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Author's profile photo Cory Coley-Christakos

SAP Education: From Evolution to Revolution

“Over the past 150 years, virtually everything has changed… except education.”

A quote from “Turning Learning Right Side Up”, by Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg


And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve read several versions of the same theme recently: our educational system and structures were designed to meet the demands of the Industrial Revolution, and while many fundamental aspects of our society have changed, educational reform has lagged behind.   

The need for a new learning paradigm applies not only to K-12 and higher education, but also to employee development programs in a corporate setting, which need to be designed around added complexities such as age diversity and geographic distribution. 

According to a May 2010 HBR article Mentoring Millennials, “In four years Millennials… will account for nearly half the employees in the world.  In some companies, they already constitute a majority.”   Millennials tend to have a different relationship with technology, which implies the ability to leverage new tools and types of learning.  But this is not the only factor to consider in the design of corporate training programs.  People simply learn differently for a number of reasons, and some people have more of an affinity for Web-based tools than others.  As Mitch Joel says, it’s attitudinal not generational.   (Just for fun, try the quiz How Millennial Are You?  I scored 78, which put me firmly in the Millennial category, although my twenties are well behind me.)

The current Information Age seems to be accompanied by a general decline in the average attention span.  Furthermore, the pace of business continues to accelerate, meaning training has to be delivered in a timelier manner.  As a result, employees prefer short learning bursts which can be fit more conveniently into a busy schedule. 

There are a host of other factors to consider.  Some people adapt well to a more social learning style, which augments formal training with mentoring, social networking with peers or even gaming.  New employees will require different types of training than experienced ones.  Remote workers will need to leverage mobile options more frequently.  An updated version of the “Shift Happens” video on YouTube states that by 2020, “The mobile device will be the world’s primary connection tool to the Internet”.  This has incredible implications for mobile learning.

What does all this mean?  My personal conclusion is that we should understand that different team members have different learning needs and styles, and adopt an overall training strategy that integrates flexible learning models in innovative ways.  Easier said than done, I’m sure.


But WHY?

The bigger question, of course, is not “how” to train, but “why”?

According to An Interview with ERP training thought leader, Cushing Anderson of IDC, who interviewed Cushing Anderson of IDC, it’s because there is a strong link between training and the strategic business plan of an enterprise.  In an SAP context, ERP software typically represents the essential IT backbone of an organization, and training helps ensure that this backbone is running effectively.

Cushing has reported that:

  • IT projects allocating 7% of the budget to training were twice as successful as projects where only 2% of the budget went to training.
  • Aside from the technology, the most important factor in determining the success of a particular IT solution is the skill of the IT functional team.
  • Over 60% of IT managers believe that the skill of their teams is the most important success criterion for critical IT functions .

And when it comes to end users, Gartner studies found that untrained end users cost significantly more than trained ones.  Imagine the errors and lost productivity, not to mention the increased support costs.

One of the unfortunate outcomes of the economic crisis is that corporate training budgets have not yet recovered, which jeopardizes an organization’s ability to get the most out of their software.

On the bright side, although economic imperatives and sustainability concerns (i.e. the carbon impact of travelling) have slowed the demand for traditional classroom training, the same factors have expedited the introduction of new training modalities such as virtual and e-learning, and there’s innovation galore in the areas of social and mobile. 


From Evolution to Revolution

While plenty of people still prefer to take courses in a traditional classroom setting, the SAP Education business has certainly seen a transition in demand to virtual live training and e-learning scenarios.  This is an “evolutionary” step, in that it takes the old model of training and moves it online.   

Where we’re headed now is more of a learning “revolution” which has the potential to dramatically change the face of education.  If you’re interested in exploring this with a learning thought leader, SAP will host Elliott Masie in a free Webcast on May 27th 2010 (noon Eastern) to discuss Navigating The Ever-Changing Learning Landscape


Related Blogs:

Andy Klee has released some great reading material recently here on SCN:

The ERP Training Life Cycle

An Interview with ERP training thought leader, Cushing Anderson of IDC

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