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Concept or person? What it takes to be a SAP key user

“Good SAP key users are the key to success.” Who hasn’t read this statement in IT forums? Often the sentence is followed by requirements, definitions, job descriptions, and difficulties with and for key users.

This often suggests that we just have to find the right person, and the (sometimes extensive and critical) work of a key user will be done successfully. But what happens when you, as the responsible and dependent IT department, have little or no choice in the assigned key users?

Content

Various key user roles

Key users are specialists and contacts for the module or their area. They can act in different roles (as coordinators, coaches, multipliers, and much more). They are often the first port of call for any questions and problems for both end users and IT.

SAP key user functions

Fact Check

Key users are an important aspect of a project’s success and should definitely be involved. However, they are usually not trained in testing methodology, often have implicit assumptions about how the software should work (usually specific to their own area of expertise), and it cannot always be guaranteed that they will have time. Have you considered all these aspects so far?

We think that without a concept, a key user is just a user who has over-whelming expectations placed on them.

Key users do not have the same tasks in every company. Whereas in some companies they are used almost exclusively to launch new software (e.g. for user acceptance tests), in others, they are first-level support and also co-designers of critical processes. Therefore, the first critical aspect in designing a key user concept already starts at this point:

Which tasks should the key users take on in the company (and also: which ones should they not) and how time-consuming are they?

It is crucial to clearly formulate the scope of these tasks in terms of time and quality requirements: Are they one-off tasks as part of projects, are regular meetings with the specialist department or IT planned, how should communication be clarified for support requests beyond first-level, and much more.

Note

The more precisely the tasks are formulated (ideally in cooperation with potential or existing key users) and the more accessible they are filed, the greater their potential impact.

It can also be helpful to assign some more specific role terms to the generally known key user term to understand the users of this role. Depending on the concept, this person can also be called a trainer, multiplier, coordinator, contact person, etc. This also increases the value within the company and enables a more intuitive understanding of the work done by the users. If process owners are also used in the company, especially when it is in the phase of introducing a system, these two roles should be clearly separated.

Side note: Why introduce key users at all?

Classic reasons for introducing key users are different problem areas that internal IT departments are confronted with:

  1. Inadequate use of software by users, wasting the potential of the software
  2. Requests to IT are imprecise or incomprehensible
  3. Problematic communication between specialist departments and IT
  4. IT projects fail
  5. Inefficient software use
  6. Capacity problems due to excessive demand on first-level support
  7. Poor induction of new employees
  8. Lack of contacts for SAP implementation projects

and much more.

The idea is that correctly promoted key users will improve these aspects. However, they are often just appointed and trained in the technology, but not prepared for their role and provided with sufficient resources.

What are the key user requirements and how do I select the right candi-date?

Ideally, the next step is to select the right people for the job. However, what is more, important than frequently postulated personal characteristics, such as “IT-savvy” or “communicative” are the framework conditions these people work in.

  • Are they well networked in their respective area of responsibility (as a future key user)?
  • Do they have the time for their tasks?
  • Are there any role conflicts (e.g. are key users also managers)?
  • Is specialist training on the technical requirements feasible?

Criteria for the person

SAP key user requirements for persons

Criteria for the situation (= framework conditions)

SAP key user requirements framework conditions

However, in many cases it is not possible to choose from several candidates. Therefore, the next step is of much greater importance.

Why the PIKON 3-point training approach is applicable for a key user’s essential tasks

No matter how qualified and experienced a newly selected key user is, it is advisable to take a close look at the training needs. This also makes it clear which skills key users can expect from each other.

When analyzing training needs, it is important to have general guidelines but also to take the respective department’s individual specifics into account. It is often forgotten that exclusively technically focussed training in the relevant aspects of the software is not sufficient. In terms of process orientation, key users should at least have an overview of the potential impact of their work in the system for other departments.

Training on a key users’ tasks as a multiplier also plays an often underestimated role. At best, it is negligent to assume that they can easily cope with the sometimes high communication workload that can arise from their tasks without explicit preparation (e.g. on dealing with conflicts, clarifying assignments, and similar topics).

SAP Key User PIKON 3-point training approach

Having key users is not an excuse for IT to bury its head in the sand

A good concept should already take into account that it is not perfect when created. It is therefore essential to plan for the concept and its implementation to be regularly reviewed from the outset.

In addition to a fundamental evaluation, this also includes the framework conditions for succession arrangements and the targeted periods for the key users’ work. Regular meetings between IT and key users to discuss progress should also be set from the outset.

Of course, despite the best preparation and the provision of a good concept, there are always other risks that make it difficult for key users to work smoothly and efficiently. If you are curious and want to find out which pitfalls you can avoid or if you want us to check your own key user concept, please contact us.

Contact us!

Arrange a non-binding web meeting in which we will answer your questions about the key user concept.

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About the author
Maximilian Stark
Maximilian Stark
I am a psychologist, systemic consultant and mediator and part of the Organisational Development team. Especially in highly complex and conflictual situations, I love to let my mind to get going quickly and gets things not only to the point, but also three steps ahead.

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