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Adventures of
Super User
Exploring the Idea of the SAP “Super User” in
Documentation, Training, and Support in SAP
Authored by Cristin Merritt of Insite Objects

In consultation withDirk Manuel at ExxonMobil and Suzette

Hannah-Hessler of Applied Materials

Additional input provided by David Hall, Elizabeth Ivester and

Marcos Mella of Insite Objects. Paul Mattos of Applied Materials

With the pressure on companies to shine, investment in systems
like SAP has bred a powerful individual, the SAP Super User.
Gifted with the talents of knowing their portion of the system well,
they often are asked to go beyond the role of their day-to-day job
to provide or assist in the provision of documentation, training, and
support – engaging users and providing a personal touch to bring
harmony between the people and the SAP system. This paper
explores the SAP Super User model, implementation of this model,
sustainment of the model, and improvements that could bring the
education world and the Super Users a much-needed boost.
Utilizing interviews with ExxonMobil and Applied Materials, along
with the results of a 10-question survey answered by 100 SAP
users, the goal of this paper is to offer both advice on how to use
this model and areas of improvement to the model.
The Adventures of Super User

Table of contents
Section 1: The Model ..........................................................................................1

Section 2: Implementation of the Model ...........................................................3

Section Three: Sustaining the Model ................................................................7

Section 4: Improving the Model.......................................................................12

Conclusion ........................................................................................................14
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Section 1: The Model

The Super User model, sometimes called the Power User or Champion User model, is based on
the concept of bringing talented users into positions of leadership for the SAP system. Doing this
will result in:
1. More engaged use of the SAP system as there is a personal face assigned to champion the
system and make acceptance of the technology less challenging.
2. A significant time and cost reduction as companies are not seeking or hiring new or
temporary resources for the purposes of developing and/or delivering documentation,
training, and support.
3. ROI or proof of concept of the SAP investment should be more easily achieved as users are
directly involved, thereby using the system invested in, which benefits the company overall.

A Simplified Super User Model 1
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Model Considerations
In order to adopt the Super User model, the following must be considered:
1. How the Super Users will be found.
2. How much time the Super User will spend in this role.
3. What this role will encompass.
4. How many users the Super User will ‘coach.’

The considerations of the project itself will further refine the model. In the two case studies
conducted by Insite in support of our surveys, we found two companies at opposite ends of SAP
experience, but sharing the same common goals. Each speaks to the pros and cons of having
the Super User model as their primary education model.

The Long-Term Client: ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil has been utilizing SAP for over 15 years. During that time, Dirk Manuel, a consultant
for ExxonMobil and long-time specialist in Change Management and Organization Readiness,
has worked with several variations on the Super User model. The pros and cons of sustaining a
mature SAP cycle include:
! Understanding the Employee Base:
ExxonMobil has been using SAP for a greater period of time and therefore has more data on
how people flow through their job using SAP. Because of this they have a strong grasp of
their desired Super User candidates.
! Understanding the Super User Ratios:
Because of their experience with a vast majority of different-sized projects, they are more
competent in estimating the percentage of their time a Super User will spend in that role, and
also how many users the Super User will coach.
! Project-by-Project Scoping:
The greatest problem of a long-term client is that not all projects get the same time, money,
or resources. This can lead to a lack of standardization in how a company handles
documentation, training, and support across projects.

The Expansion Client: Applied Materials

Applied Materials has used SAP since 1995. For the past two years they have been in
preparation for a phased global rollout, the first phase due for Go Live November/December
2008. This project will reach an eventual 22,000 SAP end-users and is currently considered the
second largest in-progress SAP rollout today. Suzette Hannah-Hessler, Senior Manager, and
Paul Mattos, Programs Manager of the Learning and Development Center of Expertise, have a
combined 33 years of experience in adult education and understand the complexity and nuances
involved in bringing training and support to thousands of individuals. Because the project has a
complete buy-in to the model, they are in a position to create a model that should be sustainable
and be more robust company-wide. Their pros and cons as they approach the project are:
! The Benefit of Hindsight:
Many past SAP implementations, refined education models, and adult learning research
provide a set of knowledge for them to build a solid foundation. As they have a clean slate to
work with, this allows them the chance to develop a cohesive plan that can be adopted
! Establishment of Standards:
As they are going into this implementation with a set of rules, they can set the post for time, 2
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money, and resources. The unification of how a company is educated globally has a much
better chance of succeeding if put in place at the start.
! Employee and Ratio Scoping:
As they are new to SAP, they will have to spend more time creating a better scope for the
type of Super User they wish to promote. Estimated ratios of time spent in the role, and the
role definition itself will go through several changes as they mature with the system.

