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Business Solutions with SAP

Creating a Knowledge Centered Learning Organization

April 16th, 2012 by

R3Now Knowledge Management

R3Now Knowledge Management

This is a continuation of Business Transformation for IT Leadership and is part of a journey around Organizational Change Management Inside the IT Support Organization .  To achieve an active, vibrant, knowledge-sharing learning organization requires some baseline understanding of what your goals are.  You need a culture that produces, organizes, disseminates, applies, and then refines information (see the image to the left).

This leads me to the next key point of which few people who call themselves “knowledge managers” have much understanding of –, information management is NOT knowledge management.  But both information management AND knowledge management are critical components of a learning organization.   

Information is the vehicle, knowledge is the destination

What is Knowledge?

Knowledge is the application of information, in a particular context, coupled with experience -–, it is NOT in some system.   Information is stored in systems, knowledge is stored in people.  Bill Wood, 2006.

Creating a Knowledge Centered Learning Organization is Really Exciting! (In the Sales Material)

Lots of folks get excited about the idea and even the prospects of creating a learning organization.  Achieving a vibrant learning organization with a knowledge sharing culture can reap huge rewards for a company’s competitive position in the marketplace.

Even the Harvard Business Review has gotten on board and sells a few “knowledge products” of their own.  Their pitch suggests that creating a learning organization leads to competitive business advantage.  After all, when you have a workforce which learns and applies new knowledge, new techniques, new methods to addressing the marketplace you are creating competitive advantage.  It is more than a pitch however and can in fact make a significant impact on your business and organization.

A learning organization requires a social component (people), delivery architecture (technology), and a structured method to share information (process).  By transforming your SAP / IT Organization into a learning organization you are taking the first steps to bridge the gap between an enterprise focus and an external market or customer focus.

A learning organization requires motivation

The Wheels Fell Off My Learning Organization Bus

You’re excited about the possibilities, you announce your thoughts to your leadership, and you can hear a pin drop.  Except for Joe the brown-noser no one is jumping on your bus! Why should they?  It sounds like another fad, another task, something else to monitor.  It sounds like you’re talking about one of their worst fears and frustrations–, you’re talking dynamic cultural transformation and they’re hearing social media and more work.  Your managers are thinking “Have you lost your mind?  How do I manage all this social media stuff when I have to meet my other goals?”  My employees are already frayed, I have 2 employees going through a divorce, one of the two cries half the day and the other is despondent.  Their emotional weight and negative energy are dragging down two of my departments and now I have to play policeman around social media junk?

Get the Employees ON the Bus First (BEFORE You Start to Drive!)

Before you start promoting the idea of creating a learning organization it is important to do this in manageable and incremental steps.  The key is in making sure the key resources are ON the bus before you try to make the trip.  Otherwise it might be a pretty lonely trip with an empty bus!  It is important to get the broader business community in a more accepting posture for your SAP / IT organizational changes by using Change Management Strategies and Knowledge Transfer Processes for a Successful SAP Project 1

Lasting Change Begins at Home

As part of a 3 tier process for transforming your SAP or IT support organization you might begin with Change Management Strategies and Knowledge Transfer Processes for a Successful SAP Project 2 so the business gains greater application maturity.  As part of that internal focus it is just as important to address the How To Steps in the SAP Business Transformation Journey within your SAP IT organization.

The Right Information Right Now

The goal for the first phase is the right information right now within the SAP/IT Organization.  After the internal IT support organization is immersed in information sharing it can then be rolled out systematically to the other two key areas of the Enterprise and then to the broader marketplace.

Build the infrastructure to support a learning organization first

The right approach consists of three tiers which look like concentric circles.  These consist of creating a learning environment within the IT organization itself.  This must include both push and pull tools for collaboration and information exchange.  From there, the ability to build ad hoc and dynamic groups for decision-making, skills use, process insight, and other resource needs become the focus. 

