Power Users. Overburdened. Organizational drag.

Not all users are equal.  Some spend way more time in an application and consume significantly more functionality.  These same users do most of the heavy lifting for your organization.  They are called Power Users.  You don’t expect all users to be Power Users, roles are different and segregation of duties must be maintained.  But what you wouldn’t expect is that Power Users that were once upon a time a powerful asset have become a significant business risk for your organizations.  In short, we have expected too much from too few and the cost of this overburden has come home to roost as organizational drag.

The first thing we should address is just how uneven software consumption is.  Although we don’t expect every user to consume every feature, the distribution of usage across users is not like some kind of 80 / 20 type of rule.  In fact, 95% of users have no knowledge of 90%+ of the potential screens relevant in their process domain.  To be clear we are not expecting a user that specializes in customer orders should know anything about equipment maintenance functionality.  We are only talking about users not adopting functionality in their relevant process domain.

Below we have summarized the consumption behavior of 85,000+ SAP users to highlight our point.  You can see what percentage the average user consumes for their dominant work process versus their process consumption leader (aka SME).

As we dig into this uneven knowledge distribution further by comparing Power Users (the top 5% of consumers) versus the other 95% of users we find an incredible gap in consumption and also the amount of time being spent in SAP.  On average, Power Users spend almost 4 times the amount of hours in SAP and are consuming 5 times the amount of screens (see below by process).

Was this level of knowledge concentration planned?  I doubt it.  Some of this distribution can be explained by role specialization.  For example Purchasing is a process that often has a small group of professional buyers while the remainder of users just query purchase order status.  But role specialization alone does not explain away this level of lopsided consumption when we discuss our consumption findings with customers and even if it did it stands to reason that uneven knowledge distribution would come with some consequences.  For starters, I would suggest that much of the excess hours that Power Users spend in SAP is cleaning up the mistakes and exceptions of the broader user base that are not properly educated.  In effect, we have left the burden of getting work done to too few - a knowledge risk time bomb waiting to explode in a changing workforce.

The direct and immediate consequence of asking too much of too few is user productivity.  We have gotten to the point where 21% of the Power Users time in SAP is waste.  This should be immediately disturbing as usually Power Users are a company’s most expensive employee class.  Below we show some of the detail of these productivity losses such as the growing level of contextual help requests, confusion over report content, or input options, and the struggle to navigate through a cumbersome user experience.  As you can see some process domains (e.g. accounting) do worse than others in terms of user productivity losses. 

But as bad as it is to squander the bandwidth of a company’s most expensive players, the downstream impacts on process execution are far worse creating an organizational drag on company productivity overall.  In future blogs we will address the business risks being created by not educating enough users and outline a strategic user enablement model that can mitigate these risk.  But until then, hopefully you are wondering just exactly how many Power Users you have.  How much of a burden they are experiencing and how much of an organizational drag they have unintentionally become.