SAP arrived at the numbers by analyzing a range of data points, such as new growth in SAP certifications; traffic to key educational sites; the number of new graduates with SAP skills; and pricing rates for professionals.
ASUG's site focuses on North American consultants. SAP has seen its skills base grow more quickly in emerging markets like Brazil and China, according to Westhuizen, but he asserted that "the US is in pretty good shape overall."
Asked how SAP managed to let the skill shortage rise so high before responding, Westhuizen said many quarters of double-digit growth and the wave of retiring baby boomers proved to be a combustible mix. "Those have come together to create an opportunity but also a challenge."
Foote, however, said SAP knew what it was doing as it rolled out a series of new products in recent years.
"When you're a successful company, you're not going to let the steam engine stop rolling unless you know there's no track ahead," he said. "Vendors don't think nor do they want to think what the barriers would be for customers. If [customers] are willing to buy, [vendors] sell and then let their channel partners deal with it as best as possible."
A major SAP customer said enterprises have a certain responsibility for their own fate.
"The key to this, just like any other sort of project, is doing the fundamentals in project planning," said Doug Tracy, executive vice president of IT, Rolls-Royce North America and global chief technology officer, Rolls-Royce.
The company has a long-standing contract with the major integrator EDS, and is now studying the ramifications of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) upgrade within the next 18 to 24 months. It has 38,800 employees around the world.
"You've got to do your resource forecast well in advance," Tracy said. "EDS or anybody else can't have good people available at the drop of a hat. They have to go through their own process."