Skip to Content

SAP’s University Alliances (UA) program offers a tremendous opportunity for universities to incorporate very powerful, world class software into their curriculum at a very low cost. I have been involved with UA and SAP for over a decade.  During this time, I have had many conversations with colleagues about a variety of topics – curriculum, faculty, students, employers, politics, cost, benefits, etc.   Universities have approached the use of SAP in the curriculum in a number of different ways.  My sense is that a number of universities in the program are not taking full advantage of membership in UA, and that a number of other institutions might be hesitant to join.  I’d like to offer some ideas on how schools can get the most amount of value out of their SAP programs for students and employers.

The purpose of this post is to stimulate a discussion to identify the key issues, obstacles, success stories, etc. that may help us better understand how to take full advantage of our and SAP’s investment in UA.  In addition, since the companies on SCN represent all of the “consumers” of our “products” (i.e. “graduates”) that these SAP schools produce, I welcome thoughts from the broader SCN community on how to “produce” (i.e. “educate”) the right kind of employees who will thrive in your companies (see point #4 below).

Here are some broad areas for discussion:

1.  Joining the UA.  Joining the UA program is not trivial for most universities as it requires a significant investment in time, effort and money.  How can we help other universities make the case to their colleagues and administrators that participating in the UA program is a win/win/win for all concerned?  What will be the vision for a program that takes advantage of what UA has to offer? What are the goals of such a program?

What was your motivation for joining the UA?  What convinced people at your institution to join?  What do you hope to achieve?  What are the key obstacles? What advice can you offer potential participants?

At Grand Valley State University, we have a very supportive leadership team, a highly energized group of faculty, and a very involved group of local companies (mostly SAP customers) that made this happens. Our vision is to differentiate our business school from other programs in the region, to integrate our business curriculum to move away from a silo (functional) focus and to move to a process (cross-functional) focus.  We seek to provide students with skills and capabilities that will set them apart. 

2.  Developing a sound strategy.  Once a university joins the UA program, it will need a strategy to achieve the vision and goals.  What is your strategy? At Grand Valley, given our goal of integrating the entire curriculum, we developed a very detailed case of a manufacturing company (it makes skateboards and accessories), and implemented it in SAP ERP.  A variety of exercises and mini-cases or case extensions are developed that address specific processes, issues, concepts, and techniques. Courses in different disciplines utilize the exercises and case, and SAP, where appropriate.  We believe that the use of a common case across the curriculum and the use of SAP in many courses provide a high level of integration and give students a deep of understanding of processes. 

We have now moved to Global Bicycle, Inc. (GBI), which, incidentally Grand Valley students helped develop.  GBI is an excellent platform to develop cases and exercises in many different disciplines and for different pedagogical goals. 

3.  Motivating faculty.  One of the biggest hurdles is to motivate faculty to use SAP in the classroom.  My discussions with colleagues have revealed a number of reasons, but they all come down to too much effort and not enough rewards.  There is always a small group of faculty that is motivated by the opportunity to do something unique and innovative, and something that provides tremendous value to our students.  However, to get past the “early adopters” stage, this issue must be addressed.  How are you handling this?

At Grand Valley, we have a very supportive environment that tries to reward faculty.  I say tries because it is a good step, but not nearly sufficient, in my opinion. Institutional inertia is the key obstacle.  We seem entrenched in our existing reward systems.  Nonetheless, curriculum development grants, release time, training, and the opportunity to create and teach an interesting course are good motivators.

Another reason faculty seem reluctant to use SAP in the classroom is that they do not wish to appear ignorant in front of their students.  Yes.  I have heard this from many.  We have all had issues with “live demos.”   Some of us will take it in stride.   Others will not take that chance.   How do you address this?

At Grand Valley, we offer training as well as a very competent group of student interns to support the faculty.  The interns are available to assist in creating and testing exercises, grading, helping students, and helping in the class/ lab. 

4.  Involving local and regional employers. Ultimately, the success of the program is indicated by external validity.  If employers are involved, life is much easier!  How do you get them involved?  Involvement can take several forms.  How are your local companies involved with your program?

