There’s a clear trend for a CEO to expect projects to be delivered quicker, at less cost and with more rapid benefits realisation.
Everyone and everything must ‘hit the ground running’. From day one, an ERP solution must function as expected and the organisation’s resources must understand how to operate it. Seems fair?
Technical and cultural change is also accelerating. Organisations are adapting faster to uncertainty. Learning curves are getting steeper.
Involvement in an ERP programme can often demand more of people than their ‘day job’ – not least living up to CEO expectations but also potentially working simultaneously across multiple workstreams to adopt unfamiliar processes and systems.
So, project teams need a ‘leg up’ to gain traction and make tangible progress at the very earliest stages of a project.
In generating the early adoption and momentum that every project needs, training should never be an afterthought, nor should it be entirely deferred until the end users’ pre-go live involvement.
Every project team starts out with varying levels of expertise gained from previous experiences. Whilst this diversity is just what the project needs, it’s also important for the core team to have a similar base-knowledge of the ERP solution they’re delivering and how they’ll go about doing it:
- An understanding of the ‘project journey’ – how to design, build and deliver the solution
- Who does what and when (we’ll come to that later…)?
- What are the chosen ERP’s strengths and capabilities ‘out of the box’ (really important if a non-customised solution is the goal)?
- How to navigate the ERP – functionality is growing exponentially and it’s intimidating to a novice
First and foremost, a process-aware and system-savvy project team is far more likely to engage with the (often scary) prospect of delivering a major ERP programme and the associated business transformations that justify the programme’s existence.
In turn, the chances of successful delivery are hugely bolstered when a team understands the task-at-hand and has confidence in its personal and collective ability to contribute to its success.
Confidence comes from knowledge and know-how. Knowledge is built from formal training, experience and exposure to new concepts. Know-how grows through practice and repetition. Top-up training and tailored support are also key.
Together these equal expertise. A project team’s ability to deliver hinges on its combined expertise. The sooner you build this, the sooner you’ll benefit from it.
Some ERP projects are delivered in-house; some by a technology partner; or most often as a hybrid of both.
Traditional ‘waterfall’ project methodologies often advocate leaving formal training until the final stages of pre-go live testing, with the partner taking sole responsibility for everything system-related up to this point. But this approach fails to differentiate between the wide-ranging expertise that organisations need within their ranks and the basic training on the ERP solution that most people need to do their jobs.
It also meant that an organisation faced an intensive period of up-skilling for a large number of key staff – posing both logistical and operational challenges to maintaining ‘business as usual’ when transitioning to the new ERP solution. Organisations became heavily reliant on the technology partner’s support during the transition and for post-go live support, which is fine, if outsourcing application support was the intention from the outset.
Given the rapid shift to more agile (modular) delivery approaches and more collaborative working with technology partners, it makes sense to ‘tool up’ an organisation at the earliest stages of a programme. That is, in-house resources should receive training on the solution early and become experts in as much as possible, as soon as possible. In hastening the team’s ascent of the steep learning curve, careful consideration should be given to including ‘knowledge transfer’ in the partner’s contract, or directly engaging a specialist ERP training consultancy.
Rapid iterations of Analysis & Design will allow an early-stage system prototype to be used to explore ‘the art of the possible’ and align it with ‘must have’ deliverables. When pre-trained, those involved in A & D will find it much easier to envisage the ‘to be’ processes, which is ultimately where most design effort should be invested.
In-house expertise must be bolstered with specialist ERP training resources. The project team will be swamped with pre-go live tasks and, if the plan was for the project team to cascade training to the wider workforce, think again!
An ERP programme will fundamentally change business processes and hence the job roles of many people – this needs to be recognised when embarking on the programme. The end user training required by the wider workforce needs to be bespoke and based on their day job, including business processes and key change messages.
If independent training contractors are used, it’s vital to make knowledge transfer a key part of their brief – they must impart their expertise and look to create professional supporting materials and a ‘knowledge legacy’. This may be contradictory to the ethos of some ERP contract trainers – and the quality of available ERP contract trainers varies massively – so recruit carefully and do not on-board them too early! This can be a costly mistake.
Against the backdrop of up-skilling the wider workforce, there is also a wealth of expertise on-hand in specialist ERP training consultancies. Their engagement may only be required towards the final stages of testing, however you should start discussions early in the project. Having worked on many similar programmes, they have the business process awareness, wide range of industry knowledge, and an in-depth understanding of ERP functionality to add value at all stages of a programme. Such expertise often comes at a reduced cost in comparison to the technology partner or the early unnecessary engagement of independent training contractors.
ERP Programme Manager / Transformation Lead (specialising in D365)
Rob is an experienced ERP Project Manager specialising in large-scale ERP implementations. He has previously led global Dynamics AX2012 and Dynamics 365F&O implementations for FTSE 250 and 350 companies.
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