The There are other Careers Series – The Trainer
This the first blog in a series to call out and also pay homage to the other skills out there. Within this space, members come here to ask for advice as to what SAP careers they should investigate. Most answers comes down to Technical (Basis, Security, Development, BI/BW/BoBJ), Functional (pick a module) or techno-functional (the apparent magic hybrid). If not, they suggest the current flavours of the year: Fiori, HANA, Cloud and Mobile.
But there other job profiles and skills out there that contribute to the SAP ecosystem and the first one I thought to discuss is the Trainer. Of all the other jobs out there (and there are quite a few when you break you project and system support down to the people who keep it running), trainers – our educators – are one of the first groups I take my hat off to and thank.
I’m from a family of teachers and have been brought up in a home which believes where education is imperative and key to a successful career. Education is an opportunity to bring about equality and break down social barriers. Learning is something we continually do. We relearn what we know. We learn better ways of working. We learn new versions and product. We even get out there and try new things. Education is the backbone to this.
And so, the job profile of “The Trainer” is detailed below. It is a job that is necessary across project and post go-live support. It is also the job which trains the future consultants and employees at company to design, build and maintain SAP systems. To me, a skilled Trainer is a critical success factor for a successful SAP implementation as well as contributing to process efficiency through reduced user error. Less user error has a huge impact to financial bottom line. And remember, trainers specialise in connecting the people, processing and technology.
The training is part of the critical success team is ensure the project can be delivered. You might find yourselves in meetings and hear the quality triangle or people, processes and technology being parroted
- Training Needs Analysis – identifying “the gap in employee training and related training needs” (Wikipedia). In a nutshell – figure out what the end users need to learn for the new system.
- Training Materials – producing of training materials which includes: course content, work instructions, video recordings, online assessments, quick reference guides and desktop procedures. Different names may be used to refer to this material but it comes back to documentation/material which helps users to operate on the system.
- Course Preparation – planning and preparing for the course. This may include additional material for course usage (dare I say it: the dreaded PowerPoint slides) but can also including setting up data on the system and scenarios for participates to use throughout the course.
- Training – at some point the training material is presented to the users. Some training may be online only and relate to pre-recorded material whilst others can be in the form of class room training. Part of the Training Needs Analysis will determine the appropriate balance of face to face versus classroom.
Within a project, the types of job profiles that may exist within the training are (again, size of the system and company will determine how big the team is):
- Technical document writer – this person recording the training instructions by completing the step by step instructions. At some sites, part of this role may be sent to an external team (e.g. offshore) for recording whilst some editing may be performed onsite.
- Training Coordinator – plans the strategy and approach for training, including determine which tools to record and deliver training. Part of their role may include completing the training needs analysis to determine what training is actually required. From here they then need to determine which users require training
- Trainers – go out to the sites or have users come to them and deliver the training. They will teach the user the system steps as well as explaining the process and any underlying policy, procedures and forms/paperwork which form part of the solution.
The training team need to work with a mixture of technical, business and process teams to meet their training deliverables. Such examples can include:
- Planning and design the setup of a dedicated training environment requires the interaction with System Administrators, Security team and data migration to build a system that will meet the training requirements and can be refreshed as necessary. Data Migration team will work with the training team to product baseline data to leverage in test cases. Security team will create generic training accounts and access for the trainers;
- Business process analysis design will be necessary to determine the training needs analysis as well as understanding what actually needs to be taught. This analysis will call out both and system non system steps; and
- Communication with key business stakeholders to provide updates on training needs and delivery. Some organisations may place strict “no training no access” rules for users. Therefore, the training team is integral to user on-boarding steps and my need to keep training records for use by the compliance and audit teams.
Production Support/Business as Usual
Training is one of the roles which is ongoing but the size of the team and initial skill may change. The main reasons training is continually required comes down to people leave and business changes. Effort may have been invested to get to go live but training will be ongoing. Continual training is required to:
- Train the new employees and contractors who join the organisation
- Delta training for changes to existing functionality
- New modules, systems and functionality (project is used to deliver these but may be handled by the support team)
Part of this ongoing training will required regular review of training material and updating them to reflect the current system release as well as business operating guidelines. In a way, training in a live environment still has the same steps and skills of a project. The main difference is that the planning and execution of training is no in line with a project schedule.
Could Travel be involved?
Like many jobs, it falls into the “it depends” category. Depending on who you work for, you may need to travel out to local sites at your employer or customer to conduct training. Alternatively, the company may have a central location where training is conducted and participants travel there. Another possibility is the training is conducted online.
What sort of skills should I have?
Are you someone who naturally uses analogies to explain concepts to people? Well, already you might be finding your personality aligned with some of the skills of the Trainer.