This collaboration approach is the first step to ERP III – Is the Integration of Collaboration the Future of Enterprise Applications?  The three key phases to this organizational transformation include:

  • Make use of collaboration and social media tools within the organization
  • Deploy both push and pull information tools to leverage information resources
  • Create an internal employee skills base (like an internal LinkedIn)

Once the information sharing infrastructure is in place, then you can focus on creating an information consuming culture within your SAP or IT organization.  In other words, build the infrastructure to support a learning organization first!

High Level Steps to Build a Knowledge Based Learning Organization

  1. Build out the push / pull information infrastructure
  2. Make participation part of the goals / review / bonus structure
  3. Pilot this inside the IT organization
  4. Roll out to the entire IT organization
  5. Scale up and modify push / pull infrastructure.
  6. Pilot within a BU or business organization (i.e. begin to converge IT and the business)
  7. Capture lessons learned and adjust then roll out to the broader business community.
  8. Repeat the steps to roll out to the customer base…
  9. Repeat the steps to roll out to broader (possibly targeted) market segments

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The SAP User Experience

April 9th, 2012 by

SAP User Experience

SAP User Experience

Over a decade ago SAP embarked on a journey to revamp their outdated user interface.  Enter “nJoy” SAP with all of the new “N” transactions.  But it has been over a decade now and other than some nice refinements to the GUI not much has changed.  A decade in the technology space is like a century in other areas.  Isn’t it time to take a hard look at the application suite again?

So you have the cute “Netweaver Business Client” but there hasn’t been a lot done to change the user experience for SAP applications.

Features, Functionality, Usability, and Performance Directly Translate Into User Experience

SAP Features, Functionality, and German Engineering

Let’s look at SAP’s years of leadership in the features and functionality area of Enterprise applications:

  • No matter what any other enterprise software vendor claims they can not come close to the depth of enterprise application experience SAP has.  A recent SAP fact sheet claims more than 183,000 customers in more than 130 countries (retrieved 4/8/2012).
  • SAP supports at least 22 major industry vertical solutions [FN1] covering such diverse areas as Automotive, Banking, Chemicals, Governement (Public Sector), High Tech, Mining, Pharmaceutical, Retail, etc.  Each of these areas has its own specialized process nuances and the application additions require specialized support.

The SAP application suite is massive as well.  If you’ve ever looked at an SAP price list you’ve probably been thoroughly confused and overwhelmed.  The SAP enterprise application footprint is gigantic.  SAP R&D spend for 2011 was about 13.5% of gross revenue (or about 1.9B Euros) and with a few exceptions SAP R&D spend is generally in the double-digit area of gross revenue.  Think about that, 1.9B Euros in R&D spend is more than the gross revenue of most of their competitors enterprise application sales.

Consider the depth and breadth of application functionality in the context of the various solution options available (see Footnote 2 below for a SMALL sample from ONE Application Component area) [FN2].  If you’ve ever had to deal with an SAP price-list trying to develop enterprise solution architecture, or license requirements, you may quickly become overwhelmed by the massive feature and functionality landscape. 

SAP Performance Options

Many of SAP’s products are hardware and database agnostic.  I don’t mean that it will run on any hardware, or any database, but it will run on most major platforms.  Because of the way the applications are structured they will also run in what SAP callls “2 tier” or “3 tier” landscapes.  This means the applications are scalable, in both size and performance, to whatever level of hardware investment you decide.

With the introduction of SAP’s HANA in memory computing solution(s), performance within the application is changing by orders of magnitude.  Massive amounts of data and programs are now loaded into, and then read from memory rather than from hard drives.

Whether you want to scale up or use HANA system performance should never be an issue.

Usability, Usability on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Now we get to the heart of the matter.  As demonstrated SAP is a GREAT engineering company with huge R&D spend, a comprehensive industry solution portfolio, and a mountain of enterprise application options.  They’re German, what did you expect? Scalability and performance are not issues so the only area left is usability.

