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Drawing my boss with a banana: lessons from remote working with SAP Colleagues and Customers

SAP remote team morale

Over Christmas I read “Think and Grow Rich” (Napoleon Hill - 1937) again . I first read it more than 15 years ago, but when I saw it in Waterstones in December (the few days it was actually open for browsing) I picked up a new re-launched copy.

For those who know the book you’ll know you have to take the advice with a pinch of salt — but there are definitely some golden nuggets hidden in the text.

One of the golden nuggets that I’ve held onto for years is our QQS rating - Quality, Quantity and Spirit.

In the book it’s explained as: “the quality and quantity of the service rendered, and the spirit in which it is rendered, determine to a large extent the price and the duration of employment.

“To market services effectively (which means a permanent market at a satisfactory price, under pleasant conditions), one must adopt and follow the QQS formula.” (remember this book was originally written in 1937).

For me, having always worked in the services sector, I have seen that Spirit is what separates the best people from the masses.

Over the last year I’ve noticed that Spirit waning.

A Spirit sapping state of affairs

In the lockdown world we’ve found ourselves in we may still manage to get our day jobs done, but there are other parts of life that may be falling by the wayside.

How do you find the motivation to exercise in the dark?

How do we make sure our kids are watching their online lessons when you’re on calls all day?

How do we keep in touch with our friends when the last thing we want is more zoom calls in the evening too?

We are being consumed by technology and online experiences. We are replacing the physical world with the virtual word and it’s taking a toll on our Spirit.

Reading the book again made me think about this and how we can bring our Spirit back to our teams.

Putting the Spirit back in your SAP project team

If we are going to perform to the best standards we need to redress the balance between Quality, Quantity and Spirit.

For me, the hardest part of lockdown is missing the human and social element of physically interacting with my colleagues.

Although we have proven that as a race we are adaptable and that we can function remotely very well, the Spirit is not always there.

What if one of our colleague’s Spirit is waning?

Consider how they look on zoom - you’ll know if something isn’t right. Even the tone of voice on a phone call can tell you a lot about the person you’re talking to.

But really, these aren’t isolated incidents or unusual individuals - we’re all struggling a bit at the minute - so how do we bring the Spirit back?

Keeping in touch is more than a daily stand-up

It’s difficult to build rapport remotely. Traditional water cooler chats have been replaced by quick fire “hope everyone’s ok” banter on the first few minutes of our zoom calls. And even this is often curtailed by the feeling you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

But that call could be the first and only conversation your colleague will have that day. 5 minutes on the weather or the state of the nation might be much more important to their wellbeing than if you’ll meet your next stage gate.

I’m lucky that at Resulting we make time for completely none SAP project related conversations.

The team I’m working with has an hour set aside every Friday. We deliberately don’t have an agenda and just talk about what we’ve achieved during the week and what we are looking forward to next week - whether that’s something we’ve achieved on a project, or just something we’re looking forward to in our home lives.

And then there was the now infamous Resulting Christmas Party - which included the inaugural (and what we hope to be annual) Resulting Virtual Christmas Task Master special.

This included tasks such as showing your best (or most naff) certificate, taking a picture of an iconic location, and - fan favourite - creating a picture of a colleague from a list of items including chocolate, ketchup, mayonnaise and a banana with no pencil in site.

While this Christmas party may not have had the same swanky Manchester location we’ve become acclimated to over the last few years, it will definitely go down in memory as one of the most laughter filled Christmas parties we’ve had.

It certainly provided a welcome break to the tedium of 2020 and helped the team feel revitalised and reconnected coming into 2021.

But, with new contracts signed, new customers in waiting, and new colleagues joining the Resulting team, 2021 will provide even more challenges in the world of virtual socialising.

After all, it’s one thing catching up with people you’ve known for years online - but how do you build a rapport with someone you’ve only ever met virtually.

Never too old for imaginary friends

One of the biggest challenges of 2020 was getting to know and working with people in a solely virtual world. By this I mean people who you’ve only ever met virtually, with whom you’ve been thrust together to try and deliver something huge like an SAP project.

It can seem like an insurmountable challenge.

Similarly, bringing new colleagues into the business can seem daunting - how on earth are we going to ingratiate these people to the team and make them feel at home when we can’t even say "hi" in person.

These are the real challenges of the lockdown era for businesses, but ones we must all face and overcome if we want to continue to grow.

Thankfully, I think we’re doing pretty well at this.

Resulting have played a big part in what we believe to believe one of the first - if not the first - wholly remote SAP project go-lives in the country, and we have continued to grow our permanent team behind the scenes with the welcome addition of new back office staff and a number of junior developers.

So how did we do it?

Reframe the problem for a better remote SAP project

A Resulting we’ve always put a lot of investment in Agile working and online collaboration tools so when the first lockdown came, although we were obviously disappointed and concerned, we found ourselves in a much better place than many to continue working as normal.

As the year went on, we have further invested in these tools, and helping the team to adopt them (the most important factor) to make sure things have run as smoothly as possible.

What this has taught us is that remote working, online collaboration and Agile approaches to SAP project management aren’t hurdles we must overcome to continue providing consulting - they are part and parcel of SAP consulting.

Understanding how to deliver in a remote environment is now as important as managing your RAAIDD log. Instead of thinking of these as challenges you have to work around, they are just another part of the process you have to manage like anything else.

Only by taking this approach will you make adoption of these new tools a priority. This is vital as it’s these tools that will help you get your project over the line, and it is also these tools that will help your remote team members, both new and old, feel less isolated and that they are really part of team.

This is how we can keep the Spirit alive in these trying times - and who knows - we may even pick up a few new skills and ways of working that we will keep once we’re all back sat round a packet of hobnobs in the staff room.

If you need help delivering your SAP or ERP projects remotely check out our SAP Kanban for remote project teams training courses here.

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