Our program was in development mode for several years.  Once the program was in place, we went into phase II – the promoting/PR mode.  We actively sought out local and regional companies through connections and by hosting events (e.g., ASUG).  The goal was to inform them of our program and convince them to support it.  Support comes  in a number of different ways.  Internships and placement is a key.  Several of our employers did not previously recruit our students; until we convinced them to sample our “product”.  Now they come back every semester.  The product has to be great; which means that the program – curriculum, faculty, and students – has to be great.  Other forms of involvement include:  advisory board, in-class participation (guest lectures, project mentors), speakers, site visits, and faculty sabbaticals.  All have been very important in selling the program to our administrators.

5. Acquiring needed resources.  Developing a good program that takes full advantage of what UA offers is not cheap.  I have mentioned several activities at our university (development grants, student interns, training, etc.) that cost money.  Especially in the current economic environment, obtaining the needed resources is a major issue.  How are you addressing this?

We have been able to make a good case for our program.  It took several years where the funding was provided on faith! (I think I told you we have a supportive leadership team).  However, we do have significant, tangible results. Our students are highly recruited, locally and regionally. Our alumni are our best bets to spread the word; and they do.  The hardest part is to get an employer to “sample the product” but once they do, they are hooked.  As indicated in the previous section, our local companies are very involved in our program.  This external validation of the program is the best way to convince administrators to provide funding for needed activities.

6.  Other issues, activities, suggestions.  There are clearly a number of other things to talk about.  What about recruiting the best students and keeping them engaged (social media?), promoting the program (a website, brochures, etc.), student organizations (we have one – the Enterprise Systems Student Union), certifications (always a plus).

This posting is an attempt to get a discussion going to help us all learn from each other about how we can take advantage of the UA program to develop educational programs that meet the needs of the global, networked economy.  There are many different paths to success.   Comments, suggestions, and critiques are welcome.

To report this post you need to login first.

8 Comments

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.

  1. William Kuttruff

    Simha, this is a great post and although I do not have the experience working in the education field and fighting for the UA program, I believe your points are dead on. I think the SAP’s University Alliances (UA) program is a win-win-win for the Universities that participate (the investment must have a high ROI); the student who has the opportunity to graduate with a documented skillset that is immediately marketable and of course SAP/ASUG. I for one have job openings on projects that would have been a perfect fit for US grads; trainees and junior consultants who have had SAP classroom training and certificates.

    (0) 
  2. Paul Hawking

    Good Blog Simha

    The blog talks about the benefits of the SAP University Alliance Program (UAP) to universities and there is no doubt with a good strategy it can create opportunities for universities that they could only dreamed about previously.  Many universities around the world have realised this and benefited from some of these opportunities.  The SAP ecosystem is slowly starting to realise the importance of the SAP UAP to all involved. 

    The smart companies realise that they have to be innovative to source new SAP skilled resources in a competitive market. One approach is to acquire graduates with entry level skills.  These companies are reaching out to UAP member universities to work closer with them and support their programs in an endeavour to get the best graduate skills.  This cooperation brings increased relevance to the program while at the same time enthusing students.  For many of the universities who work closely with companies the level of skills the graduates attain increases significantly.

    From the SAP perspective there has been the long time realisation that a major risk to projects and potentially sales revenue is the lack of available skills.  Accordingly SAP have developed and continually support the UAP program.  SAP also realise that these graduates will occupy senior positions in the future and the more  who are exposed to SAP software the better it will be for SAP in the long run.  This is especially true with SAP providing free access for universities to Business By Design.  This is a great teaching tool but there is limited demand for skilled graduates at the moment.  SAP certainly realise the marketing potential of providing BYD to universities and should be commended for this initiative.

    As you said the UAP is a win-win-win; but not just for universities but the entire ecosystem.

    Regards

    Paul

    (0) 
  3. Ryan Fleischmann

    To any educator who has just read Simha’s post: He’s absolutely right.

    I’m one of the fortunate students that had the opportunity to participate in the MIS/SAP program at Grand Valley and it made a huge difference not only in my life and career, but my other classmates in the program. The job market for new graduates can be tough. However what I gained through Grand Valley, and by extension, the UA, was a set of skills that made getting interviews and offers for great jobs far easier than if I had chosen a more generic business (or even computer science!) degree.

