IT projects are at risk of being delayed by a shortage of SAP skills, following a sharp upturn in demand over the past 12 months.
The number of vacancies for SAP professionals has soared by 16% over the past year to 23,400, the highest level recorded, the latest ComputerWeekly/SSL analysis of the jobs market shows.
The expansion in demand has left firms struggling to fill positions and has led to some organisations delaying the roll-out of major systems, recruitment specialists report.
"The demand for SAP is the highest it has ever been. It has risen substantially each year for the past three years," said George Molyneux, SSL research director.
The upturn has been driven by the growing take-up of SAP systems by smaller businesses coinciding with larger SAP implementations in retail, government and logistics.
The rising demand is forcing employers to pay significantly higher salaries to attract the best people. Salaries have risen by 10% to 15% over the past 12 months, recruitment companies report.
As well as boosting pay rates, employers are developing other strategies to maintain or develop their SAP skills base.
Systems integrator Accenture told Computer Weekly it was taking a "creative" approach to finding and retaining SAP specialists. This includes offering double bonuses to attract qualified SAP staff and "hot skills" bonuses for existing SAP specialists.
Directories business Yell said it had begun recruiting less- experienced SAP professionals and investing in training to help beat current skills shortages. "We have found it progressively harder over the past 18 months to find people with SAP skills. There is a definite upturn in demand," said Phil Ives, head of information services.
Staffordshire County Council said it could not compete with private sector salaries, which are now reaching £800 a day for experienced SAP contractors, and has begun to train its own SAP specialists in-house to meet the demand.
"We are a county council, not Nasa. We just need solid developers, who can go through the whole cycle from development to documentation," said Eamonn McGirr, head of business strategy and development at Staffordshire County Council.
Related article: Staffordshire postpones SAP Duet implementation
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