If you think training is expensive, try ignorance

14 June 2018

Jan van Ansem

Jan van Ansem

Principal consultant SAP Data Warehousing

SAP BW/4HANA should be a wake-up call for organisations running SAP’s Data Warehousing application. Your team’s knowledge must be up-to-date otherwise the capabilities of BW/4HANA will be significantly under-utilised. In this blog Jan van Ansem explains that training in the latest technologies and methodologies is not just a necessity, but also an important part of motivating your team members.

I recently sat in a Tesla car. I didn’t get to drive it – possibly because of the description of the state of my own car I gave to the owner (scratched, dented and generally unloved). Even as a passenger, it was obvious to me that driving a semi-autonomous electric car is a very different experience compared to driving my 10-year-old Ford Focus estate.

There was a massive screen next to the driver, with options for assisted driving and buttons and levers of which I could only guess the use. Perhaps the most striking difference though was the driver herself, who was clearly more comfortable, relaxed and confident than I ever am in the driving seat.

Whilst we cruised around Cologne we started a conversation about the car and how different it is compared to the cars we had when learning to drive. My colleague asked “what would you do to make sure you get the most out of a car like this, if you owned one?”. That was an interesting question. My colleague knows that I like to learn new things my own way, which is by tinkering with it, reading up on manuals and blogs when I am stuck and only do classroom training as a last preparation before certifications. This ‘trial and error’ approach is of course not the safest approach to learning how to drive. If I was to switch to a new car packed with the latest technology and I would just continue to drive like I drive my old banger, I would certainly under-utilise the capabilities of the car.


Continous training in the workplace

The Tesla example demonstrates the importance of keeping skills up-to-date in order to benefit more from technological innovations. This is even more true in the professional environment. In this blog I will illustrate the importance of continous training for SAP Business Warehouse (BW) consultants.

Over the years, I adapted to the changes in BW as the application evolved over time. Most of the changes introduced since the first version I worked with (BW 3.1) were easy enough to get used to ‘as you go along’. There was no real need for formal training, except perhaps with the introduction of BW on HANA (BWoH) where a complete new way of modelling was introduced.

Now with BW/4HANA I believe it really is necessary to look at how up-to-date the skillset is of your Data Warehousing team is. In the next few paragraphs I give you three reasons why I think some additional training will be beneficial not just for the individual team members but for the success of Business Intelligence (BI) in your organisation in general.


1. Technology

BW/4HANA is less complex than other BW versions – SAP have delivered on their promise to simplify their Data Warehousing application. Depending on how up-to-date your knowledge is, there will be some or more areas where you will benefit from some formal training.

If you are new to HANA and the Eclipse development environment, then you will certainly benefit from some training just to get used to the toolset. It will be a much quicker way to increase your productivity than trying to find out how things are done the new way all by yourself.

If you are already used to HANA and Eclipse but your BW implementation has not moved to the new Layered Scalability Architecture for HANA (LSA++) then a training course would be recommended to make sure you understand how to best combine the virtual building blocks in BW/4HANA with your physical models. This would also be a good opportunity to get up-to-date with the latest Information Lifecycle Methodology (ILM) options embedded in BW/4HANA.

When you are thinking of moving to a Big Data Warehouse (BDW) architecture then training in HANA native parts (modelling, Hadoop integration, data acquisition options) is certainly necessary. The bottom line is that if you are not making the best use of what BW/4HANA if you haven’t kept your BW knowledge up-to-date.


2. BI methodologies

Despite all changes in technology, many organisations still run BI projects the same way they did fifteen years ago. Business requirements and even complete business models change rapidly. Your business users require access to an ever-growing number of data sources. To be successful in BI, both your infrastructure and your team need to be agile. Training can make a massive difference in the ability of your BI team and business users to work effectively together in short delivery cycles.
 

3. Professional development

As an employee I see training as a ‘perk’ – a reward for my efforts. Training is also a key part of my professional development, a necessity to stay current in my line of work. Certification is the formal closure of specific training and a recognition that I work and operate at a certain professional level. I enjoy training courses in general and am proud of my certifications.

Supporting employees in their development is a key part of being a good employer. The risk of employees leaving because they don’t get the training they need is far greater than the risk of employers leaving straight after they have received a training (and their market value has gone up as a result). Training and certification improves the overall capability and the morale of your BI team.
 

Data Warehouse professionals with outdated skills

Data Warehouse professionals who don’t get the opportunity to train and keep their knowledge current will design solutions based on outdated design principles and use the tools they are comfortable with even if there are now tools available which are better suitable for a given task.

Ultimately, this means that your business users don’t get the best possible solution the platform would have to offer. I know SAP training does not come cheap, and it is inconvenient when people are away from their desk for a few days, but I also believe this is a small price to pay for the benefits you will get for your organisation if you can work with a team with up-to-date knowledge about the latest tools and methodologies.

I have set myself the target of becoming BW/4HANA certified this summer and I hope to see many of you also (re)joining the ranks of SAP certified professionals. I wish you all the best in your individual learning journeys.
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About the author

Jan van Ansem

Principal consultant SAP Data Warehousing