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SAPinsight Blog by Sunsource - 1M ago

By Laila Pesoa
2019 SUNsource Leader Board Member

What should Super Users know about Knowledge Management? (I): What is in it for me?

I have always seen Super Users as knowledge specialists. Why? Because the Super User is the person who is closer to the team and therefore is the best person to tell: who on the team needs what information, when and how it should be available, not forgetting why it is needed in the first place. But this can sound too abstract if the Super User does not understand the bigger context of Knowledge Management.

Although Knowledge Management is a very wide topic, in which not many Super Users will dig into, there are some concepts that, if well understood, will allow the Super Users to become the knowledge guardian of his team.

Maybe we should start with asking: What is knowledge?

According to APQC Knowledge Management glossary, knowledge is “Information in action. In a business context, knowledge is what employees know about work-related disciplines, products, processes, their customers, one another, mistakes, and successes.” [1] This sound like a long sentence to talk about something simple: knowledge is what you know. But it is not so simple: you can distinguish between:

    • Explicit knowledge: what is written on a manual or stored in some other format.
    • Tacit knowledge: what is inside of people. This may be already formulated or not. All knowledge is
      initially tacit.

Knowledge in the organization is created and transformed through four basic processes, as described in Nonaka’s SECI model.

Nonakas’s SECI model of Knowledge Creation (HILDRETH & KIMBLE, 2002) [1]

The Super Users should be acquainted with this model to understand where they are in the process.

  • When helping to define or improve a process, they are in “Externalization”.
  • When creating training materials, both in “Externalization” and “Combination”.
  • When delivering training and assisting users, in “Internalization”.
  • When solving problems or sharing knowledge with their colleagues and other Super Users within the Super User Network, in “Socialization”.

This is a very important point to understand because companies are having a hard time dealing with the left side of this model. Creating documents, portals and training courses to capture the knowledge and share it is the “easy part”. It may be boring for some (especially the documentation part), but it is not difficult. What is really challenging is to get people to use this knowledge, because the Internalization of knowledge is something so personal. People usually don’t even remember it is all available in the first place! And if they don’t know it is there, it is also not improving Organizational Performance.

Below is represented the Knowledge Management Process. If a company is able to produce training courses and procedures, it reaches the “Memory” step: this knowledge is on the organization’s memory. However, it will only be used if it is properly “Transferred” (one-to-one) and/or “Shared” (one-to-many). Only when the knowledge reaches this “one” or this “many” – and enters his/her head – it will be used, and consequently improve Organizational Performance.

Knowledge Management processes (KING, 2009) [2]

By simply understanding the big picture of how Knowledge Management works, the Super User can see knowledge with different eyes and will be able to contribute to its impact on the team.

Be a “knowledge person”: as a user, the Super User has a clearer view of what information should be available, where, how, why, and when. As a person who uses the information in everyday life, the Super User can decide more precisely what should be made explicit and in which format.

  • Be a “knowledge person”: as a user, the Super User has a clearer view of what information should be available, where, how, why, and when. As a person who uses the information in everyday life, the Super User can decide more precisely what should be made explicit and in which format.
  • Be a “knowledge guardian”: don’t let your department’s knowledge die. By having the full picture of the knowledge that is available, the Super User has the opportunity of observe the team and identify if people are using it or not, try to understand why, and change the format if necessary.
  • Be a “knowledge adapter”: the Super User presents to the team this knowledge “in its own measure”, in a way that will be comfortable and worthy for the team to use it. [3]

The Super Users must know what a powerful catalyzer they are for knowledge internalization. The knowledge should not only be produced but also be internalized by each person so that it is not only on the company’s memory but also in people’s heads. And the more people learn, the more they learn how to learn, and this is the basis for a Continuous Improvement culture.

In future posts, we will talk about some of the tools the Super Users can use to make this happen.

Bibliography:
1. Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press
2. King, W.R. (2009). Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning, Annals of Information Systems 4, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-0011-1_1, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
3. Rizoto-Vidala-Pesoa, L. M. The Super User role as a tool to progress in
maturity in Business Process Management–a study case of Cabot Latvia. Master thesis, University of Latvia, 2017. https://dspace.lu.lv/dspace/handle/7/36320

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There are so many reasons why you should build a formal SUN. But there are also some reasons why you should not go through the effort.

After working with Super Users for so many years, (decades now – YIKES, where did time go) there is one thing universal… everyone believes it is important for Super Users to continue beyond projects.  If everyone agrees with this, there must be value.  So where is the value?

  • Supporting end users with the real version of the truth for how users should be executing business transactions.  Notice I said, “real version”.  How can Super Users do this sustainably if we don’t help them?
  • Supporting projects in a highly engaged, motivated, and prepared way.
  • Offering up business process improvement ideas that are vetted cross-functionally within their SUN.
  • Reducing business user errors.
  • And I could go on and on…

I believe every company with business processes needs a Super User Network, not just large fortune 500 companies.  We have proof.  So yes, everyone needs one.  But until you are ready to invest in doing it right, you might want to shelf that idea for a while, or put on a seed sack and play the role of Johnny Appleseed spreading the seeds of change.

