SAP workers in high demand

SAP is an area that's got the money, but can't find the people

A shortage of skilled SAP workers is making it difficult for IT departments to fill open jobs and caused the average salary for certain high-level SAP professionals to rise 15.6 percent in the past year, according to Foote Partners, a consulting firm in the U.S. that studies IT workforce and compensation.

Foote Partners says the average base salary for directors of SAP program management rose from US$115,468 to US$133,500 in the calendar year that just ended. This increase of 15.6 percent dwarfs the typical increases in IT salaries of 3 percent to 5 percent a year, says David Foote, CEO and chief research officer.

"That's a monster figure," Foote says.

Overall, pay for 143 leading IT certifications averaged a loss of 0.1 percent of their value in 2006, while pay for 127 non-certified IT skills rose nearly 8 percent, Foote Partners reported Monday.

SAP, the world's largest enterprise software company, has 12 million users across 100,600 installations in North, Central and South America. The demand for employees who can deploy and maintain SAP software is fuelled by the company's numerous products, from customer relationship management tools to governance, risk and compliance solutions.

SAP's NetWeaver platform, which helps companies deploy a service-oriented architecture, is one of the latest factors requiring companies to have a fleet of skilled SAP employees, Foote says. "SAP is obviously a juggernaut and they have a huge install base," he says.

Companies have largely failed to develop SAP talent in-house, and a shortage of skilled SAP workers on the open market is forcing IT departments to pay premiums to get those few that are available, according to Foote. It's not uncommon for SAP jobs to stay unfilled for nine months, he says.

"What they're telling us is ... when hiring developers, analysts and configurators, it's not unusual to be faced with having to pay 20 percent more to attract them than the people [they] currently have in those jobs," Foote says. "That's the price you pay for not having staffed adequately for your needs."

There are shortages in other areas of the IT workforce, such as project management, database management, and storage-area network (SAN) administration, Foote says. But the challenges in hiring employees seem to be most prevalent in the SAP worker field, he says. Foote Partners has confirmed this in interviews with IT executives as well as with empirical research and statistical analyses.

"As a category, SAP seems to be where we find ... the most complaints, the largest number and the widest geographical distribution," Foote says.

Like the companies in Foote's survey, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is having problems finding SAP professionals.

MIT has a staff of about 70 SAP workers and has three or four open jobs right now, one of which has been unfilled for more than half a year, says Allison Dolan, director of human resources and administration for information services and technology at the college.

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More about EmpiricalFoote PartnersHewitt AssociatesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyMITNational ResearchOpen MarketRoseSAP Australia

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