    (0) 
  4. Vicki Webster

    My university is new to the Alliance. This community is great! I am somewhat perplexed that even with the investment universities incur to participate that actually getting started as a faculty member is such a problematic process. It feels a bit like you sign the paperwork and after the sale, you’re still not sure what you’ve actually purchased. I don’t mean the software. I mean with the UA in a sense. Individual professors have done a great job with posting their own curriculum. But, the process seems to be missing a START HERE arrow for faculty members.

    Gaining buy in from faculty members is tough, that is true. But, even for faculty who are excited about joining in, the process of “getting started” is kind of like…okay, go find some materials, figure out what you need…and hopefully it’ll work out for you. I’m sure it does, over time, but initially, it feels like we do to new entrants, what we tell students not to do with end users. There have been people willing to tell me, that I should ask for this or ask for that…but at the end of day, I’m left thinking…shouldn’t they have known I would need it? This program seems to have been around for awhile, and this couldn’t have been a new question.

    This is my first year, my first semester, in fact. I have no doubt, it gets better. But, apparently, it gets better with trial and error, not necessarily because of the process in place. And, even as I type this, I shudder to think that this current process is probably wonderful compared to how some of you must’ve entered this system, years ago.

    Well, keep up the good work! Thanks for all that you do. I try to read everything I can find. I also try not to bug my UCC too much. But, alas, I’m considering contacting them now. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help my students gain the knowledge they need.

    (0) 
    1. Paul Hawking

      Hi Vicki

      I know it can be daunting to start.  I suppose the reason there is no START HERE is because the SAP journey can be very different for different universities.  Some universities want to teach about ERP systems while others want to use SAP software to reinforce business or IT concepts.  Another aspect is the level of students, their background and the duration off the subject or subjects.

      I can certainly help you with the right direction but I would need this background information.  We have approximately 20 subjects that incorporate SAP solutions so there is not one obvious path. 

      I have also trained lots of academics on various aspects of SAP solutions and curriculum.  There have been some who have received training and taught SAP for the first time 3 weeks later and they were pleasantly surprised by the effort they expected compared to the reality.  But again this depends on where you want to start. 

      If you want to discuss this more then you cant contact me at (paul.hawking@vu.edu.au).

      Good Luck

      Paul Hawking

      SAP Academic Program Director

      Victoria University

      Australia

      SAP Mentor

      (0) 
    2. Heather Czech

      Vicki,

      Paul was right on in his comments.  We want to ensure that professors have the academic freedom to use our software in a way that best meets the needs of their own students and the companies that hire them.  Universities use a variety of software in a diverse set of courses, so there is no “one way is right”. 

      In North America, where your campus is, we offer webinars for professors new to UA where we try to address the big questions – about UAC, working with your UCC, workshops and other topics that are typically of interest.  We have webinars specifically for the faculty coordinator on each campus (Rebecca H is your coordinator) to help them become more familiar with the program so they can coach their colleagues as the first line of support.  We have a fall webinar series to introduce all our professors to new content, an online Intro workshop to get folks started now, and a full workshop event in early January to prepare professors for the spring semester.  So there are lots of upcoming opportunities to learn about UA, get comfortable with SAP software and our curriculum content, and decide what works best for you.

      That said, I can understand where all these choices can feel like a lot early on.  It is a challenge the UA team tries to address.  We have about 1,400 professors in the Americas participating from 250 member institutions.  They represent discplines across business, computer science and engineering.  Some are very technial, others are decidedly non-technical, some experienced with SAP some not.  It is a balancing act as we try to have content, delivery mechanisms, resources for a diverse group of individuals.

      I have asked your local program manager, John Baxter, to connect with you and Rebecca on Monday.  If you have already reached out to UWM as your note suggested you might – they are great resources as you begin as well.  The UWM team is very knowledgeable.

      Best Regards,

      Heather

      (0) 
      1. Vicki Webster

        Heather,

        Yes, the UWM team is a great resource! They are always willing to assist and are quite prompt in providing any assistance that I need. I have no doubt that what Paul said is actually quite the case. With so many professors at so many different institutions, there couldn’t possibly be a one size fits all solution.

        I am actually quite excited about the opportunity to wrap my brain around this platform.

        (0) 

Leave a Reply