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Choosing an ERP Consultant ERP Education: A Key Factor in ERP Implementation Success

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By Rick Cook

Education and training is a critical part of any ERP implementation. It is also expensive and time-consuming and there is often a temptation to skimp, especially later on if the implementation schedule starts to slip.

It's important to take the time and spend the money to educate everyone in the company about the new ERP software system, and to provide sufficient training for the people who will implement and operate the ERP system. In fact it's vital because ERP isn't just about knowing the minimum necessary to populate screens with data. It's about leveraging the people who will make the system work—to decrease business cycle times, improve business process automation, achieve operational efficiencies and increase shared information. If those people aren't properly trained and educated, your implementation will fail to achieve its objectives and anticipated payback, no matter how “successful” the hardware and software parts of the project may appear.

Generally speaking, there are three phases to training and education for ERP software deployments: a preliminary session for executives and department heads, a more intensive education/training session for most of the people in the company and hands-on training the people who will be using ERP software. These tend to take place at different stages in the implementation process.

The First Cut: Getting To Know You

Typically the first education session with ERP software comes very early in the process, often before the cost/benefit analysis is conducted and the decision is made to implement ERP. This involves what might be called “ERP from 10,000 feet” and is aimed at executives and operating managers. The goal of this session is to give the attendees a broad idea of what ERP is, how it works and what the benefits are for the company.

Most of the attendees will probably at least have heard of ERP, but very few of them are likely to understand how ERP software can deliver specific benefits to the company. What’s more, a lot of what they know is often wrong. Common misconceptions include the notion that “ERP is a computer project that won’t affect the rest of the company” or “ERP is always a disaster.”

It’s important to correct misconceptions early, but this initial meeting shouldn’t be a cheerleading session for ERP. After all, at this stage you haven’t made the decision to go ahead with a new ERP system yet and, depending on the results of the cost/benefit analysis, you may decide not to. Instead this session should lay out the facts about ERP, including the benefits and what it will require from the company and key staff.

Similarly, you should give the attendees an idea of what to expect with ERP and an ERP implementation, but you shouldn't get bogged down in detail. At this point you simply don't know most of the details.

The participants should leave the meeting with a clear idea of what ERP really is and a general idea of what their role is likely to be in an implementation.

Drilling Down: Education And Training For Everyone

The second phase of ERP education begins to illustrate the journey. This usually comes after you have established your business goals for ERP, drafted a vision statement and outlined an implementation effort.

By this time you know a lot more and you’re able to share it with your managers and front line staff. The key message in these training and education sessions is what you are trying to do with ERP, why you’re doing it and how it is going to affect the attendees in doing their jobs.

It's important that people understand that the future is coming and that means changes in nearly everyone’s job. Part of this is anxiety reduction. Part of it is using your goals and vision statement to explain what you’re trying to do and how it will benefit the company – and them personally. People are much more open to change if the reasons are clearly explained.

One of the things you should try to explain in some detail is the implementation process for ERP. Give everyone the best possible idea of what is coming and roughly when.

Continuing Training

The third phase of ERP education is training the people who will implement and use the system. It is vitally important that all the staff who will touch the system understand their role and how the ERP system works at a detailed and operational level.

This will take time and is the most expensive part of the education process. It’s important that the training be thorough so your people will understand their needed contributions for the new system. Beyond their own jobs, they should understand how the system works in some detail so the can get a feel for the integrated processes.

This training doesn’t stop when the ERP system is fully implemented and goes live. Training is a continuing process as the business changes and the ERP system has to change with it. You should plan on scheduling continuing training sessions several times a year in order to make sure you're getting the most out of your ERP system investment. End

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Training doesn’t stop once the ERP system is implemented. Training is a continuous process as the business changes and the ERP system has to change with it. You should plan on scheduling periodic training sessions in order to make sure you're getting the most out of your ERP system investment.







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