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Monday, September 22, 2008

Is there really an SAP and Oracle skills shortage?

There continue to be conflicting news on the state of the economy generally, and the IT economy specifically. The latest is an article from CIO Magazine that reports a shortage of ERP consultants with Oracle and SAP experience. The article quotes AMR Research analyst Dana Stiffler:

"SAP and Oracle application skills, in particular, are in huge demand, with service providers reporting their ERP practices continue to experience double-digit growth and strong pricing premiums relative to other IT skills," Stiffler writes...."They tell us the packaged applications business is limited only by their ability to find, train, and place appropriate resources."

It continues:
For SAP, which has more severe staffing problems (some 30,000 to 40,000 experts in need) than Oracle, the news is worse: "Unless the striking variance in skills availability is eliminated," Stiffler notes, "Oracle will become an increasingly attractive option relative to SAP."
The goes on to speculate that this shortage will drive customers to the SaaS model--but forget about that for a moment. I'm questioning whether the shortage is real. If so, it's a real bright spot in the IT services market.

But one commenter on the article disagrees:
This HUGE shortage you are referring to is only present for SAP professionals with 5+ years of experience. The other guys trying to come up aren't really doing that great.
Another confirms the same point:
There are plenty of people with SAP Skills may be just a few years experience but they are there. I personally know more than five people who have short term knowledge but no jobs. Employers are now asking for lots of years of experience due to economy turn down. Employers have personally told me they are only hiring senior consultants. Maybe the problem is something different...maybe the employers don't want to put effort to train people with short-term experience.
Shortages of SAP consultants in particular were acute in the mid-to-late 1990s, when SAP was in its initial growth phase, and even newly minted implementers were billing in the $300 per hour range. Today, with SAP and Oracle widely installed around the world, there should be no shortage of experienced implementers.

So, which is it? Leave a comment on this post if you have insights.

by Frank Scavo, 9/22/2008 07:49:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!

 Reader Comments:

Frank: who knows? It sure looks like there are two sides to this story. However, I can tell you there this is now and has always been a severe shortage of SAP / Oracle implementers who also have business expertise. It's the combination of technical and business knowledge that employers find so valuable.

If you only had two years of SAP implementation experience; however, you had experience in a customer's specific line of business you'd be snapped up in a minute.

- Dr. Jim Anderson
The Business of IT Blog
I agree to a point with the earlier respondent regarding "experienced" SAP support personnel/consultants, but have not necessarily seen the same to that degree within the Oracle community.

As some of us get older, wiser, and more intelligent regarding these specific products, we tend to become rather expensive...$250 - $350 per hour for the better world class consultants on SAP and Oracle. These rates seem to be more in tune with a substantial legal firm.

Additionally, as Oracle gathers (spelled acquires) more and more "third party" products (Siebel, Agile, Demantra, et al), the requirement for knowledge and experience that covers the ever widening breadth of the product offering, means that there can be fewer and fewer consultants with both knowledge and experience that cover all of it. At some point it becomes too much, and people begin to specialize; not unlike the medical arts today...who can expect a single doctor to have the depth and breadth of Internal Medicine, Orthopedics, Oncology, Pediatrics, etc., etc. So, just as some patients today see an army of medical specialists, so to do many larger global companies require and see a plethora of 'ERP' talent show up at their door at implementation time. And more people at more implementations means fewer personnel available on the street.

Here at C3 we have secured a substantial number of both functional and technical Oracle consultants that over time have attained a far higher than average level of understanding and experience across a far wider than average range of the total Oracle product offerings (spelled experienced). This becomes critical for the smaller to medium sized business owner considering Oracle as a means to empower their company with a world class Enterprise system.

Recent developments at Oracle and within C3 Business Solutions have made the complex task of implementing Oracle substantially easier for businesses in the under $100 million range to both acquire and successfully implement Oracle through use of vertical specific "Accelerators" and C3 Augmentors.
We are a company looking to implement a tier 1 solution. From our perspective, while resouces should be plentiful, it seems that the experienced resouces are hard to come by. It may be that in the past companies were willing to accept inexperienced resouces with little domain knowledge, but today we want more. I support the two sides of the story view.
I am an experienced freelance Oracle functional consultant with 12 years under my belt. In addition to functional knowledge, I am adept at writing SQL queries and understand both IT and business. According to this article and what other commentators have said, I should have no problem whatsoever finding work. The reality is that I've been out of work for over 8 months now. My perceived reasons are (1) clients say they want senior people, but aren't prepared to pay for it - there are times I am contacted by recruiters offering a third of what my normal bill rate is, (2) clients want unrealistic combinations of skills which are unlikely to be available, and if they were, would cost more than what clients are prepared to pay, and (3) some PMs (project managers) and clients are totally delusional and/or insulting in insisting that candidates must have Oracle R12 implementation experience. Although R12 has been out for about 3 years now, not many R12 implementations have been completed, so there are only so many people with real R12 experience. Please do not insult good senior consultants by tell them they cannot be used because they've only worked with R11x. That's like telling someone who has worked with various versions of Windows and MS Office for 2 decades that they cannot operate Windows 7 or the newest release of MS Office.
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