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In Q2 2015, SAP re-launched an enhanced Professional Certification for SAP SuccessFactors applications. This certification is the gold standard for SAP SuccessFactors consultants and partners and demonstrates that a consultant has proven technical and functional expertise. Professional Certification gives customers peace of mind that their consultant has been there and done it, and isn’t a junior or learning on the job. While there is nothing wrong with having a junior or inexperienced consultant, the lead of a project should always have Professional Certification. In this blog, we’ll explore what this means to customers and consultants and look at why customers should always seek out some of the hundreds of consultants that have Professional Certification.

Some background on SAP SuccessFactors certification

Before we look at Professional Certification, it is worth briefly looking at the overall certification program in order to get some much-needed context. As covered in my popular blog SuccessFactors Training and Certification FAQ: 2015 Edition, there are two levels of certification for SAP SuccessFactors consultant:

  • Associate Certification
  • Professional Certification

Freshly trained consultants obtain the lowest level of certification – Associate Certification – after taking training and passing an exam. This is the beginning of the road towards Professional Certification. Associate Consultants – once they meet the criteria – can apply for the next and top-most level of certification: Professional Certification. We’ll dig deeper into the criteria and other aspects of Professional Certification throughout the rest of this blog.

As a side note, customers should never use a consultant that doesn’t at least have Associate Certification. Some other tips for customers can be seen in this episode of Firing Line with Bill Kutik.

What is the value of Professional Certification?

Many consulting partners and consultants value their expertise and being able to provide expertise and being able to successfully deliver implementation projects for customers. Customers often look for – and should be looking for – the best consultants available to deliver projects. This is where Professional Certification comes in.

The unfortunate truth in the marketplace is that many consulting partners – big and small – are causing big problems for customers by using consultants with only Associate Certification to implement SAP SuccessFactors software. I have seen first-hand and heard many stories about so-called “trusted brand” SAP ERP HCM on-premise consulting partners leaving customers in a mess because the consulting team had not led a project before or had not even been on an implementation before. It doesn’t matter if the consulting partner is a legacy SuccessFactors partner or a legacy SAP ERP HCM consulting partner – without the right consultants it doesn’t matter what the partner has done or wants to do, they need to have the experience. After all, you wouldn’t let a trainee builder build your dream house, so why risk your software implementation by using trainee consultants?

Whether it is a consultant, solution architect, or delivery lead – Professional Certification is what customers should be looking for to ensure that they have experienced and skilled consultants on their projects that have the right level of expertise to design and implement SAP SuccessFactors software. And there is definitely no shortage of consultants with Professional Certification in the market.

How’s it different from traditional SAP certification?

One of the major aspects of Professional Certification is that it requires SAP to validate the applicant consultant’s implementation experience with the customers of the project that are nominated. Essentially, SAP are vetting consultants for Professional Certification and this means the certification actually means something in the marketplace. This is not to say that traditional SAP certifications don’t mean anything, but it certainly does not hold the same value as SAP SuccessFactors certification.

What does Professional Certification mean for customers?

Ultimately, Professional Certification means customers can trust that they have consultants with validated experience, expertise, and customer success. By speaking with customers and having them rate the consultant, SAP can understand if the consultant really has the right breadth of experience and was able to successfully deliver customers projects.

Professional Certification also means reduced risk. By using a consultant that you know has experience and has been vetted by SAP, you know that you have a higher chance of success in your project.

With over 350 consultants that have Professional Certification (as of August 2015), this means a possible 500 projects (or more) can be led simultaneously by experienced consultants. This means every active project that is taking place today can be led by a consultant that has Professional Certification, so there really is no excuse for your project not being led by an experienced consultant.

Can I have a successful implementation with a consultant that doesn’t have Professional Certification?

Certainly it is possible, but by choosing to have an implementation delivered by consultants without Professional Certification is a gamble that leaves you open to the risk of a messy and stressful implementation or – worse – a failed project. There are many examples in the market of projects turning into a nightmare for customers because the consultants they used didn’t have Professional Certification. And you won’t know until it’s too late that your project is going down a nasty-looking path…

However, using a consultant with Associate Certification is much less riskier if they are shadowing a consultant with Professional Certification (irrespective of whether the consultant with Associate Certification is the lead or not). At the end of the day, consultants have to learn – but that shouldn’t be at the expense of your project success.

A consulting partner has told me that Professional Certification is not important. Is that true?

There are many consulting firms that do not have (m)any experienced consultants, including some of the bigger implementation partners. Unfortunately, many consulting partners are more focused on profit than customer success and are happy to:

  • Big up their consulting expertise despite not having (m)any consultants with Professional Certification
  • Pass off Associate Certification as Professional Certification
  • Use the word “certified” to give the impression that a consultant is experienced or has Professional Certification; and/or
  • Undersell the need for consultants with Professional Certification

The bottom line is that customers should always seek out consultants that have Professional Certification to lead their projects, irrespective of what a consulting partner may tell them. Unfortunately, some consulting firms have their own financial interests at heart and will talk down Professional Certification if they do not have certified consultants.