The balance that must be drawn between older, established clientele and newer/expansion
clientele is creating a general model which can be applied to any size of project, at any stage of
SAP use, and be able to be implemented, controlled, and sustained as a company grows.

Section 2: Implementation of the Model

Insite conducted a blind survey by emailing 12,000 SAP Users in Insite’s user database and
posting to active forums in training and support at ASUG ( We invited
participants to answer a set of 10 questions about the Super User in SAP. Insite’s database
encompasses both customers of Insite and non-customers, and the information has been
collected over 15 years of operations, including the acquisition of a services company. The goal
was to see how the model is implemented, used, and sustained, without bias to Insite’s clientele.
We received an active response from 100 individuals.

Where does a company begin?

Of the 100 respondents, 72% currently utilize a form of the Super User model. The question is:
where is this talent pool found and drawn from? 88% of respondents reported having an accurate
idea of where their Super Users are.

Much of finding a Super User involves knowing who to talk to and what to ask for. ExxonMobil
and Applied Materials both have refined lists of criteria and specific questions that they take to
managers or functional teams. In short, they manually seek out the Super User who fits a profile.
The survey respondents pointed to ‘knowing who to use’ and ‘finding the ones who care’ as part
of the overall profile of a Super User. Companies lucky enough to be small instances of SAP may 3
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have no problem in finding users via profiling and lists, but as the project grows so does the
difficulty of finding the right users.

The Human Element

While SAP as a solution provider is constantly looking for ways to improve its use, the most
difficult measurement to make with SAP is the human response to it. If a person does not like the
system, and does not use the technology, then the technology will inevitably become obsolete
and/or be replaced. The human element is not a standard that can be easily measured from
company to company, and even within a company, from department to department. Personality,
intelligence, and social skills all come into play when a Super User is being identified. The
human factor is extremely important, as the Super Users are the human face of the companies’
SAP system. Applied Materials stressed that they see the Super User as a ‘company
representative.’ ExxonMobil, in complement to this, sees the Super User as an advocate of the
system, and a key component in fostering positive support for it amongst the user population.

The Analytical Element

The new pressure to be able to meet company goals of ROI (Return on Investment) and KPI (Key
Performance Indicators) has spawned an age of management reporting. While human factors
are crucial in the determination of Super Users, there is a very real need for analytical studies of
how people perform in the company’s SAP environment. Currently the area of analytical studies
is only being minutely utilized, as only 8% of the survey respondents noted having any. Studies
made are being pulled together through change requests, help desk calls, and audits or analysis
of the SAP system. Later in the paper we will discuss this further, but it should be noted that this
trend, if developed and embraced properly, should be able to take a substantial burden off certain
users and empower the entire SAP user base.

What is a Super User’s responsibility?

Once the group of potential users is found, the question becomes: how much time they will spend
in this role, and what will they be doing? 81% of the survey respondents indicated that the
majority of the Super User’s time was spent on training, with individual training (also known to
some as first tier support) being the most common task for the Super Users. The next most
common training tasks were train-the-trainer, classroom training, and lab or specialized groups. 4
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Not identified by the survey, but mentioned in interviews were time and user management ratios.
Here the answers varied, and also entered the political ramifications that occur when developing
a Super User base. After all, once these talented users are indentified, how can you ensure that
they will remain balanced between their actual job and the new role they are assigned? And how
can this be done without burning out the Super User or causing issues with their direct superiors,
because they are no longer performing their ‘real’ job 100% of their time? How does a company
justify their cost?

