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Charting Your Course 2015: Kerry Brown on SAP project management

January 15, 2015


Kerry Brown, SAP's Vice-President of Enablement, joins SAPinsider for a year-end podcast on SAP project management. Topics of this discussion include:

  • A shift toward user customization in a cloud environment
  • B2B becoming more of a B2C concept brought on by an increased focus on user experience expectations and user performance expectation
  • Evolution toward role-based usability expectations as consumerization of IT continues

Listen to the podcast, and read the transcript of the conversation here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and today I am pleased to be joined by Vice President of Enablement for SAP, Kerry Brown. Kerry, welcome to the podcast.

Kerry Brown, SAP: Thank you Ken, thanks very much.

Ken: Kerry is here today to talk to us about issues and trends related to managing projects and people, especially in the SAP space. Kerry, I was hoping we could start if you could just introduce yourself, tell us what the Vice President of Enablement means and what you’re responsible for at SAP?

Kerry: Absolutely, thank you. My role really is focused on driving adoption for our customers. We’ve always tried to look for the right way to describe that, and I joke that I could be chief cook and bottle washer, but enablement is really looking at how do we drive adoption and value for our customers? So how do we help their employees be successful with the investment they’re making to get the most value of the investment that they’ve put into both their organization and their people? And when I look at that, it’s like when you think of athletes. When athletes compete with equipment, they have the same equipment but a different athlete might win the race. And when you look at employees, they’ve got the same software, but why do some thrive and some don’t? And it’s really how do you equip your employees? Focusing on user adoption and user experience can certainly allow customers to be successful with all of their employees thriving as much as possible.

Ken: What were some of the biggest trends this past year, in 2014, in that space in terms of how people are working differently?

Kerry: I think some of the interesting trends as we shift to being a much more cloud-oriented community that cloud really is a space where it’s not like when you think about moving into a house and you buy a house with space to grow. In cloud you consume the space that you need virtually at the time that you need it. And so the focus on adoption and the focus on need and specifically the need of the individual or the user is shifting somewhat from the IT perspective to the user perspective. And that shift becoming closer and closer to the user by virtue of being cloud and sort of renting what you need as you need it, is making the awareness around specific user demands more clear and more specific at point of need.

When I look at some of the trends what I mean by that is some of it’s in terms of growth around focusing on the super user or the power user because they become a stronger representation of their organization rather than for example IT. So you’re hearing a louder business voice. I also look at sort of the shift in that regard from B2B to B2C meaning it used to be sort of a B2B conversation of what did we as SAP speaking with the business or perhaps the IT part of the business see as the right answer for their organization. And now as you’re getting greater participation and inclusion of the actual consumer, you see a greater specificity in terms of those requirements and more of a shift to what is the user experience expectation, what is the user performance expectation and how you best drive adoption for that population.

Ken: What if though your users have different expectations of this new way to work? How does SAP help keep everyone on the same page and keep it simple to engage and collaborate?

Kerry: I think what you’re seeing is continued evolution of the actual interface that you use in SAP. So there’s been tremendous change in the UI over the course of the last number of years and you continue to see that shift as well. So when you look at – I was a customer (of SAP) years ago – and the traditional screens certainly look a lot different to what we see now with Personas and Fiori, but I’d say that even beyond that while that’s been a great step forward what you look at in terms of the overall strategy for user experience is not only providing a beautiful UI but making sure that experience drives through to adoption and getting value.

In terms of what you’re seeing around simplicity with regard to connectivity in the cloud, and connecting to consumer demand is really a reflection of the consumerization of IT. What I mean by that is the individual, you and I, now look at our experience with a smartphone and expect to have a simple, easy, what-I-need-when-I-need-it experience via apps. If you look at the shift certainly from the traditional SAP GUI to what you see know with Personas and Fiori, it’s a huge shift in terms of usability but also that full picture is continuing to grow to where as I as a consumer and user end up with an app that shows me how to do my travel expenses, an app that shows me how to do approvals or workflow and so forth. So it becomes even more role-based and even more me-based, and again back to some of the trends you’re asking about, I’d say both in terms of learning and in terms of consumption it’s really very much around personalization and that comes with regard to functionality but it also comes with a regard to support.

