By Dr. Ayesha Habeeb Omer
No one disputes the importance of enterprise resource management (ERP) systems such as SAP in improving business processes and organizational efficiencies. Companies invest huge amounts of money, time, and resources to set up these systems for operational efficiency. But, sometimes, the outcome is not as expected. A research report by Panorama consulting shows that about 21percent of ERP implementation projects are unsuccessful. According to the Deloitte CIO survey, resistance to change is the top barrier to SAP implementation. End users are often reluctant to adapt to the new system.
User acceptance is a critical factor for the success of SAP implementation. After all, your employees are used to doing things in a particular way, why should they change that? And if they have to, you need to convince them that it is important. In reality, the knowledge transfer provided to the end user is far from what is required. According to a research study by Michael Management Corporation, 62 percent of respondents shared that they did not receive any SAP training during the 12 months preceding the SAP implementation. This certainly could pose a problem in achieving the desired outcome from SAP implementation in the organization.
What Should be Part of End-User Training
Only a fraction of the business users are trained directly by the SAP vendors or consultants. These individuals are usually part of the core team and are charged with the responsibility of training the end users who actually work on the system on a daily basis. It is the endusers who can make or break the system. Therefore, they need to know why SAP and how it is important for the organization.
More specifically, they have to understand how the new system is going to streamline and improve existing business processes, the value it brings to the organization in terms of achieving business objectives, what is expected of them—their roles and responsibilities—as users of the system, the ease with which one can adapt and use the new system, and the support system available to help them in case they are stuck.
You need to address these issues before getting employees to work on the new system. If this is done, then the end users are likely to take the pain and effort to learn and adapt to the new system. Once the end users are orientated about the software and its long-term impact on the organization, only then should they be trained on how to use it.
Tips for End-User Training
The SAP software system developed for an organization is unique to that organization. Therefore, generic training is not ideal. Here are some tips that can be kept in mind while designing and developing end-user SAP training.
Assess the needs of the end users and their computer skills so that a curriculum can be designed based on the roles and responsibilities of the target group.
Plan for sustainable and consistent training that provides long-term support and knowledge transfer.
Start with change management training where employees understand the need and importance of the new system and the value it brings to the organization and themselves.
Use a blended learning approach where training is done face to face but supplemented with online methods so that knowledge is available on demand.
Use learning strategies that are more user friendly, engaging, and interactive instead of a static PowerPoint presentation and screen shots. Rapid authoring tools such as Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline allow you to create simulation-based online courses that are learner-centric and impactful.
Choose training partners who are learning experts and are able to chunk complex technical content into easy-to-understand online modules.
Provide learning modules on demand so users can access them at anytime at their convenience. Include resources such as FAQs, job aids, and troubleshooting videos to support users at the time of need.
Case Studies with Strategies Adopted for End-User Training
I would like to share two case studies that demonstrate the potential and capability of online methods for end-user training—particularly on software programs and systems.
A global fast-moving consumer goods company introduced a new software system to enable speedier transactions involving multiple suppliers and vendors. In theory, the new system was supposed to facilitate faster payments to vendors and reduce the high volume of calls to the help desk. This did not happen and on investigation, it was found that the endusers were not using the software system as expected. There were inconsistencies in the knowledge and usage by endusers across their offices in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North America.
To overcome these issues, the organization opted for online training. As a part of the online training, it created visually engaging,simulation-based e-learning courses that demonstrated how the software system was to be used with a “do” section where the endusers could practice in a fail-safe environment.
For this purpose, we used a scenario-based learning strategy in Adobe Flash. The importance of system ‘How To’ guides and step-by-step demonstrations were weaved into the courses using fictional characters and conversational audio. Internal surveys by the client showed that 90percent of the endusers acknowledged that the courses helped them use the software system better and in turn produced better business results.
In a second case study, a world leader in packaging solutions wanted to train its employees across the globe on a new Human Resources Software System. Employees had to be trained on the system based on their roles and responsibilities. The training also had to be done in multiple languages to cater to their employees spread across different countries.
For this learning requirement, they created videos and job aids, keeping two employee groups in mind—endusers and managers. The videos explained how to use the software in a simulated environment and were confined to information that was directly relevant to the target segment. The visually rich interface that simulated the actual workspace of the end users resonated well with the target audience and enabled them to relate the software to their job responsibilities better. Additional job-aids that provided step-by-step guidelines also supported the endusers whenever they faced a difficulty using the system. This led to more acceptance and adoption of the new software system across their offices around the world.
Both these case studies demonstrate that endusers are very crucial for the success of any ERP system. By training endusers on the new system, not only do they become more receptive to the change, they also become ready to successfully handle the changes and new responsibilities.
User acceptance is indeed a critical component for the success of SAP initiatives in the organization. Instructor-led training may not be always possible and feasible, particularly in the case of a large userbase. In such situations, choosing an online method is a viable option that engages endusers on a long=term basis and provides them the knowledge, information, and support they need. It facilitates minimal reluctance and maximum acceptance of the new system.Therefore, when organizations introduce new ERP solutions such as SAP, it is important to plan for and allocate resources for end-user training along with consultants and managers. SW
Dr. Ayesha Habeeb Omer works for CommLab India LLP, a learning solutions company with expertise in design and development of eLearning courses. Its learning solutions include eLearning course development, mLearning solutions, conversion of legacy courses into the mobile compatible HTML5 format, translation of online courses, and hosting and managing training materials on LMS.