PODCAST EPISODE 1 – INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS MICHAEL

Michael Management CEO - Thomas Michael
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Thomas Michael, CEO of Michael Management Corporation, is the guest in this episode. 

Thomas speaks and writes widely about SAP training and implementation issues.

A native of Germany, currently residing in New York, he has been involved in SAP consulting and development since 1993. Considered to be one of the leading SAP experts in the world, he has worked with an impressive array of clients all over Europe and the US.

Thomas is a published author and has written numerous articles and white papers covering a variety of leadership topics. He has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, appeared in INC magazine, Entrepreneur’s Organization and LinkedIn Pulse.

Topics covered in this podcast include:

  • The evolution of training. The traditional classroom bound training to online training. The financial and accessibility benefits of computer-based training. The trends we’re seeing in training today and where we expect it to end up.
  • An exploration of the entrepreneurial journey and what the future holds for Michael Management.

Who should listen to this episode?

Anyone who is:

  • Interested in becoming an online course instructor.
  • Interested in what the future holds for corporate training and how to leverage training for your organisation.
  • Interested in becoming a certified SAP user.

Show Notes

Michael Management Website https://www.michaelmanagement.com/
Michael Management on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/michael-management-corporation/
Michael Management on Twitter https://twitter.com/michael_mgmt
Thomas Michael on Twitter https://twitter.com/ListenToThomas

The Business Case for Online Training https://www.kdplatform.com/business-case-online-training/

Waldorf Salad https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_salad

https://www.webdesignmuseum.org
Mettbrötchen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKSgGv-mx5s
How to cook Mopane worms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D62EHte2CQQ

Miles Davis – The Complete Birth Of The Cool https://amzn.to/3nVFtgk

SAP https://www.sap.com/

SAP 2020 Fact Sheet https://drive.google.com/file/d/15_Elsj0aaOi5kl0Bl9O4k-kI37eV-Gve/view?usp=sharing
Prezi Present https://prezi.com/
What is SAP ECC 6.0? https://answers.sap.com/questions/4808423/what-is-sap-ecc-60.html
SAP R3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAP_R/3
SAP ERP https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAP_ERP
SAP HANA https://www.sap.com/africa/products/hana.html

Live Instructor-Led SAP Training https://www.michaelmanagement.com/instructor-led-training-courses.asp
SAP Learning Paths https://www.michaelmanagement.com/learning-path
SAP Skill Assessments https://www.michaelmanagement.com/sap-skill-assessments.asp
Regex – A Complete Guide to Regular Expressions https://www.michaelmanagement.com/sap-training-course/regex-a-complete-guide-to-regular-expressions

Tik Tok making teaching faster https://twit.tv/shows/this-week-in-tech/episodes/789?autostart=false
Increase your YouTube Speed with this Chrome Extension https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/video-speed-controller/nffaoalbilbmmfgbnbgppjihopabppdk

 

COURSES RELATED TO THIS PODCAST

Edited Transcript

Paul Ogier  

Okay, howzit, Thomas? How are you doing?

 

Thomas Michael  

I am well, thank you.

 

Paul Ogier  

I see that you’re in New York right now on a miserable rainy day.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yes, I’m back at home after a trip to London and now back in New York quarantining for two weeks.

 

Paul Ogier  

So what we do is a thing called quick questions. Just to start off, get everyone to relax and let everyone get to know you quickly. 

 

What is the weirdest food that you’ve ever eaten? 

 

Thomas Michael  

Well, it’s not weird to me, but it seems weird to a lot of other people. It’s something that I like to eat in Germany for breakfast. It’s a roll with raw hamburger on it and some raw onions too.

 

Paul Ogier  

What is that called? 

 

Thomas Michael  

It’s called a mettbrötchen. It’s just raw hamburger and a mix of beef and pork. People are weirded out here. They’re like, why would you ever eat that? 

 

Paul Ogier  

I’m fairly weirded out on this side as well. And I’m from South Africa – we’ve got Mopane worms and things like that. And your raw pork just sounds…okay.

