Being a former CFO, I understand the importance of budgets, allocating resources and cost avoidance. However, being a business person I am often baffled by companies that try to save money by limiting the amount of training, either during or after an ERP system implementation, they are willing to provide to their employees. The “we can figure it out on our own” attitude should arouse skepticism with the adage of being pennywise and pound-foolish brought to mind.
The below are items are for your consideration should you find yourself in this situation in either a managerial or individual user role.
The top 5 benefits of ERP training in chronological order in terms of the ERP life cycle are:
- Starting out on the right foot
- New employees getting up to speed quickly
- Accomplishing tasks the most efficient way
- Discovering Tips and Tricks
- Learning about new features and functionality
Starting out on the right foot
There are many steps involved in having a successful ERP go-live with two of the most critical steps being: a) having detailed process discussions on all the company’s relevant workflows and b) employee training. Trying to save money in the short term by reducing the time devoted to either event will likely result in the following issues:
- Process Discussions: Not taking advantage of the implementation team’s experience and consulting advice to brainstorm different approaches could lead to less than optimal workflows and inefficient system configuration settings.
- Employee Training: If there is insufficient training time allotted during implementation then by definition the users of the system will:
- Use the system inefficiently and perhaps incorrectly. Lack of sufficient training will lead to workarounds to get the task at hand complete.
- Begin creating errors, because the users do not fully understand the ramifications of the workaround on all the other components of the ERP system. This will lead to additional efforts to correct the error.
- Feel frustrated as the benefits they were expecting will not materialize and many tasks and information sharing may even take longer in the new system than it did using the old system.
- Automating both sales order entry and adding a new customer (with controls by Finance; i.e. new customers are given a status of “On-Hold” until approved by Finance) into the ERP system, will reduce errors and eliminate duplicate data entry.
- The avoidance of walking into a customer and being surprised by a very unhappy customer, because the sales rep was not aware of a Customer Support ticket that has not been resolved.
New employees getting up to speed quickly
One of the key challenges every new employee faces is getting up and over the learning curve as quickly as possible. Most new employees will be typically trained on the ERP system by their peers. This is a great way to get started, assuming the peers know how to use the system efficiently themselves, as many of the key company processes and methodologies can be passed along rather quickly.
Having said the above, sometimes formal training is the best way to learn the proper way to use any complex enterprise software. Typically, the new employee’s previous experience with other ERP systems will be a key factor in the determining the amount of training that will be optimal. It is important to note while the fundamental concepts of ERP core functionality is probably similar across various ERP systems, each system will have its nuances and unique ways of accomplishing a basic task. Even learning the basic navigation of each system is an important piece that should not be overlooked.
Accomplishing tasks the most efficient way
After the ERP system has been up and running for a period of time, users start to get comfortable with their knowledge and the ways they use the system to accomplish their tasks. There are a few issues that will most likely surface if continued training is not provided.
- A better way to use the system will not be discovered
- Inefficient and incorrect processes and workflows will be passed on to new employees which will only serve to perpetuate the issue
This isn’t theoretical. I have been at customer training sessions where the instructor gave some basic advice and an employee’s eyes would become very large and say, “You mean, I could have been doing it that way for the past 4 years?”
Discovering tips and tricks
With any robust software packages there are ways to do things that not many people know about, because they are not documented at all or are buried in some corner of the documentation that has been forgotten over time.
The most likely places to uncover these nuggets are either through some training with the appropriate company that provides you with support. Typically, it is either directly with the ERP company or with the ERP reseller or ERP Support Company that you use. Another great source of information of this ilk is user group meetings or conferences.
More often than not a tip/trick or two will be worth the investment of time and dollars as it could deliver huge efficiencies, change of processes to multiple users of the system that can be reaped for many years.
Learning about new features and functionality
Very often during training sessions, a discussion will surface regarding functionality that exists in a more recent version than the one deployed at your company or is simply a module that your company has not licensed yet. Discovering and understanding these features and functionality so that you can communicate this to people back at the company could be the catalyst for the company to upgrade to the latest release of the software or to begin discussions to obtain these features for the company’s use.
Hard to fathom, but I have visited customers that are having trouble using the ERP system only to discover all their key users have left and the company has not invested in any sort of training to the remaining employees.
A company obtaining an ERP system has no doubt invested a great deal of time and money to launch the system. Not providing the proper training to employees is difficult to understand given the ramifications described above. Key point, training should be considered an on-going investment to optimize the return on your investment in the ERP system.