Experience and knowledge matter in SAP SuccessFactors implementations. SAP certifications are a way to validate both. Selecting an implementation partner can be almost as scary as choosing the wrong marriage partner. You are taking a risk. Choose poorly, and the entire project can fail.

The relationship you will establish with your chosen partner is critical. Communication and client references are essential, but you also need some data. SAP SuccessFactors certifications are a rare tangible benchmark for real consultant expertise. But you’ll need to understand what that means.

There are two different types of SAP SuccessFactors certifications offered by SAP, and they require vastly different experience to acquire. The basic level of certification is the SAP SuccessFactors Associate Certification. The advanced level is the Professional Certification.

It’s important to know the differences between the Associate Certification and Professional Certification. There’s a chance a prospective implementation partner will promote grand numbers of certifications, but the two types mean two very different things.

What’s the Difference Between SuccessFactors Associate and Professional Certifications?

SAP’s training materials describe the Associate Certification as covering the fundamental knowledge requirements for an SAP SuccessFactors consultant to train and implement solutions, as this is based on its own SAP SuccessFactors training.

Associate Certification is awarded to the consultant after they pass a test verifying their knowledge of a specific module. Professional Certification is the next step and requires real-world experience.

To achieve Professional Certification from SAP, consultants must have completed three SAP SuccessFactors implementations in the past 30 months and provide customer references from those projects.

Why Do SAP SuccessFactors Professional Certifications Matter?

A consultant can be experienced without Professional Certification. It’s up to them whether or not they pursue it. For a customer, the Professional Certification is official validation from SAP that a consultant has both knowledge of SAP SuccessFactors and experience implementing the software. That provides peace of mind, and lets SAP do some of the legwork on verifying consultant credentials that a customer would otherwise look to do.

As for what the Professional Certification validates—that required level of experience means the consultant has implemented SAP SuccessFactors and has seen how it performs in real-world scenarios. It’s important to have people with that knowledge leading projects. They know the pain points, the best practices. They’ve experienced them firsthand, and that’s why they are more likely to understand how to devise the best solution for the customer.

The takeaway: If a potential implementation partner is giving you numbers about certifications, ask them to clarify the types of certifications their consultants possess—Associate or Professional.

And don’t stop there—find out for which modules the consultants are certified. Knowing both these things will matter for your project. In fact, if you know the names of the consultants, you can check their certifications in this searchable directory.

The Role Professionally Certified Consultants Play

When it comes to SuccessFactors implementations, not every consultant on a project needs the Professional Certification for it to be successful. However, it’s helpful to have individuals with that top-level experience and knowledge in key areas.

Design, for example, is a place where intimate knowledge of current SAP SuccessFactors capabilities is required, along with the experience to provide the best practices on how to get the most out of the solution. If the person doing the design has only an Associate Certification, they might not have the depth of knowledge and experience to provide that advice. When designing how your organization will utilize SAP SuccessFactors, you want someone who knows how the system works.

Find out how SAP SuccessFactors Professional Certifications are essential to how Rizing HCM hires and build our teams.

Putting together an implementation team is all about finding the right balance. The people doing configurations in the background don’t necessarily need to be professionally certified, but it helps to have the leads on the project at that level. The professionally certified consultants have seen the SAP SuccessFactors solution work in a real-world situation; they can better help the customer plan for future developments and anticipate fixes before they are needed.

One important thing to remember is that just because a partner tells you they have professionally certified SAP SuccessFactors consultants on their roster, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily be assigned to your project. Those certifications may not be for the specific modules you are implementing.

It’s crucial to find out from your prospective implementation partner how they plan to use professionally certified consultants, and if their certifications align with your project.

Professional Certifications Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All

There are some exceptions in the realm of certifications—particularly in modules that are newer or uncommon, or for which there has been no Professional Certification. These exceptions may include the recently released Onboarding 2.0, the rare Workforce Analytics certification, or Employee Central Payroll—that Certification was only launched this year.

Sometimes the length of projects for certain modules, such as Employee Central, can make it challenging to meet the requirement of three implementations in 30 months. In other areas, such as with Employee Central Core hybrid projects, there will be expertise that is required that goes beyond what a Professional Certification validates.

In these situations, clients need to do their due diligence—your organization should look closely at consultant resumes for relevant project experience, or even request to interview consultants before confirming partner selection.

Rizing’s Commitment to Professional Certification

Your implementation partner should have proven project experience. Professionally certified consultants are trusted advisors for your success, and Rizing HCM has more than any other SAP SuccessFactors partner globally by a considerable margin. We consider that validated knowledge and experience key to our philosophy of providing maximum value to customers; that’s why we hire, promote, and continually support professional certifications among our consultants.