How is the SAP Global Certification program going? A re-interview with SAP’s manager of global certification, part 2.

Posted by Zainab Fayaz

This is the second part of the two-part interview between, John Kleeman, Founder and Executive Director at Questionmark and Ralf Kirchgaessner, Manager of the SAP Global Certification program. This is a continuation of the use of Questionmark software in their Certification in the Cloud program. You can read the first part here. In the second part of the interview, John asks questions about the business benefits of certification and what advice Ralf has for other organizations.

John: What are the business benefits to SAP of certification?

Ralf: There are many benefits to the SAP Global Certification. So, let’s begin from the individual learner’s perspective.

Firstly, earning the SAP Global Certification increases your personal value; not only does it drive personal development; which often leads to increased responsibilities and promotion within your organization, but it also showcases and proves that you stay current and update your skills to the latest releases. Additionally, since 2018, professionals can gain wider recognition through sharing their SAP Global Certification digital badges.

SAP Global Certification is of great value not only for individuals but also for consultancies in the SAP ecosystem. SAP Global Certifications provide a clear measure of a company’s organizational capabilities, which give a competitive advantage, especially if the company has certified professionals in new and innovative areas, like SAP C/4HANA Cloud.

John: What about the customers? What benefits are there for them?

Ralf: Indeed, the most important benefit is the value for our customers. If SAP can ensure that the consultancy eco-system is well enabled and certified, it helps reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) and ensures successful implementation costs. And in the end, this is of course also important for SAP, as this helps to increase the adoption of our software and reduces implementation risks.

John: Tell me a bit more about the recently introduced digital badges for people who get certified that you just mentioned. How useful is that?

Ralf: The introduction of digital badges for SAP Global Certification has been an absolute success! Making your workforce visible on the market is important and by sharing the digital badge proves that the workforce is currently in their knowledge. If on LinkedIn, you search for ‘certified SAP consultants’, you would find thousands of shared badges. Digital badge claim rates beyond industry standards show that people waited with much anticipation to share their achievements digitally.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our services and with the help of Questionmark, going forward we will be able to issue badges, even faster. In the near future, once candidates have passed their SAP Global Certification exam this will trigger the issuing of badges in “real-time”!

We have reached our ultimate goal and an overall mission of our certification programme if customers ask consultants for their digital badges to show their SAP Global Certification status.

John: There seems a slow move across the community from test centers to online proctoring. I know that for SAP, you deliver some exams in your offices but most in the cloud with online proctoring. How do you see this changing in the industry in general? Will all IT exams be done by online proctoring one day soon?

Ralf: SAP very much uses the model of taking exams wherever and whenever it is most convenient. Nevertheless, we use one harmonized infrastructure, for all our exams and these can be taken at our offices, in classrooms or in the cloud.

I think much of this evolves from the changing landscape in learning behaviors and offerings. In terms of the advantages of using test centers and online proctoring; there is a legitimate reason for test centres to exist; as there are groups of people who will still want to learn together – in one place at one time. However, as the shift moves towards a rise in remote learning, both synchronous (live virtual classrooms) and asynchronous, which are supported by social and peer learning via online learning rooms, then of course, online proctoring will become more popular.

John: What advice would you give to other high-tech companies who are thinking of setting up or improving their certification program?

Ralf: Two things instantly come to mind – online proctoring and digital badging. Certification programs that do not use online proctoring and digital badging should urgently consider improving their program as the benefits of implementing both features are tremendous.

More on certification
Interested in learning more about certification programs?  Find out how you can build your own certification program in 10-easy steps.

 

How is the SAP Global Certification program going? A re-interview with SAP’s manager of global certification, part 1.

Posted by Zainab Fayaz

Back in 2016, John Kleeman, Founder and Executive Director of Questionmark interviewed Ralf Kirchgaessner, Manager of SAP Global Certification program about their use of Questionmark software in their Certification in the Cloud program and about their move to online proctoring. You can see the interview on the Questionmark blog here. We also thought readers might be interested in an update, so here is a short interview between the two on how SAP are getting on three years later:

John: Could you give us an update on where you are with the Certification in the Cloud program?

Ralf: The uptake, adoption and increase of Certification in the Cloud is tremendous! Over the years we have seen a significant increase in the volume of candidates taking exams in the cloud; the numbers doubled from 2016 to 2017 and increased almost by 60% in 2018. This means more than 50% of SAP Global Certification exams are now done remotely!

John: Are all your SAP Global Certification exams now available online in the cloud?

Ralf: Nearly so. By mid-2019 we plan on having the complete portfolio of every SAP exam available on the cloud. This is great news for our learners who have invested in a Certification in the Cloud subscription. So, we then have Certification in the Cloud not only for SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Ariba, but for all products, including SAP C/4HANA.

John: How many different languages are your exams translated into?

Ralf: This depends on the portfolio. Some of our certifications are available in English and others, such as for SAP Business One are translated in up to 20 languages.

John: How are you dealing with the fast pace of change within SAP software in a certification context? How do you ensure certifications stay up to date when the software changes?

Ralf: This is of course a challenge. In previous years, it was the case of getting certified once every few years. However, now you must keep your skills up-to-date and stay current with quarterly release cycles of our SAP Cloud solutions. Also, for people who are first timers or newly enter the SAP eco-system; it is important that they are certified on the latest quarterly release.

