SAP S/4HANA transformation projects – using targeted upskilling to motivate staff and get them on board

New processes, services and business models – SAP S/4HANA makes it easier than ever before for organizations to digitalize and scale their operations. Just to remind you, SAP is ending its SAP ERP system support (ECC 6.0) in 2027, with the option of extending this until 2030 on payment of a much higher support fee. As a result, organizations that have not yet initiated an SAP S/4HANA transformation will not be able to ignore the system switchover for much longer. The time has come to plan this switchover, prepare staff and roll out the transformation.

However, the seamless introduction of this intelligent ERP system will only be possible if you upskill your end users and enable them to work smoothly and efficiently in the live system. After all, that is the only way to leverage the full potential of an SAP S/4HANA transformation.

But how can an SAP S/4HANA enablement program of this kind succeed as part of an extensive transformation with training requirements for thousands of end users?

The EY Software Enablement Team and tts have found a way to meet these high training requirements with their wealth of experience, appropriate technology and learning expertise. 

In what follows, EY and tts experts outline their experiences in SAP S/4HANA transformation projects, focusing on the major challenges from a training perspective and best practices with regard to the enablement concept.

What are the particular challenges when it comes to equipping staff with comprehensive but role-specific skills for SAP S/4HANA?

Most organizations find that getting started with SAP S/4HANA helps them boost their agility and competitiveness. All the same, rolling out this new platform also brings some pretty big changes – first and foremost for staff. Employees need to learn new ways of working, such as dealing with SAP Fiori apps, embedded analytics and AI. They also face the challenge of finding their feet in a dynamic working environment with automated end-to-end processes and role-based tasks. One key prerequisite for getting off to a good start with SAP S/4HANA is therefore having an upskilling concept that builds up confidence in the new software environment and shows staff how they can put the possibilities offered by SAP S/4HANA to good use. The entire application life cycle must be considered in advance – from the period before the go-live to the go-live itself and, naturally, ongoing operations after the go-live.

One of the biggest challenges is devising an upskilling concept that reflects the actual training requirements for each set of roles and responsibilities and highlights the areas of activity where end users will need to follow new or modified work processes in the future. All too often, staff are overwhelmed by a flood of training options and new task contents that are ultimately of little relevance to them in their day-to-day work. When system training and eLearning sessions pile up and upskilling becomes a mammoth task for the staff involved, they turn against the transformation and show little willingness to undertake further training for the changing work processes or new tasks, let alone new roles.

A further challenge lies in the timing of upskilling measures. During SAP S/4HANA transformation processes in particular, the question constantly arises of when staff can be offered training and when they might want to take up this offer.

As regards the first part of the question, the available resources are the key consideration – defined training content, finalized and tested end-to-end processes, access to the live application, and process experts / key users with sufficient time for the training, including live components.

When it comes to the second part of the question, the focus is on the demand for training. In actual fact, the offer of training is primarily taken up when staff see a direct link between theory and everyday practice. In the main, learners pay attention when they themselves sense and recognize the need for further training. It is essential to respond to this motivation within the context of procedural and technical training – as in the case of an SAP S/4HANA transformation.

Furthermore, switching between applications is the norm for processes mapped in SAP S/4HANA, and it is already apparent in practice that employees find it very challenging to be productive when working through processes that involve various applications.

Josephine zu Stolberg, Senior Consultant, People Advisory Services, EY

When it comes to digital transformations, including S4/HANA transformations, we are repeatedly seeing how important the link between change and learning is for our customers. Every learning experience goes hand in hand with a personal change for the staff involved. A strong link between the extent of this personal change and the learning experience on offer is a must!

Josephine zu Stolberg, Senior Consultant, People Advisory Services, EY

What solutions are available to overcome these challenges?

In the case of SAP S/4HANA transformations, where the change takes place at procedural level and from which the upskilling requirements must then be derived, it is advisable to carry out a parallel, complementary change requirements analysis along with the training requirements analysis. Both the extent of the change and the training requirements can thus be determined for each end-to-end process at an early stage – ideally, for each business role and including training format preferences. This combined change and training requirements analysis not only saves time, but also reduces capacity requirements and the involvement of process experts. The result of the analysis can then be used to produce training measures that are appropriate for the relevant system, combined with a change and communication package geared toward the specific target group concerned. With a coordinated change and training action plan of this kind, it is possible to carefully prepare topic modules and other requirements such as:

  • The SAP S/4HANA roll-out
  • Benefits of SAP S/4HANA for the organization and day-to-day work in the system
  • Overview of SAP S/4HANA’s function-specific functionalities and capabilities
  • SAP S/4HANA as an “intelligent ERP” in conjunction with other cloud solutions
  • Detailed training plans.

And what is the best way of conveying this content to the target groups?

“Every organization, working culture and learning culture is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We recommend a good combination of communication and training formats,” says zu Stolberg.

Whether in the form of live training, Q&A sessions or hop-in sessions, interactive dialog with process experts is worth its weight in gold when it comes to gaining a sharp and in-depth understanding of the new processes and system operations.

Involving key users as trainers and change disseminators is also helpful and can facilitate sustainable SAP S/4HANA moderation and employee enablement during the transformation.

Furthermore, one particular focal point of employee upskilling must be how to use the target application itself. No later than the go-live, end users should be given the opportunity to apply new work processes and obtain context-sensitive support directly in the live environment with the help of a DAP (digital adoption platform). For example, this support could take the form of step-by-step guides, field tools, documentation, eLearning nuggets, links to further sources of knowledge, etc.

Can software technology support such complex transformation projects and generate competitive advantages?

“The short answer is yes!” says Sandro Franke from the Business Development & Professional Services team at tts. “With the tts performance suite digital adoption platform, all your in-house knowledge is pooled in a single location. At the same time, you bring this knowledge directly to the digital workplace – geared precisely to the relevant working context and role. In this way, you give your staff the support they need when working with SAP S/4HANA,” he adds.

The application support can be assigned to specific tasks that arise during day-to-day work in SAP S/4HANA. The digital adoption platform provides relevant knowledge about processes, workflows, rules and procedures. What’s more, other sources of knowledge can also be integrated. That makes the tts performance suite the central starting point for all questions – your single source of truth.

Using a digital adoption platform during your SAP S/4HANA transformation project results in a whole host of competitive advantages for your organization:

  • Reducing the number of errors and thus improving data quality
  • Laying a foundation for data-based corporate decisions
  • Gaining greater control over systems, cashflow and accounting
  • Optimizing procurement, production, inventories and order processing
  • Improving service quality
  • Reducing the workload of helpdesk staff
  • Discovering knowledge requirements in the organization through integrated analytics
  • Enabling staff to achieve a high level of performance in their work, at all times and across various applications, whether they’re at their desk or on the move.

Although an SAP S/4HANA transformation is a challenging undertaking for any organization and one that involves a huge amount of effort and is therefore very time-consuming, costly and resource-intensive, it also offers opportunities. These include using software enablement in particular to help staff acquire skills while actually using the application, revealing new upskilling potential and shaping your learning and organizational culture on a long-term basis. EY and tts are aware of the large number of SAP S/4HANA transformation projects at present, are familiar with both the challenges and the opportunities, and know how best to support your organization. Simply get in touch with us to benefit from a strong partnership and motivate your employees with SAP S/4HANA upskilling measures that are precisely geared to their needs.


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