Stories from the Field: A “genius” way to deliver project team enablement
“Why do you make it so hard to figure out how to train our project team members?” It’s a question I’ve been asked many times over the years. To be honest, I never thought it was that difficult. You go to the website, search on topics, and pick a class.
Then, last year, a group of customers challenged me to take another look at how we “upskill” team members, and the planning process behind it. This evolved into a pretty cool approach to learning that is quickly catching fire – in a good way.
What knowledge do our learners need?
Taking on the challenge from my customers, I quickly realized that we had to find a new way to figure out what knowledge our learners actually need. That’s not a major challenge if you’re dealing with new customer teams who have no SAP experience. But what about those teams who do have SAP knowledge? How do we give them what they need, instead of what’s easily found in our course catalogue?
We decided to start with a new kind of skills assessment. In the past, skills assessments were done by organizational change management consultants like me, armed with an SAP course catalogue and a rough idea of what the customer needed. I jokingly referred to this as “therapy.” Project or support team members would confess to me how ill-equipped they felt to do their jobs, and how no one would help them. I’d pat their arm and try to reassure them.
But I’m no technical expert. I would still have to bring the requirements to a knowledge expert who would help me identify courses. Then a lightbulb went off: Why use me as a middleman when we have the best training experts on the planet ‒ our SAP instructors ‒ on staff? So I worked with SAP’s Training Delivery Director to craft a new way to assess the skills of people on the project and support teams. Here’s the process we came up with:
Step 1: Meet with project and support team managers to identify the team’s current skill level, and gain an understanding of the additional skills required by each team member. Using this information, we built a matrix listing each team member and their desired skill level by area of expertise.
Step 2: Set up conversations between team members and SAP instructors. Our instructors are perfect for this. Not only do they have incredible technical knowledge, but they also have strong people skills. (At first I made the mistake of using functional consultants to interview the project team. The customer referred to this as “The Interrogation.”)
Step 3: List the knowledge gaps for each team member and identify courses to fill the gaps. Then the team prioritized what to take and when to take it based on project timelines.
Step 4: Select courses learners can take on their own via SAP Learning Hub. It worked very well and saved the customer a great deal of money by focusing their training investment on what was essential.
I have to say, I was pretty proud of myself. That is until someone asked, “What can we do for team members who only need small chunks of knowledge, not a whole class or even enough to justify an SAP Learning Hub subscription?” Whoa. Now this was a chance to get really creative!
Leveraging the power of our resident “SAP geniuses”
To find new, less formal ways to deliver specific bits of training, I again enlisted my instructor friends. Our new idea was to use instructors as consultants who would lead lunch ‘n learn sessions, webinars, workshops, and one-on-one calls. With apologies to Apple, the working title of this approach was “The Genius Bar.”
Luckily I work with some pretty cool people and they really delivered. Rather than being tied down to a specific course plan, this approach freed our instructors to deliver the precise information our customers needed. It was also much more cost-effective.
To define the topics our “geniuses” would present, we used the skills assessment that I described to you earlier. For topics that were relevant to multiple audiences and could be covered in an hour, we held remote Lunch ‘n Learn sessions at – you guessed it – lunchtime! More complex topics requiring several hours became workshops or webinars, usually conducted on-site. And for topics that we needed to address, but were less time consuming and didn’t impact many people, we set up phone calls between instructors and the relevant customer team members.
The customers who challenged me to come up with a fresh approach consider this program an incredible success. So much so we’re delivering it to other customers. You may have heard of it under its official name, the “SAP Education Best Practice Center.” It’s a lot of words but it keeps us out of hot water with the real Genius Bar people.
Feel free to reach out and ask us how this could be used for your team, or tell us about your own fresh ideas!
As an SAP Education Delivery Director, Amy Feldman is often found hanging out with SAP customers, helping them solve their organizational change management, training, and user adoption challenges. She finds that a strong sense of curiosity and a great sense of humor are key to surviving 18 years of SAP change and learning consulting.