Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation projects have a bad stigma — some of it well deserved — and there are plenty of case studies showing how much time and money a company lost and why. But not all of the blame should rest on the software itself. After all, software can only do so much for your business. It can’t replace the people in your organization, redesign your processes (nor automate them), train your staff or build lifelong relationships with your customers. All of that is up to the company that chooses to implement a new ERP. There are times when companies don’t understand this about enterprise software. Ask yourself the following question: what is it about your company that makes the money? It’s your business processes, not your enterprise software. Whether it is the process of building a widget or the online checkout process; this is what makes the money.
Do you know what else makes the money? Having well trained people to execute these processes in the system software of your choice. If you make a widget, who will create the Bills of Material (BOM) in the system? When it is complete, who will ensure it is part of your physical inventory? Then of course you have the order process and billing process for said widget; again all of which are tracked in your enterprise software.
In the first article of this series I mentioned that the goal of this four-phase Training and Implementation Plan is to ensure the activities mentioned in the preceding paragraph are precisely executed by those who are responsible to do so. You don’t want these individuals staring at the computer screen waiting for someone to help them nor running around asking for help. You want them to know exactly what to do and when to do it. The business processes will be executed and the company will continue to generate revenue. This is the purpose of the plan and the reason I want to share it with you.
A 2012 study of training issues in ERP implementations by two researchers at Bucharest University revealed that user training curriculum is the third most important critical success factor; behind top management support and effective project management. The training curriculum is significant because it not only helps users to adapt to the new system but it also helps in the organizational change process.
The research also found that a training program may easily involve 10 – 20% of an organization’s personnel and an average of 10 – 20% of the overall implementation budget. So if the project implementation budget is $10MM USD, you can expect to pay $1 to $2MM USD to get the organization prepped and ready for go-live.
And if you’re investing that kind of money into the preparation of your organization, you ought to ensure you’re getting a nice return on this investment. To ensure this return, all of the users, supervisors and managers should know how to execute those business processes when you flip the switch on the new system.
Unfortunately for most companies, this cost to train people is not understood and data has shown that this is the most underestimated item in the project budget. Why does it cost so much to train individuals on new enterprise software? Let’s have a look:
- Users have to learn a new set of processes (since a many of the existing processes are re-engineered during an implementation)
- Users have to learn a new software interface that is often not intuitive
- Method of delivery for the training (on-site vs. Computer Based Training (CBT)). Note: LISO does not recommend CBT as a delivery method
- Competencies of the individual being trained (remember the user assessments in Phase 1?)
- On-site support after go-live. (This is not re-training users after go-live. More about on-site support to come later)
If you are a global enterprise, travel costs for on-site training will be high depending on your global footprint. As mentioned in bullet #3 above, LISO does not use CBT. Why? Because no one knows what that user is doing when he or she is watching the video or taking the knowledge check at the end of the video. Did they really understand the concepts being taught or did they just hurry through and pass the knowledge check so they can get back to work? Working with the end users in person is by far the best training method when implementing software because as the instructor, you are in control of the classroom and behavior of the individuals. It’s easier to assess whether or not the user grasped the concept being taught and again, constant communication with the user base helps with the overall change process.
When preparing for Phase 2 of the Training and Implementation Plan, you will need to have the users segregated by demographic area and module (section) of software. This should be readily available since you are already keeping an up-to-date user list in Excel that details this information. Also be sure to include key management personnel who will be supporting the launch as part of the user list.
There are two parts to Phase 2. Having an up-to-date user list will help you send out the meeting invites for the following:
Monthly Web Meetings and Mini Conference Room Pilot (CRP) Sessions
Monthly Web Meetings: Once a month, schedule a two-hour conference call utilizing web meeting so that screen sharing is available to the participants. These conference calls will include the following people vital to the success of your project:
- Subject Matter Experts (SME’s)
- End-users. Not all of the end-users, only the ones relevant to this particular module or demographic region
- Key management personnel who will support the implementation (supervisors/managers)
Bullet #2 recommends you separate users by module because as an example, you don’t want to mix users from accounting with users from the warehouse function.
These meetings will serve as a means to communicate progress on the project while also opening the lines of communication between the project team and the organization.
The calls should include updates on the following:
- Project timeline
- Best practices/tips
- Issue resolution
- Solutions: fixes and enhancements
- User proficiency assignments
- User training stats
- Question and answer (Q&A) session at the end of the call
This is your opportunity to communicate how the project is going and be honest. If a solution or fix isn’t going as planned, let them know. If you can share with them a tip on how to better use the system, tell them. If you are at risk of missing a deadline, be up front. You will be surprised what you may get. When I hosted one of these monthly web meetings, I had a regional manager offer up two users to test a fix we had implemented since all of the resources on our team were overbooked. Because we held these calls every month, he understood our workload and our commitment to the project and he offered us a lifeline.
