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1 plantemoran.com {ERP} Solutions Can Your Staff Effectively Operate Your ERP Solution?

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3 Plante Moran Introduction. Your company has invested significant dollars in your ERP software, so it s important to make the most of it. The biggest mistake organizations make is failing to train their people effectively; if you don t train people on what the software can do, the investment will be largely wasted. Different groups of people in the company will have different training needs, but all users must be trained in ERP basics, system overview and, most importantly, how an action by an employee triggers a host of events throughout the organization. Without proper training, 30 to 40 percent of frontline workers will not be able to understand the capabilities of the new system. The training sessions should also be used to gain acceptance for the new ERP system by dispelling the myths about it and getting the staff excited about the new capabilities that should make their jobs easier. The efficiency and effectiveness of the ERP training and education activities come from applying training strategies that: Start at the Definition/Blueprint phase and continue after the PostImplementation phase of the ERP implementation. Mix various training methods and channels. Use the learning by doing theory. Target super users/process experts (also known as subject matter experts), end users and the IT department. 1

4 ERP Solutions Can Your Staff Effectively Operate Your ERP Solution? 1 Definition/Blueprint Phase Training activities should start early in the Definition/Blueprint phase. In this phase, two main training activities need to be accomplished: Train your ERP core team. Define successful training strategies. 1.1 Train your ERP core team Depending upon the complexity of your ERP solution and your internal staff experience, your company should consider building a cross-functional ERP project team that includes your internal personnel, staff from the ERP vendor, and potentially outside consultants. Your ERP core team should be composed of internal and external staff working together to configure the system, set up roles and security, design the physical and virtual infrastructure, test functionality, define security of roles and infrastructure, prepare process documents, draft end-user training plans, and perform elements of the end-user training. This team will have to quickly embark on a structured knowledge transfer process at the Definition/Blueprint stage. To become self-sufficient, there s no substitute for actual project hands-on experience. Thus, the expectation for each of your internal ERP core staff should be to attend regularly scheduled project status and knowledge-sharing meetings. These weekly sessions will provide the technical information needed for your internal ERP core staff to perform their tasks and to ask development questions that may arise but aren t practical to answer on an ad hoc basis. The ERP consultants should be expected to have ad hoc technical sessions with your internal subject matter experts (SMEs) to address questions that either cannot wait to be addressed during the regular scheduled knowledge-sharing sessions or that take only a minimum of time to answer. ERP consultants will also have the chance to learn and clarify their understanding of what s unique about your business processes, from your SMEs, during the weekly knowledge-sharing sessions and ad hoc technical sessions. 2

5 Plante Moran 1.2 Define Successful Training Strategies Toward the final stages of the Definition/Blueprint phase, you must articulate the training strategies for every significant ERP business process (module), IT tool, report writing tool, and business intelligence tool. You should use the knowledge and expertise of the ERP core team to define your training strategies under the supervision and review of the process leaders and facility process leaders. The best strategy, when it comes to ERP training, is to combine various training methods and training delivery channels. In a nutshell, you have three channel options when it comes to formal ERP training: off-site, on-site, and online. You can use multiple methods to deliver the training to the users through these channels, like face-to-face classroom settings, in-person and online mentoring, printed materials, video broadcasts, podcasts, blogs, e-learning (synchronous and asynchronous), simulations, online testing, portals, knowledge management system, games, wikis, etc. To personalize the training on your ERP solution, you cannot apply only one training method; instead, you ll need to institute several due to: User learning and retention style Timing of training Space Investment Content and role of the individual user User learning and retention style, timing of training, and space In an online learning environment, users have the ability to study whenever they want, at their own pace, and to re-access the training content as many times as necessary to reinforce the knowledge. In a face-to-face environment, on the other hand, the trainer does not pay too much attention to each individual learning style, since he/she is pushed to meet the time allocation. Considering these facts, it s important to deliver user ERP training by combining training methods. This incorporates the best of both worlds. Learning materials are always available and users have the highest learning flexibility and potential for the highest level of knowledge retention. Some examples of these types of methods are asynchronous e-learning, online testing, portals, podcasts, blogs, wikis, and some in-person mentoring. 3

