SAP upgrades drive talent demand

IT hiring managers are finding that SAP's expanding footprint in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software market requires broader skills to fill open positions. That was one of the main take-aways from April's Sapphire '07 Atlanta, SAP's annual international customer event.

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Many hiring managers we spoke with voiced how difficult it is to find qualified candidates whose skills can support current implementations.

The reason: SAP America is selling software at a double-digit compounded percentage rate in North America, leading to a flood of upgrades and installations that require new or heightened SAP skills. This puts pressure on organisations to dredge an already shallow talent pool to find IT professionals who meet their needs.

The good news is: job seekers who keep their skills up to date can easily jump into these new roles. And as companies race to fill the positions, knowing when, where and how to build their skills can help IT pros edge out the competition and win jobs.

Understand the SAP life cycle

Essentially, there are three life-cycle steps organisations go through when implementing new SAP systems and doing upgrades: planning, building and maintaining.

In Stage 1, organisations need people with IT planning skills. Designing the system, planning the rollout and coordinating the different components so they work together effectively requires high-level technology architecture skills. As such, qualified job seekers have a deep knowledge of the new functionalities within the ERP, customer relationship management, product life-cycle management and storage resource management applications being planned.

Once the plan is designed, organisations need people with the skills to build, configure and test the system. In addition to strong SAP-related skills, project management experience can help set job seekers apart from the competition.

When the system is running, ongoing support or production roles are at a premium. These include professionals with strong system management skills, such as Basis and Solution Manager skills; ABAP developers fluent in Java; and XML, and Web-based programmers.

Depending on the complexity of the project, the life cycle will last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. The cycle's length also determines the timing for hiring people with the various skills needed.

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