During previous upgrades, the company’s training personnel had relied on a combination of paper-based courseware materials and instructor-led PowerPoint presentations to train staff on the use of the new system. However, they found that this approach had a number of serious drawbacks.
First off, it wasn’t very effective. Steelcase found that courses developed around paper-based materials and classroom presentations didn’t prove terribly effective once employees were back at their desks trying to use the system they’d just been trained on. Instead, they found that hands-on use of the system proved to be a much more effective way to teach users the skills they needed. In addition, it was cumbersome and time-consuming. The process of developing the courses was resource-intensive and time-consuming as course developers would have to work in tandem with subject-matter experts to understand what screen shots to grab, what text to use to accompany the screen shots and how to lead people most effectively through the material. Additionally, there was tremendous overhead in producing and maintaining the written materials, particularly in light of the fact that some SAP modules were upgraded as many as 12 times in just a year and a half, with each one requiring changes to the course materials.
Finally, it was expensive. Building and maintaining the courses required a full-time staff of more than 20 courseware developers, as well as a significant budget for printing and other production costs. To make the courses more effective, Steelcase realized that it had to have employees actually use the system or a simulated system in order to bolster retention and understanding of the course material. At the same time, the company needed to keep costs down and reduce the burden on course developers, subject-matter experts and course participants. The Solution To address these issues, Steelcase considered setting up a dedicated SAP system for training purposes, but the cost would have exceeded $200,000, and the level of effort required to create the course and course materials would have remained roughly the same. Further, there would have been the added burden of maintaining and upgrading a whole other SAP system. This approach was deemed infeasible.
Instead, Steelcase decided to use OutStart SoftSim to create “living” courses that incorporated a series of SAP simulations, giving users the experience of being in front of a real SAP screen, coupled with the instructional and mentoring benefits associated with traditional instructor-led courses.
Each simulation was designed to look, feel and behave just like Steelcase’s real SAP implementation, but within the context of a task-based course in which SoftSim prompts users to complete a series of tasks, offering hints and guidance as needed. SoftSim allowed Steelcase’s SAP subject-matter experts to capture the relevant screens and application workflows easily in the course of doing their regular jobs, eliminating much of the overhead associated with traditional course development.
Over a period of 60 days, Steelcase used SoftSim to create more than 70 SAP training courses, in the process reducing the length of each course by approximately 50 percent and making it possible to migrate all 2,000 SAP users to the new upgraded system in record time.
ResultsAccording to Scott Vinkemulder, Steelcase’s SAP training team leader, “Moving all of our 2,000 users to the new version of SAP would have been nearly impossible without SoftSim.”
Steelcase estimates that using OutStart SoftSim to develop its SAP training courses saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars by:
- Eliminating the need for a dedicated SAP system for training.
- Eliminating the more than $30,000 spent annually on printed courseware materials.
- Allowing a reduction in courseware development staff from 20 full-time personnel to just half that.
- Significantly reducing the volume of calls to the SAP technical-support help desk.
More importantly, Steelcase found that using the SoftSim SAP simulations as the basis for courses proved far more effective than paper-based materials and classroom lectures. By using the simulations, employees were actually able to do the tasks they would have to do on the job, and they were able to practice those tasks repeatedly with immediate feedback and guidance when needed. As a result, retention soared, and calls to the help desk dropped significantly.
The instructors benefited from the simulations too. They no longer had to worry about maintaining and distributing printed materials since the SoftSim courses were available online. This also eliminated the need for instructors to constantly make sure they had the most recent versions of the training materials.
Another benefit for both instructors and trainees was that the SoftSim simulations could be loaded on to stand-alone laptops, allowing for the creation of completely mobile training rooms and eliminating dependency on network connections or the centralized SAP system in order to hold training sessions. In the past, it was not uncommon for training sessions to be cancelled or postponed at the last minute due to lack of connectivity or system availability.
SoftSim has been so successful as the basis for Steelcase’s SAP training that the company’s technical-support help desk is now looking to use SoftSim to help create self-service technical support in which users can automatically be walked through the steps needed to solve the most commonly occurring problems.