ERP systems require a substantial change programme; they are much more complex and far-reaching in terms of implementation and use, significantly changing the way in which people work.
With this in mind, the IT training consultancy, Optimum, conducted a survey amongst key personnel who are responsible for maintaining and upgrading ERP systems within end-using organisations. Joanne Harrison reports on the challenges the survey revealed.
The objective of the study was to understand the main challenges that these organisations face in getting end-users (those everyday users who are not part of the core project team) to adopt new or upgraded ERP systems. Participants were also asked to identify the aspects of system use which generate the most support calls.
The most common challenge identified in achieving user adoption of ERP systems was fear or resistance to change, which accounted for 24 per cent of responses, followed by user engagement and acceptance of systems at 21 per cent. Experience shows that whilst core or ‘super-users’ may have provided input into the IT system build and development, end-users can often be isolated from the project, meaning user buy-in can be difficult to achieve.
Time and resources
Other participants noted that time and resource constraints (16 per cent) were their greatest obstacles in realising user adoption of systems. Additional responses noted lack of user confidence in new systems, continued execution of old processes and the complexity of the new software as contributing challenges to the proper use of systems.
The results are supported by research conducted by Stephen Gourlay at Kingston Business School (2010), which concludes that training has a much wider role to play in positively influencing employees to adopt a complex new ERP system from the outset. Furthermore, improving end-user system knowledge should incorporate motivational learning approaches, both to avert attempts to work around the system and as a means of getting users to understand how the system fits into their own work activities. If end-users are trained in a way that puts the system change into the context of their daily tasks and associated projects, then this is more likely to lead to employee engagement.
Survey participants were also asked which queries their ERP system support teams receive the most calls on, to which 30 per cent of respondents answered password/login queries, followed by users not remembering how to use the system or being unaware of new processes (19 per cent). Other support calls stated were problems with retrieval of data, assistance with process workflows and transactional queries.
With regards to knowledge retention, the key here is repetition. This entails the re-reading of materials and repetition of training and exercises, which might not increase learning but will improve retention. Research from Edgar Dale (and further developed by the National Training Laboratories Institute) emphasises the importance of active, hands-on learning, which experiments showed contributed to 90 per cent of knowledge retained after two weeks, as opposed to just 20 per cent from hearing, reading and seeing.
With this in mind, it is important to develop a suite of reference materials that are easily accessible and/or stored on the organisation’s intranet or document sharing site.
Quick cards are a great back-at-desk resource, providing a concise, step-by-step reminder of new processes. Learning portals and message boards can be used to link to self-teach guides and eLearning. Regular sessions and workshops should be run to build system knowledge for new joiners as well as consolidating the skills of existing staff.
A long-term approach to systems training protects the investment in ERP software, with users effectively contributing its development and intended use.
Optimum can provide bespoke ERP end-user training programmes for any ERP system, to any business, in any location. Click here to find out more about our services.