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What has SAP done to address end-user issues?

I come from a corporate culture change management background. I have also been in the workflow/business engineering...

field and then migrated into SAP specializing in MM (1 project at Toyota South Africa). I want to put these niche skills together. I feel there is not enough attention given to user culture and evolving mindsets so that SAP is pulled by the users and not thrust down on them as it happens now. My question: What has SAP done to address the people issues, including training, and why is so little attention given to the sustainability of the user culture?


You are right: end-user training and change management never gets enough attention in the SAP world. The problem is not limited to SAP - it extends to the IT world in general. However, to be fair to SAP, they have come a long way in terms of recognizing the need for empowering users and improving the user experience. From the "Enjoy SAP" initiative to the new Enterprise Portals product, SAP realizes that empowering the user is essential - not just for the satisfaction of its customers, but for its ability to maximize future revenues. Of course, improving the user experience is not only about creating more user-friendly products, it's also about providing quality user training and change management resources. Once again, we have to let SAP off the hook a little bit here. In the early days, SAP was more focused on selling software to new clients than helping existing users - and they paid a heavy PR price for that. But at this point, SAP and its training partners would be more than happy to come into any company and help users with their transition to new SAP systems and project roles - for a price, of course. And there are plenty of great SAP trainers out there with the skills to do it.

At this point, I would point the finger for the "user training shortfall" at corporate end-users. If you think IT budgets have shrunk, imagine what the typical end-user training budget must look like. Companies have a nasty habit of getting infatuated with new technology, not investing in proper change management, and then blaming the new software for the inevitable failure. Of course, companies are much more sober about IT projects these days, but they're still not doing enough, in my opinion, to leverage their existing investment through better user education. Fortunately, there are some companies out there which really have their act together, so it's really not fair to generalize too much. It's good for you to keep in mind that there really are companies that do understand the need for the kind of change management that SAP projects entail. The good news for you: you don't need for IT spending trends to change, you just need to find one good client. As you market yourself and apply for openings, remember to avoid disparaging comments such as "SAP isn't doing enough in this area." What you need to sell is your ability to make a difference. Don't tell prospective employers what SAP is doing wrong, tell them what you can do to optimize their significant IT investments.


This was last published in January 2003

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