ERP skills in big demand

PeopleSoft skills in demand in New Zealand, finding people with expertise in other ERP applications patchy

PeopleSoft skills are in demand and finding people with expertise in other ERP applications is patchy.

Some organisations are finding it hard to recruit PeopleSoft staff and one recruiter says skilled PeopleSoft people are in short supply.

Steve Gillingwater, contract specialist at recruitment agency Robert Walters, says there’s definitely a PeopleSoft skills shortage in New Zealand.

“We have quite a few clients looking for PeopleSoft people and some have been bringing people over from Australia.”

Gillingwater puts the reason for the shortage down to a lull in PeopleSoft activity in New Zealand following a flurry around Y2K, when existing sites were debugged.

The lull, which continued after September 11, has been replaced by a further surge in demand. This time, however, the people aren’t there, he says.

“After September 11 a lot of PeopleSoft people went offshore and there was a lack of new implementations in New Zealand.”

With the likes of Air New Zealand and Sky City choosing PeopleSoft, that’s changed, and PeopleSoft is now “flavour of the month”.

He says there’s a shortage of skilled staff across all major ERP vendors.

“We have two consultants in London who are looking for skilled ERP people to [persuade to] come back home.”

There will be no respite in the immediate future, he says. He predicts that things will get worse in the next six months because the UK and Europe market is picking up. “And a lot of people will go north again.”

There are no easy answers, he says, but “we have to get more creative re bringing people into the country and making it easier for them to get visas”.

Kim McGregor, account manager at recruiter AbsoluteIT in Wellington, says there’s a skills shortage all ERP vendors.

“It’s very difficult to find SAP people, especially at the senior level. Six or seven years ago SAP had a few big rollouts in Wellington, such as Telecom, then SAP work got really quiet.”

She believes many of the city’s SAP consultants went overseas in search of work or retrained, and that with the resurgence in SAP work in the capital flowing from rollouts such as Fonterra’s, finding good consultants has been “pretty hard”.

The SAP skills shortage is also being felt in Auckland and the difficulty of finding staff varies from module to module, McGregor says.

“Manufacturing is harder to find [staff for] than financials.”

While she personally doesn’t do a lot of PeopleSoft recruiting, her view is “it always was a toughie to find people at the higher level”.

Today, “you’d have to do some major advertising and dig deep to find skilled PeopleSoft staff”.

Oracle consultants aren’t in such short supply, she says, because in Wellington there’s “a reasonably good band” of Oracle people.

Having said that, she is seeking to fill one Oracle position in Auckland “and we’re struggling to attract the right people”.

Oracle implementations “went quiet for a year or two and have raised their head again”.

Air New Zealand is finding it difficult to recruit staff for its PeopleSoft implementation, says Peter Hargraves, a recruitment contractor to the airline.

“We have a number of vacancies that we’ve been advertising since Christmas and which are still unfilled and a number of additional positions that have just been approved for recruitment.”

The upshot, he says, is that “we are looking for a number of people who have been in short supply”.

The positions Air NZ is seeking to fill include senior project managers, project managers, senior systems analysts and business systems analysts.

Regarding the latter, “we’re caught in the log jam of ERP implementations, particularly PeopleSoft”.

While contractors have played a big part in Air NZ’s PeopleSoft implementation so far, the focus is shifting to fulltime staff.

“We’re now looking for permanent employees with good PeopleSoft skills and experience for business systems analyst roles, and trying to convert contractors from contract rates to permanent salaried roles is a challenge.”

He says the problem extends beyond PeopleSoft and ERP and to skilled, business savvy IT staff across the board.

The type of IT staffer Air NZ and many other organisations are looking for has changed, he says, as “commodity” IT jobs such as helpdesking, coding and office app support have become increasingly outsourced.

“We’re now looking for a different type of candidate than we were four or five years ago.”

Not all PeopleSoft sites are reporting staff shortages. Hamilton City Council business analyst Harin Perera says the council’s upgrade from PeopleSoft 7.5 education and government to PeopleSoft enterprise financial management is likely to be done by Australian PeopleSoft education and government specialist Congruent, which supports the present PeopleSoft systems.

“We have an existing vendor who supports us, so [recruitment] isn’t really a problem.”

The upgrade is due to happen in the latter half of the year, subject to the final contract being signed and a formal tender was held, with another council supplier, Civica, going up against PeopleSoft.

“We did a full evaluation re our financials requirements and PeopleSoft was much closer to those requirements.”

PeopleSoft NZ national sales manager Andy Batchelor says demand for PeopleSoft staff is increasing because of the sales successes it has had in the past two years.

“All successful large projects suck up a lot of resources and current skills and we’ve increased our consulting team, as have most of our partners. IBM, BearingPoint and CGNZ have all increased their PeopleSoft practices.”

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