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I have ABAP experience, but my clients are asking for certification

I have been working in SAP ABAP for the past 6 years and in my recent interviews most of my clients has asked whether I'm certified ABAPer. I wanted to know why clients prefer a certified ABAPer with only 1 year of experience than a guy without certification with 5+ years experience in SAP

We have received two questions from experienced SAP professionals who are finding that more jobs are requiring certification. This is definitely a trend to keep an eye on. However, in our SAP staffing work at eCommQuest.com, we haven't seen a "certification required" job come our way in the last three years. When I think back to the last ten ABAP spots we've filled, none of them required certifications. Some of the consultants were certified, but the reason they got the position was because they had the niche skill the client wanted, along with deep ABAP experience and a proven track record on high-profile projects. And while we're on the subject, we have NEVER seen a job go to a one year ABAP person over a five year person due to the issue of certification.

All of this is in sharp contrast to our Siebel practice, where "certification required" is starting to become standard on all job orders. Will this happen in SAP? Perhaps someday, when the SAP market truly matures, but right now, the entire SAP consulting market is in transition as everyone scrambles to keep pace with SAP's rapidly expanding e-business product line. Personally, I do not believe lack of certification will pose a major obstacle to seasoned SAP consultants in the foreseeable future. I do think it's always a "nice to have" though. This is a very important point, so let me be clear: it is not that certification is unimportant, it is just that keeping your project skills current is much more important. For example, it's been a long time since we've seen someone land a new SAP job who did not have version 4.6 implementation experience. This might not be listed in every job order, but you'll see it on many of them. And even when you don't see it, it's almost always a major factor in hiring. SAP professionals need to keep up with the latest upgrades of SAP to land projects. Since SAP is changing so much with each release, I think that trend will continue.

So I will state categorically: keeping up with the latest SAP upgrades is much more important than getting certified. And when you think about it, this does have serious implications: sometimes getting exposure to the latest version of SAP means leaving your employer that is happily running on version 3.1. This is so important that in some cases, I have recommended that people actually take a job across the country and relocate in order to avoid getting stuck on old SAP systems. Another implication: taking a project further from home or taking a lower rate in order to get onto the project with the most interesting skills SAP exposure is sometimes what you have to do. Right now, it's not about cashing out of finding the most convenient projects - it's about getting the most cutting edge project skills you can get.

Finally, there's one more consideration that applies to ABAP programmers like yourself. In last month's questions, I addressed the future of ABAP programming in detail. My main point: as SAP evolves its architecture from proprietary (Basis, ABAP), to "open" (Java, XML, J2EE, etc), technical, SAP consultants are going to need to have these Web-based development skills in their toolkit. For a "bread and butter" ABAP programmer, obtaining Java-related development skills inside and outside of SAP is far more significant than obtaining ABAP certification. Of course, the good thing is that this is not an either/or situation. You can go out and get the cutting edge skills and also get the certifications. And if you do decide to get certified, go for certification in a "Web-based" technical area within the mySAP solution, as opposed to simply a core ABAP certification. The most effective way that seasoned consultants can use SAP certifications is as a way to break into new mySAP-related areas. It isn't as easy as getting certified and landing a mySAP project, but certification can get you into a new area within SAP if you're got a solid core of SAP skills already.

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