Business Solutions with SAP

performanceContinuing on the theme from a previous post about getting SAP expertise do you need SAP Technicians or Experts? There is academic study I want to take some time to review about gaining SAP ROI and reducing your SAP TCO.

The study points out the type of SAP project team expertise to gain ROI and competitive advantage from your ERP project.  If you want real return, real results, and real benefits then you need real skill (see e.g. Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2).

These consulting skills for SAP project benefit are available but they are difficult to find even in economically challenging environments.  What the marketplace needs is reproducibly superior performance, or real expertise.

Reproducibly Superior Performance for SAP Projects

The academic study has significant implications for any type of expertise, across any domain of experience. 

The study itself was quite lengthy and boring but in spite of the “dry read” it was one of the most enlightening studies I have read in years.  The basic premise is that with few exceptions it really is possible for anyone to be a superstar. 

Ericsson, K., Roring, R., and Nandagopal, K. (2007);  Giftedness and evidence for reproducibly superior performance: an account based on the expert performance framework.  High Ability Studies Vol. 18, No. 1, June 2007, pp. 3–56.

Boring or not this is required for every HR employee, every manager, every supervisor, and every executive who is interested in the secret to breakthrough success.  It is required reading for anyone who manages people, processes, or has any form of leadership role in a company.  And it is among the most critical reading for anyone considering a vendor selection for an SAP implementation.

ANY “technician” can ask questions, but only experts can efficiently, effectively, and fully address the issues or problems those questions raise.  In some cases only an expert can even understand the issue or problem.

The “Expert Performance” Study Background and its Broad Implications for SAP Consulting

The lengthy study (over 50 pages) does a thorough and fairly comprehensive evaluation of studies, literature, and research dating back as far as 1904 to the year of the publication in 2007.

The research on Expert Performance has wide ranging application to nearly any domain of expertise

The authors challenge the idea that “giftedness” is an inherent attribute that cannot be reproduced.  The study offers a very compelling and accurate evaluation (or criticism) of past analytical approaches to superior performance.  They pointed to research problems in reliability and methodologies from prior studies which suggested “giftedness” is an innate trait. 

What the authors show is that in nearly any focused domain of expertise it is possible to achieve significant levels of consistent superior performance.  They evaluated the domains of scientific research / discovery, memory, medicine, chess, various professional (and Olympic) sports, aptitude tests (reading, writing, math, verbal, and IQ), art , music, professional writing, psychology, and other areas. 

What is the Expert Performance Approach?

The study’s authors advocate for a new method of evaluating, developing, and pursuing high performance called the “expert performance approach.”  That approach, summed up in a phrase is the relentless pursuit of excellence.  It means that “reproducibly superior performance [is the result of] extended periods of incremental development” (Ericsson, K., et. al. 2007, pg. 14).  At roughly 10 years of experience, with a minimum of 10,000 hours of focused effort it has “been found to be closely correlated with the attainment of expert and elite performance in a wide range of domains…” (Ericsson, K., et. al. 2007, pg. 17).

“[E]ven the most ‘talented’ need 10 years or more of intense involvement before they reach a level where they can consistently demonstrate superior performance in international adult competitions in sports, sciences and the arts… Even in cases of famous legends, such as prodigies like Bobby Fischer, the required time to reach grandmaster status was still around nine years, and it took another two decades before Fischer played for the world championship. In many domains of expertise, most elite individuals take considerably longer than 10 years of intensive practice to win international competitions consistently. Further, outstanding scientists and authors normally publish their first work at around age 25 after an extended preparation, and their best work takes an additional 10 years…[E]ngaging in particular practice activities produces dramatically elevated levels of performance over an extended period of time.” (Ericsson, K., et. al. 2007, ppg. 16, 17)

The implications of this research for system integrators in the SAP and ERP space cannot be underestimated.  Because of the way consulting companies are structured and operate it is nearly impossible to achieve expert performance levels from their consultants.  Even consultants who really desire to achieve expertise find the consulting firm culture difficult to ensure domain expertise is acquired.


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Bill Wood
+1 (704) 905 – 5175
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