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There are three key factors which drive Return On Investment (ROI) from your SAP applications: the efficiency of your infrastructure; the optimisation of the SAP application for your environment and the effectiveness of your system users. In other words:  People, Process and Technology. For real ROI, all three factors need to be maximised, but time and again our experience shows that the impact of user effectiveness is forgotten.  Users of your SAP applications execute the transactions, which drive the processes, which propel the business. But, what do you really know about your system users?  How are they really using your systems?

Out of the cockpit and into the passenger seat

At a recent conference in Barcelona, I heard a colleague use a very nice analogy to describe this lack of clarity. You may recall that there was a great deal of snow around in January, which caused a lot of travel disruption, particularly for flights out of London Heathrow – and this was where the analogy was born. My colleague was describing his (as it happened, unaffected) flight from Heathrow to Barcelona. From the pilots’ cockpit perspective, the flight probably went beautifully. They were able to take off on time, had very few turbulence or traffic issues and actually arrived in Barcelona a couple of minutes earlier than scheduled. The model of a perfectly functioning “system” then.

However, my colleague’s experience as a “user” was quite a different story. He was booked in a middle seat, and once he had boarded, he discovered this put him between two larger gentlemen.  He spent the flight feeling quite squeezed. There was a little turbulence after take-off which made him feel a bit ill, and later in the flight he even managed to spill a bit of his water over himself. From his perspective, it wasn’t a great flight – it was ok, but there were enough small negative issues to create an overall negative impression, which may affect his business choices in future.

Now of course, back in the cockpit, there was nothing to tell the pilots that my colleague was having a poor experience. Their clever instruments are vital, but they are all about measuring the “process” and the “technology”.  From their perspective, given what they were monitoring and recording, the experience was overwhelmingly positive.  Arguably, they’re right – if their objective is to get the passenger from A to B without major incident, the system worked.  However, for my colleague, the ‘user’ of this system, there were flaws.  He could have suggested improvements which may have had an effect on the success for the task.  Perhaps a more comfortable seat would guarantee his business next time?  Nobody monitored his experience, so no improvements could be made based on his experience. 

A long overdue introduction: Process, Technology, Meet People

The above is something we see in our SAP system environments also. We have excellent system monitoring tools and techniques to allow system administrators to monitor the “processes” and the “technology”, but it seems that there is little concentration on monitoring the “people”.

Many questions can be answered. What are the areas driving user errors and impacting performance? How effective is training which targets remediation of known problems? Which users need additional training, and which don’t? Which portions of the application require additional training to optimise performance? Which of your users perform best and how can you replicate this across the entire user community?

Peter Drucker, one of the most influential business thinkers of the past century, reputedly said, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.”  The phrase has become common business parlance, but at its time, it was the kind of insight that raised the bar for business management.  It’s time to raise that bar once again—by delving deeper and measuring the experience received and the performance achieved by the end users of the enterprise applications that deliver the business results.

Replay the Free Webinar and Download the Whitepaper

On 26 March 2013, SAP Education hosted an interactive webinar to discuss how we have been helping organisations to address the challenges of user effectiveness. We can now measure user errors, workflow errors and system errors and then using this data take pro-active steps to remediate issues, and to prioritize these appropriately. Once you have a clear view of your present challenges, you will be able to compare various possible courses of action to understand the impact of changes, enhancements and finally to confirm the effectiveness of the remediation taken. You can access a recording of that webinar here. In addition, we have published a white paper on this topic, which you can down from SCN here.

Corporate performance management is all about understanding the difference between what you've planned and what actually happens.  If that understanding stops short of the end-user performance, this critical link in corporate performance is ignored and no enterprise application will achieve its full potential.  End-user experience and performance management solutions let your organization realize that potential by delivering an end-to-end analysis capability for an end-to-end corporate performance management strategy.

Do you recognise these challenges in your own organisation? Have you already taken some steps to resolve them? I'd be very interested to hear from you on your own experiences dealing with user effectiveness, so please feel free to share your thoughts here.