 

Thomas Michael  

Right? If we ever meet in Hamburg, Germany, my hometown, I’m buying you one. 

 

Paul Ogier  

I’m gonna take you up on that one. 

 

What did you name your first car?

 

Thomas Michael  

Oh, my first car. I don’t think I had a name for it. I remember what it was. It was a VW Golf diesel. My mother insisted on buying me a diesel because she figured it’s slow and lame and I can’t get into much trouble with it.

 

Paul Ogier  

 Was she right or wrong about getting into trouble?

 

Thomas Michael  

There was a reason for it.

 

Paul Ogier  

What is the most amazing fact that you know?

 

Thomas Michael  

I just talked to my son over the weekend, and I reminded him that the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. I think Einstein said that. 

 

Paul Ogier  

What was your first cell phone?

 

Thomas Michael  

My first cell phone. I don’t know if it was the first but it was definitely one of the first. I remember I was living in Houston, Texas, at that time. It was a flip phone, of course,  and had a walkie talkie function as well. 

 

Paul Ogier  

Oh, now I’m jealous.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, so me and my business partner both had these phones. So we could “walkie talkie” to each other all over town.

 

Paul Ogier  

What year was that?

 

Thomas Michael  

’97 maybe, or so? Somewhere in the ’90s. It was so cool.

 

Paul Ogier  

Yeah, our technology’s actually gone backwards. 

 

Thomas Michael  

Right. 

 

Paul Ogier  

My first cell phone was an Ericsson with one of those aerials that flip out. Because obviously, you had to have the aerial flipping out. I remember, it was one of those very heavy cellphones and you could have 20 numbers stored and 20 SMSs. And if you wanted it to vibrate you had to buy a separate battery, as far as I remember. 

 

Do you collect anything?

 

Thomas Michael  

I do. I collect old vinyl records. So when I was a kid, I obviously had vinyl records and then I got rid of them all. Then just the last couple years I got back into it. It was something that I always enjoyed back then and always kind of missed over the last few decades. So I got back into it, and I get really excited about 70-year-old jazz records.

 

Paul Ogier  

What is your favourite vinyl that you have? If you’re running out of a burning building, your family’s safe and everything, and you have to grab one album.

 

Thomas Michael  

It would be Miles Davis’ “birth of the cool”. I have some really old cool jazz records. But most of my collection’s ’80s music because I’m a kid of the ’80s. So I’m buying every ’80s record that I can.

 

Paul Ogier  

It’s quite amazing how expensive vinyl has actually become now. They do sound beautiful and I like the whole thing about putting a needle on the record. That physical action is beautiful. From the convenience of it, I think Spotify might still be my favourite.

 

Thomas Michael  

Everybody tells me that’s so dumb. Why would you spend an obscene amount of money on these records? And then you hear this popping and the clicking. That’s exactly why. If I wanted a pristine recording of it, then I’ll just listen to Spotify. But that’s not what I want. I want exactly that, the physical act of putting the record on the player, putting the needle down hearing the little pops.

 

Paul Ogier  

The nostalgia element?

 

Thomas Michael  

Exactly. The nostalgia takes me back. Plus I like the album covers and the art that went into it. That’s cool.

 

Paul Ogier  

What do you consider yourself really bad at? 

 

Thomas Michael  

Oh, international tax law.  I failed it in college. It was the only course I ever failed. Because I cannot think of anything more boring than that. 

 

In general taxes, I do understand them, but there’s a reason why I outsource that kind of stuff. I don’t want to be good at it. I just don’t want to do it.

 

Paul Ogier  

So getting into the meat of this. 

 

I was going through your LinkedIn and you’ve been dealing with SAP, and you were a consultant with SAP, since 1994. 

 

This morning I was looking at a website called webdesignmuseum.org. It has old websites like what Apple, Microsoft, Metacrawler and Alta Vista looked like back in the day. 

 

As I was going through them I thought about how we thought that these were very cool, powerful and very hip back then.

 

What was SAP like in ‘94?