The Q&A session at the end of the call allows individuals to ask anything they want to the implementation team. Remember, people might be apprehensive about what is to come so this is a good time to let them vent and/or ask something to the team.
Be consistent with the message. If you are conducting these meetings with multiple user groups (example: a group in the USA and one in Europe) be sure the message is consistent. The last thing you want to do is tell one group something and another group something different. This will come back to bite you. Although people might be on two different continents, they will talk to each other. Send a consistent message to the user base and you will earn their respect.
These monthly calls are to be conducted all the way up to go-live. The monthly rhythm will make these calls habitual and expected by the end-users and again, foster communication to the organization. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to communicate. So often I hear of project implementation teams visiting the users, training them months in advance and then they are never heard from again. One and done. Gone. Put yourself in the users’ shoes and imagine this happening to you. It doesn’t give you a big confidence boost that the project will be successful does it?
Mini CRP Sessions
Conference Room Pilot (CRP) gets its name from the setting in which the pilot (or test) is run: a conference room. Typical ERP implementations will have multiple CRP’s throughout the project. It’s basically a means of testing a business process and demonstrating the functionality of the software while identifying any gaps between the two. Since these sessions are conducted during the design phase, it gives implementation teams an opportunity to correct things in the new system before going live. Full CRP’s typically run for one or two weeks depending on the scope and magnitude of the implementation. For our purposes however, you will only conduct mini-CRP’s.
Every six weeks, schedule a mini-CRP session (with conference call and screen share) with the same group of people from the monthly conference calls. Make the supervisors and managers optional to attend. Since they are not going to be an end-user, they don’t need to sit through a session on how to create an invoice or issues goods to a customer order. But by inviting them, they will see you are engaging the users and actively pursuing feedback from them.
Before scheduling the mini-CRP, you will want to choose which part of the system, or business process, you will demonstrate to the users. Will you demonstrate how to create a purchase order (PO)? How to set up a customer or opportunity? Create an invoice? Whichever business process you choose, make sure you, or someone on your team, has tested the functionality and everything works as intended. There is nothing worse than attempting to demonstrate something to people and it doesn’t work. Not a good look.
I mentioned Job Aids in Phase 1. Make sure you, and preferably another person, have tested the functionality of the system using the job aid step-by-step. One deviation from the job aid (missed click or required field) will create confusion for you and the users during the demonstration. After demonstrating to the users, send them the job aid(s) you just used and have them complete the same task you just demonstrated on their own. Keep the conference line open and be available to answer questions or note any issues.
In general, the format of the mini-CRP should look like this:
- Introduction to the session and topic to be covered. Share any slides, images etc. with the group – ½ hour
- Demonstration of selected business process in new system using job aid – ½ hour
- SME’s and end-users will complete the tasks on their own using job aid – 1 hour
- Q&A session, notation of issues and wrap-up – ½ hour
Your own times may vary but in general a well thought out session will easily last this long. Be careful what you choose to demonstrate, don’t choose five processes or the session will never end and the info won’t be retained by your attendants. Be cognizant of people’s times and make these sessions beneficial to both of you. As with the monthly conference calls, these mini-CRP’s are to be conducted leading up to go-live.
Research has shown that training end users is the third most important critical success factor of a software implementation. It’s also the most underestimated budget item and costs roughly 10-20% of the overall project budget. If you are a CEO, CFO, CIO, Director of IT, or Project Manager and are currently involved in an enterprise software implementation, use this training and implementation plan developed by LISO for your organization. It will save you thousands, maybe even millions, in the long run.
Phase 2 of this training and implementation incorporates Monthly Web Meetings and Mini-CRP Sessions. Monthly conference calls provide a means to communicate progress on the project while also opening the lines of communication between the project team and the organization. During these calls provide an update on the progress of the project, status of any fixes or enhancements, user training stats and best practices.
Conduct mini-CRP sessions to demonstrate system functionality or a recently installed fix. Be sure you have tested the system before demonstrating to users and note feedback from attendees. Both the web meetings and mini-CRP sessions are to be conducted leading up to go-live so that the organization is fully aware of the progress and/or issues with the system.
This phase emphasizes communication with the organization and its users. Be sure to take advantage of having these individuals on conference calls and web meetings by being transparent and communicating both the good and the bad about the project.
It will build trust between the implementation team and the users.