How to determine if training is a weak link in your ERP Integration.
By Jeff Carpenter, president and CEO, Caveo Learning
Training is second only to leadership involvement when it comes to successfully rolling out an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. However, training is often the most overlooked and underfunded portion of any large-scale integration.
There have been numerous articles on why training is overlooked. They mainly boil down to a lack of appreciation for the value of customtraining (vs. the packaged system-focused training often provided as part of the bundled ERP package) and the high cost of ERP integrations leading management team to cut “non-critical” line items. (Training often gets added back in later, at significantly higher costs and with shortened deadlines.)
But today’s question is not“Why do companies undervalue training?”
This article focuses on the following issues:
• How to tell when training (or lack thereof) is causing, or about to cause, your ERP integration to go awry.
• How you can get back on track.
Here are nine questions to ask yourself … and when to ask them.
To uncover whether you might have a training problem, listed are pertinent questions you should ask throughout the ERP implementation process. If you answer “No” to any of them, now is the time to act to avoid major issues.
12 Months Before Go-Live or Pilot:
Is the end-user training mapped to each unique user profile and how each user integrates and interacts within that workflow?Whether your legacy system was home grown or not, the training needs to clearly describe the bridge from the legacy system to the new process, how it will differ, and why. Assuming end-users can jump from one system to another, without detailing the specific steps and reasons, is a recipe for disaster.
When key decisions are being made, do project teams defend the business rationale for the ERP system? (Versus defending the development, process alignment, or implementation of the technology.)Your organization did not spend millions of dollars on a software platform; it was purchased for the increased productivity, efficiency, and output over time from the end-users. Make sure any decision, such as reassigning resources from training to development, keeps the business goals firmly in mind.
Have you matched overall ROI to training/learning measurements? (i.e., do you know what metrics you need to hit on the training portion to support your rollout goals?) During the “validation” or “cost case” phases of the ERP implementation, you determined the overall business goals. The training goals should have been aligned during one of these two phases. If you are 12 months away and have not yet done so, it’s likely your training will be the cause of delays and an impediment to realizing your business goals. Or at least take the blame.
6 Months Before Go-Live or Pilot:
Do you have exercise plans that reflect “real-world,” hands-on experience with data in place?The training activities must accurately reflect what the end-users will do on the job. This provides the users with the detail to cross the bridge to the new platform and more readily adopt the new system.
Have your internal trainers and power users been identified and provided adequate training and experience on the ERP system?Often, due to delays or budgeting, internal training teams are not given adequate time to become experts in the system. They are provided the technical and procedural details at the last minute and expected to train others on a system with which they, themselves, are unfamiliar.
Do you have or are you planning to launch a knowledge management system?This can take many forms (e.g., lesson libraries, cheat sheets, short-burst videos, etc.), but if you do not see a plan to move away from relying on consultants or quickly training people to cover for attrition or promotions, you will not have a properly sustaina ble training solution.
3 Months Before Go-Live or Pilot:
Are performance metrics in place for the business processes and end-users to evaluate how the training affected the adoption and performance of the organization?The initial training is the beginning of the adoption and integration by the end-users into their daily work stream. Hint: If you do measure, but your scores are low at the outset, do not expect them to improve.
Does the training provide “real-world” examples with hands-on experience?Some examples of what you hope to hear, even beyond high training/materials ratings: “I walked out with what I need to do my job.” … “I see how this applies to my job.” … “I understand what I need from the person on my left and how my efforts affect the person on my right.”
Are most day-to-day questions being answered by the internal team or power users?If most end-user questions are being escalated up to the help desk, you can be sure the training is not matching the required output. This is a common symptom that internal teams and power users are struggling and that resident knowledge base is lacking. (See No. 2 in the 6-Month section.) Even if you do get over this hump, you will find yourself with significant issues as you roll out to additional locations/areas. Likely, the processes are already being “gerry-rigged” by end-users, which does not create a common work process/procedure to derive the benefits from the original business case.
Getting to the “Yes”
If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, it’s time to take action.
The good news is… you’ve identified a problem before it was too late. The better news is… the solution is inherent in the question.
What should you do next?
Time is always of the essence with large implementations. Immediately take the required actions to secure the resources needed—including the necessary people (e.g., trainers, power users) and/or documentation (e.g., process plans, data-filled exercise plans)—to get back on track.
If you do not have the internal resources, there are many training consultants that can help. First, though, you need to figure out if you need help with configuration(system/screen-focused) or end-user(output/task-focused) training. Since many training consultants focus on one side of the equation, and few are good at both, it’s best to identify your needs and their strengths before you bring them in. And, first, hire them to provide an assessment and a training plan. This is almost always the right place to start— regardless of how far along you are in your implementation.
Finally, make sure to compare their recommendations to your original business goals… and how you initially planned to have your training support these goals. Again, you are not building a software platform; you are using software and trainingto realize key business objectives.
Jeff Carpenter is president and CEO of Caveo Learning,a full-service training and development firm that focuses on end-user training for large-scale SAP implementations. Carpenter is an organizational development professionalwith more than 20 years experience in training operations, performance improvement, instructional design, and process alignment across a broad range of industries within the Fortune 500. He can be reached at 312.651.4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.