Stories from the Field: 5 Steps to Building a Super User Network
Super users are, in my humble opinion, the unsung heroes of the SAP world. I love talking about super users, super user networks, super user success stories, and pretty much all things super users. There are many reasons why ‒ not the least of which being that super users are the backbone of the support that organizations provide to end users after go-live. Super users understand the new system and the related business processes and they are, for the most part, incredible human beings.
Okay, that’s a big generalization. Let’s just say I’m a fan.
Super Users are the coaches who make people better drivers of SAP.
They are our trainers and our sustainers. They test, they teach, they approve content, and they generally help ensure user adoption at go-live and beyond. The concept of having super users as part of a large project in which you are introducing new technology and updating business processes isn’t limited solely to SAP projects, although I believe they are a must have for any SAP implementation.
What does it take to start a program from scratch?
In my career I’ve built super user programs from the ground up during SAP implementations, and I’ve managed user sustainment programs that have robust super user networks that provide ongoing end user support.
Over the last few years I’ve contributed to the foundational work that goes into designing super user programs for SAP customers. I’ve helped bring programs to their fruition, and I’ve seen people take my input and build programs that end up being beyond anything I did in past efforts. In truth, one of my proudest moments is seeing a customer take what we did together and make it their own ‒ ultimately a better, current, digital version of what has been done in the past.
From these experiences, I want to share with you the key steps you’ll need to take, if you want to start a super user program from scratch.
Step 1: Decide how many super users you will need to support your end users.
Understanding how many super user you need is really both an art and a science. One approach is to use the following formula, where X = the number of end users, and Y = the number of super users:
For example, using this formula, when you have 1,500 end users, you would need 30 super users. Of course that doesn’t take into account where you are in your implementation, how much change they are currently encountering, or anything about your culture. This is where you add the “art” to the science. The following is an illustration we use when helping customers decide the right ratios of super user to end user:
Once you know how many super users you’ll need, you can start recruiting with an end state in mind.
Step 2: Select the “Super-est” of your users.
Often, super users get “volun-told” that they are part of an implementation. This can work just fine if the managers doing the picking understand who the right people for this important role are. What you want to avoid at all cost is choosing super users based solely on availability. Just because someone has free time doesn’t make them a good candidate to be a super user. Years of experience building these programs has shown me that super users have a distinct personality type:
- They are the first to raise their hands when someone needs help.
- They are already the go-to people on your team.
- They have a passion for being the best at what they do.
Step 3: Build an infrastructure.
People who build successful super user programs take the time to create the foundation of the program long before anyone announces that it exists. As you build your infrastructure, I suggest defining the following:
- How you’ll keep track of your super users, and how you’ll measure their success
- How end users will find them
- The types of communications vehicles you’ll use
- How you’ll market your super users
- What kinds of levels and certifications you’ll offer
- How to keep super users engaged
- What incentives you’ll offer
Step 4: Create your super user brand.
Understanding what you are trying to accomplish with your super user network is as important as any charter, vision, or mission you have ever created. Every super user program is different, and designing yours based on your company culture is key. I encourage developing a detailed communications strategy and plan for your super user program. I call this approach the “Build it and they will come” marketing plan (a.k.a. “Help is on the way!”). Let end users know the super user network is coming. Better yet, talk about it in the present tense as if it already exists. Have a detailed communications cadence for team meetings of super users and for the audiences who will become your super user program’s customers…the end users!
Step 5: Assign a Leader!
I can’t stress how important this point is. Time and again I’ve seen organizations start a super user program and once it’s live, the team that built it moves on to the next project. Please remember, super user programs don’t run themselves. Here’s the deal: the cost of starting a super user program is nothing compared to what a well-run super user program will give back to the business. But these programs need care and feeding. It takes effort to make sure the community continues to thrive. It needs someone passionate about these communities—someone who may even have come from the ranks of your super user team. Be sure to appoint a leader who will help you sustain your super user program!
I hope these five steps will get you on your way to building a successful super user program. As I mentioned at the top, I love to talk about super users. If you have questions or additional insights, please post them in the Comments section!
Don’t miss the SAP Insight Super User Conference in Dallas, November 9-11, 2016. I’ll be hosting the Super User Leadership Workshop on November 9, and presenting in two of the sessions.
About Claudia. I’m an SAP Education Delivery Executive and subject matter expert on organizational change management, and of course, user adoption and sustainment. Before I joined SAP I led the McKesson program that won the 2012 SAP Education Best Practice Award. We started “Stories from the Field” because we enjoy helping user adoption professionals work through the challenges they face every day. If you have comments or questions, please leave a comment below. And don’t forget to follow me and other “Stories from the Field” contributors to read the latest stories!