Coming back from a relaxing holiday...
After some time off for good behaviour, all energized, I arrived in the office monday morning, eager to get some work done. Things went differently... My mailbox was packed with many, many urgent requests, all due last week. There was a pile of new projects sitting on my desk waiting for my attention and my colleagues transferred some of their work onto me before leaving on holiday themselves.
Your typical monday morning after a couple of weeks of holiday...
As I munched my way through my emails, I couldn't help but wonder how inefficiently this method of working is. Sending some mails to a colleague, not knowing if he'll be working on it, not knowing if he's the person to go to in the first place, not knowing what his workload is, or if he has the necessary expertise... After replying to the first interesting mail, I noticed that the discussion went on for about 10 more mails, and that the answer I had come up with was already somewhere in the discussion. Clearly, MS Outlook could improve on their thread view. To make matters worse, our SAP development fell on it's butt and it couldn't get up...
"What is this?", I asked myself. "Isn't IT supposed to increase efficiency of our organization?"
Instead of increasing my efficiency, in this case, my IT tools served me outdated information, in an unstructured way. Often times the "data" was not even intended for me, making it difficult to extract the information I needed. Worse, the unavailability of the hardware made it impossible for me to provide the right information to others, who requested so.
While waiting for yet another update on my laptop and the 5th reboot of the day, this predicament got me musing on how the tools from my favourite software vendor could help us achieve a higher efficiency.
Pillars of efficiency
From my perspective, I noticed that you have three important factors in IT efficiency. Your hardware must be available and performing well. It doesn't help if you have to wait 10 minutes for a mail to download, and it doesn't help if you know how to fix a bug, but the system is unavailable. Even if your hardware is up and running and performing super, you still need the right tools running on that hardware. You could store all mails as plain text on a drive somewhere, but I'd rather use a mail client to read them, than browsing through text files in a folder. I would be even happier if I could see my mails in outlook, like I do in GMail. Better yet, would be a collaborative approach where multiple people can work on the same question, attach documents and mark the initial question as "completed". And it would be great if I could have that on my mobile phone. Equally important here, is to involve the right people. People with the necessary skills, the necessary influence, or simply the ones who control the budget.
So I'm seeing three distinct pillars here:
- User efficiency (the right tools and the right incentives)
- Hardware efficiency (availability and performance)
- Process efficiency (the right people, the right steps)
SAP helps us increase the efficiency of the hardware by focusing on availability, manageability and speed.
Higher availability can easily be achieved by moving your systems into the cloud. You can make them available from anywhere, but also, you can create fall-back scenarios with ad-hoc hardware. Your solution manager will help you in monitoring the internal health of all your systems, whilst your cloud admin console assists you in monitoring the state of your virtual hardware. SAP demonstrates the versatility of cloud infrastructure by hosting demo environments on HANA, NetWeaver Cloud, Unwired Platform in the cloud and much more.
Having super dooper hardware is not enough to be efficient though. The processes running on that hardware need to be aligned as well. I see overly complex processes on a daily basis, which make the work inefficient. It took me 11 months to get a developer key in our organization, because they made the process so overly complex that it was easier for me to set up my own system for sandboxing than actually going through the papermill...
SAP helps us here by providing tools, which make it easy to:
- redesign a process
- contact the right people and collaborate, if necessary/possible, via Social Media
- provide the right data and assure its correctness
- use standardized objects
In the end though, it's all about your user. If you don't find a way to make your user as efficient as possible, all your investments will be in vain. You need to find a way to motivate them. Make them work harder than they were actually planning to, by making their work fun and seemingly easy as pie.
Clearly, not too long ago, SAP had a bit of a problem in this area. We all still remember the days when yor SAPGui was your only tool to access that vital backend data. We all dreaded the dull grey screen with a huge amount of buttons, fields, options and tabs in each and every transaction you dared to open.
Luckily, things have changed and SAP now has a myriad of UI technologies, running on different platforms, providing adapted user experiences anytime, anywhere. The main thing that still seems lacking, is motivating the user. This could change in the near future though. There are many voices within SAP talking about gamification.
It's amazing to see how many different packages, mechanics and services SAP offers to make your business run better. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options. The trick is, to start cherry picking the options that will bring most value for money, and to have people that can bind the different components together.