Best Practices in Training: The Key to a Successful ERP Implementation – Part 1

By - September 24, 2013

After selecting the right ERP system, the next major challenge for an enterprise is in the implementation, where success is never a given.  It’s not hard to understand why ERP implementations can be so challenging, since all you have to do is read the countless media stories on ERP failures and the common list of reasons why the project met disastrous consequences.  One common theme in all of those lists of reasons is how Training is frequently overlooked during the implementation process.

During an implementation, enterprises typically spend millions, or a significant part of their corporate budget, on an enterprise system yet forget that an investment must be made in their people to achieve ultimate success.  Despite the fact that proper training can not only save an enterprise money, as well as raise the chances for a successful implementation and universal user adoption of the ERP system; this area is frequently underestimated and under budgeted.

Many companies think they can get away from investing in training by utilizing on-job training after an implementation. While this type of training certainly has its purpose and value, a well-thought out Training Plan that includes various training cycles for management, subject matter experts, and end users prior to the go-live will maximize a company’s investment and the overall chances for a successful implementation.

In this three-part blog series on “Best Practices in Training: The Key to a Successful ERP Implementation,” the first segment will discuss the utilization of boot camps – short and intensive training –  and the development of a Training Plan during the early stages of an ERP implementation.

While there are many different  training methods used  in the industry for  ERP training,  RSM has developed an approach, based on decades of experience and a proven track record of successful implementations,  that fits well for  most ERP implementations. At the start of new ERP implementations, we train the project team by using boot camp style courses. Each boot camp typically runs five days and includes intense hands-on training in the software related to the functional area being presented. The classes can be held back-to-back or spread out over several weeks. These boot camps also can be held simultaneously to accommodate workers’ schedules and project deadlines.

The training is typically divided into three main areas: Financials, Supply Chain and Development, which gives project team members wide exposure to the system.  We typically recommend that all project team members attend the financial and supply chain classes since this approach enables project team members to have an understanding of different functional areas of the software. For example, a Production Manager can gain valuable perspectives of how their decisions affect financial reporting, as well as have a ripple effect on how other departments do their jobs.  In turn, the Controller also can see how their decisions affect day-to-day operations such as production or in the warehouse.

These boot camps also are typically held before the Gap Analysis stage because once project team members have completed this training, they are more likely to identify more proficiently the gaps in the system – where the software doesn’t meet the company’s business requirements and where customization may be needed.  Not only do these boot camps greatly improve the success of the Gap Analysis stage of the implementation but it also serves as a motivation tool. Most participants are excited after the boot camps and look forward to the start of the implementation since they now see how the software is going to improve how they do their jobs. Most importantly, boot camps can minimize the level of skepticism about the software from project team members which further enhances the long-term success of the ERP.

Then, once the boot camps are over and the ERP implementation is underway, the Training Plan – equally as important as the Implementation Plan –  should be completed at least two to three months before the “go-live.”   The following should be a part of every Training Plan:

  • Create a budget including estimates on cost of internal and external resources for training development and delivery, as well as external costs for end-user training
  • Identify what type of training will be given
  • Designate who will be trained
  • Select the people who will deliver each section of the training
  • List and reserve the rooms where training classes will be held
  • Develop a  timeline/schedule for rollout of education and training
  • Specify the documentation needed
  • Assign the person(s) who will be preparing documentation.

To minimize disruption in the day-to-day operations of the business, the Plan also may account for how job duties will be covered when employees attend training.   Additionally, the plan should specify the size of the rooms, the number of computers and equipment required for each training class, as well as an outline of the milestones and deadlines which need to be achieved prior to the go-live date. One key element which should be included in a Training Plan is the  Evaluation Phase and the tools or techniques for measuring the success of your Training once you start implementing the plan. The Training Plan not only can eliminate any finger pointing when problems may arise during the implementation and go-live phases, but it also promotes effective cross-team interaction between project team members and the training team.

The next blog will discuss the next key elements in an effective Training program during an ERP implementation: Documentation, Train-the-Trainer, and end-user classes.

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