You won’t want to compromise on cost when it comes to a new ERP solution.
However, the long term success of the project relies as much on how the system is maintained by end users as it does on the initial set up.
This places demands on your workforce to follow pre-determined processes accurately and consistently.
Of course, this poses a major challenge for organisations of all sizes. Businesses’ must ensure their staff adopt a method of good practice that protects the integrity of their system going forward.
With this in mind, we’ve put together some hints and tips on how we think you can get end users on board and ensure the ERP solution you select is fully utilised.
Get buy in from the workforce early
Don’t firefight bad habits as they arise. Instead, take a proactive approach from the start.
If you’re at the start of an ERP project, get your staff on board as early as the research stage and get them involved in the decision making process. Just make sure they know that the decision is ultimately made by senior staff!
When announcing that change is planned, arrange a meeting early in the week so the workforce have plenty of time to digest the information. This should be an open forum where concerns are aired freely.
For any doubters, use ‘What’s in it for me?’ (WIIFM). This is a persuasive technique that takes concerns seriously but also looks to provide opponents with practical benefits that change will bring.
Think carefully about this so you can easily come up with advantages change will bring to each individual in your department. After all, that’s why you’re implementing a new ERP solution in the first place.
Finally, once the announcement has been made, make sure staff know your door is always open. Implementing a new system is a long process and you don’t want negativity to get out of hand.
Appoint a strong ERP project team
It’s imperative that you gain a clear understanding of each department’s requirements and the process flow across all areas of the organisation before a project begins.
A Project Manager who will oversee the project as a whole is usually needed. You will also require some key members from the senior management team. It is beneficial to select a key representative from each department in the organisation who will be the voice of each department. These will also act as go-betweens for the management and lower level staff in the team.
There are all sorts of ways to cut corners. It should come as no surprise if complacency creeps in as your ERP system becomes more established.
To combat this, you’ll not only need solid processes and guidelines on best practice. You’ll a team that enforce this and act as an example to your less senior staff.
This can take many forms, but starting off with a Project Manager and designated ‘ERP Champion’ as guides is a good start. Businesses with multiple sites will also want to consider Site Champions and a Core Team to look after tactical responsibilities.
These are the key men and women who will liaise with staff and guide you to the ERP promised land.
Don’t be tempted to disband this group too quickly once implementation is complete. Keep the team together and have them carry out regular reviews, acting as cheerleaders for proper ERP conduct.
Do this and you’re sure to minimize problems going forward and keep things running effectively for longer.
Create internal resources to standardise best practice
So much of the efficiency and security of your system is not dependent on software at all. Instead it rests on the processes that your staff follow throughout the working day.
It is not an exaggeration to say that your ERP system is only as efficient as your processes and the ability of your staff to follow them routinely.
Lack of focus, complacency around security and lack of training are just a few of the problems that can arise. Especially if your staff do not buy into the importance of a healthy ERP system.
To keep everyone in your business on the right track, get together with key ERP admins and put together a document of best practice based on your own processes. Make this as detailed and as user-friendly as possible. You can also get design or marketing personnel (if you have them) to make the document look more professional.
If staff have access to this at workstations or via the intranet they are less likely to stray from accepted guidelines.
Commit to your ERP solution and phase out old tools
One of the biggest yet most avoidable challenges to a successful ERP implementation is when staff stick to outdated processes once the new software comes in.
Some staff are naturally change averse. Others are simply not up to speed enough with training to move over to a new system.
This can lead to all sorts of problems. These are varied and can include duplicated inventory to security breaches and even people completing the same job twice.
To guard against this you’ll need to get everyone up to speed with training from the very start. You’ll also need to take a hard line when it comes to phasing out old approaches.
Again, WIIFM comes in to play. If staff are fully on board with the reasons for change and understand the benefits coming their way, they’ll be more likely to accept changes in approach for themselves and the department.
If they fail to do this, there is a real danger that you will be maintaining two competing systems years after your ERP software is installed!
Limit access to key features
One issue that comes up time and again is staff losing track of who has access to what data in the organisation. This happens as the rotating doors of personnel keep turning.
Delays to giving new staff access to the features that they need can hold back production. It can also slow down processing of important administrative tasks.
On the other hand, staff maintaining access to sensitive data after they leave your organisation represents a significant security risk. This is to say nothing of staff who have higher permissions than necessary, which can also cause problems.
To combat this, make sure you have an effective Group Policy and Active Directory in place.
Another good idea is to put an ‘on-boarding’ and ‘off-boarding’ process in place. This will ensure granting and removing permissions becomes routine rather than a routine headache.
You could also consider two-factor authentication to passwords for extra peace of mind. Additional security is also useful on mobile devices to guard against lost or stolen property that could result in sensitive information falling into unwanted hands.
Update ERP software to minimise security risks
If you allow your ERP software to become outdated you are taking a big security gamble.
Outdated software leaves you wide open to cyber attacks from hackers or viruses. This can put your most sensitive data at risk.
As your ERP system gets older, the likelihood of support running out, becoming ineligible for security patches or becoming the target of hackers increases.
To guard against this risk, make sure the elected ERP admins are all responsible for ensuring regular reviews. They should also check the system is fully updated and plan ahead in line with expiration dates for key security features.
Opening your business up to security breaches because routine checks haven’t been made is the last thing you and your staff want!
Be transparent with staff and take feedback seriously
If you’re appointed as ERP Champion for your company, or if you are a manager, you’ll need to be transparent with your staff during implementation.
This means being honest about anticipated pain points also.
Is implementing certain processes going to create short term problems? If so, staff will want to hear about it from you first. Do this and you’ll receive long-term trust in return. Not doing so breeds distrust and can make it difficult to address bad habits in the future.
Many problems arise because of lack of a communication or a closed door policy from senior staff to employees who identify software and process problems or areas for improvement.
Make sure you take these suggestions seriously and keep a record of them. This will ensure that staff trust they are being listened to. It will also prevent them from letting their disgruntlement get in the way of their work.
Keeping people happy and appreciated is a good way to ensure they are motivated long term.
Create an ERP training programme for new starters
You’ve done a great job so far. You’ve persuaded current staff to adopt new systems and getting them up to speed with training and good practice. But what about new starters?
The process doesn’t simply end once current staff have adopted the new system. Additionally, you’ll need to put in place a training programme that allows new starters to get on board efficiently and in a consistent manner.
These training documents should have clear objectives and with a specific audience in mind. As ERP software is broad in its capabilities, so you’ll have to hone in on what your department really needs to know.
A good tip is to formulate an assessment component. It’s not enough to show new staff how processes work. You’ll also want to see that they can carry these out successfully. A short test is a good way to incentivise learning.
Once you have a training programme in place, you really do have all bases covered and bad habits should be a thing of the past when it comes to your ERP end-users.
For more information on one of the key challenges in ensuring good ERP practices, why not read our blog? You can find our blog on engaging your workforce during organisational change here.