6 ERP Solutions Can Your Staff Effectively Operate Your ERP Solution? The Investment Training sessions offered off-site, such as the courses that the ERP vendors provide at their facilities, are the most expensive option, especially when you factor in travel costs and lost employee productivity. On-site training sessions, where you bring an outside training professional to your own location, are comparable in price to off-site trainings; however, there are no travel costs, and you can get economies of scale with a large group. When it comes to on-site ERP training, the best strategy is to have your ERP core team prepare the training content and materials and deliver the training sessions. The ERP core team can deliver cost-efficient, customized, on-site trainings via face-to face-classrooms, inperson mentoring, and printed materials. If your organization has a dedicated department for training, the individuals from this department will have to work in concert with your ERP core team to develop the appropriate materials. Online training can help ease a difficult tension between the need to up-skill employees on the one hand and the financial difficulty of sending them to off-site trainings at the ERP vendor site on the other. This option also eliminates scheduling issues. The downside: there s no human being available to answer questions. Online training methods can be on-demand or not (simply virtual). An example of online ondemand training is simulations, which show the users which steps to take, data to input, and fields to complete when using a particular ERP application/module. Even though this kind of training involves extra costs, it has major benefits enabling your people to focus on the business process, their role in it, and the consequence of their actions. Other online trainings not involving extra expenses that you should consider are e-learning synchronous, knowledge management systems, online mentoring, and games. But the least expensive training methods out there (no extra cost involved over time) are those that will meet the users needs of ongoing training, such as annual refresher courses via blogs, podcasts, wikis, and communities of practice. 4

7 Plante Moran Content and role of the individual user The content appropriateness of your ERP training strategy is dependent upon the users role and level of customization of your ERP solution. If your technical environment is not heavily customized, sending a user to a basic ERP module course could reap dividends. On the other hand, an ERP environment that s heavily customized to your industry or business might make a basic class less useful. In that case, a customized on-site class or even an on-demand session geared toward your industry could be a better investment. Every training strategy should provide for user training survey methodologies. Additionally, a training administrator needs to ensure that whoever was supposed to take training actually did and that they satisfactorily completed all modules. 2. Implementation Phase In the Implementation phase, the training activities to be completed are: Document training strategies in formal training plans. Train end users, administrators and other user groups as per the training plans. Draft user and administrator guides/manuals used for continuous training and staff onboarding. We will focus here on the training plans and the tips and tricks for making your user and administrator guides/manuals more effective. 5

8 ERP Solutions Can Your Staff Effectively Operate Your ERP Solution? 2.1 The Training Plans The training strategies formulated in the Definition phase and refined in the Implementation phase will have to be formalized in training plans. The training plans should be drafted by the ERP core team with the help of the ERP vendor and/or outside consultants under the supervision and review of your local process leads and global process leads. At a minimum, a standard training plan should include the following: a. Training objectives: The training plans must identify what s changed by the introduction of the new systems/functionality. b. Training assumptions and prerequisites: Specify if the trainees have to read, prepare in advance, or attend other trainings before attending the training sessions. c. Training curriculum: Mention the topics and subtopics covered by all trainings scheduled and the level of the knowledge provided in the training (overview, basic, intermediary, etc.). d. Training approach, delivery and materials: Describe which channel of delivery will be used for each training session: off-site, on-site and/or online. Further specify the training tools to be used, like lectures, exercises, questionnaires, etc. In addition, outline the training materials and how the documents generated in the Blueprint and Test phases might be leveraged. Mention the materials that are going to be provided for future reference (PowerPoint presentations, online links, books, standards, workflows, user guides, administrator manuals, listings with the common terms and definitions, and cheat sheets). e. Locations, facilities, and systems: Specify the systems and facilities to be used to complete all training sessions. f. Trainers information: For on-site or off-site or virtual trainings with instructors, provide their contact information and roles and responsibilities during the trainings. For selfstudy trainings, specify who the trainees can contact and how in case they need support or have clarifying questions. g. Training audience: List the groups of individuals and/or the internal departments and/or specifically name the people that will be required to take each of the trainings outlined in the training plan. Further specify if any of the trainings are optional and for whom. h. Training schedule: The schedule of all training activities should be outlined, including the length of each training and optional dates for the trainings. i. Training evaluation process: Identify the means through which the trainees can evaluate the training sessions. 6

