john.kleeman2

3 Posts

I attended an interesting session on Duet Enterprise, which connects SAP and SharePoint, at the European SharePoint Conference in Berlin last week. My company Questionmark is an SAP and Microsoft partner, we have no financial interest in Duet Enterprise; but I blog on both SAP (in SCN) and on SharePoint (here) and am interested in a link between the two and so thought I’d share an overview perspective.

 

Why should SAP users care about SharePoint?

SharePoint logo Microsoft SharePoint is a system that lets you build collaborative websites easily. It’s a great place for teams, within and outside companies, to collaborate together, share documents, communicate and learn. SharePoint 2010, the newest version, has a much stronger user interface than previous versions of SharePoint, and is getting very wide adoption. 80% of Fortune 500 companies use SharePoint and it’s one of Microsoft’s fastest growing applications with 125 million users worldwide.

 

Why should SharePoint users care about SAP?

SAP logo

Readers of this blog are likely to be able to answer this question as well as me, but we all know that many of the best run companies use SAP, ranging from Apple using it to run the iTunes music store to De Beers using it to run diamond mines, with every kind of business in between.

For many organizations, HR, manufacturing and/or finance will run on SAP, but every employee in the organization may not have access to SAP software or training to use it. There are many SAP-specific ways of doing this, including using HANA to expose business intelligence throughout the organization, but SharePoint offers an interesting route, given that so many enterprises use SharePoint for other purposes. If SharePoint is used to access the data, then SharePoint users don’t need to learn the SAP user interface.

 

Are Microsoft and SAP competitors or partners?

Both competitors and partners – “co-opetitor”s as they say.

SAP even say on their investment page: “What are the largest competitors of SAP? Our main competitors are Microsoft and Oracle.”  Microsoft also rate SAP as a competitor, but probably see Google, Apple and Oracle as larger threats to their global business.

Although there are areas where they fiercely compete, Microsoft and SAP have a history of co-operation, they seem to have lots of interest in cooperating in Duet, and it seems honestly backed by both companies.

 

What’s the point of Duet Enterprise?

Imagine you are a company with SAP driving some of your key processes. But not everyone in the company has access to SAP software? And you don’t want to give everyone the SAP user interface, either due to cost or training reasons. Then if you are using SharePoint – you can consider giving access via SharePoint. This is particularly useful for casual users – your power users may want to use SAP, but those who just need access once a week might prefer SharePoint.

 

Duet Enterprise Architecture

 

What are typical use cases?

The main use cases seem to be:

  • Allow SharePoint users to participate in SAP workflows (e.g. approve invoices or vacation requests)
  • Access SAP reports from within SharePoint, e.g. get a report out of SAP sent to your SharePoint document library every week
  • Get SAP HR information into SharePoint’s “My Site” profile systems
  • Access SAP data via SharePoint, whilst still using SAP’s security controls
  • Move documents from SAP to SharePoint or from SharePoint to SAP
  • Making it easier/faster to develop custom interfaces than by coding directly to both platforms

http://blogs.technet.com/blogfiles/duetenterprise/WindowsLiveWriter/403eef6dc7e3_93C8/clip_image002_2.png

 

Strengths of the integration

  • Runs on servers only, no extra software needed on the client.
  • Probably supportable into the future, SAP and Microsoft will be expected to make whatever you do in Duet Enterprise viable in future versions. This is the supported route to connect the two products.
  • Supports the SAP security model. So that even SharePoint administrators (who have full access within the SharePoint security model) will only be able to see SAP data that they have permission for.
  • Lets you view SAP data through the very flexible SharePoint lists.
  • SharePoint has very close links with Office 2010, so once in SharePoint, easy to view and modify with Office.
  • Although many applications will need coding, some applications possible out of the box with just configuration and code-free approaches.
  • Development can use existing SAP ABAP or Microsoft .NET approaches.

 

Things to be aware of with the integration

  • Duet Enterprise is chargeable, so you have to pay for it on top of your other SAP and SharePoint costs and install it on top of your SAP and SharePoint Server installations.
  • It’s relatively new, only being launched earlier in 2011, and my guess is that only 100 or so companies are deploying it so far, so there could be teething issues.
  • It won’t work with all SAP systems, for example there is no interface to the SAP OnDemand systems.
  • You need SAP NetWeaver 7.02 or higher.(Though if you have this, you can access any generation of SAP applications from SAP R/3 upwards.)
  • You need SharePoint 2010 Enterprise (the most expensive and powerful version of SharePoint).
  • A lot of SAP data is hierarchical whereas the standard SharePoint list is flat, so there is a likelihood of flattening/simplifying data when you view it in SharePoint.
  • Doesn’t support all use cases for integration, check it will meet yours.

 

Microsoft and SAP have obviously invested heavily in the integration, and if you’re using both SAP Netweaver and SharePoint in your organization, it looks a very interesting solution. For more information, see SAP and Microsoft’s joint site at http://www.duet.com or see SAP’s take on Duet here or Microsoft’s take here. It’s also worth reading Gartner’s report on Duet Enterprise, which you can read (free with registration) on the SAP site.

