Preparing Your Staff to Use an ERP

Your ERP system is only as strong as the people using it. Even with the latest-and-greatest features at your disposal, you will struggle to reap all the benefits of a world-class ERP unless your staff knows how to use it completely and correctly. As you plan your implementation, take these steps to ensure that your staff is prepared.

Generate Buy-In at All Levels

Your ERP training efforts will inevitably fail unless everyone on your staff understands why you're putting the new system in place and how it can support their individual responsibilities and the goals of the company as a whole. Start by getting buy-in from upper management. If they are onboard, you will have a much easier time getting resources for training. Then hold a meeting with all relevant staff to discuss the purpose and potential of ERP in depth.

Factor in Company Culture

Introducing an ERP represents a major change to the way your staff works. This can be a positive or a negative depending on how you manage it. Start by considering the culture already in place at your company and your track record in times of change. Then spend some time analyzing the impact your new ERP will have on your team dynamic, work flows, and present/future projects. Taking a holistic view can help you engineer your implementation and training strategy to be as successful as possible.

Make an Investment in Quality Training

There is a wide gap between training and quality training. You can save time and money by only teaching your teams the basics, but this only leads them to use the ERP in a shallow way. Plus, it invites the kinds of mistakes and miscommunications that can lead to major problems down the road. You have made a major investment in your enterprise resource planning software. Be willing to make an equal investment in training. The training should focus specifically on how end-users need to prepare data to work with the back-end databases.

Develop a Plan and Schedule

Training needs to be more than just a line item on your implementation checklist. If you want to get the most out of the process, you need to enlist leaders from both IT and HR. Together, they should develop a plan outlining who to involve in training, what that training should cover, what kind of schedule it will follow, and what kinds of targets it needs to meet. Fill the plan with as much detail as possible, and try specifically to remove roadblocks and avoid duplicating efforts.

Understand Your Limits

There is a lot that you can do to prepare your staff, but you may not be able to do it all. The simple fact is the requirements of effective ERP training may be larger than your technical or logistical capabilities can accommodate. This is especially true for very large and very small organizations. Rather than trying to stretch the resources you have too thin, consider working with a consultant or outsourcing the training process entirely. This adds an extra cost, but can help to secure a greater ROI over the long term.

Offer Resources and Support

Your goal is to have your staff ready to fully engage with your ERP starting on the day of launch. But, realistically, there will still be lots of confusion to clear up following the launch. Make sure that informational resources are available that can provide personalized answers quickly. Ongoing training is also essential. You probably set pre-implementation benchmarks outlining your goals for the ERP system. If you find yourself falling short of those benchmarks, it could be because your staff lacks the necessary ERP expertise.

To underscore just how important staff preparation really is, consider that 60 percent of businesses report fewer benefits than anticipated following an ERP implementation, according to Panorama Consulting. That could be due to problems with the ERP in question, but staff undoubtedly plays a role. Don't doom your major new tech initiative to failure simply because you underestimated the needs of the staff using it.

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