A Comprehensive Guide to ERP Training

Training your team is one of the most critical factors in the success of your ERP implementation. The time, money and work you have put in to selecting the perfect software for your business and tailoring it to your needs can be entirely undermined if, upon go-live date, your employees simply do not know how to use the software with proficiency.

So to do training properly you must plan and dedicate sufficient resources to the task. In this guide we hear from Gary Homiak, one of our trainers about why training is so important.

We’ll then talk you through how to start planning your training, how much resource you need to put aside for it and how you integrate it into your overall implementation methodology.

A Word from Gary Homiak – Why Quality Training Makes Such a Difference

It’s worth clearing this up from the start because, although most organisations know that some training is essential with ERP in order to enhance user adoption, many under invest in their training programme and don’t experience the immediate benefits they were hoping for.

It’s an easy mistake to make because ERP projects can be quite extensive. Amongst all the preparation, planning, data migration and go-live processes that happen during implementation, training can easily be overlooked.

But it’s important to remember that as useful as an ERP system is to a business, it is just that: a system. It is how you use the system that really determines its efficiency, and poor training, or too little training can lead to misuse of the software, compromising your overall Return On Investment.

Quality training makes such a difference because:

“1. Training is part of Change Management and changing people isn’t easy. It will take more than a cursory training session to ensure your employees are using the system correctly.”

It takes time to adapt your IT systems, but the difference between a computer and a human is that once you have given a computer accurate instructions it will not question them. People are a little different, they tend to resist change, and even the most willing employee may struggle to adapt their working style if they have not received quality training.

Training is more than just a one-off session where employees are told how to use a system. You need to consider making your training interactive, having follow up sessions and deciding how you will assess whether training has been a success. Training is also a long term commitment. Like businesses, ERP systems grow and evolve so having a long term training plan in place can really help you experience benefits from your ERP investment.

“2. Training is where your employees learn to use the new system. If employees do not use it correctly you will not reap any of the benefits that motivated you to purchase the ERP solution in the first place.”

Poor training or too little training, frequently results in users creating their own short-cuts to try and “get round” the new system. They are likely to try and use it as if it were their old system and not use new functions.

What you end up with is a workforce that doesn’t use the new software you have invested so much time and money in to its full capacity. All those benefits that drove you to buy the software in the first place will never be realised.

And worse, misuse of the software creates errors right across the system. ERP software facilitates flow of information across an entire organisation which is a monumental advantage to alternatives, but it does mean that if an error is made in one department it will have knock on effects in another department, creating errors in information right across the system.

These errors will mean that you have to invest in further training down the line, and deal with false information – why not avoid this upfront?

“3. Good training can actually be integral in fostering a positive attitude to the new system.”

But training is more than just essential, it can actually play a really important part in the Change Management process. Training can also be the difference between an enthused workforce and an apathetic, or worse, antagonistic workforce.

Training is likely to be the first extended contact your workforce will have with the new system they have heard so much about. A good training session can inspire further enthusiasm and good feeling towards the ERP solution,A bad training session might put off employees from the start, causing them to neglect your new system and hindering user adoption.

Decent training can also reduce hand-holding post live date, meaning that consultants won’t have to hang around as long as they might have, further reducing costs.

“4. Remember that you need to invest in quality training because people are harder to change than IT systems, and it is with people that the success of your ERP implementation lies.”

Starting Training: The First Steps

So now that we’ve clarified why training is so very important, we can take a look at exactly how you begin to plan and implement your training programme. We will talk about training in three phases:

  • Planning training
  • Attending vendor training
  • Rolling out end user training

As with anything related to an ERP project, it all starts with planning.

Planning Training and Attending Training

Your training plan should be part of your implementation plan and needs to be factored in by the project manager and your implementation team. Within your implementation team you will need to nominate someone to head up your training team.

Training is normally divided into two parts. You will send a team of employees to be trained directly by the vendor (or they can come to you) and that team will subsequently train the rest of your employees in-house.

At this stage you should plan both initial training and end-user training. The plan for end-user training can be refined once the team have attended initial vendor training, but you could make an initial plan including who needs to be trained, when and where this will happen, what materials you think you might need, how you will prepare them and how long you think it will take.

Planning “vendor” training

The questions you need to ask when planning training with the vendor are:

  • Who will lead and co-ordinate the training project?
  • Who will be on your training team?
  • Who will attend training?
  • When will it happen?
  • Where are you going to do the training?

To ensure high quality training you should treat it as a mini project in itself. This means nominating someone to head up the training team.

When deciding who will lead the team you need to define exactly what responsibilities they will have and how much autonomy they will be given when it comes to making decisions about training. They’ll also need to frequently liaise with the rest of the implementation team, in particular those managing the Change Management strategy.