The Sliding Time-Scale

Applied Materials has put together a sliding time-scale of how much time a Super User should
devote to a project. This is comparable to ExxonMobil’s logic. In it, they perceive that a Super
User should be found and put in place during the Testing Phase, and should expend the bulk of 5
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their effort in this role during Go Live. These are the most precarious parts of any SAP project, in
which special care should be made as users adapt to the system. This, however, is a tough sell
to managers, as asking them to ‘borrow’ their prized employee for up to 50% of their work week
can become problematic.

It should be noted that ideally, in a stable system, a Super User should only spend 10% of their
time in this role.

How many users should a Super User ‘coach’? Again, while not part of the survey, both
interviews addressed this question. This is often assessed on a project-by-project basis, and can
include many variables. From our interviews we were able put together the following
1. How stable is your SAP system?
o If very complex or small the ratio is approximately 1 Super User: 10 Users.
o A large project with moderate management yields 1 Super User: 40 Users.
o A 1 Super User: 100 User ratio is likely for long-running, consistently stable systems.
2. How many End Users are in your SAP system?
a. The smaller the system, more likely to consistently maintain a 1 Super User: 10 User
ratio regardless of project.
b. Moderate system (under 10,000 users) maintain at 1 Super User: 40 Users or 1 Super
Users: 100 Users.
c. Large, global systems (over 10,000 users) receive the most inconsistent numbers, and so
no final ratio can be averaged.
3. What kind of support are you providing to the Super User? (The more help available, the
better the chance for a stable use of the system.)
a. Online access for support – variations in customized support, standard support, and it’s
level of integration with users and Super Users.
b. Help Desk size and availability.
c. External support – Functional Team, Training Team, Competency Center availability.

Putting it altogether
Once a company finds, establishes the functions of, and determines the work ratios of the Super
Users, the Super Users are ready for action. But how does this model work in the real world?
Our survey results, along with our interviews, provide the following points for proper
implementation of the model:

1. Get them early

Unanimously, all respondents believe in identifying a Super User very early in the process.
The philosophy behind this is: The earlier they are found and brought in, the earlier the
overall buy-in to the new SAP system.

2. Train them well

ExxonMobil uses a standardized, systematic process for identifying, training, and releasing
Super Users. This same process is used across successive projects, although is often
tailored depending on the needs of the project, as identified during the project planning stage.

Applied Materials has a tiered approach to finding the Super Users. Super Users are divided
into those who can teach, and those who support training. Cultivated Super Users who are
selected to take up training positions adopt a different set of functions to those cultivated to 6
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function as onsite support. These latter individuals may instead be recruited to assist in
documentation and one-on-one training.

3. Give them support

Although this can vary from project-to-project, ExxonMobil has a six-week ‘guarantee’ of their
work from the time of Go Live (sometimes referred to as a ‘warranty period’). This means
that all core players are on-call to assist the Super User and their team. They have also in
the past set up online support systems integrated with SAP that are managed by each project
team. As Applied Materials is new to SAP, they plan to maintain a core team and provide
consistent online support. This will be grown and released in phases alongside their roll-out.

Section 3: Sustaining the Model

Once the model is running the task becomes to keep the model consistent. It is often after a
project has been live for some time that people will notice deterioration in user performance. This
is primarily seen through out-dated materials and the change of people and their roles within the
SAP system. Often, companies will stop and start the use of this education model when they
need it, with no consistent or proven success, which is detrimental to consistent SAP system use.

The vast majority of the budget for an SAP implementation is spent prior to Go Live. This is the
time during which there are countless internal and external resources working day and night to
meet deadlines. Once that has passed, there is a period of system stability, but many of the
problems that occur don’t always happen in the six weeks after a launch. Down the road minor
problems can crop up here or there, which then add up, increasing stress levels on the ground
that may or may not reach the management level. Communication is a strong factor here, but
may not always be readily available.

