ERP Implementation: User Training and Education Starts Early on in the ERP Project
As reported in last week’s blog, there is a strong correlation between end-user training and both improved business performance and successful ERP implementations. The research paper we looked at delved into the effects of ERP training on the success of both. This week, we are looking at when training starts and what some of the reasons are behind how ERP training works. Although familiar with some of the logic and methodology of end-user training best practices, I was happy to see hard-evidence behind some of the advice and initiatives brought forward by our own consultants.
Published in 2013 by the Canadian Center of Science and Education, the paper sets off to explore education initiatives that help implementation of ERP systems be successful in an organization. The authors arm readers with a foundation of intuition to approach end-user training as an important key part of an ERP project. Most surprising to me, was the paper’s emphasis that ERP training and education starts early. I wasn’t so much surprised with that fact alone, but with how obvious it seems when you really think about it.
Another way to look at it would be to say that everything is an education. This is particularly true when you are exploring new paths for your business, as is the case of many companies that are exploring investing in ERP systems. There is a huge learning curve for businesses, and their respective managers deciding to invest and implement an ERP solution. New terms, various providers, modules, best practice, business processes, data, and so on. If it’s fair to assume that the ERP education process begins during the initial phase of the project, why not take advantage of the circumstances and also assume that end-user ERP training starts when the company begins to move towards investing in ERP?
ERP education encompasses all that it takes to make the ERP system effective in the daily use by employees. Starting ERP education early in the ERP project exposes end-users to the general logic of ERP systems. Understanding the logic of ERP systems enables users to be more conscious about their use of the system and how the processes they are involved with affect the flow of information within the organization.
The rationale for early end-user participation and training is that it is in the beginning of the project that the needs of the organization are clearly stated and the benefits of the ERP system are emphasized as a solution to those needs. End-users get a “bigger picture” understanding of what is happening at an organizational level, which serves as context for their training on individual tasks within the system. It also mitigates resistance to change by giving managers and employees insight into the objectives of the project as a whole.
The paper makes no qualms about it: as tedious and difficult as ERP education may sound, intensive training is necessary in order to increase technical abilities of ERP users, and therefore increase the positive effects of ERP on the organization. After all, an ERP is seen as a solution to many problems an organization faces, including weak performance, high costs, complicated processes, low information quality and low support for development, be it product or business. The only way this solution will work is if it’s used, and the only way it will be used is through a company implemented training program.
How will you know how much education is enough education? According to the study, it takes more than simply learning how to use the system. Users need to understand how the system works, how the data and database they interact with affects processes in the organization, how to create and modify processes if needed in order to naturally prevent problems, minimize disruptions and keep things going. In other words, education needs to make users a part of the system by giving them the ability to manage it.
Be sure to not only account for, but also prioritize end user training and education when setting goals and measures of success within the ERP project plan. It will make things smoother from beginning to end and ensure that the ERP project reaches its ultimate goal: improving the company’s performance.
By Santiago Henderson
Akça. Yasar, Saban Esen and Gokhan Ozer, “The Effects of Education on Enterprise Resource Planning Implementation Success and Perceived Organizational Performance,” International Business Research, Vol. 6 Nº5 (2013), published by Canadian Center of Science and Education, accessed November 30 2013, available here.