In my 18 years of experience in the SAP field there is a hidden truth that I have come to realize. In fact, I think I have really known it – or at least suspected it – all along. You probably have suspected it, too. But, like me, you have accepted it as the status quo in our industry – as truth. While naysayers often point to inadequacies of the SAP platform as the culprit, the truth lies elsewhere. To appropriate (and embellish) the famous Bill Clinton quote:
It’s not the technology, Stupid!
There it is. I said it! The technological aspect of SAP has little to do with the satisfaction that customers get from it. The technology is, on balance, good. SAP is the market leader in Enterprise Software and has some of the most amazing and robust technological applications. This, however, has not made much of an impact on customer satisfaction. In the years that I have worked with a multitude of clients, across various industries and countries, the newer system enhancements and additions are certainly more advanced than the old ones, and they do make things work more efficiently. But, and this is the crux, customer frustration and dissatisfaction is still experienced too often when customers cannot utilize the system functionality to meet their pressing business needs. This is because expert knowledge is not spread evenly or is not made accessible equally throughout the SAP sphere.
It is not all doom and gloom because I think that SAP does have an invaluable asset – and one that the Oracles, Microsoft Dynamics, and Salesforces of the world cannot match. I’m talking about the SAP Knowledge Ecosystem. This area is totally underutilized (and arguably is somewhat marginalized by SAP), even though it is really what is fueling the industry. Namely, the strength remaining to be tapped is the critical and sophisticated Knowledge that has been built up over the last 25 (or so) years among customers, consultants, employees, trainees, and others in the SAP space.
The problem, I strongly believe, is that this knowledge is not shared successfully throughout the SAP user community. It exists in small pockets in a vast global landscape. The problem becomes one of how to tap it and how to determine what is the “right” information. I have advised SAP customers who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on SAP but are not aware of even some basic functionality in their system. Yet, other customers who have spent below a million dollars on their SAP software are fully-utilizing their system. This wide discrepancy needs to be addressed and it can be. SAP has attempted to harness some of this knowledge and create a community (for example, with SCN). However, this effort pales in comparison with its investment in creating new applications, acquiring new software companies, and promoting its technological breakthroughs. If it is true, as is asserted, that SAP customers spend 70% of their costs on labor then there should be a commensurate expenditure on its “Knowledge Capital”, to ensure that they are utilizing their system to its fullest potential. So, what can be done?
I have spent the last few years pondering a way to address this disconnect and to attempt to bring a greater level of customer satisfaction to a platform that I believe in. I recently started ERPfixers as a way to move the conversation in this direction. ERPfixers is a sharing platform for customers and experts in the SAP space. I really think it can reshape the consulting industry and connect customers and our shared SAP Knowledge Ecosystem in a new way that offers a more focused use of technology that will make the delivery of SAP knowledge more egalitarian. In the age of the Internet of Things, this can surely be made a reality. We just need to start somewhere! Let me know what you think.