When conducting our interviews, we found two main fears. (1) Despite all the preparation work
involved in finding and training up the Super User, there is a sense that the project team is
dumping information and running to the next project, not giving the Super User the sustained
support they need. (2) Concerns that the company will run out of the resources required to keep
everyone in good shape as the project expands, which could result in budget overruns and
personnel stress.

There are ways to ensure this does not occur, however, as the suggestions of ExxonMobil, the
plans of Applied Materials, and the experience of Insite can attest.

Phase One: Documentation Management

Often considered as an after-thought is the use of the Super User in the creation and
maintenance of documentation. Whether for training or support, if an online system of help or
training manuals become out-of-date, Super Users are often first to be questioned on changes or
inconsistencies in any materials. By involving them in the creation and update of materials, you
can relieve first tier support pressure, as well as have a better set of material to update when the
next upgrade arrives.

The automated capture tool and document management system

Of those who answered the question regarding ownership of an automated documentation tool,
63% confirmed owning one, with 3% indicating that they were in the process of building or finding
one. Why did Insite bring up this question? It is two-fold. First, many companies would benefit 7
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from more knowledge about the power of automated tools, and second, Insite wanted unbiased
results related to the tool we provide for SAP, which is the RESITE Performance Suite. (Of the
respondents, 68% are not clients of Insite.)

Corporations frequently struggle to properly allocate resources, time, and money to projects.
Because of this, certain levels of project sustainment, the primary example being documentation,
are often abandoned as an unnecessary or unjustifiable expense. Both ExxonMobil, who has
suffered from this in the past, and Applied Materials, who are hoping to stand firm on utilizing their
capture tool, believe strongly that utilization of the Super User model will help address this.

The Sustainers and the Trainers

At this point, variation in the type of Super User can be introduced. This is so that resources can
be spread out to handle different aspects of the creation and maintenance of training and support,
rather than place burden on a small number of Super Users. If a Super User is more of a process
guru than one who wishes to teach, you can limit their role, for example to being responsible for
the maintenance of the process in documentation. This way you can still empower the Super
User, and relate that power back to their actual job role. Trainers, on the other hand, are a bit
more visible, but again you play to their strengths by allowing them to concentrate more fully on
training. The key is to maintain communication between both, so that no one side takes on more
burden than the other.

The role of the Super User and documentation

In considering the future of any project, you must consider the human element in the changes
that the SAP system will inevitably undergo. When people cannot understand a system they
seek help. If that help fails them, they will slowly abandon the system. To relieve pressure on
both the user and the Super User, a system for managing documentation must be in place. To
do this one must:
! Create a secure repository for the documentation.
! Provide a system for feedback from users to designated Super Users to the Functional Team
or Management to be able to make changes in a timely manner.
! Allow for authoring control to extend to a team, whether management or Super User, in a
flexible/scalable manner. This should help to deal with ramp-ups and maintain a stable
! Allow for flexibility within the documentation system for the users to have some degree of
control, such as being able to introduce personal notes.
! Allowing an editing history to be maintained for the documentation. This is mostly for
company audit purposes but can help save time in looking for outdated materials.

The approach to identifying and purchasing an automated tool is often project-by-project in pre-
existing SAP clients because of a lack of unification in documentation, or sadly, not even knowing
where the documentation is. Added to this the IT problem, of how to integrate another tool into
the existing system landscape. Fortunately, most automated documentation tools can plug
directly into SAP and provide both training and support, provided the IT group allows for this
installation. Rules on how far this integration can be made may vary by company or even division
within a company, but not providing this ability can prove detrimental to both the user and Super

Projecting the size: Installing, SaaS or a Wiki

When a company approaches the decision to incorporate an automated tool, they are often at the
mercy of a budget. First, before starting a project, companies should check to see if tools are 8
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already available within the company that are flexible to their needs. In the case of pre-existing
tools, or the ability to purchase tools, there can be two paths:
! Adding on to the system in place, or installing a new system. This involves (re)configuring
the system to provide space for the new project, loading core documents for the project, and
adding authoring rights to selected team members.
! Looking for a hosted or SaaS system to manage their documentation, while gaining authoring
rights to the tool.

