back to article Skills shortage puts SAP projects on hold

Skills-related issues have hit a quarter of SAP users, in some cases putting projects on hold, according to a survey of companies in the Americas. Research released by the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) shows that 26 per cent of organisations see skills in supporting, developing, and upgrading SAP systems as their number …

  1. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Really "skills" issues?

    Are these "we can't find anyone with these skills" issues or are they actually "we can't find anyone with these skills for the peanuts we're willing to pay" issues or maybe "people are saying 'hell no' when we insist they come into the office in a suit & tie" issues?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really "skills" issues?

      They could be 'there aren't the engineers now' issues. After IR35 came in there's been a dearth of engineers available as many retired, many did other things and many went permie.

      Those companies that bought in blanket 'inside' determinations, thinking they were being clever, are now stuffed as there's now not enough engineers to go around. Those companies that undertook proper assessments don't have the vacancies. I know of one big defence company that is handing back millions to the MoD as they cannot recruit to their projected staffing plans.

      Sabotage your skilled workforce and this sort of thing happens. But HMRC and their cohorts will be happy, so that's fine.

      1. fwthinks
        Unhappy

        Re: Really "skills" issues?

        Not caused by IR35 - but its all part of the same issue as this has been building up for years.

        Very few companies consider IT as a core business and so just outsource or contract. Companies just want to get cheap ready trained resources in to do the work and expect to be able to get people instantly with highly specific skill sets. Younger people are put off moving into IT as a career, so the conveyor belt of resources is not working and older people are leaving the industry.

        If you run a business today and still believes that IT is not a critical business function, then you are doomed to failure.

        1. CommonBloke
          Facepalm

          IT is never important in the eyes of the boss

          Unless the boss did some work in IT, he or she will always complain that "you IT people seem to enjoy making my work harder for me!"

          I've seen a fair share of bosses that "understand how important IT is" without ever actually listening to any of the department's pleas or complaints.

      2. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Really "skills" issues?

        This is an American survey so you can’t blame IR35, much as I’d like to

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Really "skills" issues?

        Is IR35 really a problem in the US?

    2. mrGecko

      Re: Really "skills" issues?

      I assume once a company pays for SAP they have zero budget remaining for any other work.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Really "skills" issues?

        Nah - it's cloud. They never have any money ever again!

    3. sketharaman

      Re: Really "skills" issues?

      LOL I once wondered if that was the real issue with the proclaimed H1B shortage, too.

      https://gtm360.com/blog/2018/11/19/to-h-1b-or-not-to-h-1b-is-a-money-question/

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Really "skills" issues?

      Obvious reason is obvious.

      No money? No honey.

    5. Wedgie

      Re: Really "skills" issues?

      These are mostly skills issues.

      Lots of companies are upgrading/migrating from ERP versions to S/4, which is a reasonably chunky piece of work.

      Initial take-up of S/4 was slow, hence there aren't that many people who really know how to do an upgrade, especially in a complex environment. Those with the skills are in great demand now but there aren't enough to meet demand.

      This isn't exactly a new phenomenon but one thing we know and love about the SAP industry is that "experienced" project managers, implementers, consultants, love to make the same mistakes over and over again.

    6. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: Really "skills" issues?

      It's worse than that, it's a refusal to wear pants issue.

      Trousers are an abomination unto Nuggin & should be banned.

      *Marches off carrying a sign that reads "Down with pants!", dressed only in my birthday suit*

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Boffin

    Skills shortage

    Heres a novel idea

    Interview a few likely looking people who have the right attitude, and smarts too....... then t-r-a-i-n them in the skills you need.

    I know its a strange and unusual word, but hey.. it might work.

    Also offering a competitive salary once they are trained usually stops all that expensive knowledge leaving the company....

    Just a thought

    1. johnfbw

      Re: Skills shortage

      hahaha

      Training? What is that?

      1. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Skills shortage

        Here is a website with some "training courses". In addition to having more work to do than you could do anywhere near normal hours, you must also do X hours/X courses. Chop chop.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Skills shortage

        Honestly, unless you are going to put the hours in yourself, IT is not the career to enter into. I've never received any training that was worthwhile, other than just hard graft put in by myself, reading tonnes of programming books, and coding, trying stuff. Finding out the hard way. It's pretty thankless too, especially if they can only see the final 'simplified' end result, and not the work behind the scenes you've done.

        It's almost you get the look of, 'So what was so difficult about implementing that change and why did you take so long?'.

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Skills shortage

        >Training? What is that?

        For SAP its quite easy, the applicant is just dressed in a robe placed in a pentangle and have their soul removed

        1. Kane Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Skills shortage

          "For SAP its quite easy, the applicant is just dressed in a robe placed in a pentangle and have their soul removed"

          Technomancy!

          1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

            Re: Skills shortage

            A bunch of Technomancers gathered in a circle, chanting a ritual incantation from their most Unholy of books, the Technonomicron.

            When the ritual is complete & the smoke clears, those standing inside the center of the summoning circle will have been replaced with the soulless undead more commonly known as...

