I spend a fair amount of time within the SCN site. It could be reading blogs, answering questions, or even writing blogs as I am doing now. I am aware that recently there has been some good debate around the SAP Education process and the perception within the community. It feels like there should be a way to join, SAP Education, the SCN Community to tie in with actual SAP delivery.
In my role as moderator I have been concerned recently around the level of questions being asked. Some pretty basic questions are being raised:
Here are two examples I found within 5 mins of looking around:
What I can also see is that community members reply with correct information. From a high level this is great. SCN is doing its thing, helping fellow community members. But then I got thinking a bit more. We have SAP consultants, who seem to be working on a client site without a “Scooby doo” (clue) what to do. They are reliant on the community to deliver their SAP projects, which is scary to say the least. I am unaware if these consultants, are internal or external, what I can see from their questions is that they are unskilled to do the job that someone is paying for them to do.The person who is getting cheated here is the customer. I have recently come across a situation where the skills of a consultant did not marry up to the skills and experience they had on their CV. It became clear quickly that the consultant neither knew the product nor the process which put us in an awkward position.
This topic has again been debated previously but I can see some synergies between these types of activities.
What is the real issue here?
So back to my original question, well SCN is a great place for consultants to share ideas and to learn from each other. However in my opinion there needs to be some base entry points. Asking a question in an area for which you know nothing is a risky approach for an unskilled consultant. You have no way to vet the response you get and therefore you are at the liberty of the individual who provided the answer. SCN promotes good practice, and the reputation and points based approach allows users to reward a consultant who provides the correct response, leading to a source of reliable answers. With this combination, I am sure there are some consultants that can “learn on the job” and implement a solution without any real knowledge of the process and solution. (Is this something that we should be promoting within SCN?)
Generally they will scrape through, but without the insight into the true skill-set of the product or the process, the solution that will delivered to the customer will either be basic, or highly bespoke as standard configuration items have been overlooked due to poor education.
To translate this back to the customer, they have either paid over the odds by over-bespoking, or under-achieved but not using all of the functionality. Either way the result for the customer is not their desired outcome.
How to fix this?
OK, I am not pretending that this is any easy issue to fix. If it was I am sure it would have been fixed a while back. However with all of the comments around Education, certification and SCN, I thought of a combination of changes that could help.
Within a user profile, include the “S” number of the consultant. Not all user ids will require a “S” number only people who configure and develop SAP. A customer can access SDN and view comments and questions against that “S” number. If I were a customer and saw that a consultant was asking detailed questions via SCN, I would be encouraged to learn that they were looking after my interests.
Where basic questions are being raised, these again could be flagged, and potentially filter back to the customer. This would enable the customer to know that a question was raised on SCN that was deemed basic by a consultant that has been sold as experienced and alarm bells could then sound.
This process wont be easy to implement as it will require changes to both SCN and SAP systems and there would need to be some integration.
This would ensure the level of questions raised within SCN improved. I remember before the SCN upgrade there were over 100,000 Finance questions in the forum board. I am sure there were plenty of duplicate questions and plenty where a consultant asked for a Finance configuration guide or Blueprint document.
In the short term, there is a “report abuse” icon within the forums. I would like to see SCN encourage wider use of this to include the creation of basic questions (potentially a new icon so these can filter through a different channel). If someone came on to the Finance forum and asked “how do I create a GL account” – or something similar I would like to see this flagged.
Changing these behaviours will enable the community to focus on proper questions and unique questions which are always within the forum, but sometimes get lost due to the high volume of basic questions.
SCN is a great community, one where there are some great networks of active contributors and I would encourage them to continue and the size of the networks to grow. By removing basic questions, and encouraging unskilled consultants to gain a high level overview prior to engagement would make the SCN experience more enjoyable for all concerned. Not only would SCN improve the final delivery of the solution that the customer receives will improve due to the better product and process knowledge of a more skilled consultant pool.