Deploying New Enterprise Software? Don’t Neglect User Training

Jessica Knell

Today’s new generation of digitally oriented software demands new user skills. Most enterprises are less than prepared: according to a 2017 study by the Technical University of Munich, 64% of organizations don’t have the skills in-house required for digital transformation. Of those, 84% have not implemented programs to build them.

What users have to contend with

New business processes. Application interfaces, workflows, and navigation schemes are more intuitive and streamlined than in the past. Digital processes are much more automated, which increases productivity but only if users are properly trained. Employees will need instruction in ‒ and time to adjust to ‒ these new application environments. They must also learn to think more analytically than “transactionally” about routine tasks. This means taking into account the broader context of how their work and data impact people and business processes down the line.

Best practices-based design. Digital apps typically incorporate standardized business processes that are proven to deliver the best outcomes. This can be challenging for employees who’ve become used to highly customized workflows in their legacy systems. Once again, they will require coaching and encouragement to adapt to new ways of working.

More accurate data and lots more of it. New platforms can handle information in greater varieties and much greater volumes: think Big Data. Not only will input be more diverse, but much of it will be better, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Employees will need schooling in using this data strategically and analytically.

Take the high road (and beware of the low road)

Where and how does all this user learning begin? For a given new-system implementation, there are two basic approaches:

Shooting from the hip. Project owners allocate a minimal amount of training or simply wait until just before the go-live date and address problems as they arise.

Proactive planning. Alternatively, decision-makers recognize that user training and adoption are ongoing necessities rather than “one-off” needs for a single deployment. The objective is building a framework of continuous learning into the company culture.

From our experience across numerous customers, the hip-shooter approach leaves users inadequately trained and reluctant to adopt the new solution ‒ creating last-minute obstacles that management then has to scramble to overcome. In contrast, the proactive strategy ensures that people are well prepared to hit the ground running. The benefits are not just immediate but long term: a cadre of employees who are highly engaged with new technologies and processes because they’ve been trained to succeed with them.

Who’s on first?

An early training regimen is especially critical for specific user categories:

Technical teams. These are the IT personnel who will configure, manage, and support the system before and after deployment. It’s important to ascertain their knowledge requirements and tailor learning plans accordingly. All technical personnel need a strong grounding in the fundamentals of the new platform. Such courses should be followed by advanced instruction for team and project leaders as appropriate for their roles and specialties.

Key business users. Thorough training is also a must for managers and other users who oversee specific business processes, as they will be asked to help configure system workflows and show colleagues and subordinates how the new system works.

Enlist expertise

Careful and thorough learning-program design will pay off in terms of on-time system rollout and high levels of user adoption. Toward this end, you may want to solicit consulting services from the application vendor or third-party specialists. Key domains include training-needs analysis based on overall goals for the new implementation and development of role-specific learning plans.

The new best practice: blended learning

Just as older tools and technologies have given way to newer ones, traditional corporate training strategies are being revised in light of recent findings on how people actually learn in the workplace. Today’s employees enjoy a range of options for learning in their day-to-day lives, and forward-looking organizations aim to provide similar opportunities on the job.

No single training modality is always best for every individual and requirement; each has a special set of advantages and is geared to specific needs and learning styles. Traditional classroom training should be supplemented by self-paced e-learning materials that are accessible anytime, so people can acquire skills where, when, and at a tempo that suits them. Other highly effective options include intra-company social learning forums and customized “time-of-need” micro-learning tutorials embedded inside applications.

All these innovations are embraced by the continuous learning strategy we spoke of earlier. Weaving this kind of structure into your corporate fabric helps ensure a successful digital transformation journey on the way to becoming an intelligent enterprise. It saves you from having to resort to eleventh-hour improvisation for every new deployment, with the attendant risk of leaving users poorly prepared.

Discover the practical methodology for creating a self-sustaining training culture. Read our white paper The Continuous Learning Framework from SAP. Then explore related resources to help you get started, including third-party research, short videos, articles, webinars, and more.


Jessica Knell

About Jessica Knell

Jessica Knell is a member of Global Education team responsible for business development of digital enablement and training technologies at SAP. Her background includes go-to-market strategy development with an emphasis on marketing and communications. You can also find her moderating the SAP Education social media channels including @SAPEDU on Twitter.