 

Thomas Michael  

It was very, very different. Everything was grey. When you logged in, everything was just a light grey or dark grey. But it was just grey. There were no visual elements. 

 

It was the first time that SAP had a client-server architecture where it’s not through a mainframe but through your computer. You had your own GUI or graphical user interface. It was fairly plain compared to what you have nowadays. 

 

And it was much smaller, much easier back then even though it wasn’t ever easy. It didn’t have as much functionality, of course, it was pretty plain.

 

Paul Ogier  

So what did you do with the sharing elements? With getting data into that? With backing up with anything. How did that all work? Was it all floppy disks? Was there any internet that you could use? 

 

Thomas Michael  

When I started in ’94, SAP was on R3 back then. So that was their client-server architecture. R2 was the old mainframe architecture. So they were on R3 and I started on release 2.1 or 2.2. So, there were no more floppy disks per se. 

 

The computer still had them of course, but SAP was on the server architecture at that time. 

 

Paul Ogier  

SAP has been around for 40 years or something like that.

 

Thomas Michael  

It started in the ’70s.

 

Paul Ogier  

Ja, it’s quite amazing to see how the software has progressed in that time. And to think that there are things that are happening now, like Google or a Facebook, that’s been around for 5/10 years, or 20 years. And you’ve got something like SAP that’s been around for 40 years. It’s mind-boggling really, it’s before Windows, it’s before DOS. Before a lot of them.

 

Thomas Michael  

It’s amazing to think about how it was just these five guys in the ’70s. 

 

They used to work for IBM Germany, actually. They had this idea, their leadership didn’t go for it, so they all quit their jobs and started SAP to fulfil this dream. 

 

In this tiny little village of Waldorf, it’s nothing, it’s a dot on a map. 

 

And you fast forward to now. I’ve read something, some crazy number, like 90% of all transactions in the world, somehow run through an SAP system.

 

Paul Ogier  

Or interact with an SAP system.

 

Thomas Michael  

Or interact with an SAP system. Exactly. Or touch an SAP system. It’s amazing.

 

Paul Ogier  

That’s ridiculous. 

 

Thomas Michael  

And most people are oblivious to the fact. They wouldn’t even know. I always pick it up, like when I do go to a store, then sometimes I look at the cashier’s screen. I’m like, oh, that’s an SAP screen. But they probably don’t even know.

 

Paul Ogier  

So you were consulting with SAP since ’94, and then in 2000, you started Michael Management, which I’m going to assume is because your surname is Michael?

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, I’m not a creative guy, and that was a domain that was available at the time.

 

Paul Ogier  

I like it. It’s simple. You guys have just turned 20. That’s a hell of an achievement. 20 years! What was the profile of your typical client in 2000?

 

Thomas Michael  

In 2000, it was a much different company than we are today. 

 

I started Michel management as a boutique consulting company. Business was good at the time. It was fairly easy for us to launch. 

 

We had a bunch of big clients that we had worked with before. Mainly fortune 500 companies that I worked with – helping them implement SAP – specifically, the asset management area or asset accounting area. 

 

That’s what we always focused on. It’s a very important area in SAP. Everybody has assets, everybody has a balance sheet, but it’s so highly specialized and kind of a niche. There weren’t a lot of people working in that area. There weren’t a lot of experts. 

 

So that’s why I focused on it. I always specialized in it and it’s done me well.

 

Paul Ogier  

The thing that blew me away, is that you guys started online training in 2007. 

 

Khan Academy, only started in 2008; Udemy, started in 2009; Skillshare, in 2010 and Coursera, in 2012. 

 

You guys were on the cutting edge. Actually, you invented the edge.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, we were definitely one of the first. 

 

That’s probably because when I was working for SAP, decades ago, I used to teach a lot of their training classes. The old traditional classroom training classes. They were very much death by PowerPoint. 

 

I remember starting the class on Monday morning, and the first slide was up, and in the bottom right-hand corner, it would say slide 1of 680.

 

Paul Ogier  

That’s depressing. 

