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Learning to Succeed: Roadmap to an On-Track SAP Project

by Nina Simosko | SAPinsider

October 1, 2005

The key to a successful SAP implementation project is not how well your solution has been configured and installed, but how well prepared, supported, and motivated your end users are. To help squelch resistance and ensure smooth, value-generating implementation projects, look to SAP Education for organizational change management services, learning resources and tools, and user performance management technology.

If there's one critical takeaway we've garnered from hundreds of SAP implementations, it lies in a simple fact: The keys to a successful project sit in the cubicles. No matter how well your SAP solution has been configured and installed, the ultimate responsibility for delivering value lies with the people who will use it. If they accept and learn their new software quickly, your return on investment (ROI) comes rapidly. If they resist and grouse about preferring "the old way," your ROI can be delayed.

Building the skills and attitudes of your end users should be a primary goal throughout your SAP implementation. Successfully preparing and supporting your end users can make the difference between an "on-track project" — that is, one that proceeds smoothly from technical implementation to active adoption and value generation — and a disruptive, value-delaying ordeal. With good planning and inclusion of a few critical steps (see Figure 1), however, you can keep your project steadily on track, avoid disruption, and deliver rapid returns.

Figure 1
The Learning and Performance Cycle

Plan for Organizational Change

Planning and managing an on-track project begins long before you've trained your first user or project team member. In fact, it should begin as soon as the ink is dry on your SAP software purchase order. At this point, you should begin preparing your workforce for the changes that are coming their way. It's a good idea to begin working immediately with your SAP Education Account Manager or Education Engagement Manager 1 to create a change management plan.

Unfortunately, far too many companies neglect the organizational component — or "people part" — of their change management strategy, satisfying themselves by sending an email to employees to notify them that a change is coming. Such an announcement can actually backfire, creating an atmosphere of fear, resistance, and rejection that can ultimately delay your recovery of value. If employees are going to fully embrace their new SAP solution, they need a personal stake in its success — especially if it will require them to learn new skills, alter their daily routine, or change job functions.

When an effective organizational change management process is under way, everyone from the production-line worker to senior management understands his or her role in the overall solution. Managers who grasp how their new SAP solution will lower costs and build value are more likely to build enthusiasm among their reports, and enthusiasm is contagious. Workers who fully comprehend the "downstream" effects of their actions are more likely to perform them accurately and intelligently, whether stemming from enthusiasm, organizational altruism, or plain old "CYA" motivation.

A successful change management plan requires careful and thoughtful planning. For example, it's not enough to correctly identify the stakeholders likely to be affected by the change. It's equally important to identify both the formal and informal "change leaders" most likely to champion your efforts among their colleagues in the workforce. Crafting your messaging is perhaps most critical: If what you say creates the "idea virus" 2 that builds understanding and enthusiasm, you'll successfully market your SAP solution to your own employees. And how you release that message can be as important as its content.

By working with SAP's organizational change management practitioners, you can create an organizational change management plan that will promote understanding about and enthusiasm for your project. The more understanding, initiative, and buy-in your company has, the more likely you are to have an on-track project.

Preparing for Organizational Change

If you let change run uncontrolled, it's destructive and costly. If you harness it well, however, it's the fuel of success. SAP Education offers a thorough suite of organizational change management services that can help you channel change to create positive results:

  • Leadership Alignment — SAP's Organizational Change Management (OCM) team will identify and meet with the corporate leaders most likely to influence change, making sure they fully understand the nature and benefits of your SAP solution and the ways in which they can influence its acceptance.

  • Communication Architecture — We'll help identify the key stakeholders and informal "change leaders" in your project and determine how the project affects them, how best to motivate them, and how to communicate with them effectively.

  • Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning — The SAP team will ensure that your company not only learns about the change management process, but also captures and distributes what it learns.

  • Performance Management — Instituting a powerful new solution like SAP frequently requires new employee roles and new work teams. We'll help you develop new roles and redefine existing ones, determine performance indicators, and create strategies for incentive and reward.

  • Competency Development — Once we've defined any new user roles, we'll do a high-level analysis of each of them, including an inventory of the skills and competencies required to perform them effectively. Then we'll work with you to ensure your user training fully encompasses them.


Transfer Knowledge

The most critical organizational change management task is to build end-user competence. Users who have the proficiency, skill, and confidence to work intelligently with their SAP solutions are more likely to fully adopt their new solution and far less likely to seek workarounds or retreat to the "old ways."

To develop in-house competence for SAP training, you can provide basic navigation and conceptual training (including SAP concepts even for your purely transactional users) via SAP Education's E-Learning titles, 3 freeing your internal training staff to concentrate on building and delivering more advanced skills. SAP Education can help you train your trainers, develop materials, and build a realistic training plan, even if you don't have a dedicated training organization.

Support Performance

Sometimes more training actually isn't the answer. For example, after initial training there should be no reason for end users to laboriously repeat exercises or fumble for documentation to become proficient with their transactions. Such practices waste time and money and serve only to aggravate and alienate the people they're designed to help.