            <Ominous thundering cressendo>Marketers!</Ominous thundering music>

            Be afraid, be very afraid...

    2. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

      Re: Skills shortage

      Yeah. Been the same since I started in the late '80s at least. Fresh out of college, no bugger would give me a job because I had insufficient skills yet the same companies (many of whom were easily big enough to afford their own training; and many of whom are no longer trading...) bleated and whined about the skills shortage. I would say "there's an answer to that", but of course they managed to find the wrong answer which was to just cast the net wider or outsource to someone who was only economical with the truth.

      Even when I found a job, training was mostly what I could learn and figure out myself; the employer's approach if it had one at all was "here's a book/terminal/etc" with the expectation that you'd do it in your own time; though even that was considered too much investment in people (from companies that bragged about "Investing In People", obvs.) when the latest ruse of rapid application development happened. I still recoil in horror at memories of some of the stuff I churned out, i.e. an X.25-based software distribution system when I had no experience nor training in X.25 nor software distribution; it's a wonder it worked at all considering even the specification was evasive, other than the perplexing requirement that the API consisted of only one function call. I hope nobody had to inherit the complete tangle of crap; speaking as someone who inherited something similar from another developer who I cursed until I realised he wasn't the problem and that the manager was the common factor...

      1. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: Skills shortage

        It is not just IT it is ALL British 'industry'... no idea how to run a piss up in a brewery but they know how to take a huge bonus at the top each year until the company is shafted then they just move to another with their mates.

        It has been like this for decades.

        Its like the bleating about lorry drivers... you have not trained, you have used the cheapest you can find, now they arent available you are fucked... well, couldnt you have looked into your magic crystal ball, or read the paper and understood bringing in people from Poland might get harder in the near future?

        Its not even as if IT has difficult exams to pass, just bring some decent engineers in and accept it will take them a bit of time to get the domain knowledge but that they will.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A workforce intelligence drought and executive head office deficit leads to ....

    .... prolonged periods of stagflation.

    Surely the problem is easy enough to see but incredibly difficult for the majority to solve and take full advantage of.

    It is no less than having more than enough current technology and communications bandwidth for rapid progress into greener fields of endeavour and reward but not having the necessary novel proprietary intellectual property able to enable key stake and shareholders to make any great and good use of it.

    What happens then is usually, and there is no Earthly valid reason to suspect or expect it to be otherwise now if the above be the true natural case, is a real choosey few, who be in no way any part of, or any party to a chosen few, make a series of colossal killings and become more rich than any Croesus.

    And that makes any possible lead in such fields extremely enticing and attractive to more than just a few too.

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      To AMFM1.

      I'd offer you a handful of my Dried Frog Pills, but your version of insanity makes me look posatively stone cold sane in comparison.

      I'd ask to examine your specific flavour of KoolAid, but I'm afraid I'd end up transmorgraphied somehow... =-)p

  4. ShadowSystems Silver badge
    Joke

    You don't need training

    if all you're willing to pay is a bunch of bananas to a bunch of monkies to screach & fling shit.

    Now, does that describe the folks at the bottom or the ones at the top? =-)p

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: You don't need training

      Half and half.

    2. MrBanana Silver badge

      Re: You don't need training

      I had assumed that for SAP, Oracle and all the other behemoths of the enterprise world, that you got your programmers by going each morning to the IT equivalent of Home Depot with a Hilux pickup, a wad of $20 bills, and waited for people to hop in. Heck, it probably is Home Depot isn't it?

      1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

        At Mister Banana...

        Twenties? Holy crap, you're going for the luxury end of that particular talent pool.

        Make it a fist full of Ones, insist that meal breaks are not included, and they'll only get paid after the day is done, THEN you'll be ready for the Home Depot level of hirelings.

        =-)p

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Skills shortage

    I love the phrase "skills shortage", meaning as it does the fundamental incompetence of management in not ensuring that their companies have people with the skills they need. As if it is the responsibility of the outside world to simply deliver these people to them from elsewhere, rather than their own job to recruit, train and retain their own staff.

    This all applies doubly so if a boardroom decides to use ERP systems from SAP without a determination to pay the vast sums of money and do everything they possibly can to find the experienced people that will be required. And they also have to be prepared not to insist that those people bow down in worship of their holy corporate culture any more. Times have changed, and companies need to lose a lot of the bullshit that they may have come to see as normal if they are to adapt and survive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Skills shortage

      There is no skill shortage, there is however a shortage of Dev's who want to be paid a pittance.

      Thats the difference.

      The CBI here in the UK have traditionally used this excuse to get the government to issue more visas so they could import staff from abroad which would inevitably force salaries lower here in the UK.

      They wanted to saturate the market with cheap staff for their members so the members could benefit from cheap labour.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Skills shortage

        So if everyone paid an extra 50k then they would all

        be able to get all the SAP experts they wanted ?

        1. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: Skills shortage

          Not immediately of course but yes, if everyone was paid a decent salary then more people would look to their future at school and study science, engineering and IT and be available for companies to provide specific experience and training in their requirements.

