Implementing an ERP system – whether it’s SAP, Oracle eBusiness Suite, Microsoft Dynamics AX – is a big, hairy deal. Ensuring that end users learn the new system, embrace it as part of their daily work routine, and use it effectively is a daunting task. In a recent blog post Using Storytelling to Add the Why to ERP Training my colleague, Andrea describes it this way:
The systems are complicated; users have to learn new terminology, new codes and numbers for products, vendors, accounts and everything in between. And then there are the new procedures – many, many new procedures. I’ve seen week-long SAP training courses covering over 100 procedures for people who plan and scheduled production in a manufacturing plant. Really? That’s a lot to ask people to remember…
Andrea suggests that weaving stories – like the monkey ordering debacle (check out that story in Andrea’s post) – into ERP system training enhances learning by providing memory hooks to important points.
Implementing an ERP system has a storyline of its own. I’m reminded of a children’s storybook that my kids loved: Going on a Bear Hunt. I think I know why they loved it. It’s an amazing adventure with a safe, happy ending. The story starts:
We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. We’re not scared …
Oh-oh! Grass! Long, wavy grass. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it.
The hunt continues with many obstacles until the family finally finds the bear in a dark cave. Being scared silly, they race back home – back over all the same obstacles – until the very end when the family jumps into bed. Under the covers. Safe at home.
Implementing an ERP system is a lot like that story. There is a path to get there. There are obstacles all along the way. There is no way around it. It’s big, and it’s hairy.
And, there can be a safe, happy ending.
The difference is that you do not need to go back over all the same obstacles. There are things you can do to help ensure (an efficient and successful user adoption) of an ERP system. In working with clients, I’ve discovered three important steps to getting there:
1. Figure out what you’re after and anticipate the obstacles
Start by tying learning outcomes to what success looks like: at go-live, at 30, 60, 90 days post go-live, and at the point of stabilization to business as usual. Interview project stakeholders and work towards alignment around a common vision.
Identify the especially critical tasks required to keep the lights on at go-live and focus on getting end-users prepared to perform those tasks well. Keep in mind that an ERP system automates processes, often across multiple functional areas. Things going on upstream really matter. Obstacles will be lurking in the gray space. It’s the hand-offs and exceptions – the thick, oozy mud and the swirling, whirling snowstorms – that end users will have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Ensure your process flows cover these.
Establish key performance indicators for the critical tasks that link to the business case, and write learning objectives from those. Use tools like self-assessments to help learners know what is expected and to measure their readiness.
2. Create health score cards that illuminate the path ahead
Put tracking and reporting mechanisms in place well before go-live because someone – possibly a big, hairy bear – is going to care.
- Staff capacity and capability
3. Build a performance support system that users can return to as a safe haven
Just like the family of bear hunters found comfort in their bed under the covers, users need a place to go to when they need help.
That is why a training program must be designed and built with an electronic performance support system (EPSS) as the cornerstone. A place users can come back to. They need to know it’s there. They need to know how to get there.
By embedding, linking, and reusing content for use on the job, you allow the content to roam freely in the workplace where it can have the most impact. Learning and support at the point of work drives sustained capability. Training drives knowledge and skills – still a good thing, but what’s a bear hunt story without a big, cozy, safe bed to hop into when you need it?