Every 3 years, the OECD conducts a series of professional tests to measure the competence of 15-year olds around the world. This week, they've published the latest results from testing 470,000 people in 65 countries, in reading, maths and science.

Here is a table of the top performers:

image

As you can see, the top performance in the world is from the Shanghai province of China, and next come South Korea and Finland. The two largest countries where SAP employs people - Germany and the United States - do not get anywhere near the top.

SAP and SAP users do not of course recruit 15-year olds. But if we and others in the IT industry want to have a strong industry in the future, we need to be able to recruit competent people. And the 15-year olds of today are our new recruits tomorrow. We talk a lot about sustainability, mostly meaning resources and energy, but we also need to have sustainability of people.

SAP has employees in 120 countries and a very global culture, so I'm sure it can if it needs move operations around and remain successful. I am not suggesting that Germany and US and other places including my home country of the United Kingdom should be better than South Korea or Finland, but could they not be as good?

SAP and most of us in the IT industry want to recruit high performers. The graph below shows the percentage of high achievers in mathematics worldwide, showing the top two levels of a six level analysis by OECD:

image

This table seems particularly significant to me if companies are looking to employ the best people.  

 

For more information on the PISA test results, see the results section on the OECD website.

 

I'm an assessment professional and it's great to see such an impressive set of test results. And also to see politicians and others seem to appreciate the value of the results. For a more assessment-orientated take on the results, see my blog entry on the Questionmark site which looks at some of the reasons why some countries do better than others - including by offering good quality assessments.

 

I think there's also a lesson here for all of us. Find out the facts and measure our performance. Germany, the US, the UK seem successful, vibrant countries - three of the centers of the knowledge economy. But if our 15-year olds are not as strong, our future will not be as strong.

 

There may well be parallels in our organizations that assessments or other ways of measuring things could our organization realize the present and improve the future.

 

PS To help answer comments, here is the rest of the table above for the countries lower down the table:

image

It surprises me that many people I speak to don’t know about the Kirkpatrick Model of Learning Evaluation. It has been described before in the SAP Community in this Would You Take Training From This Man? by Marilyn Pratt, but it's very well worth knowing about.

Why you should care about how to evaluate training

If you work in a regulated industry, it’s common that there is a legal requirement for organizations to check the quality of their training  – for instance the UK Financial Services Authority states "Firms should ensure that their employees' training needs are assessed at the outset and at regular intervals (including if their role changes). Appropriate training and support should be provided to ensure that any relevant training needs are satisfied. Firms should also review at regular intervals the quality and effectiveness of such training." (my italics)

However whatever industry you work in, you will want to ensure that your company is getting good value for money and resources. For instance the USA alone spends over US$125 billion per year on training. 

Kirkpatrick Model

Professor Kirkpatrick came up with his model in 1959, and it has defined the landscape for evaluating training. It has four levels as shown in the diagram below.

image

Level 1 of the model measures participants reactions immediately after training : did they like it, was it relevant to their work and how could thetraining be improved?  Level 1 is usually measured by a course evaluation survey or smile sheet, indeed these are often called level one surveys.

Level 2 measures knowledge - did the participants learn? It's all very well discovering the participants liked the learning, but did they actually improve their knowledge and skills. It can be measured in other ways, but it's often measured with objective tests, or by checking the difference on pre and post course tests.

Level 3 measures behavior - whether the participants were able to apply their learning on the job. Essentially you compare the performance pre-training with the performance post-training and measure the difference. Level 3 is often measured by surveys or interviews, or by observational assessments where an observer monitors how someone is doing and fills in a checklist (sometimes now on a mobile device).

Level 4 measures results for the business, that the training has actually impacted the business. This is the hardest to measure, but obviously the most important.

A key characteristic of the model is that the levels build up from one another, and it's important to measure at every level. If participants do not react well to training (level 1), then they are unlikely to learn. And if participants do not learn (level 2), then they are unlikely to improve behavior. And if they do not change behavior (level 3), then results will not improve. Achieving results in level 4 is usually due to success at levels 1, 2 and 3.

For more information on the Kirkpatrick model, refer to Donald L. Kirkpatrick's book "Evaluating Training Programs : The Four Levels" .  There is also a Powerpoint in Questionmark's Learning Cafe that gives a good introductory description.

 Other evaluation models

Professor Kirkpatrick is still alive and I had the honour of meeting him at a Questionmark user conference a few years back. Inevitably there have been further ideas in the area of learning evaluation over the years. Some I'd highlight are:

  • Jack Phillips in the 1990s added an unofficial 5th level : Level 5 as measuring Return on Investment, how much return a company makes on its training.
  • Josh Bersin has developed the Impact Measurement Framework which is an end-to-end model for measuring impact of training, well worth reading about.
  • Robert Brinkerhoff has introduced the Success Case Method which evaluates training by looking at where it's most and least successful. See here for a blog article that explains this.
  • And very recently Dr. Will Thalheimer is defining a Learning Landscape Model which presents a very insightful view of measuring learning. See here for a great video on Youtube that introduces this.

 If you already know of the Kirkpatrick model, I hope this is a useful reminder. If you've not come across it before, I hope you agree it's a great way of thinking about whether training is effective and how training can help business.