          As it is you can take on 40 or 50k of debt to get yourself through university to be faced with job offers of 20 to 25k, what the hell is the point? I can save myself the grief and just operate checkouts for Tesco.

          Or maybe I can get my tits out for the sun, or online, unwrap chinese plastic kids toys, kick a round ball around or pretend I can act and get millions! The truth is we are where we are for three reasons:

          a) As a country we dont and havent for decades valued engineers, though it is engineers that provide us with the tools we use every day like mobile phones and cars.

          b) As a country we put far too much money into housing and a pitiful amount into any form of development whether thats people, machinery or just products.

          c) We reward the wrong things... as listed above but also politicians and the like

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    'Well, I don't have the same skills I used to have.'

    But think of all the salaries you saved by getting rid of the staff.

  7. aldolo

    Too many news

    Too many new tools and too many update to the core tecnologies every 6 months. Impossible to keep up.

    1. MrBanana Silver badge

      Re: Too many news

      Or too many bogus certifications that have to be paid for every 12 months.

  8. Yes, *that* Dominic

    There is no skills shortage.

    You can get any skill you like to start Monday, but the conversation with HR goes like this.

    Manager: We need at least 3 serious MonkeyDB DBA and a C++ for the calculation code.

    HR: Fine, we pay 56K for coders, I'll put out another ad.

    Manager: But the last 3 ads got no one we could use, we need to pay more.

    HR: We pay 56K for programmers.

    Manager: This is a 40 million quid project

    HR: We pay 56K for programmers.

    Manager: I need them now, C++ devs in the City get 150 and our last MonkeyDB went to FB for 130 + share options.

    HR: We pay 56K for programmers.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There is no skills shortage.

      Manager: By the way, your own module is last on the schedule.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: There is no skills shortage.

      That's completely unrealistic. HR would simply hire the first three devs who would accept 56k

  9. trevorde Silver badge

    $AP Con$ultant

    Talked to an SAP consultant at a party about 10 years ago. He said the initial training course was 10k Eur but he charged 1k Eur per day. Got me thinking about getting on the gravy train but really didn't want to work with bean counters.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: $AP Con$ultant

      About 15 years ago I worked on a big greenfield SAP programme in London - the lead SAP UK consultant drove a Lamborghini. He was a bit of an arrogant twat, but he also really knew his stuff.

      1. Slipoch

        Re: $AP Con$ultant

        Got to be the only SAP employee I have ever heard of to 'know his stuff', most of them don't even understand a basic foreign key assignation so you don't end up with orphaned records. You know, first year CSci stuff.

        SAP has an issue where they hire sales droids, but call them engineers and consultants pay them a shedload to sell the product to managers above the level of the use of the product and give them paid holidays etc. We recently had a SAP expert recommend setting up a public form that sent the data direct to the client's sap setup, when asked whether they would be validating the data the answer was 'we don't do that'.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's always been a shortage of tech people and the less "sexy" areas of tech always feel that shortage more keenly. I have chums in embedded systems that have a nightmare getting hold of anyone of any skill level - it's perceived as less sexy regardless of how fiendishly interesting the technological challenges are.

    1. ratcatcher67

      I also find the money in those areas quite low.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I find those areas are generally underpaid..

  11. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Options...

    a) Train some non sap people in sap? You know that good old fashioned thing

    b) Take some non sap but decent engineers, they will learn it pdq anyway

    c) Pay a bit more to encourage people to think... mmm, maybe I can train myself a bit and apply

    d) All of the above.

    Whining doesnt help, you actually have to do something!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Options...

      Many companies running SAP have various customisations ranging from reasonably complex to "what in actual hell..." Which they will cling onto until their fingers break come a reimplementation. For most of those companies S/4 will be at reimplementation as the old ways of customising and enhancing the ERP has changed. Their old crap won't work in the new World.

      This is where you start to find that the business folk know precious little about how their business actually works - they have been blindly bashing at the keyboard in their little box of responsibility all this time.... Throw those people into a workshop with the usual consulting house config droids and magic ain't gonna happen.

      SAP doesn't seem to be helping as they, like all other places, don't have many people who can give quality consulting and thought leadership to their stubborn and frightened CEO/CIO clients.

    2. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: Options...

      "Whining doesnt help, you actually have to do something!"

      You are obviously unfamiliar with how Management works. =-)p

  12. youshouldknowbetter

    Shortages

    So I had lunch with the CIO of a medium sized consulting company (6k+ employees). He told me "you can't hire an SAP developer in India right now and next year, you won't be able to hire one in the US".

    Companies are thawing out after COVID and HAVE to migrate to S/4 before ECC support ends. Those companies are hiring like mad.

    I've implemented S/4 twice in the past 4 years.. No resource issues on the first project at all, but had about a 30% turnover rate on the 2nd one because the market in for SAP devs is getting hotter and hotter.

    If companies want top talent, they're just going to have to pay for it.

    You cannot drop in a front end developer into SAP - they will hate it. I've seen it time and time again where a dev thinks they want to make the jump only to return back to .net or java because the development is just so different.

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