 

Thomas Michael  

And people were like, “God, this is going to be a long week!” 

 

Fast forward to like 2006-ish, seven-ish. That was the first time when these authoring software hit the market. That allowed you to create content that’s not PowerPoint-based but more simulation-based. 

 

We played around with it and, after a bunch of iterations, we found a format that people really responded to. They liked that it was hands-on simulation courses, wasn’t PowerPoint driven, and it looked like you were logged into an SAP system but you weren’t. 

 

You could simulate interacting with the screen. You can click on the buttons and fill out the field just like you would in your real SAP job. So it was true learning by doing it at that time.

 

We created one course, and then we created a second course and then a third. Now we’re the second largest provider of online SAP training, after SAP itself.

 

Paul Ogier  

That’s incredible.

 

In 2007 everyone was training via PowerPoints. I think, a couple of years after that, Prezi came out, just to make the PowerPoint more interesting. But you’re still not getting involved. You’re still not pushing the buttons yourself. You’re not interacting with the software. 

 

So that the fact that you guys did this is incredible.

 

Did you know this was going to work? This must have been a hell of a lot of effort to get this up and running. How did you know that this wouldn’t be for nought? 

 

Thomas Michael  

We really didn’t know. I had a hunch. I knew how bad it was. So I thought anything must be better than this. There must be customers for this. 

 

But we didn’t know. There was no research or focus group or anything like this. We were a small company. We thought let’s just do a couple of courses and see what happens. 

 

We have plenty of other ideas and projects that didn’t work, by the way. 

  

This just happened to be one that worked out really well for us.

 

Paul Ogier  

What did the other SAP training look like? They were in person. They were PowerPoint presentations. Was anything remote happening?

 

Thomas Michael  

So back then there were really only two options. 

 

If our client had just hired a new accountant, and that account needed training, they only had two options. Send that person to a five day SAP class in one of their training centres at a cost of $5,000 plus the travel expenses. 

 

The alternative was to have a trainer come on-site and train that person for a day or two. But that’s not scalable either. And there were really no other options back then. 

 

We offered online training before SAP actually did.

 

Paul Ogier  

I love it. You, you little whippersnapper, you! 

 

The other thing you also did in 2007 was the sandboxing systems. Azure wasn’t there. There weren’t any other cloud providers to spin up virtual machines. How did you do a sandbox in 2007?

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, and that went hand in hand with the training. 

 

When I started in it was really hard to get content, there were no courses that you could just access and there were no sandbox systems that you could play and practice in. So it was very difficult to get started back in my day. 

 

So I thought when we do this training, wouldn’t it be nice if somebody could take a course and then log into a sandbox system and actually practice what they’ve just learned. So, same thing, we didn’t know if it would work or not, but we had this idea that there’s got to be a market for it. We like it and we think other people would like it too. 

 

And the same thing – it took off. 

 

We offered that before anybody else too – SAP now offers it too.

 

And they do it in their own way, of course. Totally different really than ours.

 

So the idea is people that take training and work for a company that has an SAP system but they can’t play and practice in those systems because the security rules are typically so tight. So that’s why these sandbox systems are a great way to improve your skills.

 

Paul Ogier  

So did you have your own servers? Did you scale a couple of servers, install SAP on a couple of servers and allow remote access into them? How did you actually physically do it?

 

Thomas Michael  

We had an SAP license and we started with one server and one system. And then every time they upgraded, we upgraded and added more servers and more systems.

 

Now we have a little server farm.

 

Paul Ogier  

We’re in 2020, now, so if you wanted to get rid of your server farm and just spin it up on Azure or Google Cloud it’s just going to be much simpler than what you guys had to go through in 2007.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yes, and that’s probably going to be in our future too. We still run our own servers physically. But we’re probably going to move to the cloud too – just like you said. It’s so much easier and more convenient to spin up a box.

 

Paul Ogier  

Ja, and in terms of buying hardware and things like that.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, and we don’t really want to be in the hardware business. 

 

Let these guys be in the hardware business they’re so much better at it than we are.

