IDC Study Shows Software Training Dramatically Boosts User Performance

Jessica Knell

Spring training. Olympics coaching. Clarinet lessons. Team-building workshops.

Whether it applies to sports, martial arts, managing people, or almost anything else, learning is a lifelong endeavor. In fact, it’s hard to imagine getting seriously good at anything without the aid of an experienced teacher, instructional videos, guidebooks, or all three. Competent training enables everyone to learn much faster, gain confidence, and avoid mistakes and bad habits that are hard to break later on.

Why, then, should learning how to use richly featured, multi-functional enterprise software be any different? It isn’t. Proficiency requires good, sustained training. But unfortunately, it is often in short supply.

Inadequate software training can be hazardous to your company’s health

When software projects underperform or fail outright, the fault is often a lack of appropriate enablement for both technical and business users. Employees sometimes don’t receive the right kind of training, or nearly enough of it. The consequences are especially dire for new and transformative technologies. Applications built on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics demand radically new skills and fresh ways of thinking.

So what kind of training is needed? Can the benefits be quantified? Does this vary by job role?

IDC decided to find out. In a 2018 study sponsored by SAP, the research firm conducted an in-depth survey of more than 950 companies operating in 19 countries throughout the world, all of which had recently deployed a range of new software solutions.

The goals were to identify the amount of technical and end-user training it takes to achieve peak performance, and further, how much is required to generate the greatest progress. Here are the study’s key findings and the recommended best practices drawn from them.

Major performance improvements

The research demonstrated that software training improved end-user key performance indicators (KPIs or “value drivers”) by an impressive 7 to 13 times. The metrics varied by company priorities and type of software, but all were critical to business success. They include such values as reducing total operating expenses, lowering sales and marketing costs, shrinking losses due to fraud, shortening invoice processing time, and reducing HR compliance costs.

Not every enterprise achieved the same level of gains. But all saw measurable improvements from additional end-user training. In fact, even a small amount above average increased the performance advances.

  • Best practice: Provide 26–41 hours of end-user training to maximize business performance.

Significantly less need for software support

When end users and administrators were better enabled, their applications and platforms worked better, measured by fewer process errors, less required rework, and a reduction of access or permission problems. All in all, staff people showed greater productivity in achieving the business outcomes their software was designed to generate. In addition, when system administrators were well trained on the platforms they managed, fewer problems arose that required intervention. Administrators with more than 45 hours of training had up to 62% fewer post-implementation support calls and 27% fewer escalations to the software vendor. The net result: greater work efficiency with minimal disruption.

  • Best practice: Deliver more than 45 hours of training to administrators, and 50 hours of training to software implementation teams.

Faster software deployment

Enterprise solutions involve many variables outside the control of the project team. Regardless of these external influences, the study showed that properly trained implementation teams do a superior job of documenting stakeholder requirements, anticipating and avoiding obstacles, and leveraging tools and accelerators to shorten the time to new system deployment. For the 2,000-plus software projects studied, IDC found that providing implementation teams with 50 hours of training reduced deployment time by 11%. Put another way, organizations saved almost a month in rollout time with a little more than an extra week of training. Faster deployment shortens time to value and boosts the overall benefit of the solution.

  • Best practice: Provide 50 hours of training to implementation teams.

Improved satisfaction with software

As with the process of deployment, software approval ratings are influenced by many factors other than training. Nevertheless, IDC found that organizational satisfaction with software was about 15% higher when system administrators were well trained, defined as 45 hours of enablement per individual. Overall satisfaction also increased when end users and implementation teams were sufficiently enabled. For users, this definition varied by solution. In the case of implementation teams, satisfaction peaked at about 50 hours of training.

  • Best practice: Train users, administrators, and implementation team members well.

Software success is a human equation

In this era of major change ‒ when enterprises across industries are migrating to digitally transformative platforms ‒ software success ultimately depends on the people who use it. Follow the best training practices outlined above to ensure that your new systems deliver maximum productivity, optimum ROI, and high employee satisfaction.

For more details on the IDC study, get our guide on effective training.

And please join our “Pathways to the Intelligent Enterprise” Webinar Tuesday, June 11, featuring Phil Carter, chief analyst at IDC, and SAP’s Dan Kearnan and Ginger Gatling. Register here.


Jessica Knell

About Jessica Knell

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