No ERP implementation can succeed without employee training. Because ERP implementations entail significant change to the way employees work, training must be an integral part of a large system deployment.
The problem, however, is that ERP training is not necessarily effective ERP training. Many enterprise system training initiatives erroneously focus on transactional training. In addition, many ERP training courses fail to accomplish several key goals, including putting changes in a context that is easily understood by employees, reinforcing changes over time, and providing multiple mechanisms to address different learning styles.
ERP implementation training initiatives need to include six key elements:
- Focus on business processes, not system transactions. ERP software companies are generally good at creating documentation and training that teaches people how to complete transactions in the system. However, running a business entails much more than merely completing transactions in a system. ERP training courses must deliver knowledge in the context of how employees perform their day-to-day jobs, not simply how to complete the new transactions in a system.
- Relate new business processes to the existing environment. It's tempting to throw current business processes out the window, since they are going to change in the new ERP environment. But employees relate better to -- and understand -- the old way of doing things, so it can be helpful to map new processes to current ones to help them migrate to the to-be environment. In addition, relating to as-is processes helps highlight the most significant changes affecting employees.
- Leverage a multitude of tools for ERP training. Different people learn in different ways, and it often takes repetition and multiple channels to transform understanding and behavior. Panorama research shows that while most ERP implementations leverage classroom training, a majority of companies deploying a new ERP system fail to leverage cheat sheets, user instructions, Web-based tutorials, hands-on simulations, and other effective learning tools. It is necessary to include a variety of formal and informal training tools to make sure the changes stick.
- Train the trainer -- i.e., train ERP end users. Although it may be effective to leverage professional trainers to train your core team early in a project, it is very important to have your super-users or subject-matter experts conduct the broad end-user training. Such in-house resources are much more knowledgeable than external consultants about internal business processes and will be more effective at relating changes to employees. In addition, these internal trainers can be leveraged to provide functional support during and after go-live.
- Allocate plenty of time for ERP implementation training. An ERP deployment may be the most intense IT project your company ever undergoes, and at times it can be overwhelming. However, even though effective training is arguably the most important part of an effective implementation, many companies rush the process because of pressures on the project timeline.
Employees should have plenty of time after formal, classroom-based training to engage in other learning opportunities, such as process simulation in a test environment. Although you don't want training to occur so early that employees don't retain the information at go-live, you should begin at least 60 days prior to cutover.
- Reinforce training with more comprehensive organizational change management activities. This is perhaps the most overlooked yet important of the six keys outlined here. Discussions surrounding employee changes should begin well before end-user training. As new business processes and changes are defined, employees should be kept in the loop so they're not blindsided during formal training -- or worse yet, at go-live. Such discussions about change, targeted departmental communications, well-defined roles and responsibilities, and other key organizational change activities are critical to the success of your ERP project.
ERP projects can go a long way toward making adoption easier when focused on effective training which ensures that employees are not overwhelmed, and deficient, at cutover.
About the author: Eric Kimberling has more than 15 years of international ERP business experience. He is the president and founder of Panorama Consulting Group, a Denver-based consulting firm that provides ERP consulting to international companies. Panorama helps clients with ERP software selection, ERP implementation, organizational change management and benefits realization.