The benefits of an Enterprise Resource Planning system can only be achieved with the cooperation and determination of the users. And, of course, they must have the skills, knowledge, and self-assurance to use the system that has been implemented.
There are several groups which must be accommodated:
- Executives and Senior Management
- Project team
- Super users
- End users
The decision of who exactly should attend each of the various types of training explained below will depend on the business and individuals involved.
The first step in training is to ensure that all end-user documentation is in order. It is recommended that the materials be organized on a departmental basis. Each manual should be viewed as a comprehensive bible aimed at teaching the job (including system use) to new hires and inexperienced employees. The amount of documentation necessary will vary depending on the software employed, the type of business, and the personnel.
Executives and Senior Management
Executives and senior management are often overlooked in the haste to get the implementation started quickly. They need to understand what lies ahead in terms of future benefits and implementation challenges. The business will have a relationship with the ERP vendor for many years, so management needs to get involved from the beginning.
A management training session on a package-specific overview of key functionality, benefits, and likely impact on the organization, and an understanding the role of Executives and Senior Management in the process, is vital. They should be familiarized with the configuration options built into the software. This will obviate many software changes, and will demonstrate ways to improve business processes that they may not have otherwise realized. You may wish to include some of the members of the project team in this type of training.
Project team training is a must at the beginning of the implementation. The project team needs configuration-level training on all the core application modules being implemented. The focus should be on utilizing the software to complete end-to-end business processes such as order-to-cash, or procure-to-pay. Technical training needs include reporting, development, and system administration.
This is also necessary to begin the process of joining company specific business expertise with the external consultants’ ERP expertise.
The project team won’t have the opportunity to use what they‘ve learned in a conference room pilot environment for quite a while, so “what buttons to push” type training is of little use at this point. You may wish to include some of the senior managers and super users in this training.
Super Users (or Power Users)
A super user is a user of computer software who has the ability to use more advanced features of programs which are beyond the abilities of “normal” users, but not capable of programming and system administration. A super user can also be described as a team leader in for the ERP system. These people retain their normal user job role, but also function in testing, training, and first-tier support of the enterprise software.
Since a super user is part of each functional area, and sits with the rest of the group, they provide an easily accessible level of support for the rest of the users. They need to be available and willing to answer most basic user questions within a department immediately, and before escalating those calls to the vendor, Subject Matter Experts, business process owners, or consultants.
Since they understand the system and business processes in detail, they will work closely with the vendor’s support group to prioritize support and change requests, document and investigate issues, suggest improvements, and test resolutions. They understand the operational and systemic impact of changes across the organization, and are therefore in the best position to insure changes are successful.
Ongoing training is vital to the continued success of the system to prevent “knowledge leakage”, and the super user will be continually involved in delivering training to new users.
This type of training is a series of detailed transaction-based courses (as opposed to configuration courses). The internal project team will then be able to develop a high percentage of the end-user training materials in-house. A combination of live instructor-led classes, virtual instructor-led classes, and eLearning content may be employed. It’s a good idea to have the super users conduct some live training classes for specific processes. They know the business processes that need to be accomplished, and any gaps in their knowledge will become apparent. It’s imperative that they have a resource immediately available, preferably in the class, for such situations.
Make sure the end users are given “Quick Reference Cards”, and have online access to “how to” information. Involve end users in the conference room pilot testing before going live.
The best outcome from the ERP software happens when users become accepting, comfortable, and proficient with the new the software, and the business processes. The success of the project depends on the people using the system for day-to-day work. Be alert to well-meaning attempts by some to assure end users that the new system will make things easier for them. That’s not the reason a new system was purchased, and is rarely the case.
This type of training should be scheduled on a “just in time basis”, immediately before the go-live date. They should continue to receive regular access to training.
A survey conducted by the Aberdeen Group polled 170 organizations with live ERP systems. The survey revealed that the best run companies are the ones who implement training strategies for new ERP end users. The survey also discovered that the best organizations are more than three times as likely to have a certification program for their ERP users and are over four times as likely to measure the ERP aptitude of users.
This may be a little ambitious for some organizations, but it does underscore the importance of user training for ERP systems.
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