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This was the opening statement of the latest webcast in the eight-part CoE Webcast Series, “Excellence in What? … Your People.”   Kerry Brown, from SAP and Kris (KJ) Jackson from Pfizer shared insights on User Adoption and Enablement to drive real value for any organization.  While it may be a cliché, to me, it was a thought-provoking statement.  I thought about the statement and the impact on a Center of Excellence.  This really caused me to think about how important and vital training, education, and communication is in helping CoEs generate business value.

Consider that 30% of the workforce changes jobs every year, either through a new position in the same company, a promotion, a job transfer, or by leaving the company.  If followed to its logical end, this statistic creates the situation where after three years nearly the entire workforce has turned over.  This means the knowledge base within the organization has turned over as well.  It is possible for all of the training and ‘tribal knowledge’ to vanish and no reliable resources remain to ensure everything is being performed as designed. 

This situation requires an increased emphasis on ensuring each individual has the appropriate skills to do the job well and to ensure there are processes and tools in place to ensure knowledge transfer occurs.  This is why investing in training is so critical.  Three tips were mentioned to help build ‘excellence’ in your people.


Training for SAP and CoE resources typically occurs as a result of a major change event, such as an implementation of SAP.  There is a large effort to train resources just in time for the ‘go live’ date. After the solution deploys, it does not take long for everything to go back to normal and people resume their ‘day jobs.’  The training efforts wind down and there is little in the way of continued training offered to the user community.  Worse yet, if new people are hired in, the most common approach to training is on-the job-training where the new individual must rely on others to teach them how to properly use the application.  If not, the bad habits and little inconsistencies are perpetuated through the new hire.

However, training should be viewed on a continuum.  It should take place all along the normal course of business events.  Sure, there may be some large training efforts when there are significant projects.  However, there should also be smaller ‘bite-sized’ pieces of training that encompass process changes, process improvements, new pieces of functionality introduced, and new problem solving approaches.  In addition, the media for delivery does not need to be the typical user procedure documents.

One of the items Ms. Brown pointed out was the methods that can be utilized to make the consumption of training so much easier.  From YouTube videos to webinars to Facebook and Google, there are ways to train your resources such that the right materials can be available at the exact time the individual needs to access the content. 

The other thing pointed out was the dollar value impact of the training effort on the organization. A study was conducted across 515 companies showing that by allocating an additional 1.5% of the project budget to training moved the project from a 50% success rate to an 80% success rate.  It is incredible to think that such a minor investment improves the chances of success and the overall business value to the organization.  The reality is that without continued training and development of the users, organizations do not realize the full value from their technology implementations.


We all know that technology brings about change:  change in the way tasks are performed; change in the way business operates; change in the skills necessary to do a job.  Ms. Brown explained that managing change boils down to understanding expectations and being held accountable to achieve the changes.  It really does not matter what business we are in or what stage of life a business is in, there is always going to be change.  The point was made that there must be an approach (or, a methodology) a company uses to manage expectations and accountabilities.  As with the training discussion, tangible value can be seen and measured by following this recommendation.  Why is it that some companies do really well at technology initiatives and others do


Are the successful ones doing something the others aren’t?  In another survey (the Global OCM Benchmarking and Best Practices Survey), it showed that companies in the top quartile for delivery of technology projects focused on Organizational Change Management as a formal and integrated part of their efforts.  As a result, the projects were less likely to experience project schedule delays, budget overruns, and scope deficiencies than in companies that did not have a formal OCM component.  In addition, these same companies also had a 30% higher User Acceptance score than the others.  This demonstrates the value of OCM not only as it relates to project performance and time-to-benefit but also the fact that there is a higher user adoption rate. Make no mistake about it, the ‘soft stuff’ turns into real value over the long-term.


User experience is a term getting tossed around a lot these days.  Like many things, when this happens, the term tends to lose some meaning because everyone has an idea of what it should mean.  Ms. Brown stated it very simply, “user experience equals user interface plus user adoption.”  Having one without the other really does nothing for the user experience.  Both aspects are needed to improve the user experience.  Much of the energy and effort should be focused on how to humanize IT or how to make it work in the same way as individuals.  In today’s workplace this is where there is potential for a great deal of innovation.  Innovation can happen at the point where technology, business and people intersect.

It was during this section that Kris (KJ) Jackson explained some of the fascinating this they are doing at Pfizer in this regard.  He described how Pfizer has reduced the time and accelerated the curve of user adoption through communications, change management activities, and training. This included production of training videos on a variety of topics on their own ‘ERPtv’ YouTube channel to infographics telling a specific story and communicating a desired message.  Pfizer also shifted their learning to more of a self-study approach where the individual is expected to take the responsibility for the core learning but then has follow-up sessions with a coach. As a result, the number of formal training hours has dropped by 70%, yet the users still have access to all of the training resources they need in order to do their job well.


Much of the conversation in this webcast was focused on trends in the education and enablement area. However, as I was listening to this session, I continued to think about how this would impact the Center of Excellence. This is no doubt there are many factors changing the way people work today.  There is a seismic shift in technology.  Consider the impact of mobile, cloud, and connected technologies.  The shifting demographics of the workplace where millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025 will also bring about changes.  Despite all of the "connectedness" and the digital capability of the millennial generation, there is a noticeable lack of employee engagement in the workplace.  We can talk about all of the tools at our disposal to help train, educate, and engage our employees.  However, when it comes to the CoE, it is important that training, education, change management, and communications roles be an integral part of the Center of Excellence.  These roles are often pushed to the side in favor of ‘more critical’ roles.  This should not be the case.  If ‘someone else’ is expected to look after these activities, it is likely no one is.  Tremendous value awaits the organization that invests in these areas.

It really is about the people.  Remember, “without people, it’s just software.”

If you missed this webcast, the replay can be found here.  If you are interested in learning more about this topic Part 5 of the eight-part series is scheduled for Tuesday, March 29 at 12:00p EDT.  Tomas Pineda of Ingram Micro will discuss  “Ensuring the Value From Your SAP Investment with An Agile Center of Excellence”

If you have any questions regarding this webcast, please contact me at