Are you focusing so much on the technical side of your enterprise systems implementation that you’re neglecting to help your organization cope with the changes that the system makes to the way people work?
Corporate IT is undergoing rapid and dramatic change today, driven in part by the rise of cloud-based platforms and software-as-a-service offerings. Despite these developments, large enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems will continue to be vital enablers of much of the world’s commerce and public-sector work. Maximizing the ROI of these system implementations and upgrades is critical to success in any industry. One of the sticking points: dealing with the human and organizational implications of technology and process change.
An ERP implementation almost always entails sweeping changes to how work is done across an organization. Such a system alters business processes, roles, reporting relationships, how customers are served, how data is gathered and maintained, and much more. A typical organization will devote some number of resources to employee training as part of the implementation, but such programs are often insufficient for a number of reasons. Analyses of training needs are sometimes superficial. Employees without skill sets in learning development may be tapped to create the training. Training may be offered too late to make a real difference in workforce performance and is not sufficiently refreshed over time. And so on.
However, if successfully planned and implemented, an enterprise learning and organizational change program can have a major effect on the success of the overall ERP implementation. Based on extensive experience with thousands of enterprise systems implementations worldwide, the following are nine important insights into how organizations can deliver a more successful ERP implementation with a learning and change management program.
- Assign a healthy mix of skills to the training team. Developing enterprise learning requires a highly specialized skill set; it’s not something that just anyone can do. Make sure you have experienced learning professionals on the team. At the same time, include a mix of technology and business function perspectives. If you assign all your most qualified and knowledgeable colleagues to the design, build and test teams—while assigning less experienced technical people to training—you will rarely produce a satisfactory result. Consider rotating systems and business function personnel in and out of the training and change initiative for periods of time, while maintaining a core set of skilled instructional designers.
- Involve the training team early and integrate them with the larger project. Systems training is not simply a generic, off-the-shelf program. Every implementation is different because every organization’s needs are different. Include the training function as an integral part of the development team from the beginning. You can start with a small group whose members will later become the experts for each functional area and remain on the project for the whole duration. Also include a broad mix of roles, integrated across functional business areas: subject matter experts, system developers and testers should all be actively involved. Consider nominating an “integration champion” who is responsible for looking across all the areas and making sure they are represented in the training solution.
- Coordinate training within a broader change management initiative. The impact of a new or updated system goes well beyond the new knowledge and skills that will be required. In addition to developing specific classroom or web-based learning opportunities, enterprises should think in terms of enabling new behaviors, working relationships and organizational structures. A threefold approach is involved, one that includes training, change management and organizational alignment. Such an approach can make sure that specific learning programs are in sync with the broader organizational change initiative and that everyone receives consistent information and support.
- Use an iterative approach to training-needs analysis. Getting the training-needs analysis right is critically important to the success of the entire project. Especially vital is thinking in terms of the end-user’s performance needs rather than just about the technical details of the system. A training-needs analysis is often created during workshops with the design-and-build teams; their important insights into technical details must be balanced with the insights of others who understand the broader impacts on the behaviors of users. Training is not just about how to use a system; it is more about learning the new processes that are supported by that system. Take an iterative approach rather than attempt to define training needs all at once, too early in the initiative. Also be sure to refresh the needs analysis with every release update of the system so that the training offerings are continuously aligned with the system and business processes.
- Employ innovative and engaging learning approaches and collaboration technologies. Instead of over-relying on passive classroom training, offer more innovative approaches—web-based learning, simulations, collaboration tools and social media platforms. Intranet sites can be established to post news and support materials, share information and to get feedback from users. Social media platforms can provide the means for everyone to contribute timely information as well as user-generated content in text, audio or video form. Knowledge databases in wiki formats can formalize ways to collect very current perspectives from across the organization. Podcasts or videocasts can engage employees and let them hear a range of leadership perspectives. Simulations can help them better understand the new ways processes need to be performed.
- Create strong executive sponsorship. According to Accenture research and experience, training programs and change management initiatives may account for anywhere from 15 percent to 25 percent of the overall budget of an ERP implementation project. That can be a significant number, and as money becomes tight, it might be tempting to make cuts in workforce enablement programs. Strong executive-level advocates are needed to keep those programs funded and on track. Without that advocacy, a multimillion-dollar ERP investment may fail to produce its intended benefits as users struggle to perform, resulting in delays, quality issues and substandard customer service.
- Assess progress and results in a rigorous manner. Too many training evaluation programs are little more than point-in-time temperature checks of whether a few employees are satisfied with a particular class. Whether the training actually has an impact on the business is rarely evaluated. Aim to produce a more robust and comprehensive training scorecard that assesses user evaluations of relevance and impact on individual performance, but is also augmented by more objective assessments of user adoption, process performance and the effectiveness of the change journey.
- Balance cost-saving standardization with value-adding localization. Standardized training experiences are more cost effective, but tailored offerings can increase the positive impact on users within particular units or local geographies. Finding the right balance is important. Begin by developing the major portion of the training (often as much as 80 percent will be common across target groups) that can be reused. Then add only the local specifics required for business-critical subprocesses and specialties. Having training available in local languages is also important, but costs (for both creation and maintenance) need to be considered. Sometimes it is sufficient to have a trainer who speaks the local language translate instruction from the master materials, instead of a costly complete translation.
- Focus on sustaining the training investment. One of the significant reasons for underperformance on an ERP investment from a workforce performance perspective is that organizational changes and new ways of working are not sustained beyond the initial training period. Materials are not updated, accountability becomes muddled and budgets dry up. Often, it is not clear whether the IT department or the HR function should bear responsibility for workforce enablement and support as time goes on. To address this problem, an entity should be identified (or created) that has the incentive and allocated budget to maintain the training solution and change initiative over time.
Getting more from your ERP investment
ERP implementations are a big investment, with sweeping implications for the performance of people and the organization as a whole. How users perform and function based on the new system is a critical question to be addressed. Sustained by the right training and change programs, people can perform new processes effectively and efficiently. Organizations should experience less of a dip in productivity when the system is turned on, and they can be more nimble in seizing marketplace opportunities.
About the authors
Roman Schachtsiek is a senior manager specializing in learning and collaboration solutions with the Accenture Talent & Organization group.
Johannes Cruyff is a senior director specializing in learning and collaboration solutions with the Accenture Talent & Organization group.
Also contributing to this article were Christopher Kläsener, consultant, and Angelina Vilouta, senior manager, with the Accenture Talent & Organization group.To Top