranging benefits packages, to more inclusive marketing campaigns.
These short-term solutions, however, will become less and less effective as the talent pool continues to shrink. What’s needed is a complete reconfiguration of how we assess and develop talent. Above all else, it’s clear that public sector training - schools and universities – is not developing enough graduates to reverse the industry contraction.
Specific businesses now need to take a more active role in the shaping of future professionals. Ten years ago, there were far more industry specialists at the top-end of their careers. Whilst today, that number is fewer, these SAP specialists are still a hugely underutilised resource. On the job training in the form of apprenticeships, or university courses supported by actual industry experts would add vitally needed experience.
For businesses with a requirement for SAP skills, while short term strategies will see them through the next few years, a radical change is needed to expand the number of incoming specialists. The private sector currently has the tools to make this happen… maybe the diversion of specialists towards cybersecurity will convince the frog to finally jump from the pot.