Implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERPs) is one of the biggest business and technology transformations companies will experience. However, ERP implementations are notoriously complicated and expensive, making many companies hesitant to take the giant leap towards the increased integration and efficiency ERPs would bring to their organization.
Considering a long history of implementation failures, how do you ensure yours achieves success? Luckily, the use of structured, professional learning programs has shown to be a tried and true method for carrying your ERP implementation from beginning to end and beyond.
What makes structured, professional learning programs so effective? While there are many reasons, three core aspects of ERPs make learning programs necessary for true, long-term success:
1. Integration & Impact
Due to the highly integrated nature of ERPs, it is crucial to recognize the impact it will have on the entire enterprise. Without a structured learning program developed and deployed by experienced Change Management and Learning experts, it’s extremely difficult to confirm the full enterprise has been considered. With a structured program, you can ensure the training supports the entirety of the integration and provides the correct messaging and training as consistently as possible across the organization.
Why does this matter? Well, for one, having consistent training means you have one less thing for end-users to adjust to. It’s the easily-overlooked details like these that a seasoned Change Management and Learning consulting firm will focus on to make sure your learning program is a success.
2. Complexity & Expertise
ERPs are decidedly vast and complex. The truth is most organizations do not have the expertise or the resources to deploy a holistic change and learning program for their ERP implementation on their own. They may have resources that have some degree of speciality in training delivery and development. However, usually this training delivery experience centres around soft-skills learning or compliance-related learning events, such as employee health and safety (EHS) training or business conduct guidelines training.
Practically speaking, few organizations have dedicated resources that understand how to develop IT-focused learning events, which are dramatically different than the aforementioned soft-skills training. Here, Change Management and Learning consultants with experience in ERP projects can develop and deliver learning programs to ensure the people of your organization can adjust and adapt to the enterprise-wide change.
3. Self-Sufficiency & Future Growth
A well-designed structured learning program not only meets the short-term needs around the ERP go-live, but also delivers long-term benefits. It builds a community of business practitioners who, by the time the implementation is wrapped up, appreciate that they have a different way of working. By partnering with individuals within the business, Change Management and Learning experts help employees develop an understanding of how to document a solution and how to educate, inform, and inspire someone to learn a new skill.
A good learning program can teach them how to support each other as the business evolves, grows, and adapts well beyond go-live. The learning solution—which is not just made up of the training curriculum and associated materials, but also the training environments, governance, roles, and resources required to manage and administer the solution—should be considered part of the overall ERP asset.
It is the focus on achieving self-sufficiency that truly sets good learning programs apart from the bad ones. Well-designed learning programs aim to ultimately lead the business towards self-sufficiency, so they can stand on their own two feet and maintain their learning solution going forward.
Unfortunately, what is true is that this isn’t necessarily the end goal for big consulting firms. In many engagements, they have a wide breadth of responsibility and often don’t or can’t focus on the people that are impacted by the new technology or processes.
Smaller specialized firms, however, can concentrate their focus and attention on delivering robust learning programs and change support that produces self-sufficiency and competency usually at a fraction of the cost of the bigger firms. Good Change Management and Learning consultants believe that their departure from your organization should be tied to your readiness, meaning that you have achieved your expectations and that you can be self-sufficient beyond go-live. They recognize that their own success is tied to your organization’s satisfaction and that the sooner you reach your goal, the happier everyone will be.
So Why Use a Learning Program?
Ask yourself why your organization is implementing an ERP: your implementation program exists because there is a future vision of what your business is trying to achieve through efficiency and increased revenue. A well-designed learning program can enable that as it accounts for the highly integrated and complex nature of ERPs while building internal capacity within the organization for future growth.
Without these considerations, it’s easy to put the project at risk. Even if you can get through go-live, it’s easy to lose the benefit of the ERP. It’s true that good learning programs require a great deal of time, energy, and funding to develop, but the cost of not doing it properly can be much more substantial. So why not actually make sure your ERP is an asset that can be leveraged for years to come by investing in learning programs that build organizational readiness, behaviour change, and self-sufficiency?
The biggest mistake businesses can make with ERP implementations is assuming it’s merely a technology change and deploying with the mindset that it was only the best they could do with the resources they had on hand. Investing in a structured, professional learning program, you can be assured that, you will realize the benefits that the project was designed to achieve.
The authors would like to express their gratitude to Gregory Roth, Aryn Smith-Avendano, and Barnaby Chan for their expertise in developing this article.