By Lori Cheezem and Elizabeth Matsen

According to Paul Allen of Project Management Institute, 80 percent of new software applications and 67 percent of reengineering efforts are abandoned or fail to meet deadlines or the projected cost benefits. To avoid being included in these statistics, you need to recognize that an ERP implementation affects all areas of an organization and requires a large amount of planning to be successful.
As noted in the first installment of this series, titled “Understand the organizational impact of ERP training ,” training is key to a successful ERP implementation. This article discusses how planning your training strategy and using your training resources appropriately can significantly decrease the problems associated with ERP implementations.
Document business processes
When creating an ERP implementation plan, your organization must decide how business processes will be affected. Will your company modify its current processes to match the ERP package or will the package be modified? The answers to these questions form the foundation of an ERP implementation plan, and can profoundly affect the training program that must be developed to support it. One of the key components to the ERP implementation plan is documenting internal processes and procedures. The documentation and training component of an implementation must be included in the initial planning process.

In addition to providing training on the new or redesigned business processes, the training program should address the “back office” processes that are not known by everyone, such as the processing of time and expense reports. These processes are usually specific to your organization and frequently are unwritten. Amy Thropp, IT manager at Bianco Hopkins & Associates, Inc., explained the value of documentation during an implementation as follows: “[A consultant’s] documentation of the processes helped the company avoid hitting deep snags, like duplication of processes and avoiding consolidation challenges.”

Documenting your business processes is also beneficial should members of your implementation team, who know the “new” processes, leave the organization. That knowledge won’t leave with them if it’s documented. Documentation and training allows you to retain that valuable knowledge as well as to educate future employees.

Changes have a ripple effect
If the implementation of the ERP system falls behind schedule, you may not be able to meet your training deadlines. Training delays can adversely influence employees’ “buy-in” on the system capability and stability, because system training directly affects their jobs.

One of the hurdles faced by training is database functionality. Many of the ERP packages popular today involve relational databases and share much of the information. If that information is not in the appropriate tables and has not been tested, the software may not function properly, and the training, in turn, may not be effective.

Another challenge faced by trainers is business processes that haven’t been defined or are in a state of change. Those vague business processes could lead to situations that require the ERP software to go through changes during and after the implementation. ERP software modifications can spiral quickly, altering the training program. For example, the training designed for your employees will have to be changed to meet the new or changed business process requirements, and the training database will have to be modified and tested. Changes to business processes will likely influence the deadlines associated with the preparation and testing of the training materials.

Include training in the project planning phase
During the planning phase of ERP implementation, it is critical to determine both the department and key person responsible for training. Theresa Jackson, project manager for Bianco Hopkins & Associates, Inc., recalls her experience with a large ERP implementation, “Because the client had not clearly identified which not-for-profit department was responsible for training, we had many political battles. Fingers were pointed at each other when problems arose.”

When planning for training, you need to consider the logistics of the company’s training resources. Will trainers be hired, or will internal employees be used for training? How will the job duties be covered while employees are attending training? Should you bring in temporary personnel, or can current employees share the job duties? Does your company have the physical facilities to meet your training requirements? If the physical facilities are not available, you need to assess your alternatives.

End-user training is key
There isn’t necessarily one right way to train your human resources or financial department. Your options are to outsource your training, have your own staff do the training, or use a combination of external consultants and internal staff.

Steve Richel, Information Systems Director at the Universal Flavor Corporation, comments, “You can’t overtrain your people when implementing a new system.” He adds, “It is critical to have trainers who have an understanding of the financial transaction flow all the way through the system, and it is a real nice added benefit to get tailored training and process materials—often this is an oversight during a system conversion because of time constraints.”

You also need to determine if the end users need additional training (on non-ERP specific skills) in order to perform their jobs after an organizational change, and how that training should be delivered. Professional trainers understand that adults learn in a variety of capacities, and one method of explanation for a participant may need a different type of clarification for another participant to grasp the lesson being taught. Therefore, if you decide to use your own employees for training, seek out “train the trainer” courses to empower your internal trainers with the tools needed for a successful classroom experience.

Technical experience enhances your trainer’s knowledge
Technical knowledge and implementation experiences are essential components of the knowledge base for instructors. This is particularly true in the case of highly technical or detailed areas, such as financials. An accounting software trainer, for example, must be prepared for all types of system questions and be able to answer various accounting questions. Trainers with a financial background will be able to think on their feet in the classroom and answer specific accounting questions. A trainer teaching a general ledger software class was asked about designing the system for allocations, a topic outside the scope of the course. Because she had processed allocations for the corporate headquarters of a cellular company and worked on a general ledger implementation for a telephony industry firm, the trainer could answer the question. Demonstrating deep subject knowledge and using real business experience to explain concepts increases the credibility of the instructor and makes information more meaningful to the participants.

In conclusion, the training issues we’ve mentioned are not all-encompassing but merely some of the issues you may encounter during ERP implementations. Addressing these issues before the implementation will enable your organization to prepare and adapt to the changes that can be experienced throughout an ERP implementation.

Lori E. Cheezem is an instructional design consultant with Bianco Hopkins & Associates, Inc. She has experience in training and documentation, human resources, and labor relations. She holds a master’s degree in human resource development from Clemson University.

Elizabeth Matsen is a training and documentation consultant with Bianco Hopkins & Associates, Inc. She is a graduate of Marymount College, a Certified Public Accountant, and has worked in both public and private accounting.

What are some of the challenges you faced with ERP training and implementation? We’d like to hear from you, so please post your comments at the bottom of the page.