 

Paul Ogier  

So you guys have been training now, since 2007, you’ve been with SAP since ’94. What has kept you interested in SAP for this amount of time?

 

Thomas Michael  

It’s the sheer scope of SAP. People don’t realize how big SAP is. 

 

It took us almost 10 years, maybe 8 years, to develop all the courses for the ECC 6.0 system that we wanted to develop. You’re talking hundreds and hundreds of courses, thousands and thousands of lessons. 

 

It took a very long time to just cover ECC 6.0 and that was a stable release. Everybody is, and was, on ECC 6.0 at that time. So it was a good environment for us to put resources into it to develop more content for it. 

 

Of course, SAP then came out with SAP HANA. Their brand new release, everything looks different. So we were thinking that means we have to develop all new content. 

 

But do we really want to spend the next eight years doing that or do we want to leverage all the other smart SAP guys in the market and have them create the content and put it on our platform? That was a bit of a shift in our business model. 

 

Originally, we were the platform and the content creator. Now we’re shifting more towards where we are the platform, and all the other smartest SAP people in the world are the content creators. Like Udemy does. 

 

That allows us to create a lot more courses in a shorter amount of time.

 

Paul Ogier  

I was a math teacher back in the day and I would teach a concept. I thought I was teaching the concept beautifully and 95% of the students would get it. There was that 5% that often turned to their next-door neighbour to ask how do you do this. It never offended me because everyone learns differently. 

 

Have you guys found the same kind of thing with your trainers? That if you guys are teaching it one way, having a variety of trainers actually makes the content richer, more vibrant, learning more effective?

 

Thomas Michael  

Yes. And that’s exactly one of the reasons why we wanted to do this. 

 

When I taught SAP’s courses, their content, there was always one voice, one flavour of ice cream, everything was very much the same. Either you liked it or hated it.  

 

Then when we created our own courses, at first, the same thing. It was our style, our voice, our everything. People liked it, but I always thought, well, we’re not the only smart people. There’s a lot of other people that are smarter, that can teach it better or differently. People might respond to this instructor better than to that instructor. 

 

So that was one of the reasons why we opened up the platform for other people to create content. And we do not enforce a duplicity rule. So if we already have a course on SAP purchasing it’s okay if you want to create another course on SAP purchasing. Because you’ll cover it differently and you’ll explain it differently. People might respond to your course better than to the other course.

 

Paul Ogier  

There also might be different industries There are going to be different prerequisites you have to put in place and you’ll have different parameters. I don’t think you’re just doing a generic SAP course.

 

Thomas Michael  

Exactly, yeah. And it gives it more texture to have all these different topics taught by different instructors in different styles and manners. I like it a lot.

 

Paul Ogier  

You’ve also started introducing the live instructor-led courses where it does a one-day jumpstart class. So if I’ve just been employed by a company, that’s running SAP, I would jump into that class and I could actually have a live instructor explaining stuff to me.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, so it feeds into what you just said people learn in different ways. Some people learn well with self-study, eLearning. 

 

Other people want a live instructor to teach it to them and show them. So we wanted to cover both avenues. 

 

The self-study eLearning is still the main mode of learning these days but it doesn’t cover everybody. So if our corporate clients come to us and say I have this a team of accountants or buying agents we want to train we put them on one of these one-day jumpstart classes. 

 

A five-day class might have worked 10 or 15 years ago but today, nobody has a week to take off. 

  

What we like to do is we chop things up into smaller bite-sized things and only teach people what they really need to know right now. Then if they feel like they need to take the advanced level of it or the configuration course for that, they can do that separately but we don’t cram it into a five-day class. It’s just too much.

 

Paul Ogier  

The thing I find interesting is that you’ve got learning paths as well. 

 

If I want to be an SAP administrator there are four different learning paths. There’s the SAP HANA administrator, or SAP solution manager, architect or system administrator.

 

Each of them says this is 37 hours, or this is 40 hours, and then I can actually go through those particular routes to find exactly what I’m looking for and take these particular classes.  