Ultimately, if a consultant does not have Professional Certification then they do not have the deep level of expertise that you need on your implementation, no matter how many projects the consultant is alleged to have been part of.

How can I verify that my consultant has Professional Certification?

Consultants are able to send verification of their certifications from the SAP Credentials Manager. All SAP SuccessFactors certified consultants – whether with Associate Certification or Professional Certification – are listed in and have access to SAP Credentials Manager. While customers do not have access to SAP Credentials Manager, consultants can send out a verification.

A secondary place to check is on the SuccessFactors Community, where a list of partner organizations with consultants that have Professional Certification is available. While this list is a good indiciator, it does not list individual consultants and doesn’t take into account consultants who are not full-time employees of a partner (i.e. affiliated or exclusive contractors, etc.). This list is available at http://community.successfactors.com/t5/Resources-and-Updates/Run-Simple-with-Professional-Certified-....

I recommend that customers always ask for proof of certification. All consultants can provide verification of their certifications and therefore customers can be assured that a consultant really does have Associate Certification or Professional Certification.

What are the benefits for consulting partners and consultants of obtaining Professional Certification?

Well, there is the obvious benefit of knowing that you have the right skills, experience, and capabilities to deliver projects, as well as having a competitive advantage over consulting partners that don’t have (m)any consultants that have Professional Certification. Additionally, there are other benefits that SAP offer:

  • Preferred status and promotion with Customers and internal SAP
  • Considered for HR LOB Enablement Council
  • Considered for VIP events and other Customer facing events
  • Priority status for implementation Issues (future)
  • Required for Recognized Expertise (future)

What is the criteria for obtaining Professional Certification?

As you can imagine, the criteria that consultants are evaluated by when they apply for Professional Certification is rather robust. This is to ensure relevant experience and a track record of success. SAP use the following criteria to assess candidates that apply for Professional Certification:

  • Up-to-date Associate Certification (inclusive of all Deltas)
  • Successfully implemented at least 3 projects, of which 2 out of 3 must be as the lead
  • Nominated projects must have gone live within the last 36 months
  • Customer reference: the contact email address should be with the customer’s domain
  • Named projects are not internal to Partner organization or SAP
  • At least 80% score for each section (1-5 scoring)
  • Lead role definition
  • Timelines and Business Impact
  • Experience Criteria
  • Customer recommendation

SAP defines a project as:

  • Customer implementation (not internal to Partner Organization or to SAP)
  • The scope includes one or several modules of the SuccessFactors HCM suit
  • It’s a new Implementation (first implementation of the module(s) within customer production instance)
  • Start and go-live dates are clearly defined
  • End-users are actually using the implemented solution

Upgrades, technical projects (integrations, interfaces, etc.), technical migrations, new features/quarterly release implementations, or deployment of additional population/organizations do not count as projects that will be assessed for Professional Certification level.

So I meet the prerequisites for Professional Certification level. How do I apply?

If you meet the prerequisites for Certified Professional level then you can go ahead and apply at the SAP Training and Certification Shop via the URL https://training.sap.com/shop/success-factors-certification-application. The S-User linked to your Associate Certification is required for login.

I have Professional Certification. Do I have to do anything else?

The answer is Yes. All consultants that have Associate Certification and Professional Certification must take and pass delta exams within 6 months of them becoming available in order to retain their certification. If a consultant does not complete the delta exam within the 6-month period, the consultant will lose their Associate Certification and any corresponding Professional Certification. Consultants -that lose Associate Certification will need to take the Core Exam again to start over

The frequency for delta exams will depend on the product for which the consultant is certified and how significant product updates are. Consultants are notified of Delta Exams becoming available via an email from Credential Manager.

Does Professional Certification exist for all SAP SuccessFactors applications?

Nearly all of the SAP SuccessFactors applications have a Professional Certification. These are listed below with their full name:

  • SAP Certified Application Professional – Cloud HCM Employee Central
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Performance & Goals Management
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Recruiting Management
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Recruiting Marketing
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Onboarding
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Compensation
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Variable Pay
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Learning
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Succession
  • SAP Certified Application Professional – SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics & Planning

At present, Career Development Planning and Employee Central Payroll do not have Professional Certification. Additionally, Employee Central Payroll does not have Associate Certification.

Where can I get more information?

There are a number of places to get more information. The two SAP Training and Certification shop links below contain useful information, as well as the two SCN blogs:

Partners can get information from SAP Partner Edge:


The need for experience and expertise as the foundation for project success is not a new or unknown principle, and SAP provide customers with a way to identify which consultants can help to design and implement a SAP SuccessFactors solution smoothly and successfully. Consulting firms can use Professional Certification to differentiate themselves from less skilled competition and can provide aspiring consultants with a career path.

Although some consulting partners wish to downplay the need for Professional Certification, the evidence is weighted strongly in favor of Professional Certification providing evidence of proven experience and customer success. There is no reason why customers should not be seeking out these consultants and ensuring that their project will be staffed with the right resources to make sure they and their project are successful.

Also, don’t forget that you can keep up with the latest and greatest on SuccessFactors in the SuccessFactors and SAP LinkedIn group.

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