SAP user group battles to overcome skills shortage

The Americas SAP Users Group (ASUG) is trying to address the shortage of skills by creating a database, ASUG EDGE, to help members find the right outsourcer or contractor at a time.

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The Americas SAP Users Group (ASUG) is trying to address the shortage of skills by creating a database, ASUG EDGE, to help members find the right outsourcer at a time.

"It's very difficult to find qualified, skilled talent. It's such a wide set of software packages, so as you deal with software consultants, you don't always get a completely straight picture of what they've been successful at," said Craig Lathrop, ASUG's chief information officer.

The primary areas of pain lie in newer SAP technologies, such as NetWeaver, according to Steve Strout, ASUG's CEO.

"Most of the biggest [system integrators] and smaller consulting companies have good resources in the traditional enterprise suites," he said.

ASUG is charging for the information. Members will pay $995 (£500) a year for the service, and non-members will be charged $1,495 (£750).

The site has been in beta for six months, and it will launch with about 400 reviews of outsourcers and constractors, according to ASUG.

"We're wanting the most accurate and usable comments, not just negatives," Strout said.

David Foote, an analyst who tracks the SAP jobs market, said the review database doesn't solve the core problem for SAP, which is getting more skilled workers in play quickly.

Should high-profile implementation failures begin to dog SAP in coming years, they will be the result of the skills shortage, predicted Foote, CEO and chief research officer of Foote Partners.

"If there are large collapses on SAP systems there will be a diagnosis made by the media and others, and it's probably not going to be the technology [at fault]. It's probably going to be issues of project skills and executions," he said.

Joe Westhuizen, vice president of business development at SAP, said the company first assessed its skills shortage 12 to 18 months ago and concluded it was short about 50,000 specialists worldwide.

Due to upticks in hiring by its partners, better marketing and other efforts, that number has now dropped to the 30,000 range, according to Westhuizen.

"We've definitely got the right initiatives in place, but we still have a lot of work to do," he said.

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