The Training Team:

Once you’ve made a decision about leadership it’s also a good time to decide who will be in your training team (or if you will have one at all). It is up to you as to how many people you will have in your team – for some companies you may simply use just one or two, other larger companies might prefer a bigger team of five or six. The size of your team depends on the size of your ERP system and the areas of the business which it will affect the most. For example, if you are a small volume manufacturer, who just produces parts for the wider supply chain, you won’t need to put as many people into training as if you were a larger organisation that manages design, production and distribution in-house.

The training team will need to complete the following tasks:

  • Write internal training documents.
  • Ensure the end user training environment is appropriate.
  • Organise when, where and how the training will be delivered.
  • Deliver the training.
  • Indicate how the success of training will be assessed.

You don’t necessarily need different individuals for each task, but you do need to make sure you have enough people with the right skills to ensure that all the above objectives are met.

Remember that these people need to come back in and not only thoroughly train everyone else in the team, but also instil a sense of enthusiasm about the new software.

Our MD Cathie Hall recommends forgetting job titles and thinking about individual talents. A good approach could be to send a manager with a non-manager, someone who is well-liked and likely to be adept at training others, so a good communicator and a quick learner. Other end-users may relate better to a peer at the same level as them and will help the project to seem less “top down” and more inclusive; something that everyone in the company is involved in.

So try and think about the actual skills each person has rather than just sending the most obvious candidate according to their job title.

Who will go on training?

You will want to send your entire training team, but you might also want to send some other senior management or anyone else who will benefit from having familiarity with the system ahead of others in the organisation. Remember that training will mean people are away from their day-to-day work so training needs to planned to minimise disruption. Again, the time commitments you make to training also depend on the size and scope of the ERP system you have purchased. Speak to your vendor about the commitments a good training plan will require and then work around their suggestions to keep disruption to your own business minimal.

Timing

It’s best to do training early on in the process because it’s best to have some knowledge of the software before the vendor consultants come in and implementation begins. You need to leave enough time to ensure that all end-users are properly trained in advance of the go-live date.

Timing is often the biggest challenge of effective training. End-users need time to practice what they have learnt in real world situations before your system goes live. This means following up training sessions with opportunities to implement lessons learned.

You should also think about prioritising early training for those involved with business critical processes. If they receive training early, they will have more time to practice what they have learned and consolidate their knowledge before the go-live date. If you are doing a two-phase implementation you might consider engaging in a block of training initially to cover the foundation modules and following this up later on with further training to make up part of the second phase of your implementation.

Timing can be flexible to your needs and the project manager will work with the vendor to figure out the best approach.

In-house or at the vendor?

When organising training you will have the choice of where you would like the sessions to take place. Some companies prefer to carry them out in-house, whereas others find that they are more beneficial at the vendor’s premises. There are pros and cons to both options, here are the points to consider in each case:

Advantages of At-Vendor Training:

  • A vendor is likely to have a specific training room which will save on having to set up a training environment in-house. At K3 we have a fully kitted out training room.
  • The trainers will be familiar with the equipment so won’t have to waste time trying to figure out unfamiliar set ups.
  • Likewise the computers themselves have been set up for training alone. Of course, if you have in-house training we can help you install and prepare your systems for training, but there is inevitably more risk of technical problems.
  • It is a great way for employees to build good working relationships with the vendors. If there is a good rapport between the two parties it will make it much easier to ensure a successful implementation.
  • Employees can benefit from a change of scene, and being in a fresh environment can enhance the learning process. There is also the big benefit of employees not being able to break away from the sessions to deal with work ‘emergencies’.

Disadvantages of At-Vendor Training:

  • If a large group needs training the numbers may be limited by the available space in the training rooms.
  • It will require people to be out of the office for a period of time, which may not be practical in smaller companies.
  • The time away from the office and travel expenses will need to be budgeted for.

Advantages of In-House Training:

  • If you need a large amount of people to receive training at the same time, it may be easier to bring the training into the workplace.
  • The vendor will help set up an appropriate training environment in-house.
  • It will save on travel expenses and on time taken away from the office whilst in transit.
  • Being in-situ may make the training feel more ‘real’ and relevant to day to day work.

Disadvantages of In-House Training:

  • Employees may be distracted within the work environment and feel tempted to ‘check in’ with their daily tasks and not totally immerse themselves in the training.
  • The employees mind set is likely to be different when they are in their own environment, and may not be as switched on to the training as they would if they were in a designated training space.
  • The vendors may have to deal with unfamiliar equipment, which could make technical errors and subsequent disruption to training more likely.

Every company is different and there are clearly benefits to both training locations, depending on the individuals involved. At the end of the day, the overall aim for the sessions is to ensure that each and every member of staff leaves the training session feeling confident with the new system, and being clear about the benefits that it will ultimately bring to their day-to-day jobs.

