I am about to launch a three webinar campaign for SAP Education on the subject of end user training.
“End Users at the Wheel” “Setting End Users on a New Course”
July 28, 2010 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT
Explore the root causes—and heavy costs—of the poor state of end user competency in organizations running SAP software.
“What’s Your End User Aptitude?”
August 11, 2010 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT
The results of the self-assessment survey revealed. Plus Michael and SAP experts provide guidance on how to interpret the results.
“Setting End Users on a New Course”
September 15, 2010 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT
Set the final road map for your business success. Learn how to nurture end users and sustain their knowledge over time
Central to these webinars is a new tool for assessing your SAP end user maturity that I am very excited about and will present in another post down the line.
The state of end user training is pretty dire and while these webinars will be of great import to those who attend, there is another matter regarding "end use" of SAP software that remains troubling: the experience.
As Paul Kurchina once put it to me: "The SAP end user experience is simply awful. I didn't need to be trained to order books off Amazon. Why do I need so much training to make SAP work?"
I've been around SAP since 1995 and have attended a number of end user training sessions. At these sessions, in addition to questions beginning with "how", there are far too many questions beginning with "why", as in "why do I have to do it that way?"
Now it is 2010. My daughter works as an administrative assistant at a prominent fashion firm in New York. Yes, they have SAP, and I have recently lived the nightmare of receiving e-mails from my daughter complaining about "the user experience". Her complaints are not centered on how the software was implemented but the simple (il)logic of the functions. OK, now we're talking family, SAP.
Back in 1998, while giving his keynote at the Los Angeles SAPPHIRE, Hasso Plattner famously stated: "SAP is too complicated. I don't use it anymore." This was his unique way of introducing Enjoy SAP, an upgrade to the SAP graphical user interface. Well, there are millions of SAP users out there, my daughter included, who cannot be said to "enjoy" SAP. So while we are preaching to clients the need for continuous support and training of their end users, we do so fully aware that a) most training is boring and ineffective and b) users are being trained to unnatural acts rather than to ergonomic, logical functions and processes.
The may be some light at the end of this tunnel. Word has it that Jim Snabe, co-CEO of SAP, is leading a group focused on improving the end user experience. Since that is the case, I would like to nominate Harold Hambrose to join the fray.
Mr. Hambrose, who is CEO of Electronic Ink, has recently published a book called Wrench in the System, subtitled "what's sabotaging your business software and how you can release the power to innovate". Some money quotes:
"The disparity between the immense power of business software and its weak performance can be resolved, but the answer can't be found in technology."
"Technologists first loyalty is to the code, not to the customer."
And if you are wondering who he's writing about... "Evaluating the features and functions of a well-established product from SAP, Oracle, Microsoft or another major vendor is one thing; successfully using that product in your own company is an altogether separate activity."
Mr. Hambrose studied design at Carnegie Mellon and made the odd choice of focusing on information technology. Beginning his career at IBM, he found he had to go one programmer at a time to earn the right to be part of the initial design. Technologists wanted to first complete their design and then hand it over to him to handle the aesthetics.
"Too often, our understanding of design is limited to its physical form and doesn't extend to the quality of our experience with that form."
In too many ways, SAP is engineer-dominant. All of the founders were engineers. They engineered their initial product, then R/2, then R/3. We now live in a NetWeaver world. Solution Manager is great but it is complex and almost impossible to retro-fit. In the collective SAP mind, software is the solution to every business question.
It is high time for a new collective SAP mindset, one that sees its role as a business solutions provider, a role in which the business software is central but merely a subset and design of that software is not technology-dominant.
When I get behind the wheel of my Volkswagen Jetta, I do not think of myself as an end user. Instead, I use the term “driver”. Our business terminology, when it comes to defining roles, has failed us in this regard. While directors, managers, and supervisors tend to believe that their role is to drive business processes (orders to cash, procure to pay, et al), their role is actually to direct, manage, and supervise those who drive the business processes. They are not at the wheel: the end user is.
To put it simply, SAP is the engine that propels your end users to drive on the superhighway of business processes, with the goal of improving key performance indicators, to lead to the promised land of improved profit and reduced cost. Expertise is a crucial requirement for your business vehicle; otherwise, it will be constantly in the ditch.
Sometimes, SAP training is like teaching astronomy to shut-ins. It's time to open the doors and windows, SAP. Call Harold Hambrose. For my daughter's sake.