The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately on the user experience curve they are in the IT Stone Age.  While there are great functionality enhancements coming out in the various enhancement packs at the same time the ability to use the application suffers.  Each major version of the SAP GUI offers a more pleasing screen, but it is still the same underlying data entry requirement–, the same fields, the same tabs, the same screens, the same old everything with a little bit of “lipstick” added.  But it is still the same fat, bloated, over-engineered user experience. 

SAP User Experience Customizing Pain

Please, don’t tell me about GUI XT or any of the other “customizing” options for screen layouts.  The starting point stinks and then you expect a customer to pay (consulting time, employee time, system integrator time, etc.) to enhance or modify the screens.  The SAP enhancement or modification option is not simple either — a simple screen enhancement is a significant engineering undertaking.  Unlike several modern “drag and drop” applications SAP requires development work to add new fields, change field labels, populate data in those fields during transaction run time, screen development is needed to “build” a new screen layout, and then you have to reassign a new “Z” transaction with copies of the modified underlying programs, adjust security, etc.  It takes a major engineering effort to make SMALL changes to the user experience.  SAP you have GOT to change this!  Your customers should be able to focus on the user interface without having to worry about all of the underlying engineering.

A Model for the SAP User Experience

Recently I offered The PERFECT SAP Acquisition Target in a CRM application called “SugarCRM.” As an SAP consultant who wants to see SAP continue to do well there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from them.  They are a cloud vendor who has set their target on Salesforce.com.  They provide a great navigation and ease of use experience.  And best of all, you can alter field labels, hide fields, add custom fields, completely change the layout of screens, and a whole host of other things without having to do any coding at all. Even if this isn’t an acquisition possibility for SAP it might help some of those German engineers in the SAP CRM space to download the opensource version and explore it.  Maybe they will learn a little something from a scrappy upstart who recently received $46 million in venture capital.  And this was from several VC organizations so a number of investors are betting millions on SugarCRM’s marketplace viability–, even in a marketplace saturated by salesforce.com and Microsoft.

Apple has Proven that User Experience Can MAKE the Market by Addressing Customer Pain Points

It’s been a long time SAP since you have seriously considered a remake of the user experience.  Since then Apple has proven that addressing customer “pain points” is a market winner. It’s about time to take another hard look at the user interface and user interactions because SAP “usability” has always been a customer pain point.  The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.  Don’t you think it’s time to get really serious about the user experience paradigm?

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[FN1] Retrieved 4/8/2012 from http://help.sap.com/industries.  Along with this there are “sub” solutions within several of the industries and across industries.

[FN2]

SAP Application Components

like SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure, SAP BOBJ Spend Performance Mgmt, SAP CRM, SAP ERP, SAP SCM, SAP SNC, SAP SRM, …

SAP Best Practices

SAP Best Practices packages are available in different country versions for various industries

SAP BusinessObjects portfolio

like Address Directories & Reference Data, Crystal Reports Viewer, SBOP Data Federator, SBOP Enterprise, SBOP Extended Analytics, SBOP Text Analysis, …

SAP Business One

like SAP Business One 8.8, SAP Business One 2007, Crystal Reports for B1, Remote Support Platform for B1, …

SAP Connectors

like Business Connector, …

SAP Content

like BI CONT, SAP Business ByDesign CONTENT, …

SAP Cryptographic Software

like SAP Cryptographic Library, …

SAP Development Projects

like customer-specific development projects software, …

SAP Education Products

like Acrobat Con Learning by Adobe, Knowledge Acceleration, RWD Info Pak Suite, SAP Productivity Pak by RWD, SAP UEM by KNOA, Training Content for SAP KW, …

SAP Frontend Components

like NetWeaver Business Client, SAP GUI for Windows, SAP GUI for JAVA, SAP ITS, SAP IGS, …

SAP In-Memory (SAP HANA)

like SAP HANA Enterprise Edition, SAP HANA Enterprise Ext. Edit., SAP HANA Platform Edition

SAP Mobile Solutions

like MOB ACCAPROVER INT, MOB HR APPROVAL INT, MOB MGR INSIGHT IPD, …

SAP NetWeaver and complementary products

like SAP NetWeaver, SAP NetWeaver CE, SAP NetWeaver Mobile, SAP NW Identity Management, SAP MDM, SAP Content Server, …