How to Plan End-User Training:

Prior to initial training it will be difficult to plan out end-user training in detail, but you should attempt to draw up a draft schedule.

Once the team has been trained you can crystallise your in-house training programme. Now you know the material it should be easier to plan exactly how you will train your end-users and how long it will take.

Make sure you know the answers to these questions and plan accordingly:

  • How many people need to be trained on each module?
  • What processes do they need to learn?
  • How long will each session take?
  • Where will you train them?
  • How will you train?
  • Will you use PowerPoint slides, activities, training manuals? All materials necessary will also have to be prepared in advance.
  • Will you need to invest in any other training software?
  • What practical learning activities will be delivered?
  • Who will deliver the training?
  • What provision will be made for follow-up sessions?

Attending Training

Every ERP vendor does training a little differently. At K3 Syspro we have our own fully kitted out dedicated training room. Our training is very hands on, we don’t just stand and talk at you! We’ll engage you with training exercises so that you don’t just get told how to do something, you actually do it.

We also issue you with a training manual specific to the module or modules you will have taken.


Returning to the Office: Rolling out Training to End Users

This is arguably the most important but also the riskiest part of the training process. It’s easy for training to break down at this point which could scupper your whole ERP project. You need to plan to have every employee trained by the go-live date. This is where the characteristics of your champion/leader come into play. You will need someone who can inspire and motivate other members of the team for this to be effective.

Introducing the Consultant/Customer Relationship:

End-user training will form part of the implementation process and that means that vendor consultants will be present in your offices. Consultants are essential because:

  • They help adapt and fine-tune what has been learnt in training to the specifications of the business.
  • They are essential in transferring knowledge.
  • They can be hands on helping all kinds of users when they run into difficulties.

The biggest challenge of maintaining a fruitful consultant-customer relationship is understanding when to lean on the consultant but always keeping one eye on the fact that you will need to wean the company off the consultant’s help in the not too distant future. Over-reliance on consultants will result in a team at a loss as to how to cope with the new software when consultants disappear, but under-utilising their expertise is a wasted expense.

Fine-tuning Training

When the team has been through the vendor training they’ll be in the position to crystalise and adapt the training plan to the actual material that needs to be delivered. This is where your consultants can prove useful. In essence, they will translate the “this is how it works” knowledge provided by vendor training into “this is how you will use it”. Reassess the assumptions you have made in your original plan to create a bespoke training plan particular to your company. Check whether timings are accurate and put together any internal materials you may need. You also need to ensure a training environment is ready for end-users. Remember that this should happen in conjunction with your internal team and not be handed down from the consultant.

Transferring Knowledge: the emphasis is on the transfer

In terms of training, the most important thing a consultant can support is transferring their ample knowledge to the team. The customer should make it clear that they expect this from the consultant and the internal team should work hard to learn as much about the software as possible so that they can independently support their end users without needing a lot of hand holding by the consultant post-live date.

Knowledge transfer is about the transfer. Project teams should not let the consultants take over training or take too much of a leading role so that they jeopardise the team’s opportunity to get to know the software themselves.

Internal parties should write training documents, lead training sessions and attempt to troubleshoot end user problems. Consultants should be called on to consult, not to do things for the training team or end users.

Training Manuals:

At K3 we’ll send you home with a comprehensive training manual for each module which goes through every feature, big or small, of SYSPRO. From this manual some of our customers write their own “quick reference guides” or small handbooks that include different information according to what is relevant for each end-user. This is often a good idea to keep things focused for end-users and serves as a good refresher exercise for the individual who will be training the team.

How do you know if training has worked? The Help Desk

Training is often neglected as a pivotal aspect of a proper implementation plan, yet the experts have long been telling customers that this is a mistake. So if training is so crucially important, how on earth do you assess whether it has been successful?

If something goes wrong in an ERP project how do you ascertain if a lack of, or poor quality training, is at the heart of this?

An easy way to start to get a handle on the success of end-user training is to simply ask for feedback. Develop a survey which asks employees about their experience of training and what areas they feel need to be improved. You may also want to develop knowledge or practical tests at regular intervals in the early months of using the new software to assess how users are getting on.

ERP does have the benefit of allowing management a new kind of visibility which should make mistakes in the use of software reasonably easy to highlight. Lack of training primarily reveals itself in the kind of calls that are made to the Help Desk. When K3 customers run into problems they can contact the Help Desk and receive live assistance. The Help Desk also keeps track of calls which indicate that further training might be needed.

When the Help Desk starts to get calls along the line of “how do I do this?” it will flag up the issue with your account manager at K3 who will then get in touch, indicate that K3 has identified a weak spot within the company and offer training to the appropriate employees.

Training Refreshers:

When new employees start it is tempting to pass knowledge on from other employees but another link in the chain risks diluting knowledge further and can lead to a Chinese Whisper effect. All new employees should attend training sessions with the vendor.

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