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One of the most common benefits cited with an ERP implementation is the reduction of paper forms to manage information flows. Easy, right? You just enter data into the ERP system, and then enjoy the speed and environmental benefits of electronic processing. Actually, you need to consider what this change means to your organization and plan accordingly to avoid surprises.

Here are some lessons learned that can help prepare your workforce for this seemingly easy change in process:

  • Evaluate the current information flow. If reviews and signatures are involved (for expense reimbursement or requesting time off), is the purpose to approve/decline the request, or is it actually only to be made aware of the request? You may have the opportunity to remove some bureaucratic tasks, if an electronic notification will suffice. Managing the exceptional problematic request takes less time and effort than routing standard transactions through a gauntlet of approvals and managing delegations during absences.
  • Create a naming convention that clearly labels information. Searching through vaguely meaningful menu options is frustrating enough, compared to flipping through a physical folder with labeled sections containing various types of paper, which easily identifies the contents with a glance.
  • Understand that paper forms may allow less accountability. Let’s say you have a supervisor who has been slow to process a rate increase for their not-so-favorite hourly employee. It’s easy to hide behind “I sent the form in to HR and Payroll, I’m not sure where it’s at.” The employee then sends HR and Payroll on a hunt to find the form, often cycling back to the supervisor to determine when (and if) the form was actually submitted. Going electronic means the supervisor can track the request and report directly back to the employee, which also requires the supervisor to understand processing cut-off dates and payroll cycles. Both employee and supervisors have a learning curve to understand the new information that is available through an integrated electronic system.
  • Anticipate role changes. Administrative assistants, HR, and payroll positions may have a significant portion of their time consumed with the management of paper forms. If the process is streamlined, they may no longer be the “gate keeper” of requests. Retraining in new tasks may be required if a role is significantly impacted. For example, clerks who have previously approved and tracked forms may apply their knowledge about the rules and processes in a role where they support new users in the electronic processes.
  • Understand that paperless doesn’t negate the need to track and report. Paper forms often trigger a manual entry into a tracking system (usually designed to produce easy reports). Think about a request for time off and the frequency in which employees want to know their vacation balance. How will this information be made available? Electronic processing allows for increased self-serve, which requires education and training. If employees have been going to a certain person for years and years for answers, you will need to deliberately break the habit of being served up information upon request.

To fully harness the benefits of an ERP system, you must understand and manage the changes involved in transitioning from a paper form system to an ERP-enabled electronic routing of transactions. The organizational change management professionals at Panorama Consulting Group would like to hear from you if have a unique challenge facing your organization during your next business process transition.

Blog entry written by Lena Laakso, Manager of Organizational Change Management at Panorama.