As well as that, a key trait that I associated with a trainer is someone who has patience and also has the ability to simply, adapt and personalise complex ideas into key messages and learnings for their users. No different to a school class setting, the trainer can have a group of diverse users with different backgrounds and skill sets. Their job is to have each of those users leave the course with the basic understanding and meeting of the course pre-requisites. Each participant may have different learning styles to cater for. To adapt to the differing needs of participants whilst still cover the core curriculum is impressive.
But to summarise the key traits:
- Patience – although the course becomes repetitive for the trainer, they need to remember that it is new to current cohort of participants. In addition, teaching participants new systems and ways of working can be challenging – especially when the members do not want to be there and have only turned up as training is mandatory.
- Figuring out what’s important – it is easy to figure how a system works and show everyone what you know. The challenge is figuring out if they need to know it. When writing training material or conducting training, the trainer needs to determine what the participant actually needs to learn. Do they really need to be taught the ways SAP used to work and how it’s all changed or do they just need to be taught how to use the current system they need to operate? The trainer can find themselves spending days figuring out a complex issue which they need to summarise into a 10 minute topic. It may feel like time was wasted, but in doing this the trainer has saved each participant days in learning through a succinct summary.
- Can engage your audience – Again, not all participants are there of their own choosing and some content can be the cure to insomnia. But a great trainer finds a way to keep the audience engaged….even if it’s plying them with chew lollies.
- Strong communication – this job profile is a predominately people facing job. Depending on the size of the project/system there may be a larger training team which is divided between content products and deliverers. However, verbal and face to face communication aside, the trainer still needs to be succinct and clear in their training material. They need to decide what the important messages and take-always are and present in such a way to ensure comprehension.
- Time management – training courses need to be planned out and timeframes kept. I added this one to the list based on personal experience: I had attended a training course which had to end 2 chapters before content was delivered as the trainer did not manage their time effectively (in a nutshell, half the participants needed to hop on a plan and head home). The trainer needs to plan out the course, manage the scope (balance between sharing amongst the group and going off on a tangent), identify when to take breaks and ensure that the course goals have been met within the allocated time frame.
- Experience of end user activities – for some this skill can be optional and will depend on what the training job is. However, most SAP trainers are on client sites or belong to customer and run training for the end user. Trainers may specialise in a specific business area or will need to generalise and learn a little about each area of the system. One day, they might be training Finance whilst the next day they are teaching the warehouse how to Goods Receipt. This is a job which will allow you to get diversity across the system.
- Diversity of knowledge – someone who likes to learn a little about a lot (and the really good trainers, learn even more). They may not know all the intricacies of the system configuration but they have a good conceptual idea as to how the solution hangs together and can explain it to others.
- Good listening skills – up there with communication, the trainer needs to listen for the participants’ queues and questions. Based on feedback, they may need to adapt their style
- Willing to continually learn – put simply, if you personally don’t believe in continually learning and improving your skills then being a trainer may not be for you. As much as people love to say “those who can’t teach”….well perhaps they may but how successful are they?
Where in SCN can I learn more?
The SAP Training and Education space is the main area to seek out in learning more about this job profile. HCM space has been included to cover SAP product for SAP HCM LSO and SuccessFactors LMS.
What SAP products might help me?
If working within the SAP realm of training, the following SAP Products may be used at the customer or employer site. There are two sides to the skill set here: configuring and supporting the products as well as using them as and end user/trainer.
- SAP LSO – SAP Learning Solution
- SuccessFactors LMS – SAP Learning Management Solution
- SAP WBP – SAP Workforce Performance Builder
Refer to the above SCN spaces to learn more about these product. There will also be SAP Partner products which have been created for recording and managing of training material.
SAP Training Courses
The following training courses are offered by SAP Education.
- HR270 SAP HCM Enterprise Learning (LSO)
- SWPB01 SAP Workforce Performance Builder – Authoring
- SWPB02 SAP Workforce Performance Builder – Administration
- THR88 SAP SuccessFactors Learning Academy
SuccessFactors have a certification path to learn to configure the Learning Management component. It is recommended that you check with SAP Education to confirm if this certification is appropriate for you pathway.
What are the career pathways to get here?
Training is an interesting topic and can be a career path for people from very different backgrounds of which some are listed below:
- Student/Fresher – if you have tertiary level education in an education field, including adult education then this could be a good job profile for you. You might find yourself as a junior within the team who assists the training coordinating in managing classroom training schedules, setting up training data on the system and producing work instruction. As you develop the skills you may start assisting in classroom training and eventually run your own course.
- Adult Trainer/Educator – if you have experience in adult education and conducting training, then SAP may be a new area for you to branch out into. Obtaining some basic product overview of SAP component may be beneficial (e.g. SAP Learning Hub Discover – ask free – Edition). However, you might find yourself on an SAP project if your company implements it.