A more sensible and effective alternative is to use the global SAP standard learning accelerator tool, RWD Info Pak®, which provides electronic, context-sensitive information that users can pull up from their SAP help menus at the precise moment they need it. Actual practice provides the learning, and the materials are always available for reference. At Fresenius Medical Care (FMC) North America, for example, Business Systems Process Manager Bryan Payne tells us, "Info Pak® has not only dramatically reduced the time to create customized documentation, it's also given FMC end users the ability to access immediate help and current documentation, directly from within their SAP transaction. It's been a huge help."

RWD Info Pak® makes it simple to create context-sensitive job aids or interactive simulations using your company's own data and transactions. The product automatically creates the materials your employees require to carry out the transaction for which they require help. It's very effective, and frankly, pretty darn cool!

Monitor Performance

After you've completed initial training and rolled out your performance support, it might seem as though the heavy lifting is done. But it's a wise manager who shuns complacency in the ongoing quest for enhanced performance. Proficient as your users may be at a given point during your project, they are human, and their performance is prone to degrade with habit and time. If you don't keep them sharp, your ROI can suffer.

To keep your users on track, you have to know how and what they're doing. In the past, you could only approximate such judgments using post-training assessments and interviews that did not accurately reflect on-the-job performance. Recently, SAP Education announced a new service — User Performance Management using Knoa (UPM for short), which uses breakthrough technology from Knoa Software Inc. — to transparently capture user performance data and channel it to custom reports. Without interfering with system performance or user activities, UPM provides the information you need to pinpoint training needs, fine-tune business processes, and ensure that your end users are garnering all the value you expect from your SAP solution. As an added benefit, it also measures and reports critical information about the performance of the SAP software from a user perspective.


Ultimately, the key to an on-track project is to employ all these knowledge transfer solutions — training, performance support, performance management, and the organizational change management that prepares for them — on an ongoing basis. Knowledge transfer is really never over, nor should it be. A training organization that maintains a permanent cycle of managing organizational change, online help, performance assessment, and ongoing training has the best chance of eliminating end-user issues and of growing ROI.

Things will never be perfect, of course. Being human and endowed with those endearing human flaws, we'll always have that proverbial "room for improvement." For an SAP project, however, more improvement simply means more value. An on-track project can help make it happen.

For more information about ensuring on-track SAP projects with sound organizational change management and knowledge transfer strategies, visit

The Business Case for Training

"You cannot underestimate the importance of training for the success of a project." So says the SAP Training Manager at Toray Plastics. 4 Research supports the claim: A study of 165 SAP customers conducted by the Eric Sprott School of Business at Canada's Carleton University concluded that:

  Firms that indicated most employees had been trained to understand and, where necessary, execute end-to-end business processes were more likely to report becoming more flexible and responsive in delivering product and services to its markets, in having access to complete customer and supplier information, as well as having employees that are able to effectively absorb much of the data generated by the enterprise system and are using it in their decision making. 5

Nonetheless, too many organizations look at end-user training as a "one and done" event — or worse, as an extra cost vulnerable to the first round of budget cuts.

Both points of view are shortsighted. Experienced project managers repeatedly warn that cutting end-user training is a critical mistake. A 2004 IDC study found that "a growing body of research shows that organizations that invest in 'human factors,' namely change management and knowledge transfer, are more likely to realize value from their enterprise solution." 6

Note that the IDC study didn't refer to "training" per se. It spoke instead of "knowledge transfer." In fact, training is a part of the knowledge transfer whole. Your employees need — and deserve — training at the start of your project, periodic refreshers during operations, and on-the-job performance support that can give them the information they need without clinging to the help desk. Without it, studies show, a combination of employee attrition, "pass-the-baton" training, and normal skill deterioration can leave your organization's SAP performance at pre-implementation levels in as few as three years. 7

1 - An SAP Education Engagement Manager (EEM) is a specially skilled and experienced team member dedicated to SAP training at large organizations. To learn more, contact your SAP Education Account Manager (EAM) or call SAP at +1 877 876-7271.

2 - See Seth Godin, Unleashing the Ideavirus (Hyperion, 2001) for more on this concept.

3 - For more details about E-Learning courses, such as SAP120: SAP Navigation and SAP130: Solutions Powered by SAP, visit

4 - For more on the Toray Plastics story, ask your EAM for a copy of Success Story 50 070 348: Toray Plastics (America) Inc.

5 - Catherine Hajnal and Gerald Grant, "Realizing the Process Enterprise," Eric Sprott School of Business, Carleton University (2002).

6 - Michael Brennan, "Knowledge Transfer Enables Enterprise Performance," IDC Corporation (2004).

7 - Michael Doane, "Maintaining and Growing Value Through Ongoing Education," 2004 ASUG Annual Conference and Vendor Fair presentation.

Nina Simosko joined SAP Education as Vice President for Sales in 2004 and has been Senior Vice President for SAP Education (North America) since January 2005. She brings a wealth of experience in corporate education and training to the position, having served as executive in charge of customer training for a number of large enterprise software companies in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

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