ERP Implementation: Partnering with the Business & Impacts on the Organization

Avoid the number one mistake organizations make with regard to implementing an ERP system…

Experts agree that you get the most from your ERP software when users become accepting, comfortable, and proficient performing the new business processes the software supports. Avoid the number one mistake organizations make with regards to implementing an ERP system and make training a priority from the beginning of the implementation project. In other words, much of the success of a multi-million dollar ERP implementation depends on people using the system for day-to-day work.

So a key question for the project team becomes, “Is there a sure-fire training method that guarantees proficient users?” Probably not. But there is a concept that will help turn the odds in your favor.

It’s the Super User concept. And it’s been proven to increase staff buy-in and proficiency, plus the sustainability of ERP learning. Here is a greatly simplified look at how it works.

As new business processes are developed, the Change Management team, in partnership with Project Management, identifies all business departments in which Super Users will be needed. A series of meetings are held with department management, to identify individuals with the skills needed and to outline time commitments and responsibilities.

Individuals chosen to become Super Users possess above average skill in the following areas:

Organizational skills

Ability to manage the time of others as well as their own time

Communication skills

Ability to convey information in a concise and understandable manner

Problem-Solving skills

Ability to help and support others perform complex work tasks

Computer literacy

Have a knack for quickly picking up new system processes

Business Knowledge

Thoroughly understand company’s business and help learners relate new processes to old

Typically, Super Users will spend 50 – 100% of their time until implementation on ERP work, which could take up to six months.

Once recruited, Super Users are immersed in the business processes for which they are responsible. Working with the process team, they get hands-on ERP training, learn about process design, and participate in testing. With the training team, they contribute to course design sessions and are mentored in classroom facilitation techniques. By go-live, they have the knowledge and skills needed to train the staff in their own departments. Training takes on tremendous credibility when delivered by “one of their own”. The Super User becomes the department “go to” person for any ERP functional assistance.

Don’t be fooled. Employing Super Users is a complicated task. Large-scale ERP implementations may require 50 or more Super Users. And you’ll still need a small cadre of instructional designers to support them. However, the benefits outweigh the difficulties, if only because you are developing expertise that will remain in-house, instead of hiring an army of consultants who will leave you to go it alone.

ERP Impacts on the Organization

Many managers who have been through an ERP implementation will tell you that its biggest impact is on the employees. Employees’ skills, habits and values must change as the company shifts focus and goals. The impact of these changes is nearly always underestimated.

For example, in some organizations an employee may be valued for his or her ability to navigate informal channels to obtain information. In this model, flexibility is prized over process. But ERP implementations are by nature process-driven, and they bring a new value set that emphasizes ERP usage skills and data quality over ad-hoc methods and homegrown systems.

Additionally, ERP systems require an employee’s “world-view” to expand, as the system makes data more generally available and shows off the relationships between tasks within complex business processes. Consistency and accuracy become more noticeable, and productivity measurement becomes the norm.

Some employees may not make this shift willingly. Initially, they may feel that the more creative aspects of their jobs are going away, as everyone becomes more reliant on data from a single source. This is a false assumption. Over the long term, ERP systems not only make employees more productive, but also increase opportunities for individuals to make larger contributions, noticing trends and anomalies in larger data sets and contributing to process improvements. 

So how do you handle organizational changes stemming from an ERP implementation? The steps in the process are not new, but the message requires some thought.

  • Start early.

    Though the timeframe in which employees need to change work habits may be short, you can reduce the emotional impact of the change by starting early with targeted information campaigns and good training.

  • Align the leadership team.

    Make sure they not only understand the nature and benefits of the ERP system, but also the issues surrounding employee acceptance.

  • Set reasonable expectations.

    Employees should understand that, in the short term, they are only expected to achieve a basic level of competency. Beyond this transition period, there will be many opportunities to excel and provide unique contributions.

  • Communicate specifically and continually.

    Each level and area of the organization has its own needs and issues. Develop a plan that addresses the unique situation of specific groups, but uses consistent and ongoing communication methods to keep staff updated on progress and involvement opportunities.

  • Identify new work teams and roles early.

    ERP systems bring large adjustments to work roles and responsibilities. Identify and communicate these changes early so employees affected fully understand and mentally prepare for the new environment.

  • Develop competency.

    Competency will provide comfort for most employees facing the new environment. Make sure everyone has a solid overall understanding of how work flows through the new system. Then allow weeks of hands-on practice performing new job tasks in the system after formal training.

When properly prepared, most employees will support changes to the corporate culture, embrace the new ERP system, and adopt new values that ensure success.

Need some help properly planning and implementing your ERP project? We can help! Our team of experts have over 3 decades of experience. Get in touch with an expert from ISC Resources today.

Be sure to check out our previous posts on Planning Your ERP Training Project, Building a Budget for ERP Training, and Staffing the ERP Training Team. Plus, stay tuned for our next post on the ERP training puzzle, Fast & Furious ERP Curriculum Development & Implementation Challenges.