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How to Effectively Implement SAP S/4HANA Training

Whitepaper by:Joanne Harrison
Director of Sales

As of Q1 2020, SAP reported a total of 14,100 global subscribers for S/4HANA.

This figure has grown significantly in recent years and will continue to do so, with SAP ending its support for legacy ERP systems in 2027, customers are already beginning to deploy SAP’s next-generation system, with others planning how best to migrate to S/4HANA. While the main driver for S/4HANA growth is legacy migration, SAP sales also include 40% net-new business. 

In this time of lock-down and social distancing, training and user adoption will be crucial for S/4HANA success. Businesses will need to use every trick in the book to plan and deliver both engaging and effective training. To support S/4HANA implementations you will need to develop flexible and bespoke training solutions – and this goes for pre- and post-launch.

User adoption is crucial to ERP success 

The business impact of employees not understanding or adopting your new SAP S/4HANA system will be costly and potentially catastrophic. Even when you have completed your deployment and gone live, your journey toward ensuring improved operational performance is only starting.

It is wise to consider training and user adoption at the earliest possible stage of a project. By not leaving training as a last-minute afterthought, you will deliver productivity as you scale. Learning from your early steps will improve your future performance. So, how do you bring training into early project stages? 

Engagement

Some of the most successful SAP S/4HANA implementations have been where businesses have included key end-user or project team training even before the project’s design phase.

Experience

The wider you can build your project team – the more experience you can bring to bear. Combining internal business experience and external knowledge of best practice is your best bet to create a system that will meet business objectives rather than technically implement SAP S/4HANA.

Expertise

You can use an external training provider strategically, not only to create a bespoke training programme for users but to help shape the role segmentation, learning objectives and course structures. 

Let’s look at how pre- and post-launch user engagement differ, and the critical steps needed for successful adoption.

Pre-launch training steps

The danger with an S/4HANA implementation is that the pre-project business case activities can often be limited to senior management and system architects. This can lead to an overstatement of benefits and underestimating the change that the new system will bring.

When migrating to SAP S/4HANA from an existing SAP ECC system – there are many functional and architecture changes to take into consideration. Changes in user interface and business modules will have a significant effect on how the business operates post-launch. 

If you are implementing from scratch, you will not have the particular complexities of SAP migration to deal with, but you will still embark on a difficult journey to define and deliver your SAP end-user training.

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Building your team

Engaging the best experts and ‘real knowledge’ early in your project is vital. Otherwise, they may not see the planned system until user acceptance testing. By this time, it’s too late to change without significant project delays.

There are several options to look at when planning, developing and delivering an S/4HANA training programme. These will affect how you put your teams together. The main options to consider are: 

As we have shown, a mix of internal and external expertise is usually the best model.

  • In-house alone often don’t have all the knowledge, sufficient resources or spare capacity.
  • A specialist training provider does not fully understand the business or have the project sponsors’ direct authority. 

Injecting training into project timeline

Typically your project would progress following a waterfall staged approach. Here’s how to ensure user adoption and training are inserted into every stage.

Stage 1 – Pilot stage

The first stage of the project would typically involve an implementation for one business unit. This would help define a global standard approach. However, you have to beware of bias where the first stage chosen, whether for technology or capability, doesn’t represent the business as a whole.

What you should do: 

Define your pilot very careful to get the maximum benefit – and clearly state the pilot’s objectives.

Ensure that you have external training resources as part of the pilot stage. They can act as a subject matter expert and help to define roles, identify super-users and start to suggest training methods and content. 

Stage 2 – Implementation

The new system is then implemented across different geographies/business units.

What you should do:

1. Plan the logistics

Prepare in advance and learn from each new roll-out stage to ensure technical systems are fit for purpose, e.g. video conferencing tools are set up, and users have the tools they need.

2. Segment your training 

There are many ways to segment the training needs of your employees. Here are some examples.

  • By role: especially for larger-scale implementations
  • Location: Focusing on local initiatives
  • Language
  • Age: Addressing generational differences
  • Level of proficiency: making onboarding of new people easier
  • By business area: for example, the accounts receivable department  

3. Focus on delivery and content

Think outside the box as far as training content is concerned. For example:

  • Engage users with questions and interactive tasks.
  • Investigate the best way to demonstrate processes via screen sharing.
  • Provide opportunities to allow users to consolidate their learning via practise.

 


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Post-launch training steps

You have invested a substantial amount of time and money implementing your SAP S/4HANA ERP system – you have hit your go-live date and launched. The key question at this stage is: Do you know how your employees are using the new system?

While the immediate focus for any SAP S/4HANA user adoption programme will be on achieving a successful go-live, user adoption will have to be closely watched post-launch. 

Measure adoption success

You need to accurately measure adoption to ensure that users make the most of new processes and systems. End-user adoption feedback, especially when obtained early, is detailed, qualitative, and received directly from end users. 

You will also now have real user data – not just at the system level, but down to individual screens – giving visibility of where adoption is not as expected or where there are performance bottlenecks. You can now:

  • Monitor interactions with the system to identify usability issues.
  • Pinpoint training-needs gaps by taking a view of errors by business process.
  • Compare system usage, adoption, and policy compliance with expected performance.

Plan changes

Once you have a good grasp on user behaviour, and maybe their frustrations, you can begin to address these issues – and they may not be solely training-related.

They may involve:

  • Making system design changes
  • Improving usability
  • Removing redundant process steps 
  • Delivering more targeted training
  • Editing end user training materials
  • Communicating changes more effectively to users

Execute well

Once changes are being rolled-out, your modified training will need to be available from anywhere and at any time, you may not have the luxury of a pre-launch staged approach this time. The good news is your training will now reflect any nuances picked up with experience.  

Knowledge is power

Training drives and supports change, enabling people to add value to the business. As with any system, understanding how and why it works helps ensure people are comfortable and skilled at using it. Errors occur less. People feel more confident and in control. 

Leading companies are already making the connection between digital transformation and training and acting accordingly. The way to implement SAP S/4HANA training is to take a user-centric, rather than a systems centric approach – and plan your whole-life user adoption accordingly. 

Having perfected our ERP training methodology for over 20 years, we believe Optimum’s approach is the obvious choice to ensure a successful SAP S/4HANA rollout – get in touch with our team of experts today.

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