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Talent skirmishes in store for SAP pros

A new report from IT research consultancy Foote Partners projects job growth in 2006, but demand for SAP workers is spiking, resulting in talent skirmishes for lucrative positions.

Durgendra Panwar, a senior SAP application specialist at Laurent, Wash.-based aircraft maker Bombardier Aerospace, said many of his colleagues are seeing the job market become more competitive.

You can't just stick to one module like the olden days. You have to think broadly to get a good job.
Durgendra Panwar,
senior SAP application specialistBombardier Aerospace

Business warehouse initiatives, and some customer relational management and supplier relational management projects are opening up positions to qualified candidates, according to Panwar. Jobs in other areas are available, but many firms are seeking consultants and are offering lower pay, he said.

"You can always find a job with a standard skill set, but it's not as well paying or rewarding," Panwar said. "You can't just stick to one module like the olden days. You have to think broadly to get a good job."

While hiring in IT positions across the board is expected to grow in 2006, demand for SAP workers is spiking, forcing SAP pros to gain more specific skill sets, according to a report from Foote Partners LLC, an IT research consultancy in New Canaan, Conn.

That spike in demand is resulting in talent skirmishes for the most lucrative SAP jobs, as companies seek experts in specific modules, rather than general ABAP developers or Basis administrators, said David Foote, president of Foote Partners.

"Employers are looking for extremely focused IT people," Foote said, in an interview with "A certain amount of IT has been internally focused jobs, but apps development is growing, and a lot of budgets are in the lines of business … operations oriented and customer facing."

Research for Foote's projections is based on salary and skill surveys in the third quarter of 2005, in addition to analysis of reports and research on the current market conditions and IT spending habits. The research included detailed job and skill salary reports based on surveys of about 50,000 IT workers in 1,800 North America employers.

According to the latest research, SAP pros with specific skills related to Web-enabled analytics, management apps and radio frequency identification technology are seeing some of the most lucrative jobs. Those experts with applications development experience and a knowledge of a broad range of development languages will also fare well in the job market into 2006, according to projections by Foote.

Career moves:

IT job market recovering

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Workers with experience with data integration, including knowledge of SAP's Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) and other data integrators could also benefit.

"Budgets, generally speaking a year ago, were heavily in compliance, security and regulatory matters," Foote said. "But now we're seeing investing in innovation, which has stimulated hiring for Web applications and a lot of integration issues."

Customer-facing jobs, including enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management professionals and application developers, data warehousing and business intelligence experts are also on the rise, Foote said.

In addition, many employers are seeking business technologists and business analysts as a move toward Web services and service-oriented architectures forces companies to review and change current business processes.

Hiring trends focus on risk avoidance

The latest research also suggests a pull back from the widespread offshore outsourcing taking place in many IT shops. Employers are now seeking to avoid risk by seeking qualified consultants or hiring temp-to-perm positions, Foote said.

Temp-to-perm hires are up 27% over this time last year, as employers road test new hires for up to 90 days before offering a permanent position, Foote said.

"Companies are looking at their inventory and saying, 'Yikes, we've lost a lot of talent in past by offshoring it,'" Foote said. "What they've also found out is that the cost savings has not been what they thought it would be."

Some offshored IT projects are also not meeting key deadlines, Foote said. Stalled projects end up limiting the competitive advantage of adding functionality and ultimately result in additional costs, he said.

"We hear all the time that the level of competition in particular industries result in the desire to do things with speed and agility to gain the competitive advantage," Foote said. "Now projects are shifting back in-house, and they're getting to the point where they are hiring people with SAP talent in specific modules."

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