 

I do enjoy the fact that you have more direct routes for each individual person. And that was just one example, there are some other ones where there are 18 different routes.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, all these learning paths were a direct result of a big survey we do every year amongst our community, and we’re a pretty big community. 

 

We asked them, what’s the number one thing you need, or you want. And learning path or career guidance came out on top.

 

That was probably the result of us having so many courses and then people always ask, where do I start? That’s hard to do when you have 400 plus courses to figure out which one should I take? 

 

So that’s when we sat down and created these learning paths. I don’t think they were very good in the past. This last year we overhauled all of the learning paths and made it a lot more obvious what the path or the track is that you need to follow. 

 

So we cover most of the common SAP job roles. So if you want to be an accounts payable clerk, there is a job path or a buying agent or an HR administrator or a database administrator. We have these paths already pre-configured and pre-designed for you.

 

Paul Ogier  

If I’ve actually worked on SAP before do you have a self-assessment tool or anything like that to say you can start at step 30, then?

 

Thomas Michael  

Yes, so we have what we call our SAP skill checks. 

 

That’s something that we always tell, especially our corporate customers, when they say I have this group of people, and they need to be trained on SAP. The very first thing we always tell them is you really need to make sure you train the right people on the right content. 

 

Because let’s say you take somebody and you make them go through 20 hours of basic SAP skills training, and then the person comes out and says I already knew all of that stuff. Well, not only is it a waste of money, it’s a waste of time. 

 

We always say before you assign these courses, do a quick little skills check of your people. It takes 15 minutes to take the test, and the test will tell you you’re this level and maybe you should take a course or not. 

 

You avoid wasting people’s time by having them take training on content that they already know.

 

Paul Ogier  

So would you suggest that if a company is running SAP that they reach out to you guys, do the skills test first and then basically see what the missing parts are before they start?

 

Thomas Michael  

Yes, if you’re a company that runs SAP, we always want you to call us. 

 

The skill checks are really for those folks that are not 100% sure, where the skill levels of their teams are. 

 

We just signed up a new client in Italy. They’re brand new to SAP so they don’t need to take the skills checks because we already know everybody starts from scratch. 

 

But we have other customers that have been on SAP for a long time. Some of their users are newbies, others are somewhere in the middle others are experts. So for those, it would make sense to take a skill check before you enrol in a course.

 

Paul Ogier  

I think it could be exciting to supply a company with training from scratch rather than having a mix of skill levels. Is it? 

 

Thomas Michael  

Yes, I think it’s exciting. It’s a lot of work. But if it’s done properly, I think it pays huge dividends for the company. 

 

There’s a lot of companies that have skipped that important step, the end-user training, or thought they can rush through it in a week or two before going live. That never works well. 

 

I’ve worked as a hands-on SAP consultant for a quarter of a century. I’ve worked with a lot of companies where when I ask the users who trained you they say I’ve never received any training. Bob, over in accounting, he showed me a few things when I started.

 

Maybe it saves a lot of money upfront, but it costs you double that later on, to fix it.

 

Paul Ogier  

With SAP, there are obviously massive things that they’re doing and they’ve been around for 40 years. Have you ever thought this is absolutely terrible, they’ve made a huge misstep and I need to try another thing?

 

Thomas Michael  

Luckily, no. I got lucky. 

 

I didn’t get into the SAP business by choice. I finished college and my cousin was a partner in an SAP consulting firm and he gave me my first job. So that’s how I got my start. 

 

But it could have just as well have been any of the other ERP vendors back then – that don’t exist today anymore. So I got lucky. I got into the SAP world and it was very obvious and very clear very early on that this will be the dominating ERP system for decades and decades to come. 

 

Companies don’t implement SAP with a time horizon of less than 30 or 40 years. So you know, these systems will be around for a long time.

 

Paul Ogier  

So you guys are also expanding Michael Management now. You’re not just doing SAP. 

 

The way I got to know about you guys, is we have a regular expressions course  – for data analysis, for cleanup of data and things like that – that we’ve now placed on to your platform. 