9 Plante Moran 2.2 Effective User and Administrator Guides/Manuals Toward the end of the Implementation Phase, it s time to draft the training manuals and administrator guides; these should be finalized shortly after the go-live. User manual and administrator guides should be available online. The access to administrator guides and other confidential training or user manuals can be locked down with passwords for those assigned to the roles. Providing a hyperlink from online guides and manuals to process flow diagrams will help users understand who does what and the rationale behind the ERP transaction. More tailoring of the guides and manuals and the use of color-coding, tabs, and breaks would increase the perceived learnability and task support for your users. User manuals and administrator guides should include sections relating to the module/tool/system s known issues and implemented workarounds, and these sections should be updated constantly. Moreover, the guides and manuals should contain sections dedicated to best practices (a list of recommendations) and useful places for additional help (links to other information resources). To give the end user more control over the information overload, the guides and manuals should be split into getting started manuals, reference manuals, and advance knowledge manuals. Finally, your organization should make the frequently asked questions section (that would explain advanced tasks and provide troubleshooting advice) available online, independent from the guides and manuals 3. Post- Implementation Phase In the Post-Implementation phase, the training activities that should be completed are as follows: Establish an ERP support center and document your support plans. Train your support team. Continue to train and refresh end users knowledge. Here we focus on how you can establish your ERP support center and document your support plans. 3.1 ERP Support Center and Plans A support center constitutes a learning network in the organization whose objective is to develop user tools and support ongoing operations. The need for a support center increases directly with the complexity of the system. The key factors for a successful support center are: The support team is involved in the support center design before the go-live stage. Continuously updated support plans. Proper training of support teams. Sharing of all technical and process-related documentation. 7

10 ERP Solutions Can Your Staff Effectively Operate Your ERP Solution? A well-defined and agreed-upon methodology for support. Clearly defined service level agreements. Performance monitoring and periodic evaluation. Provision of necessary support infrastructure. The design and functionality of your support center should be formally documented in support plans, which should be updated and maintained constantly as your ERP solution evolves. Support plans should include details on the production infrastructure, staffing, facilities, procedures, and standards of the operation of production support. They must be designed and administered as a concerted effort of your business representatives, IT department, and any relevant third-party vendors. It s very important for the coordinators of the support plan to have the required buy-in capabilities within your organization. The knowledge about the ERP solution scope, implementation, and business processes needs to be transferred from the ERP core team to your production support team. The roles and responsibilities for support team members should be clearly defined and communicated to the organization. A detailed support matrix should be compiled listing the roles and responsibilities of the support team. Your ERP support plan should address: Business process operations. System administration & control. Security management. Disaster recovery. Conclusion To be effective and make the most out of your investment in an ERP solution, the training and education activities should start at the Design phase and continue through the Post-Implementation phase. The ERP environments are constantly evolving; consequently, your company should approach its ERP system training as an ongoing exercise. Building a center of excellence approach should be your ultimate goal. This means shifting the internal culture to that of a learning organization by creating opportunities for mentorship inside and outside the company, managing the support desk, providing the enterprise information management roadmap, supporting employees as they build better ERP social networks, and drawing on more resources beyond organizational walls. 8

11 Plante Moran References Desmond, Paul. (2011) 5 Steps to Creating a Successful SAP Training Program. Reed, Jon. (2010) The New Rules of ERP: 10 Keys to ERP Go Live in an Agile Era. Jon, Reed, () SAP Talent: Are You Making the Most Out of Yours. ERPsoftware360.com, Assembling The Right Project Team. Contacts alina tousain associate Financial Support Services Direct Dial: doug wiescinski partner Information Technology Consulting Direct Dial: Mobile:

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