It’s surprisingly easy to be smart after the fact. Unfortunately, when it comes to providing employees with effective SAP training, organizations all too often end up learning lessons the hard way.
Only with the benefit of hindsight do they realize they have significantly underestimated both the timing for and the amount of education their staff requires to perform their jobs effectively.
How do I know this? As a long-time technology journalist and industry analyst, I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to talk with companies of different sizes and from a wide range of industries about their software lessons learned. And yes, a good many of these organizations were and are SAP customers!
What these companies frequently share are regrets about their limited use of employee training, typically in relation to a major SAP implementation, whether an upgrade or a migration. It tends to be a case of "We could’ve, we should’ve… but we didn’t and we definitely will next time around." In the meantime, the consequences of their earlier actions return to haunt them in the shape of long lines or calls into IT support as employees struggle to use the new SAP version or software and find themselves unable to perform their jobs as efficiently as they and their employer would hope.
Let’s take a look at four SAP "training regret" scenarios that can occur singly or in combination with each other.
Started Training Too Soon
For instance, when onboarding new employees, organizations typically include a few "Death by PowerPoint" presentations on SAP use. That "training," which may well occur on a new hire’s first day, is often not at all effective since it comes at a time when the employee is overwhelmed by the demands of a brand-new working environment. Turning to a major SAP upgrade or migration, providing employee training way in advance of staff actually using the software can also prove problematic.
Didn't Start Training Soon Enough
The inverse of the point above, with SAP training as an afterthought taking place sometime after staff has actively started using the software. By that point, employees have already figured out utilization by their own trial and error, which may mean they’re not using the SAP software effectively or following best practices. If a software upgrade or migration brings with it a new way of working, deploying SAP training early on is a great way to break with the past and help instill new best practices.
Finished Training Too Soon
In this case, the allotted budget for SAP training may dictate its truncated duration, often to the detriment of employees. As staff becomes familiar with the software, they may be keen to revisit what they’ve already learned and/or build upon that initial knowledge. Anecdotally, companies tell me they’d offered six months of access to SAP training when in hindsight, they now see 12 to 18 months as much more valuable in clarifying the breadth of features and functionality the software may provide staff.
Never Revisited Training
This regret may go hand-in-hand with the one above about the duration of training. Oftentimes, organizations see SAP training as a one-off item—if employees don’t take the training over a limited period of time, then that’s their lookout. But, is a single blast of SAP training ever enough? With more use of e-learning and the ability for staff to return to SAP training at their own convenience over a significant period of time, such as a year, there’s much more opportunity for individual review of what has been successfully absorbed and a clearer sense of what needs to be perfected and what’s next to be learned.
The best way to ensure organizations and their employees fully benefit from SAP training is to carefully consider the timing, duration, amount and frequency of that staff education. And, don’t forget to factor in what everyone in the company has learned from previous projects about when to start, stop and revisit SAP training.
Let me leave you with one suggestion for proactive thinking: Carefully consider the purpose of SAP training and what your company and its individual employees want to achieve. For instance, providing SAP training early on (or even prior to) a software implementation project becomes more about introducing staff to new concepts and ways of working made possible by the new product. Later on in the project, shortly before employees start actively utilizing the software, the focus of SAP training shifts to how they will use it in their daily working lives. Fast-forward to six or twelve months after go-live, and the purpose of SAP training may be as more of a review tool and a way to revisit areas of incomplete knowledge. Here’s to regret-free SAP training in the future!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the Michael Management blog.