 

What kind of courses are you guys now accepting?

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, so our bread and butter business is SAP content, of course, and will always be. We’re heavily specialized in that area and that’s why companies come to us and buy our content. That said, we realized that there’s a bunch of other systems that touch SAP. 

 

So that’s like the next ring of courses that we started to develop. And it was very popular. Then we released Excel add ons for SAP. Then we thought well if we’re doing Excel might as well do Word and PowerPoint. And then they were very popular. So we’re adding more and more content. 

 

But we always wanted to focus on our core mission of SAP training. Then COVID came along. And suddenly all of our customers were asking do you have any courses about managing remote teams or how to be a better remote manager or how to work from home or how to deal with stress. So we thought, we don’t but what a great topic to add right now. 

 

So we did that. We have no ambitions to be the next Udemy and cover everything but we realize that there are a few other things around SAP that are important to our current subscribers.

 

Paul Ogier  

So if people want to get hold of you. The best place to get hold of you guys is at Michaelmanagement.com?

 

Thomas Michael  

Yes, Michaelmanagement.com. There’s a Contact Us link. They can send us an email, you can chat with us. If it’s during regular business hours, we have a live chat. Sarah’s on the live chat. She’s always happy to chat with anybody.

 

Paul Ogier  

Where do you guys see online training going in the next five to twenty years?

 

Thomas Michael  

Just a few years ago I remember when we had sales presentations with new customers, we would boast about the length of a course. Like you can take this basic SAP skills course that’s an eight-hour course; very meaty. You get good value for your money. Those days are over. 

 

Now when I tell somebody there’s an eight-hour course, the very first thing they ask me is do you have a two hour or shorter version of that? Because we don’t have eight hours. 

 

So everything will be shorter and faster and quicker. That’s definitely what we’re seeing. There are a lot more one or two hour courses these days than eight-hour courses. Lessons used to be 30 minutes or 20 minutes. Now a lesson is 5 or 6 or 7 minutes for new lessons. 

 

That’s what I would tell content creators now to keep that in mind. People want short, quick stuff. They want to be able to look something up and then turn and use it right now in their job, this afternoon.

 

Paul Ogier  

I was actually listening to an interview the other day on another podcast where they were talking about people being trained. 

 

And instead of going to YouTube, where it says, subscribe to my channel, and before we get started go to my website and all the other stuff and then five minutes into the video there’s the training. People are actually going to TikTok and they’re learning off TikTok in two or three minutes. 

 

And I thought, that’s interesting. I do get the point because YouTube, and those places where you get free education, there’s a lot of things that are taking up a lot of time. 

 

I’ve got my YouTube speeder app on my computer so I don’t have to watch at one speed because I can’t handle how slowly people talk. So I get you completely. 

 

But I think at some point, we’re gonna have to say a one minute lesson is too short.

 

Thomas Michael  

I agree I think that you’re bumping up against the natural limitation. 

 

What you can cover or learn in a minute or two. I don’t ever think that we’ll see 45 second lessons. So I don’t think that’s happening. 

 

The other shift that we noticed when we first started creating content was all these hands on simulation courses by design are slow. Because you have to interact, you have to click on it, you have to fill this out. Over the last few years, there was a shift more to video-based courses. 

 

Netflix and Udemy, they have us watching videos all the time. So that’s what people want and like, and YouTube, too. So that’s the future. Everything will be short little video clips.

 

In the future I think that we will also see us moving towards more assignments. That’s what we’re planning on doing. I’ll let you look behind the curtain a little bit. 

 

So one of our new things will be that we want to include more assignments, more homework, in the courses. Where you watch a five-minute clip on how you do it and then your assignment is to go do that in your system.

 

Paul Ogier  

Yeah, I think if you’re looking at assignments, and you’ve got the sandbox environment, it just makes sense. Absolutely.

 

Thomas Michael  

When we did that survey the number one thing that they said they wanted were these learning paths. The number two thing was assignments; homework.