SAP On-Demand Solutions

like SAP Sales OD Integration

SAP Rapid Deployment solutions

like SAP Business Communication Management rapid-deployment solution, SAP CRM rapid-deployment solution for Sales, Marketing, and Service, SAP IT Service Desk Operation rapid-deployment solution, …

SAP Solution Extensions by Partners

like BOBJ XBRL Publishing UBMatrix, SAP CPS Full (Scheduler), SAP Ext. Diagn. by CA Wily, SAP IncentivePayback by Vistex, SAP Quality Center by HP, …

SAP Solutions for Governance, Risk, and Compliance

like SAP Global Trade Services, SAP GRC Access Control, SAP Process Control, SAP Risk Management, SAP Nota Fiscal Electronica, …

SAP Technology Components

like LV for Solution Manager, Remote Support Component, SAP Landscape Transformation, SAP Solution Manager, SAP Support Enablement Package, SAP TAO, …

Adapters

like Informatica, IWay, Seeburger, for SAP NetWeaver 04 (EP Edition), for SAP XI 2.0, …

Composite Applications

like Industry Composites Applications (SAP COMP App for BOP, for E-Tax) SAP DOCB, SAP CQM, SAP XIEP, SAP XLPO, SAP SOP, …

Country-specific Add-Ons

like HR-CIS, SAP Core CEE, SAP E-Recruiting – LOCFR, SAP HR-CEE, SAP IS-U/LOCIN, SAP IS-UT CEE, SAP Real Estate CEE, …

Fuzzy! Products

like Fuzzy! Analyzer, Fuzzy! Bank, Fuzzy!Boykottcheck, Fuzzy! Double, Fuzzy! Post, Fuzzy! Umzug, …

Industry-specific Components

like Banking Services from SAP, SAP Bank Analyzer, SAP CFM, SAP Deposits Management, SAP Discrete Industries, SAP Insurance, SAP IS-U, SAP Mill Products, SAP Oil & Gas, SAP Patient Management, SAP Retail, SAP Trade Industry Demand Mgmt, …

Miscellaneous Components

like AppServer LINUXx86 64 on 6.40, Convergence Tool, SAP Kernel, …

Plug-Ins

like SAP Plug-In, SAP Enterprise Portal Plug-In, SAP Solution Tools, …

Supplementary Components for Cross Industry Solutions

like Project Management, Life-Cycle Data Management (SAP PLM Integrations), SAP Railcar Management, SAP Test Data Migration Server, SAP Visual Basis, …

Sybase Products

like AFARIA, Sybase Mobile Sales, Sybase Mobile Workflow, Sybase Unwired Platform, …

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Organizational Change Management Inside the SAP IT Support Organization

April 2nd, 2012 by

SAP Business IT Convergence

SAP Business IT Convergence

The last few weeks have focused on the path for IT leaders to become strategic business partners.  Academic research shows that for Sustained Business Value from SAP Business Software you must focus technology implementation efforts on business benefits.  This includes metrics to determine if business goals were achieved by the software implementation effort.

Achieving Business Value from SAP Investment was about case studies which evaluated organizations which applied a business benefits approach.  These case studies determined the business benefits focus also requires organizational change management.  Several years before these case studies I wrote about SAP as a Change Enabler which provides a good summary of what the authors found in their 35 page study. 

On this journey to SAP Enabled Business Transformation for IT Leadership we reviewed some of the senior leadership work by CIO Magazine and their 3 stage competency model of:

  • Internal Focus
  • Enterprise Focus
  • External Focus

Insight and activities to address the Internal Focus area were provided in the How To Steps in the SAP Business Transformation Journey and the Phase 6 RUN SAP ASAP Methodology.  This post will offer insight on taking your SAP or IT organization to the next level.  The focus now is on the Enterprise area with additional efforts to prepare your SAP IT support organization for External focus.

