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An ongoing challenge

In my 20+ years working with SAP customers, one thing has remained fairly constant: most organizations do not handle user adoption well. What do I mean by ‘user adoption’? I am talking about ensuring that the employees within your organization know how to correctly handle your systems and processes, in order to do their jobs effectively.

There’s a huge amount of research available describing the benefits associated with high levels of user adoption and competence. You will find endless studies showing reduced deployment times, reduced errors, faster adoption of innovation, better employee engagement and better overall business performance. What’s more, intrinsically we all know that having a capable, competent and confident workforce is a good thing, and that learning has a key role to play in this, and yet… of the hundreds of customers I’ve spoken to over the last 20+ years about learning, most have huge gaps in their adoption approach. If we can agree that learning is so important, then why do so few organizations do it well? Why do so few give learning the attention it warrants and as a consequence, fail to reap the rewards of better user adoption?

There is always room for improvement in the approach to learning – a more measured approach to creation and maintenance of content, more attention paid to continuous learning, better use of non-traditional delivery methods and so on. But beyond these issues of format and nuance, it seems to me that there are two key structural issues that severely impact the successful implementation of a solid learning and adoption approach.

The first is a question of language. In order to get the right level of attention and support for learning in your organization, you’re going to need the right sponsor and proper executive support. In my experience of working with learning professionals (and I count myself among this group, of course), we know that anything that encourages learning in the organization is a good thing. So surely we just say so to our executive decision maker, right? Does that work? Do we think our executive decision maker will simply say “yes” to all our requests because “learning is good”? Sadly not… The simple truth is that executives tend to have a specific focus and a specific language. Using the language of learning professionals to a non-learning executive is not going to deliver successful communication. Much better to speak exec – talk about the tangible, real, financial benefits learning will bring.

The second big issue I see relates directly to SAP solutions, and it is that getting access to clear and simple information about what is needed in terms of learning and user adoption can be difficult. SAP is a large complex organization, with multiple areas of the business creating learning (and user adoption) relevant content. As SAP has acquired various organizations, many with their own existing approaches to learning and user adoption content, this complexity has only increased. Paradoxically, with SAP’s focus on cloud, at the same time the need to drive user adoption, and to ensure that customers are getting real business benefit from the solutions has never been greater.

Cutting through the noise

It is in this context that I developed the Learning Advisory offering. The aim is simple – to cut through the noise and provide a simple, clear and tailored set of recommendations to customers. Then, to be clear on the link between learning and business success, helping our customers to build a sustainable approach to user adoption. As I built the team, and we started to develop the approach, we lived and breathed our belief statement:

“We believe that learning is a key driver of solution adoption and expansion, and the only path to real, long-term, sustainable business success for our customers”

First, we built the back-bone of learning advisory: our “learning maturity model”. This simple, and comprehensive framework supports assessment across six key dimensions. We use this model to identify an organization’s current state of learning maturity. Then, working with the organization, we determine a realistic target state, and then create an action plan (which we call a “learning impact plan”) to bridge the gap.

Our Learning Advisor works with key customer stakeholders to facilitate a Discovery session – which in itself is a valuable exercise in review of topics which don’t often get attention during normal business operations. After the Discovery session, the Learning Advisor prepares the learning impact plan, which recommends real, practical actions which can drive the organization towards greater learning maturity. We review progress with you after 1, 3 and 6 months.

We have now run many of these engagements, some of which with some large and well-known organizations. These include major petroleum companies, consumer goods, pharmaceutical and medical companies, among others. Success stories are in process – suffice to say, the feedback from our customers has been very positive.

Delivering benefit at scale

Our next step was to make the same benefits available to a much wider group of customers. During 2021, my team engaged 42 customers – but with 80,000 cloud customers, and hundreds of thousands of on-premise customers, we have barely scratched the surface!

In October 2021, we piloted a new engagement model, designed to work at scale: our “Learning Advisory Workshop”. By enabling our customers to run self-assessments against the learning maturity model, we have been able to work with a large group of customers simultaneously, guiding them to create their own learning impact plans. Our pilot workshop involved 25 participants, from a range of organizations globally (again, including some big names!). A summary of the feedback follows:

Workshop feedback

After the successful pilot, we have continued to develop the offering. I’m delighted to say that we are now live with a monthly schedule of workshops planned during 2022.

You can see more information about the free-of-charge Learning Advisory Workshops, including the schedule, and to register, at our new event site.

How can you take advantage?

We will continue to offer our free-of-charge 1:1 engagements by invitation. Speak to your Enterprise CSP to find out if you qualify for our 1:1 program.

Learning and adoption are such key value drivers for all our customers; our focus on our Learning Advisory workshops allows us to support the largest possible number of organizations.

Please check out our event site for more details and register for an upcoming workshop. We look forward to meeting you soon!
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