ERP implementation involves using technology to change existing processes and systems so that they provide better business results to the organization. While technology is the basis, it is the people who make this change happen. Effective training at all levels – training that talks about the change and its collective benefits – becomes critical.
This training is required at three levels:
- Executive leadership
- Functional heads/SMEs or “super users” heading strategic business units
- End users who perform the day-to-day operations
Engaging Executive Leadership
Usually, it is executive leadership who initiates and approves ERP projects. However, to what extent are they are involved in the project and, more specifically, in the change management initiatives? The answer varies from organization to organization. The responsibility of senior leadership does not stop with giving a go-ahead for the ERP program. In fact, that is just the beginning. Lack of executive sponsorship in the change management initiatives and involvement in the project’s progress is said to be one of the reasons for ERP implementation failure.
Training for executive leadership during change management should include:
- A comprehensive overview and understanding of the scale of the ERP program (what is feasible and what is not)
- The benefits that the organization is going to enjoy
- The limitations of the software
- An understanding of the implications and changes in the organization as a result of the initiative
- Risks involved in the process
- Regular updates about the progress of the implementation
When senior leadership understands the importance of their involvement, they are more likely to invest their time in change management initiatives. Training should enable them to garner support by reassuring employees about the organization’s commitment to the project. They can provide this reassurance through short videos with messages explaining the rationale behind the project and what they hope to achieve from it.
Training Functional Heads/SMEs
The involvement and support of functional heads are of paramount importance for ERP implementation to go smoothly. It is the functional heads who brief and update their managers and everyone down the hierarchy about the changes involved and the implications of those changes. It is these managers who will implement and supervise the ERP implementation in their individual departments. Hence, they need to be trained not just on the ERP initiative but also on how to manage change.
Training for functional heads and SMEs should include:
- A good overview of the ERP program at the beginning
- A clear idea of how the program will change the roles and responsibilities of their team members
- The security and data transaction issues involved
- The benefits of ERP implementation for their divisions in particular
- How the ERP can help them make better decisions
Functional heads will guide and mentor the end users and, therefore, will be the primary influencers. Their support and involvement is crucial, as they will ensure that their team members embrace the change willingly.
Change Management Training for End Users
Anyone who uses the software is an end user. However, there will be primary users (who will use it for over 50 percent of their work), secondary users (who will use it for about 30 to 50 percent of their work) and occasional users (who will typically use it to generate reports). Each of the end users should be trained based on their roles and responsibilities. All of them, at varying degrees, have to change the way they do their jobs and input or capture data, adapt to new processes, and learn to use a new technological platform.
Very often, employees resist the new processes, because they do not understand them and find it difficult to adapt to a new software platform. There are some who find technology intimidating and may have apprehensions about their roles in the new system. Many fear their roles might become redundant and, as a result, that they will lose their jobs. Therefore, training end users – ideally in phases – becomes the most important aspect of change management for new ERP implementation.
Training for end users should include:
- The rationale behind the ERP initiative
- Changes in roles and responsibilities
- Benefits to individuals in terms of the ease of performing day-to-day tasks
- Benefits to the organization in terms of efficiency and productivity
- Guided support in transitioning to the new system, including technical training on how to perform transactions
It’s natural to resist change or take the path of least resistance, and a conscious change management program is essential to ensuring a smooth implementation and rollout, including training all the stakeholders. A global training program will not be effective. Understanding the needs and concerns of individual players is key to customizing training during and after implementation.
RK Prasad is the CEO and co-founder of CommLab India, a global learning solutions company with expertise in custom e-learning design.