In a strategic move for dominance of the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) space, SAP has come up with a training program that it hopes will guarantee its market pervasion for years to come.
SAP's University Alliance Program (UAP) is a global endeavour aimed at integrating SAP software into undergraduate and postgraduate courses of study. Partner institutions are given access to SAP and its hosted solutions, vendor-provided course material, the occasional guest lecturer, and training courses for lecturers.
In return, SAP gains up to three thousand students every year from Australia alone, who each have hands-on SAP software experience as part of their business, accounting, information technology, or information systems degree.
Launched in Australia in 1997, the program currently boasts 12 local members, including: Queensland University of Technology; Victoria University; Macquarie University; the University of South Australia; and the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).
According to John Lombard, SAP's Director of Consulting in Australia and New Zealand, the uptake of the program by partner institutions is a reflection of SAP's strength in the market. While SAP's course material hawks a predictably vendor-specific breadth of knowledge, Lombard expects this to benefit students going into the workforce, where he said SAP currently dominates about 70 percent of the ERP space.
"We see SAP as an industry standard now for ERP products," he said. "It's probably no different to when I was at uni; you learn a certain vendor's product, but if they have a large enough footprint, you've got a fairly good chance of finding a company that uses SAP."
But Bernhard Wieder, Associate Professor of Accounting Information Systems at UTS, has more of an agnostic view of the program.
"Our rationale really for using SAP solutions in our curriculum was primarily business educational reasons, not so much SAP software skills," Wieder said.
"Enterprise systems, irrespective of whether they are Oracle or SAP, are, to my mind, wonderful tools to teach students about integrated business processes," he said. "For example, we use them largely in accounting to show students how accounting works in an integrated system environment and really emphasize the practical nature of accounting."
Wieder cited results of informal graduate destination surveys he conducts regularly on his past students, that he said empirically proved that the SAP knowledge obtained through UTS's courses could also be transferred to other ERP systems.
"Interestingly, from a survey I did last year, I got quite a bit of feedback from students who say they work in an Oracle or PeopleSoft environment," he said. "They said they benefited a lot from what they have seen, because we try to emphasise the generic issues which are not that different in SAP and Oracle."
Still, about 20 percent of Wieder's students go on to complete extra-curricular bridging courses that provide them with vendor-specific SAP certifications. This is good news for SAP's Lombard, whose vision for the company encompasses not only education, but also new hires into SAP's consultancy division.
"We're always hiring," he said. "I'd love to get people with Oracle skills, and train them up in SAP too."