OK, now the answer to the opening statement, “Do not build a Super User Network if…”  you aren’t ready to invest in doing it right.

The reason I believe this is because I have decades of experience showing that many who journey down the path of starting up a SUN do not achieve the results they were seeking.  In studying these cases there are common reasons that are all avoidable.

If you are planting seeds in your backyard, go ahead and wing it.  You don’t even have to read the instructions.  If some seeds grown and others don’t, no big deal.  Heck, even if none grow, still no big deal.  Try again next year.  But with a SUN, you are talking about people and trust and much more.  If you don’t get it right, there can be a lot of unfavorable unintended consequences.  Then when you get ready to really invest in doing it right, you have even more barriers to overcome.

What does it mean to invest in doing it right?

  • Follow a proven plan.  You should have a structure and plan that is much more than just identifying people across the business (we call it “the LIST”) and setting a meeting cadence with them.  In that plan you should have research.  Know what’s available for you to leverage, who else is leveraging, and then leverage – don’t figure it out alone. 
  • Join a community of practice.  Through the SUNsource Super User Network community, you have a ready-made network specifically focused on the same thing.
  • My top 3 pieces of advice beyond those:
    1. Get a strong Executive Sponsor.  Check out my 60 second podcast on this topic.
    2. Get the right Super User Leader.  Trust me on this, do your research.  The market around this is growing and so through the SUNsource Community you have quick access.
    3. I’m really struggling to come up with #3 here without referencing the above bullets.  So I guess I will just say, read them again.  This is important.  This is like building what I have called, “The department of the future”.  And who wants to “just figure it out”!

If you are now asking yourself, “How do I follow a proven plan?”, don’t worry.  We can help.  We have just launched our 1-day Jumpstart workshop that gives you just that, a jumpstart into our award-winning structured approach to building and sustaining a Super User Network.  Check it out.

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So what’s the state of your end user performance?  Do you know?

I would say that overall, end users have been left on their own with the, “They’ll figure it out” strategy as Michael Doane refers to it in the Super User (R)evolution.  According to this article in Software Magazine, a research study by Michael Management Corporation revealed 62 percent of respondents shared that they did not receive any SAP training during the 12 months preceding the SAP implementation.  If we polled end users about how much training they have received during a 3 year post implementation period, what do you think we would find?

Let me know if you have a report on that, even if it’s old news.  From where I sit, it doesn’t look like there’s much difference from old news to new news.

When you don’t provide your end users with proper training, refresher training, and effective support on the enterprise tools they use to execute business transactions, your business may be slowly bleeding out.

I addressed this in a series post back in 2017.  But seriously, those posts could have been written almost any year and they would hold relevance.

Let’s take a look at some of the thousand cuts:

  • End user makes an error and the wrong shipping address is used.
    • Shipment does not make it to the customer on time.  OMG don’t get me started on the fact that this could negatively impact a customer’s commitment to their own customer.
    • Whoever received the package has to take time from their schedule to get this returned.
    • Someone, or more likely some people, have to process the return of goods.
    • Correct shipment to the correct address has to be processed.
    • Someone has to call the customer, right???
    • You get the picture, right?  One seemingly small error can translate into much more damage than meets the eye.  We’re bleeding$$
  • Read “The Story of Alice” on page 22 in The Super User (R)evolution. Through no fault of her own, she was delaying 30% of the company’s business by up to one full day.  She was responsible for reviewing and processing all order > $10,000.  YIKES!  Can you see we’re bleeding here$$$
  • And it’s not just your FTEs, what about contract support?  I came across a company that had to rent jets, yep I said jets, to fly critical parts to their customer’s manufacturing plant to prevent slowing down or stopping the manufacturing line due to part shortages.  This was due to contract help who were not properly trained in warehousing procedures and protocols.  Parts were physically in the warehouse, but the system had no idea where they were.  Think stronger word than YIKES when the CFO caught wind of this.  HEY… WE”RE BLEEDING$$$$
  • I’m sure you have your own stories.  Jump over to our LinkedIn group to share.

We’re talking to two SUNsource member companies right now who have heard the cry of the bleeding.  They are taking a very strategic look at the state of their end user health.   We have an online member meetup where they will discuss their work.

If you aren’t a member now, it’s great to join.  We have some exciting activities rolling out soon to support this journey to EUtopia.  Our members will be the first to get the news and opportunities.

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We’re changing our name, but not our Vision!

SAPinsight will become SUNsource!  “SUN” is our acronym for “Super User Network”. Our community is the source for uniting and igniting the passion and power of enterprise Super Users.

Our vision:  Every Enterprise Super User Across the Globe… United and Ignited!

SAPinsight is moving to the next chapter of our journey, rebranding from SAPinsight to SUNsource.  Why are we doing this?  Well, through multiple years of discussion among the Leader Board and the Executive Advisory Board members, and members of our community regarding the need to open our arms officially to all enterprise Super Users, we knew this would be part of our journey.  With the publishing of our system-agnostic book, The Super User (R)evolution, along with non-SAP companies reaching out wondering if they can be a part of our community, we all felt the timing is perfect.

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