To help overcome this challenge, we have developed an agile approach to updating our exams; we use the Questionmark platform for those who are new to the eco-system to help them getting certified initially. We also have a very good process in place and often use the same subject matter experts when it comes to keeping up to the speed of software changes.

For already certified professionals, another way to remain up to date is through our ‘Stay Current’ program. For some of our solutions, partners have to come back every 3 months to show that they are staying current. They do this in the form of taking a short “delta” knowledge assessment. For instance, for certified professionals of SAP SuccessFactors it is mandatory to stay current in order to get provisioning access to the software systems.

In 2018, SAP’s certification approach was acknowledged with the ITCC Innovation Award. Industry peers like from Microsoft, IBM and others recognized this great achievement with this award.

 

Certification in the Cloud and the Move to Online Proctoring: An interview with SAP’s manager of global certification

John Kleeman Headshot

Posted by John Kleeman

I recently interviewed Ralf Kirchgaessner, SAP’s manager of global certification, about how the cloud is changing SAP certification. This is a shortened version of my conversation with Ralf. To read the full previously published post, check out this SAP blog.

John: What are the key reasons why SAP has a certification program?

Ralf: The overall mission of the program is that every SAP solution should be implemented and supported ideally by a certified SAP resource. This is to ensure that implementation projects go well for customers, and to increase customer productivity while reducing their operating costs. Customers value certification. In a survey of SAP User Group customers in Germany and the US, 80 percent responded that it was very important to have their employees certified and over 60 percent responded that certification was one of the criteria used to select external consultants for implementation projects.

John: What important trends do you see in high tech and IT certification?

Ralf: What comes first to the mind is the move to the cloud. Throughout the technology industry, the cloud drives flexibility and making everything available on demand. One aspect of this is that release cycles are getting quicker and quicker.

For certification, this means that consultants and others have to show that they are always up to date and are certified on the latest release. It’s not enough to become certified once in your lifetime: you have to continually learn and stay up to date. But of course if you are taking certification exams more often, certification costs have to be much lower. In some regions, people have to travel large distances to get to a test centre. With more frequent certification, it’s not practical to travel to a testing centre every time you take a certification. So our aim is to allow certification anytime and anywhere using the cloud.

John: How does online proctoring work for the candidate?

Ralf: A remote proctor monitors the candidate via a webcam, and there are a lot of security checks done by the proctor and by the system. For example, a secure browser is used, the candidate has to do a 360 degree check of his or her room, and there are lots of specific controls. For instance, you aren’t allowed to read the questions silently with your lips in case someone is watching or listening.

The great advantage to the candidate is flexibility. If someone says, “I’d like to do my exam in the middle of the night or on weekends because during the week I’m so busy with my project,” they can. They might say that they’d like to do their exam on Saturday afternoon: “After spending two hours playing with my kids, I’m relaxed to do my exam!” It’s such a flexible way to get certified and to quickly demonstrate that they have up-to-date knowledge and are allowed to provision customer systems.

John: Who benefits from certification in the cloud? Candidates, customers, partners or SAP?

Ralf: Of course, I think all benefit! Candidates have flexibility and lower cost. Customers can be sure that partner consultants who work for them are enabled and up to date. For partners, it’s a competitive advantage to show that their consultants are up to date, especially for new technologies like S/4HANA and Simple Finance. A partner is much more likely to be chosen to deploy new technologies if they can demonstrate that they have several consultants already certified in something that’s just been released. And for SAP, our goal is to have engaged consultants, happy partners and lower support costs. So everyone genuinely benefits.

John: What are some of the challenges?

Ralf: One example is that it’s important in cloud certification to get data protection right. SAP have very detailed requirements that we ensure our vendors like Questionmark meet.

Security is also a challenge. You need to prevent cheating and stealing questions.  And interfaces and integration need to be right. We have worked out how we get the data from our HR systems, how people book and subscribe to exams and then how they can authenticate with single sign-on into the certification hub to take cloud exams.

The delta concept also gives challenges. You need very precise pre-requisite management logic, where the certification software checks for example that, if you want to take the delta exam, you have already passed the core exam. It also can sometimes be difficult to prepare a good delta exam, particularly if a new release has very specific or detailed features, including some that apply in only some industries.

Lastly, providing seamless support is a challenge when using multiple vendors. The candidate doesn’t care where a problem happened: he or she just wants it fixed.

John: Where do you see the long term future of high-tech certification? Will there still be test centres, or will all certification be done via the cloud?

Ralf: Test centres won’t disappear at once, but there is a trend of moving from classroom-based learning and testing to learning and certification in the cloud. The future will belong to anytime, anywhere testing. The trend is for test centre use to decline, but it won’t happen overnight!

John: If another organization is thinking of moving towards certification in the cloud, what advice would you give them?

Ralf: Ensure that you are aware of the challenges I mentioned and can deal with them. And do some pilots before you try to scale.

Interested in learning more about Online Proctoring? I will be presenting a session on ensuring exam integrity with online proctoring at Questionmark Conference 2016: Shaping the Future of Assessment in Miami, April 12-15. I look forward to seeing you there! Click here to register and learn more about this important learning event.