Ken: What would then be the logical extension of that trend, if you head more toward role-based and personalization? What’s the next step if you take that to the logical extreme for the enterprise?

Kerry: I think that you start to see, and I’ll look sort of across the evolution and shift this to how do we function as individuals? And thinking about how you do your job and how you learn and how you grow, it used to be sort of an event-based activity. You would take some training, you’d learn enough you’d go away and you’d act against that and do your job for a period of time. And then you might take some other training. If you look at how we now learn and how we evolve in terms of performing in our jobs, it’s much more of a continuum. And sort of a blurred line between communication and information and learning, all of which so that we can execute against our jobs in real-time. How you see this evolution of performance is not only about how the enterprise and an individual connect, it’s much more fluid. So I’m contributing if you look at collaboration and crowd-sourcing that we see in terms of external behaviors with Facebook for example, you start to see me performing in that way at work, where I’m doing more polling, more collaboration, and more contribution. And the enterprise at-large isn’t pushing everything to me, but we have more of a fluid responsibility that’s shared where I live in that community of co-workers that may or may not be virtual. And I contribute to that space in that community I work in, as well as the organization putting information in there for me to consume.

So when you sort of take this extension in terms of behavior you start to see solutions like Learning Hub appearing, where instead of having a class that I go to, I can pull up what I need when I need it, and just get the content I’m going to consume in a micro-learning type scenario. I can use a learning room just like I would a chat room online to learn with other learners. So the extension from the enterprise is really that the enterprise is providing the right toolsets, the right solutions, the right opportunities for me as an individual to participate and contribute, but I also have some self-efficiency and responsibility to look at how do I contribute and how do I live within that space and be an active participant vs. just a recipient.

Ken: You had mentioned kind of in the way of a prediction is that B2B is evolving toward B2C. Do you have any other predictions or insights that you can share with us and anything SAP customers might want to be on the lookout for this year that might help them develop a strategy for becoming more collaborative and ahead of the game in terms of what you’ve been speaking about?

Kerry: My predictions are that the behaviors we are all living in our non-work space, the You Tubing and Facebooking where we’re collaborating and sharing and blogging and loading and so forth. I think those behaviors are still uncommon at work. And so both in terms of whether it’s a trend or a prediction, I think we’re going to see based on the demographics just in the workforce, based on having more and more Baby Boomers retiring and more and more Millennials in the workforce, I think we’re going to see things that we used to define as “not work” becoming commonplace. One of the predictions I would say is that the phenomenon of having sort of a texting or IM-type scenario as well as an email scenario, my prediction is we’ll start to see that combining and our communication patterns will become much more of a collective capture of information where there’s some instant information that gets consumed and discarded, as well as some more soft of foundational information that gets kept that gets captured for historical purposes or for work purposes. And that independence of information I think we’re going to see gelling and merging, and the way that we communicate and the way that we learn will become much, much more integrated even more so than it is now.

Ken: So if I was concerned I was texting too much already I better get used to it.

Kerry: It’s interesting, I know gentlemen, there’s a couple of business people now who’ve created a business texting scenario that has a way of instantly disappearing so that from a security perspective you can share instant information but that it doesn’t have any residual value or residual presence. I think you’re going to see that communication behavior that the population at-large is doing outside of work become more and more prevalent inside work. So yes, if you’re concerned you’re texting too much I think we’ll see more of that communication pattern.

Ken: Kerry, thank you for joining us.

Kerry: You’re welcome. Have a great day and Happy New Year.

Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and we’ve been chatting with Kerry Brown, Vice President of Enablement for SAP.

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