 

Paul Ogier  

So how would you do it in terms of the instructors? Because obviously, the instructors might have 500 students and they’re all doing assignments that are a free type assignment.Those are going to be quite challenging for the instructors.

 

Thomas Michael  

Yeah, we’re not going to make or expect the instructor to do that for that very reason. This is a self assignment. So you’ve learned what you’re supposed to do and you know what the outcome is, now, here’s the assignment. Try to do this, see if you get to the outcome. 

 

We have another thing that we’re just about to go live with, eLearning. People always have the tendency to think or feel it’s just me in my office learning by myself. I’m all alone. I can’t ask anybody. 

 

We want to show people it’s not like that. No, you’re one of thousands of students, and you’re never alone. So we’re releasing a new global live chat that students can interact with. So they can chat with a bunch of other students live. I want it to be more of a community, I want to create tools that allow people to interact more.

 

Paul Ogier  

When I first started in IT in the late ’90s, I found that going onto the internet and looking at forums, especially with people in IT, they often wanted to help. For just the fact that they were helping. It wasn’t about wanting something or getting paid. 

 

I do find that that kind of interaction with other people live is sometimes one of the most profound things. That actually kind of touches me a little bit. It says this person is willing to take time out of their day to help me with my thing. I think as long as you don’t abuse that, then I think it actually works quite nicely.

 

Thomas Michael  

It’s really surprised me too, because we also did a survey of all of our instructors very recently. 

 

And we asked them why are you doing this? What are you getting out of it? Is it professional recognition that you want? Is it the money you’re making the recurring income stream? Or is it that you like to share your knowledge and help other people around the world? 

 

Out of these three, sharing my knowledge and helping other people around the world was the number one answer people gave us. Totally amazing. I didn’t expect that. 

 

That made me feel good about this community.

 

Paul Ogier  

I think the community elements are going to be a beautiful thing, I really do. As an ex-teacher I obviously love teaching and learning. And it’s very important in IT and  it’s been important in every position I’ve held. 

 

How do you keep yourself up to date on the latest technologies? Do you do courses? Do you read?

 

Thomas Michael  

I consider myself a lifelong learner. We eat our own dog food. So we take our own courses, we discuss them, we have lunch and learn sessions about them. 

 

And there’s a lot of other things that I like to learn about outside of SAP. So I take courses on LinkedIn learning, for example, I take courses on Udemy. There are plenty of other platforms that have amazing content. 

 

Paul Ogier  

Before we start finishing off, what kind of project or experience has resulted in the biggest learning curve for you? What is your biggest challenge? 

 

Thomas Michael  

One of the biggest challenges in the SAP world is separating fact from fiction. 

 

So, SAP is obviously a software company, so they make money by developing software and selling software. So when you listen to their marketing department, this thing is the hottest thing on earth, and you have to have it and everybody will be on it by next week. 

 

So then you have to really think what’s true. So then you start looking at all our customers, and you start talking to them. And they’re like, no, we have no plans on ever using that. 

 

I remember a few years ago, SAP mobile was something that was touted. You have to be on SAP mobile, that’s the new hottest thing. And I was sceptical. I’m like, I don’t see that happening. Not for many years. So we decided against creating content for that. 

 

In hindsight, it was smart because it was shut down. 

 

So that’s a challenge to really think about, where are we taking this? Where do we want to develop content? What’s really being used? versus what’s just a marketing pitch?

 

Paul Ogier  

Where can people find you? Where can they get in contact with you? 

 

Thomas Michael  

So easiest is michaelmanagement.com that’s how you get ahold of us. If you want to get hold of me personally, I’m always up for beer or coffee in New York City. Look me up. 

 

For most people, it starts on the website. And again, we have our live chat nine to five Eastern Standard Time, New York City hours. Or you shoot us an email at info@michaelmanagement.com.

 

Paul Ogier  

Perfect. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time, Thomas. Thanks so much.

 

Thomas Michael  

Thank you, Paul. This was great. Really appreciate it. 

 

Paul Ogier  

Cool man. Thanks.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

 

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