This week I had an interesting briefing with a little-known company that is providing a solution to a problem we have but don’t talk about much. The problem is people not using the apps IT provides properly or at all. The very same effort we make on our web sites to analyze potential customers and drive higher conversion rates if applied to our internal apps should provide higher productivity, greater return on the app investment, and stronger corporate performance so you’d think the market would be rich in solutions that do this. It isn’t. Knoa, which provides a solution that does exactly that, seems to stand alone but reports some of the leading companies like Coca Cola, Comcast, Disney, Johnson & Jonson, Merck, Pfizer, Schlumberger, Siemens, Tata, and Unilever.
For me, this briefing was kind of like someone pointing out I’d left my fly open. I should have noticed the obvious problem that wasn’t being addressed and felt a tad stupid that I hadn’t seen what should have been an obvious oversight. What made it particularly obvious for me is that I recall that when I first started working for a High-Tech company I spent my first two weeks convinced I was going to be fired because I had no idea what my job was, and no one had the time to train me. Then when I transferred into IBM and they took away my PC and gave me a color Terminal with a light pen (which I never did understand how to use) and dropped me into a huge office without Windows I again felt like I was drowning as I had nearly 10 years seniority but not a single clue how to use the tools I’d been given (to be fair they were things like PROFS that truly sucked).
Let’s talk about the missing link for app deployment, employee productivity, and unnecessary stress.
Assuring The User
While the Knoa solution can be applied to any App, it is mostly focused on SAP. Now why that is interesting is that with SAP, in particular, there is a common thread I’ve observed over the years where companies pay millions for an SAP solution, which is either not fully implemented (often becomes shelfware), and if implemented not properly used. At one time SAP showed up on a list of very expensive solutions that weren’t worth the money because of these two aspects. It wasn’t that the solutions couldn’t work, it was that the implementation failed which reflected poorly on SAP, but in most cases it was more the fault of the whoever implemented the solution (often a third party or poorly trained IT team) or whoever implemented and assured employee training and competence.
SAP is incredibly powerful, but it is far from easy to implement properly, yet the tools that measure the implementation, as a class, didn’t emerge. Well, until Knoa because that’s what they do.
This lack of rigor seems nuts to me; it would be like buying a Supercar and then taking it out to race without first learning to drive, let alone learning to drive a car with that much power. In a car, the Kevin Hart crash is indicative of what would and does happen. Now with an app you may not get the physical disaster of a car crash (every time I see a picture of that car my heart breaks) but the economic impact is potentially far greater because you are talking about software that effectively runs the company and if that isn’t done properly, the impact on the bottom line potentially is several magnitudes higher than the cost of the software which, in and of itself, isn’t insignificant.
What Knoa’s solution does is provide metrics that tell management if the software is being used properly, if users individually are having problems, and it points the way towards fixing that can improve the effectiveness of the app significantly by assuring the deployment. The tool is incredibly effective for SAP migrations because it helps identify custom apps in place that seem to create dependencies but are either not used or used so seldom they can be removed as a dependency without the screwy practice of turning them off to see who complains. That last is still a common practice.
One interesting comment they made was that during a recent deployment, the app immediately discovered bad employee behavior (it sounded like embezzlement to me, and that is often tough to catch, and I say that as an ex-Internal Auditor).
It just seems odd that we spend millions on solutions like SAP and don’t have more tools like Knoa that assure that these millions are well spent. But simply assuring that no other employee has to go through the trauma of feeling inadequate like I did when no one has the time to answer questions or help would, if you have any empathy at all for those just starting, be a reason to consider a tool like this.
In the end, a deployment, particularly one as expensive and powerful as SAP tends to be, requires a way to assure the tool is properly deployed, evolves in a way that favors the business, and is effectively used by users with adequate competence. Knoa does that, and particularly for SAP deployments may be the best, in terms of return on investment, little known tool in the SAP market.