Each day, our CEO, Brian Petersen Ph.D., sets time aside to look at training industry-related articles that are insightful, short, and forward-thinking. Often, Iike you, Brian does not have the time to read these articles right away, so he bookmarks them to read later. We are now sharing Brian’s curated articles to our colleagues in learning. We hope you will gain some value out of these insights from experts in our field!
Developing an Effective ERP Training Program
Organizations invest in ERP systems as a way of making their operation more efficient. But as Sarah Kirk, a specialist ERP end-user training consultant, points out any system, however complex and powerful, is simply a tool. It’s the way that it’s used that brings the benefits and that relies heavily on effective role-based employee training.
Implementing an ERP system is overwhelmingly seen as an IT project but underestimating the importance of employee training has become the downfall for some.
According to ERP Experts Online Forum in 2017: “ERP is 90% about people, process, culture and politics and 10% about IT. Misunderstand that, and you are heading for failure.”
Effective and efficient ERP training is the cornerstone of every successful organizational change management plan. Training end-users and preparing employees for system go-live directly contributes to bottom-line results and ERP success. But what does effective ERP training look like and how can organizations avoid the mistake of squeezing training into the smallest timeframe possible?
Many organizations wait to train end-users until right before go-live because they fail to see the value in an extensive training program. While a detailed training program may seem excessive, the benefits of knowledgeable and prepared employees are unmatched. Preparing employees for the business process reengineering associated with new ERP software ensures that employee productivity doesn’t plummet after go-live and business operations continue without disruption.
Following are five strategies for developing an effective ERP training program that adequately prepares employees for the changes ahead:
- Begin training at least 60 days before ERP go-live. Verify that the project team has enough time to conduct training by working with an independent, external source to validate project strategy and scope and assess forecasted time and resource requirements.
- Recognize that employee productivity depends on not only on the timing of training but also the content. End-users should be trained in both the technical use of the system and any new business processes that will change the way they do their jobs.
- Rather than offer ERP training focused on transactional processes (wherein users are trained how to complete basic transactions with the new software), provide contextual training that explains how the new business processes relate to the old.
- Take advantage of internal resources, including super-users and organizational change leads, who can serve as proponents of the new system and help the project team communicate about training schedules and expectations.
- The organizational culture fostered by your organizational change management plan should directly feed into and affect training activities. Throughout ERP training, discussions should be welcomed, and communication should be open and frequent.
When an organization leaves ERP training to the last minute, end-users are left with the perception that the organization does not understand nor care to understand the business processes or job-related needs of its employees. When carefully planned and executed, however, ERP training can lead to a successful ERP implementation that achieves all expected business benefits.
Key Considerations for ERP Systems Training
There are many different routes you can take when deciding how best to train your employees on an ERP system.
Some organizations opt for a 'skill the trainer and cascade' approach where your system project team and 'super users' train other users. Others rely on the training provided by the software vendor. Handing over part or all the project to a professional training consultancy is another option – or you can use a combination of these approaches.
Whichever route you follow, early planning is crucial.
The first step is to carry out a detailed Training Needs Analysis – the who, what, when and why – and then evaluate your available resources. The amount, type, content and timing of the training are all key factors, as are the audience, the delivery and the supporting training documentation.
IT training is most effective if it is user-focused and tailored to individuals' roles. Most users need to understand how a new system works only in the context of how it affects them in their own job. If you make it too software specific and centered around the system's functionality, there's a 'switch off' factor. You lose the opportunity not just to get users' early buy-in to the system itself, but also to the new business processes and ways of working that are part of any ERP implementation.
The “skill the trainer and cascade” approach, where super-users and / or training departments play either a lead or a supporting role, is often seen as an inexpensive way to train staff. But it can be a high-risk option if it’s not planned correctly. System super-users are hugely important in sharing knowledge and can successfully train other users both before and after going live. But feedback suggests that while super-users are exactly that – extremely good at understanding and using the system – they may not have the communication skills to train others in a way they can relate to. The super-user’s involvement is also very detailed and technical, so if they design and deliver the training without any professional input it’s likely to become system-driven rather than tailored to the employee’s role. The same applies to the standard training offered by most software providers. And in both cases, where ‘techies’ alone do the training, there can be a real risk of information overload.
Asking your super-users or the system implementation team to handle the user training also adds hugely to their workload just as they’re under mounting pressure to build, test, revise and bring in a fully-functioning system on time. Designing and delivering successful, user-focused, role-based training to a wide range of employees involves a serious amount of work. You need to make sure your training resources are robust enough to hold up because simply holding a few generic seminars won’t work. A training strategy and plan needs to be developed along with the content of all the courses, such as reference guides, lesson plans, exercises and e-learning, all need to be developed. Scripts for the User Acceptance Testing need to be produced and data set up. Classroom training sessions need piloting and all the documentation should be reviewed and quality checked. e- Learning needs to be tested and hosted. Finally, all the classroom training must be organized and then delivered no more than three- weeks prior to going live. Any earlier and much of the training is forgotten, any later and it can delay go live or end up being too hurried.
There’s mounting evidence that getting your end-user training wrong can come at a high price. Dr Stephen Gourlay, Kingston Business School, wrote in his research paper “Training for ERP Systems Implementation”, that “Poor or insufficient training has been identified as a cause of serious problems, if not failure, in some ERP projects, with additional post implementation training required to rectify issues.”
It’s for this reason that more organizations are using professional training consultancies in a variety of ways, from managing the entire end-user training program to supplementing elements where they lack the expertise, resource or just the time.
Training experts like Elite Training Consultants can provide support from the outset, giving vital planning guidance because they know where the pitfalls lie. Or they can come in as lastminute project ‘rescuers’, where their detailed knowledge of business systems allows them to design and develop training programs exceptionally well and quickly.
There is also the issue of ongoing or business-as-usual training to consider. It doesn’t stop on the day of go live. New joiners will need training, and the training courses and documentation all must be updated as your ERP system evolves. Rollouts and system upgrades also mean additional end-user training.
Source: Hannah Dockery, Training Magazine