reborn55 - Fotolia

User experience software helps to improve user adoption and ROI

User experience software from Knoa helps a public utility run its SAP ERP more effectively; plus, new report shows ERP projects cost less, but run longer -- and that's a good thing.

Companies that run SAP ERP Central Component, or ECC, often have a hard time with user adoption because of a poor user experience. Modules are complicated, tasks take too long and training is haphazard, all of which leads to inadequate return on the SAP investment.

Often, this poor user experience is not necessarily the fault of the system itself, but because system administrators don't have a good idea of how the system is being used and where the users' pain points are. User experience software can help with the pain for users and improve the ROI on SAP.

Salt River Project (SRP), a Phoenix-based public utility that has been running SAP ECC 6.0 for three years, was faced with these problems. User adoption was lagging, and the company needed to get a better sense of what was working and not -- particularly because it was considering migrating some functions to SAP Fiori and S/4 HANA. To get a better understanding of its system, SRP turned to a user experience management tool from Knoa. A four-month pilot project showed positive results, and SRP is in the midst of rolling out Knoa across the SAP implementation.

"For our leadership, we need to understand more than just the anecdotal kind of evidence of what's actually happening, and Knoa provides that actual data about what the users are doing [and] what they are struggling with," said Gibbons Saint Paul, SAP functional solutions architect at SRP. "When you have any new system, people tend to struggle in silence and not actually communicate what's going on. There are also big things around ROI, as we go more mobile and do Fiori, go through those kind of steps, our leadership wants to see what type of return they're getting and what's being improved."

As SRP plans the move to mobile access and Fiori apps, the Knoa tool is helping to provide the metrics that can tell which applications will be the optimal candidates to move to Fiori first, Saint Paul said. 

Knoa tracks the clicks, errors and time to complete tasks when users work within ECC. "What's part of that is the metadata, which you can assign to each login, so not only can you tell what the issue is, you can know the department and what modules they're working on," Saint Paul said. "It really allows you to drive that user experience management in all aspects, training, help desk and driving future types of applications."

Knoa consists of a logging tool that sits on ECC and an agent that sits on everyone's desktop. It has its own database and employs an SAP BusinessObjects integrated tool with canned dashboards and interactive reporting. Saint Paul noted that the dashboards can be customized to meet the requirements of the system.

"They're great dashboards out of the box, but I want to fine-tune them for how we do business at SRP," he said. "It's really just customization to how you want to use the information, and there's no coding. If we're helping the user, we can create dashboards, where if there's a support ticket coming in, we can look at the users' history and almost know what their issue is before calling them to provide faster turnaround time on solving the issue."

SRP is running Knoa on premises, but it's also available as a software as a service offering.

ERP projects cost a little less, go a little longer

ERP implementations decreased in cost on average in 2015 from the previous year. Duration overruns are becoming less common, but the average length of the duration overrun increased.

These were some of the key findings in the 2016 Report on ERP Systems and Enterprise Software from Panorama Consulting, a Denver-based firm that provides consulting services on ERP projects to enterprises. The 2016 report was conducted as a survey on the company's website from March 2015 to February 2016, with a total of 215 responses from a variety of companies that run or are considering ERP systems.

According to the report, the average cost of an ERP project was $3.8 million in 2015, down from $4.5 million the previous year. The percentage of projects overrunning costs was roughly the same, at 57% in 2015 and 55% in 2014. The percentage of projects running over duration was down rather significantly, from 75% in 2014 to 57% in 2015; however, the average project duration increased sharply from 14.3 months in 2014 to 21.1 months in 2015. The report stated this "duration increase is not necessarily a bad thing, as organizations appear to be planning for longer durations and have more realistic expectations about what it takes to achieve ERP success."

Overall, 81% of the respondents were either in the process of implementing an ERP system, or had already completed the implementation. The most common reason given for the implementation was to replace an old ERP or other legacy system (16%), which was also the most common response in last year's report (17%). A smaller percentage of respondents implemented ERP across multiple sites, with 80% in two or more locations in 2015, compared with 85% in 2014. Manufacturing is the most common industry represented, but the survey showed that there was a decrease in the percentage of manufacturing organizations in the survey -- 37% in 2015, down from 43% in 2014.

Here are some more highlights from the 2016 ERP report:

  • Overall, respondents are satisfied with their software selection; 74% they would choose the same software if starting again. Satisfaction in previous years had been steadily declining.
  • SAP was the most shortlisted vendor at 41%, followed by Oracle (37%), Microsoft (27%), Epicor (5%) and Infor (5%). However, Microsoft was the most frequently selected vendor after shortlisting at 32%, followed by Oracle (23%), SAP (20%) and Epicor (7%). A variety of other vendors were also selected, including IFS, NetSuite, Plex Systems, QAD, Sage, SYSPRO, Tyler Technologies and Unit4.
  • There are many ERP options now, including niche systems, top-of-the-line options and two-tiered models. When asked the reasons for choosing the software, almost half of the respondents said it was because it was the best functional fit (46%). Other common reasons were it was the best value for the money (25%), and it was commonly used in the industry (13%).
  • More than half of respondents were either satisfied (42%) or very satisfied (12%) with their vendor selection.
  • The majority of companies still deploy ERP on premises (56%); however, the number of cloud deployments jumped dramatically to 27% from 11% the previous year. The report noted that this "makes sense, considering the increasing number of vendors providing this option." Also, SAP and Oracle are investing more research and development in cloud technology than in on-premises software, with other vendors following this lead.
  • Cost savings are a benefit to cloud deployments, as more than half (56%) of the respondents who had deployed cloud ERP realized implementation cost savings of at least 20%.
  • Risks of a security breach was cited as the main reason for not implementing cloud (29%), although the report characterized this as a "misconception," stating "a number of cloud providers are enhancing their security to meet customer needs, especially in the financial sector."

Next Steps

Be prepared for Fiori, the future of SAP's UX.

Take a look at the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite.

Strong management is the key to avoiding ERP failure.

Dig Deeper on SAP UX