The add-on to an existing system or the installation of a new system is better for large scale and
global projects when looking at the need for strict automated communication between multiple
sites, or the maintenance of a competency or training center. If this becomes too difficult to
manage, hosted systems will allow for a project-by-project approach, with each project able to
manage their own material. This gives the ability to budget per-project, and also saves time over
attempting to approve a company-wide installation. The hosted solution may also remove the IT
burden of an in-house documentation management system.

In small projects, or those not needing tight control or approvals over documentation, a wiki
system may work. Under such a system, all user documentation is placed in a location (typically
a Web server) from where all users can display it, and selected users (most likely including the
Super Users) can update it. The only concern will be in regards to control of the documents, as
changes made to documents in the wiki are often made immediately available, without a formal
pre-emptive review. However, when the company is ready to move to a full management system
there will exist a set of documents in place to work from, provided communication between
projects remains active.

The ‘Ideal’ Model

Once an expanded, purchased, or hosted documentation system is functioning and editing
permissions are granted, the continuous update and improvement of the help and training
material can begin. Dividing Super Users to their talents of sustainment or training, duties are
spread so as to not place the total burden on one group of individuals. Giving automated help to
users directly also offsets the first tier support burden. The expanded view of the model can now
be seen as follows: 9
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Phase Two: Trend Measurement

The corporate office would probably admit, if pressed, that the human element regarding the use
of their technology is not the first concern, so long as the technology works and saves them
money. Balancing the reality of the ROI with the needs of people on the ground can give rise to a
war between the bottom line and employee competency and satisfaction. In order to prove a
Super User model works, one must have a means of measuring the model. Otherwise it has no
demonstrable value to either the corporate office or the people on the ground.

Where’s the value?

In the survey conducted, only 28% of respondents have a way of measuring satisfaction,
competency, and value, versus the 72% who have nothing in place. Most of these (20%) use a
survey system, and those who use certification, scientific means, or a combination make up the
remaining 8%.

Subjective versus Objective

Despite Insite’s extensive survey, it is, in the end, just a survey. It is largely subjective and open
to interpretation. In using subjective methods, such as a survey, to gain knowledge of
competency and satisfaction, careful consideration must be made to the following:
! Are the questions generic enough? Are they unbiased and encourage people to answer
! Is the survey blind (with anonymous respondents), or is there value in knowing their names?
! How will the survey be taken and administered? How long will it take to complete? Should it
be detailed or high level? 10
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! How will the data be quantified? Will results be published and made public?, or is this data
used internally?

Problems can persist even with the most carefully constructed survey. A person may answer as
he or she feels the company wants them to (especially when asked to provide personal
information), or the questions may not be asked in ways that are fully understood by the
respondents. If responding to the survey takes up too much of their time a respondent may elect
not to participate, or only answer the questions they consider most important. It is, however,
important for people to have systems of ‘safe feedback,’ as this gives a core or functional team
more personal connection to their company and how it uses SAP.

Objective value methods, however, are completely impersonal and can provide immense benefit
to the company without taking up any of the user’s time. Those who elected to tell us about their
collection methods for competency, satisfaction, and value often looked to the Help Desk. Work
requests and error counts are common means of figuring out what is potentially going wrong.
Narrowing down the areas of concern is paramount for any core team, as this can help preempt
blowouts later down the road. However, this can be difficult as well, as the human element once
again rears its head. Some people will suffer in silence rather than tell people they are in trouble,
and others may have missed a training instance and over-utilize the help as a secondary means
of training. Still others may want to lean on actual people, such as the Super User, and strain
those resources.

The Trend in Trending Tools

What becomes important in balancing subjective and objective data for proof of concept is to look
for trends over errors. Trends allow for more broad-approach thinking and, when coupled with
the ability to see into a process, user, or t-code at the error level, provide a more complete
picture. Currently, there are two tools on the market that are growing in popularity: Knoa and
RESITE Monitor. When coupling trends with a safe feedback system, you will get a more
complete idea about how people use the SAP system.

