Saturday, June 20, 2009

Making an Analyst Presentation when your team is distributed

We had an interesting situation where we had to make a presentation to a Gartner analyst who was in the east coast of the US. Our team was working out of Palo Alto and Bangalore in India. We used Adobe Connect to share the product overview and demo with the Analyst. It worked well.

We rehearsed the hand-over twice to ensure that the presentation will go smoothly. Dry runs are very important when a distributed team is making an important presentation.

Effort : It took us an hour of preparation for every minute of the presentation. For example the 30 minute demo took about 30 hours to design, build and rehearse. The overview took about 5 hours to design build and rehearse. The sales and marketing section of the presentation part took about 4 hours of planning, creation, discussion and rehearsal.

Lesson learned: Always leave 10 minutes for unplanned activities. No matter how much you plan, no matter how seasoned the team is, when the audience is distributedsomething always comes up. In our case that something did come up and we cut short the 4 demos 2.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Day 3 of the June 2009 Design Workshop - Drawing helps

Today was day 3 of the two week design workshop on the Learning Portal Conversion assignment. Today we discussed web services to enable a customer integrate SAP Enterprise Learning with their web shop or SAP CRM Web Channel. We used the Confluence wiki and the white board feature in Adobe Connect.

Since the discussion was mostly about web services, we could draw a picture on the white board and discuss things.  I do not use any special drawing tools. Just the mouse.

We edited the Software Requirements Document posted on the wiki directly and added our comments to the wiki page. The development team in Bangalore projected the Adobe Connect meeting screen in the wall so that all team members can see the screen and discuss it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Writing the name of use cases and grouping them

This is a revisit of my earlier post on using wikis to organize use cases. We are in the design phase of a portal conversion project. We discussed if it makes sense to write down the list of use cases for the project and organize them, because we know the features very well and it is a straight conversion. However after a brief discussion we decided to give it a try. After the first hour of the works session, we arrived at a complete list of use cases.

The methodology
The product managers types the names of the basic use cases in a wiki page, which was them shared via Adobe Connect with the development team which was sitting in another location. They had the wiki page projected on a big screen. For about 60 minutes everyone chimed in with the missing use cases.

We also grouped the use cases into meaningful categories and gave meaningful titles for those use cases. I was surprised to find out that the list of use cases almost doubled. We also found answers to some important questions and doubts in our minds. There were some new team members, they benefited too.

My conclusion based on this session is that writing the titles of use cases and grouping them is a useful exercise, even if you are doing a conversion project. I am not sure about the level of details we will go into.I will write about that later.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Preface of the book SAP Enterprise Learning

SAP Press has released the book, SAP Enterprise Learning, which I co-authored with  my colleagues Sharon, Shankar, Christian and Manoj.
Here is a detailed description of what is there in the book. You can buy the book from SAP Press. If you are an SAP employee, make sure you use your SAP email. You will get a special price. If you are in Europe you can order the book from SAP Press Germany Web Store.


SAP Enterprise Learning has evolved over the past eight years into a compelling product. Since it was built in multiple phases and made available to customers over various releases, there was no single, publicly available, information source that provided a comprehensive overview for decision makers who wanted to buy the product, consultants who wanted to implement or enhance the product, customers who wanted to deploy upgrades and SAP partners who wanted to integrate with the product.

We also noticed that IT directors, training managers, implementation project managers and functional consultants attend the three day HR 270 course to prepare for an SAP Enterprise Learning implementation project. Several of our customers and partners told us that they attend SAP HR conferences to prepare for an implementation, respond to an RFP, build business case, and more importantly, take informed decisions about their future direction. While the HR 270 course and presentations at conferences have excellent technical information, no single training program or conference provides a comprehensive overview of the entire product.
More over training programs are only scheduled in certain cities around the world, a few times a year. Conferences happen in two locations twice a year. Only a select group of individuals could afford to travel to these events due to time and cost constraints. We wanted to do  something about it. So we decided to provide a comprehensive, affordable, public information source for everyone in the SAP Enterprise Learning ecosystem. This book is not a replacement for a formal technical training program or a conference; however, we believe that this will be a good starting point. It will also be a ready reference source for all project team members during and after an implementation.

Structure of the Book

Chapter 1 is meant for decision makers and buyers. If you are a CIO, CLO, IT director, HR Director or training manager who needs to make or influence a decision about software purchase, this chapter is for you. It introduces the product and describes a learning management system. It also describes the evolution of training goals in an organization. You can identify the level of maturity of your organization and determine the right approach for your organization. This chapter also clarifies the target market for the product. Finally it describes how SAP Enterprise Learning fits in the talent management strategy of SAP and the SAP Business Suite.

