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TechEd:SAP offers new business process management certification

The new business process management certification from SAP is an effort to turn out people who can bridge the gap between business and IT.

LAS VEGAS -- A new SAP certification that promises to help SAP professionals gain the skills to bridge the gap between IT and business will be available next month.

The Business Process Expert certification is aimed at enhancing the skills, specifically SOA skills, needed to create and compose business processes, from design to monitoring and optimization, according to interviews with community members and SAP executives.

The certification grew out of the SAP Business Process Expert Community (BPX), an online social network of SAP customers, business analysts, consultants and SAP experts launched two years ago. Community members wanted a way to validate their business process skills, and SAP customers wanted more business process experts to maximize the value of their SAP software.

"What we realized is you need somebody who's the marriage counselor between business and IT," said Marco ten Vaanholt, global head of the BPX community. "We need all of those skills developed as an ultimate BPX-er."

SAP announced the new certification at TechEd in Las Vegas, which this year attracted more than 6,000 IT managers, administrators and developers.

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The new course, offered at the associate and professional levels, will give SAP professionals knowledge of business processes beyond industry-specific and horizontal application expertise, Vaanholt said. The "ultimate BPX-er" has an understanding of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management skills, such as measuring whether an implementation is successful, but also of the softer skills needed to make end users adopt new technologies.

"Trust me; it's not that simple," Vaanholt said of SOA. "In my world, it's a methodology, not only a practice."

The course will also include lessons in composition tools and designing user interfaces.

The certification courses cost between $300 to $500, depending upon the level, according to SAP. A total of five courses will be offered, each ranging in length from one to three days.

Not only will this certification enhance an SAP professional's career, it's crucial to staying relevant and ensuring job security, Vaanholt said. Eventually, the work of business analysts and consultants may be outsourced to countries that can do it more cheaply, he said. But business process experts will continue to be in high demand.

"Because the world is becoming flatter, there's urgency and a need," Vaanholt said. "This is the next generation of what companies can do."

Unlike the SAP Developer Network (SDN) , which is overwhelmingly male, a large amount of the BPX community's 400,000 members are women, including one of its creators, Marilyn Pratt, who is now an SAP community evangelist.

Pratt said that -- the year after BPX was founded -- thousands of people rushed to her to ask how they could be certified as business process experts at SAP TechEd in 2007. Developing the certification was the next natural step, she said.

The courses will be attractive to both technical professionals looking to gain more business process expertise and business analysts looking to gain more technical knowledge.

Recently, Ann Rosenberg of SAP Denmark, who is also a member of the BPX community, taught a pilot course in Tokyo. She said it was one of the highest-rated and best-attended courses in SAP educational history in Japan.

As a member of the BPX community, Rosenberg particularly likes the wiki tools and the amount of information they let members quickly exchange in order to develop solutions to problems.

"The way it's structured, it's very easy to share," she said. "People are very motivated. It's just a great way of getting a lot of stuff together in a fast way. I'm so passionate about it."

There's also an effort under way to teach the business process methodology at college level so that students graduate with those skills alongside the more technical-focused curriculum. They're in the process of putting it in freshman-level courses, according to Jeff Word, SAP's vice president of product strategy, and they have developed a textbook for students on business process management.

"They learn how it's all tied together," Word said.

There's one other skill required to become a business process expert.

"You need to be a little bit crazy," Rosenberg said. "There's no 'no' in the world."

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