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Leading the Way in Digital Learning

Feature Article | August 8, 2016 by Andrea Diederichs, Karin Fischenbeck

Digitization is all around us. But how can companies get their workforces on board with digital? Bernd Welz talks about closing the digital skills gap.

Henning Kagermann, president of acatech and former SAP CEO, has a clear view on the urgency of upskilling. “There is a strong demand for business leaders to requalify their workforce – I think we have five years’ time, not more,” says Kagermann in a recent interview. Bernd Welz, executive vice president and head of Scale, Enablement & Transformation, explains how SAP is helping companies to get their workforces ready for the digital age.

Q: What is the digital skills gap and how does it relate to digital transformation?

A: Digital technologies are the key drivers for innovation in practically all industries. Entire value chains and business models are being redefined as we speak. But what are the implications for the workforce when you go digital? Recent research shows that digital leaders invest heavily in education. This doesn’t stop at the IT department, but the organization overall needs to become technologically literate.

Three years ago SAP created openSAP, and shortly thereafter SAP Learning Hub. Why?

Bernd Welz: Primarily for speed and reach – we saw that with SAP’s product innovation strategy and the dramatically increased clock speed in delivering innovations to the market. The traditional means of workshops and classrooms alone would be not be sufficient to scale the knowledge of SAP innovations faster and far enough to meet our product adoption targets.

The second reason that led to the introduction of new digital learning channels was the change in the learners’ behaviors. Being able to learn wherever and whenever they like is a key requirement for many professionals. Besides, consumers today are more and more used to online tutorials and educational videos on YouTube in their private lives.

E-learning has been around for decades. What’s different in openSAP and SAP Learning Hub now?

For most of us, learning is a social activity nowadays. openSAP and SAP Learning Hub offer discussion forums and Learning Rooms where learners can share questions or opinions among themselves and with SAP experts. Wherever possible the study material is broken up in small chunks, easily consumed in a couple of minutes. A self-test allows the learner to check the new knowledge instantly. Collecting points along the way and being ranked among all participants is also a major motivation for many learners, which was borrowed from gaming.

For some courses we have used peer grading quite successfully. For example, in the recent openSAP course “Build Your Own SAP Fiori App in the Cloud” more than 5,500 SAP HANA Cloud Platform apps were submitted by learners and were rated in a peer grading process.

Another key ingredient is the possibility to use the knowledge and work directly in a training system. This is why SAP Live Access Service was launched, allowing learners to order on-demand access to training systems and pay by the hour.

Online certification completes the digital experience that means also the certification test can be taken online.

Gamification and social capabilities, along with training systems and certification in the cloud. What’s the next step in learning?

Learning from each other – so-called peer-to-peer learning is becoming more and more popular in learning. We will therefore allow learners to upload videos into the Learning Rooms in SAP Learning Hub soon.

The next step will be the individualization of learning. That means, a course is not the same for all participants, but the content is tailored to the learner’s individual knowledge and progress. To that end, the course content is broken up into small units – so called Learning Cards – which can then be added or deleted from a learner’s individual course schedule. In the final stage, we want to be able to automatically recommend to a learner which cards are relevant according to the learner’s profile. The first pilots will start soon.

A massive amount of learning content is available now. How do companies navigate their way through this?

Every business needs do an objective assessment as to where they are with regard to skills. SAP Education and SAP Digital Business Services have the experience and services to do this. We have structured our portfolio along Learning Journeys that show the recommended path how to get fully competent on the different elements of our digital framework. At the same time, we have defined the typical up-skill path from today’s roles, such as an ABAP developer, to outline how to become fully competent on SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

In addition, we are creating new curricula for new roles such as the Data Scientist. More expert-level curricula for key transformation roles will follow, such as Big Data Architect. With these curricula we want to give clear guidance to our customers how to up-skill their workforce and build critical capabilities.

Will all learning be digital at the end?

No, not at all. The future will be hybrid or “blended” as the learning experts describe the intelligent mix of instructor-led and digital learning. Learning preferences and business needs vary significantly. Therefore, we have to offer both. In the future, we will see more and more truly blended offers that contain both delivery means. As an example: get the formal training in a digital format and do hands-on sessions to apply the knowledge with a live instructor.


The digital transformation of learning started three years ago. What has SAP achieved since then?

Today, with openSAPopenSAP Thought Leaders, and SAP Learning Hub, SAP is a recognized leader in digital learning, delivering extraordinary value to customers, partners, and SAP employees, along with faculty and students at universities and schools. With close to 1 million learners SAP is reaching seven times more individuals than three years ago, learners come back more frequently and consume four times more content. At the same time, this has resulted in a new digital cloud revenue stream for SAP with triple-digit growth rates.

SAP is seen as thought leader in digital learning in the market – as recognized for example by the “Germany – Land of Ideas” initiatives award only a few weeks ago. The impact and effectiveness of digital learning is also measured. Customers reported for example a 20 percent productivity increase and a 20 to 30% reduction in time to full productivity for new hires.


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