Making SAP About Business Transformation and Business Benefit

To move your SAP organization to the next level means your efforts must take SAP IT Convergence Beyond Business to IT Alignment.  As previously discussed, the Internal Focus in this maturity model is about “keeping the lights on” with your enterprise systems.  The next level requires a deliberate focus on convergence by IT leadership because SAP IT Convergence is About Business Focused Integration–, it is NOT about IT!

IT leaders must be deliberate about working through a full IT competency model–, there are no shortcuts! 

There is no “magical formula” for suddenly transforming your SAP or IT organization into a market and customer focused powerhouse.  It is a methodical path driven by an internal (senior level) champion to move the entire IT organization through the preliminary steps before arriving at the external market / customer / business competitive pressure focus.  Here is the ugly reality, no matter how smart, talented, diligent, hardworking, dedicated, or committed your IT staff are, or how hard you work as a leader, until you gain a trusted peer relationship with the business any externally focused efforts will not be well received.  The good news for many SAP organizations who provided great business resources for your SAP project is that you have a lot of talent to tap into to help bridge the business gap for an Enterprise Focus.

Some of the Steps to Achieve SAP IT Convergence require deliberate efforts at internal SAP support organization transformation.  A few maturity characteristics of that enterprise focus are:

  • SAP and IT staff communications, internally and externally, are more in business language rather than technology.
  • Proactively seeks out new business opportunities.
  • Able to interpret, and then implement, business marketplace requirements by turning them into technology solutions.
  • Adapts to business market conditions.
  • Not worried about the latest “techie buzz” like social media (Twitter, Facebook), cloud, etc. unless there is a direct business marketplace connection.

To be effective you must work at Integrating Business Stakeholders as Part of SAP IT Convergence.  I call a “converged” SAP or IT organization a “Center of Excellence” because it goes far beyond the SAP Center of Expertise.  The SAP Center of Excellence concept should not to be confused with SAP’s “borrowing” of the term in some of the sales literature.  Generally when SAP refers to a “Center of Excellence” they are talking about their “lights on” support oriented “Center of Expertise” where you as the customer take care of some of the support you pay them for.  To achieve this you need continued and ongoing Steering Committee Governance for an SAP Center of Excellence.

Organizational Change for the SAP and IT staff

One of the key arrangements I have seen over the years, which some of the commentators are beginning to explore, is a dual IT organization.  One part focuses on day to day support (“lights on”) while the other part addresses key business needs in the business environment.

1) Create a solid internal “anchor” focus with emphasis on bridging the business perception of any “capability/expectation gap” (Louie Ehrlich, President, Chevron Information Technology Company, and CIO, Chevron Corp).

That capability / expectation gap is related to taking care of the “lights on” IT functions in such a way that IT is effective and reliable.  The internal focus is where IT operates almost like a utility, the electricity is on but we really don’t think about it unless it goes out and then it is a big disruption because it is generally so reliable.

2) Try to develop more internal employee “exchange programs”.  This is an effective approach to build bridges between business and IT.  But it really should go both ways.  Not just IT embedded into the business, but certain business stakeholders embedded into IT.  This is one way to “be deliberate” integrating your IT organization into the business.

Work to create a “converged” IT organization RATHER than an “aligned” IT organization. 

As my previous post on ERP II & ERP III – SAP Business IT Revolution, from a TechRepublic.com article:

“IT has to stop thinking of itself as a business utility and start seeing itself as a business catalyst. In order to do that, it’s going to have to think in business terms and economic impact for everything it does…”

Creating a Learning Organization Through Collaboration and Knowledge Management

Another key phase which we may visit in the future is about creating a “learning organization” first within the circles of the SAP IT organization, and then within the broader business community.  This collaboration network will serve as a critical foundation for the third stage, or the “external” focus.  In ERP III – Is the Integration of Collaboration the Future of Enterprise Applications we take a look at Learning Organizations, Knowledge Transfer, and Knowledge Management (rather than information management). 

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