Chapter 2 is about the various roles in a training organization and the tools those roles use. This chapter is meant for decision makers, planners and implementers.If you are a CIO, CLO or training manager who needs to determine the number of people to staff your team and the number of different licenses you need to buy, this chapter will be of help. If you are an IT Director who needs to determine the number of users who will be accessing the various components and portals in the product, for implementation planning purposes, reading this chapter will help.

Chapter 3 covers the technical architecture of SAP Enterprise Learning. If you are an IT Director, SAP Enterprise Learning consultant, SAP HCM Consultant or an SAP NetWeaver consultant you should read this chapter. It provides a high level overview of the architecture first, and then describes the technical architecture component by component. It is also a useful chapter to read if you are a customer building a business case for an implementation or a partner answering an RFP for a customer project. More importantly, it has information about the sources from where this information was derived.

Chapter 4 talks about how SAP Enterprise Learning integrates with other SAP HCM and other SAP ERP applications. It explains the various applications first and then lists the integration points. It then explains the relevance of every integration point and tells you if and why you need the integration points. It also provides detailed information about SAP terminology and concepts associated with the integration.  If you are a HR Director, HCM consultant or SAP Enterprise Learning consultant, read this chapter.

Chapter 5 talks about tools used by Learners, Instructors and Managers. This chapter is for SAP Enterprise Learning consultants, training managers and implementation teams. Consultants can get information about configuring the portals. IT directors and implementation managers can understand the features of the tools meant for learners, instructors and managers and determine if the tools fit the business needs of their organization without alteration. Most customers customize, combine or extend the functionality of the portals to suit the needs of their

Chapter 6 covers training administration, the heart of a learning management system. If you are a training manager, read this chapter to understand the administration features and tools. If you are a training administrator or an SAP Enterprise Learning consultant, read this chapter to understand how to prepare the system and create course offerings. The chapter discusses  reporting and lists the standard reports available in the system. It then covers the training administration portal and talks about how the portal simplifies administration for those who may not be familiar with SAP systems.

Chapter 7 covers the integration with Adobe Connect, the software that powers the Virtual Learning Room that is part of SAP Enterprise Learning. If you are a CIO, Training manager or HR Manager read the first four sections of this chapter to understand how you can reduce training costs and improve training quality using a Virtual Learning Room. If you are an IT Director, Training Administrator or SAP Enterprise Learning consultant, read the entire chapter to understand the value and understand how to install and configure the software.

Chapter 8 covers E-Learning content design, development and delivery. It also covers
integration with external content delivery systems. If you are a training manager, training administrator, content author, instructional designer or SAP Enterprise Learning consultant, read the entire chapter. If you are an SAP XI consultant, the last section on integration with external content delivery systems is meant for you. This chapter talks about how an organization should develop its content strategy. It also talks about content development tools, content development standards such as SCORM and AICC and E-Learning content delivery tools that come as part of SAP Enterprise Learning. The chapter then talks about how SAP Enterprise Learning can launch content from externally hosted content providers such
as SkillSoft and assessments software provider, Questionmark.

Chapter 9 covers enhancements that can be done to SAP Enterprise Learning. This chapter is for IT directors who want to understand the opportunities for enhancement and for SAP Enterprise Learning technical consultants who implement the enhancements. The section on customizing the portal used by learners will be of interest to training managers and implementation managers. The chapter talks about implementing dynamics menus, controlling access to the course catalog, customizing the portal used by learners and customizing the content delivery tools.

Chapter 10 covers project management of an SAP Enterprise Learning implementation.
This chapter is a must read for implementation project managers. Implementing SAP Enterprise Learning is different from implementing a standalone LMS. Project managers need to understand and plan to take advantage of all the integration opportunities available. The implementation will also require understanding the pre-requisites and close coordination with experts from other business and technical areas. Reading this chapter will provide a head start for planning and implementing SAP Enterprise Learning. The chapter also includes a sample high level project plan derived from a real world project.

Chapter 11 provides two case studies based on projects the authors were involved in. The first one is a case study where SAP Learning Solution was implemented in a standalone mode with the relatively loose integration with SAP ERP and then integrated tightly in a second phase. The second case study is based on a global implementation of SAP Learning Solution for a manufacturing company. The focus in this case study is on the planning and preparation that a large global implementation warrants. This chapter is a must for implementation project managers, SAP Enterprise Learning consultants and IT directors.

Chapter 12 is for training managers, IT directors, consultants and business decision makers. This chapter provides a complete matrix of features available in different releases of the product. This information is particularly important for customers who want to determine the version of the software they need to deploy to meet their business goals. It is also helpful for customers who are using an older version of the product and want to build a business case to deploy the current version.

Prashanth, Christian, Sharon, Shankar and Manoj
Palo Alto, CA, USA; Walldorf, Germany; Oak Park, IL, USA; Bangalore, India; Riverside, CA, USA
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