- End User/Super User – as a stepping stone into the “behind the scenes” of SAP, if you have strong end user knowledge then you may find yourself providing training to other users. One of the key roles in a project training model is the ‘Train the Trainer’. As there is a high volume of initial training, key users can be selected to be taught how to conduct training and then become responsible for training users within their location as well as becoming a key contact person.
- Support Person – similar to the End User, if you are already support the system and providing guidance to the users over the phone, email or through service calls then training might be an area for you to consider. Part of this would come back to initial skills and your personality.
- Consultant/Technical/Functional – those who specialise in a module and want to diversify could consider training as an option. Also, the consultant may find themselves developing sufficient knowledge to provide formal SAP training to other consultants and customers who configure and support the systems (remember we all learned from someone).
So that concludes the profile of the SAP Trainer. It only scratches the surface.
I would love to hear your feedback on the value and job prospect of a trainer; the necessary skills; types of work; and what you consider as success factor as a training. If possible, mentioning your country or location would help us all understand where you are (literally) coming from.
Excellent start to this series, Colleen. I really like the concept of emphasizing that there's a lot more to the SAP ecosystem than consultants, and beyond that a lot more than the "primary" customer support and project teams as well. Trainers and technical writers are often overlooked, or when project timeframes and budgets get tight they are sometimes among those who get cut, which is unfortunate as the result is a system that may be well-implemented, but will likely not be well-used or maintained.
What about trainers outside of the customer or project scope? There are those who are employed by the various SAP training centers to deliver classroom (including virtual classroom) training to would-be consultants and project teams. Numbers-wise, this is probably a much smaller subset of people, but nevertheless a potentially interesting career path.
Glad to hear that you enjoyed it. Quite a few people are trying to consider how to make other members feel welcome to the community. This series will go through and look at some of other roles. Other roles include the Project Manager, Release/Cutover/Environment managers, testers, etc.
I'm hoping this year we get a bit more diversity of sharing in the careers space.
In relation to trainers outside I briefly mentioned them as career pathways.
I had considered discussing becoming a SAP training to teach future consultants/configuration/development/tech people but in the end decide to focus on customer solutions. Still it's another career pathway in the SAP ecosystem.
really great way to present "The other jobs". It's important to also bring the spotlight on that, because the team wins the match.
Thank you for a great read!
You are right. I find myself working with the training team a lot as security builds and to an extent dictates what needs to be trained. Most times at client sites the trainers and I will brainstorm as to how to get them a system to do training material whilst build is a shifting target. Finally, role mapping (what users get assigned) is an input to training needs requirements.
Definitely a team work.The trainers can end up becoming the face of the project and if we don't stick together for a good solution then we're effectively sending them out to be shot. There do a pretty important role in a project.
We used this approach very often during implementations. This does not only help when you need to train a lot of people in remote areas, but improves the key user knowledge and confidence/authority. If a key user gets a task to adapt and translate the key user training materials for end users, then conducts several trainings (with the consultant in the audience at first), answers end-user questions, he can learn quite a lot and be better prepared for go-live.
As for student/fresher path.. I have some doubts. This could be a cultural thing or it can be related to the specific industry and module, but my observation is that users will not take seriously a trainer without industry experience on the specific topic - e.g. training SAP PM to mechanical engineers if you don't know what is bucket wheel excavator, rubber belt conveyor etc. Freshers can probably help with the preparation of some training materials, but sending them to face key/end users is cruel.
Yes, train the trainer is quite a good model to use on projects for flexibility
In relation to the junior level - this would be over a period of time. It might take years to move from that junior level role through to sufficient skill levels to run own classroom. However, I've been a graduate on a site where I've gone out to a hospital and trained the nurses in logging maintenance requests. Admittedly, not a classroom of attendees but it is a stepping stone as part of the trainer career path.
I suspect documentation writing would be a starting point for many. We have situations where an offshore team does all of the screen step recordings and then the onsite more senior team edit the materials to add the business scenarios and context.
My main point is that this is a career pathway and there are various steps into getting your start. Perhaps less graduate level entries but they still can exist 🙂
Just got a chance to finish reading (liked it in advance anyway 🙂 ). I totally fail in the patience department, that's why my husband is frequently called to explain stuff to our kid. 😳 The most important skill for a trainer.
key thing to career decisions - play to your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses 🙂
Hi Colleen. Great blog. Currently here where I work there's a campaign encouraging consultants to develop the so called "soft skills", which include all those that you have mentioned among others like leadership, team building skills, business knowledge. The idea is to evolve from a technical consultant to be an integral professional.