The Benefit of Trends and Safe Feedback

Proof of concept is important not only to the project team, the core and functional teams, and the
Super Users; it also reflects on the company. Corporate offices respond well when figures show
that the chosen method of documentation, training, and support means bottom line benefit and
improvement. How can all of this work together, and benefit the people called up to a role that
they generally aren’t compensated for?

- Trending tools can show priority in where you need to focus efforts.
o 1% of the budget on an SAP project is spent on training; all areas should be
maximized and balanced to the best of a company’s ability.
o Resources can always be accounted for or found.
- Trending tools can help you focus on areas which may become problems down the road.
o Get away from ‘screaming’ situations and filtering through errors.
o Inform and move resources to areas of concern in order to keep the users balanced
in the system.
- Trending tools can help you spread the burden.
o No single group is saddled with all responsibilities.
o Groups now have lists of tasks for which they can budget time, not lists of potential
tasks that need much more time to research the validity of and then resource.

When coupling trending at both a high level and a detailed level with safe feedback, you will get
both ends of the spectrum and should find the model effective and worthy of expansion. 11
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Section 4: Improving the Model

Phase Three in this model is continuing the cycle to cultivate, train, and move Super Users
through an SAP system. As most companies have not reached a proof of concept point, and
because trending tools are still relatively new to the market, only time will tell what benefits exist
in this means of documentation, training, and support.

In the meantime, Insite has developed, through the survey, its interviews, and its own work with
trending tools, a sample implementation and sustainment model. For this model to work the
following is incorporated:

- Finding Super Users: Both human elements and analytical elements

o Utilization of trending tools to find the best users (in test mode for new projects, and
through the SAP production system in existing systems)
o Short listing those users and then going to management with that list to identify two
types of Super Users: Sustainers and Trainers.
- Division of Super Users into two groups:
o Sustainment: Those who will take active role in maintaining documentation and
providing first line support.
o Training: Those who will take a more public role in training and also provide first line
- A uniform documentation management system from core team down to division. This
should be a single tool, corporate-wide, to plan for later expansion and company growth.
- A consistent support system. This may involve a uniform decision passed to all IT
departments in regards to integrated support or a direct means of online support.
- Objective means to validate user performance, find new Super Users (to preempt
turnover and burnout), and look for targeted areas of improvement.
o Trending tools are in play again, to bring new faces to the forefront of projects.
o Proof of concept and proof of improvement validates corporate investment in SAP.
o The ability to reward those who function best is brought into targeted perspective. 12
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Model as Envisioned for Sustainment and Improvement

Future improvements to the model go beyond the Super User and include more of the general
user base. Insite feels that in order to further refine the model and increase the ‘buy-in’ to the
SAP system, the following options should be considered:
! User-Managed Certifications / Self Assessment: Integrating a Learning Management
System into everyday SAP use so that Users are empowered to improve their SAP skills
while on the job, not away at a training class (or taking up a Super Users’ time).
! Further refinement of documentation management: Further models may be able to create
subsets of users who frequently contribute to the improvement of documentation and
therefore the business processes.
! Pre-emptive Support: Refinement of the support system integrated into SAP to help users
instantly, before they become too lost or begin to seek the Super User. 13
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The Super User Model, Dirk Manuel says, is “a model which has to work.” It is one of the best
ways to connect with the end-users of the SAP system at a human level, and is also the most
scalable and sustainable model. In order for it to work, and to be able to be of value to the
company and improve the bottom line, it must be nurtured both analytically and humanly. The
balance between the two is paramount as the people involved – the Super Users themselves -
are often extraordinary, highly-skilled and knowledgeable people. From finding them, through
training them, to supporting and rewarding them, a consistent, ever-improving system should be
placed alongside consistent, ever-improving people. This hand-in-hand approach between the
two should mean above-board involvement, and therefore superior use of a company’s SAP
investment. Whether a small project or a major global rollout, the time the Super Users give, the
role they play, and the support they provide are vital to the success of any SAP implementation,
and therefore, given the significant investment in such implementations, vital to the continued
existence of a successful company.

© Insite Objects, 2008 14