A recent study by ERP software vendor IFS found that a staggering 75-percent of respondents aged 35 and under reported that when an enterprise solution is too difficult to use, they’ll turn to a desktop spreadsheet software (i.e, Microsoft Excel) to get their work done. And the issue is not limited to just the younger generation; more than half (58-percent) of respondents aged 36 to 45 reported the same action. These findings are endemic of much larger issues, mainly that ERP systems are not functional and/or not aligned with business processes and that employees have not been adequately trained in how to use their organization’s ERP system. And the results of these workarounds can be chilling: organizations whose employees have gone “rogue” are not only failing to realize adequate returns on their costly ERP investment, but can even have their operations put at risk if the ERP system is not being used and populated the way management assumes it is. Perhaps even more disturbing? The IFS study also found that more than 65-percent of respondents aged 35 and younger consider themselves at least somewhat likely to leave an organization due to negative experiences with that organization’s enterprise software.

It’s clear that workarounds create a host of negative effects, from decreased productivity to employee attrition, so how should an organization stop it in its tracks?

1. Organizational change management . . . and lots of it. Instead of just telling your employees how they should be utilizing an ERP system to do their jobs, show them. Use a variety of training methods to show them how to perform their jobs — spreadsheet development and all — in the system. Ask for feedback, answer questions, and work one-on-one with staff to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible and that your employees know who to come to with questions as they arise.

2. Communicate the benefits of the ERP system. Rogue users do not only compromise the system’s value through their own actions but can undermine the benefits of the entire system (and thus the strategy of the organization) by complaining to colleagues about their problems with the software. Get everyone back on the same team by communicating the benefits of the system — and the benefits it will bring to the organization — in clear and sensible ways that have a direct impact on the end user. For instance, if you anticipate the system will allow you to increase net profits by 15-percent over ten years, explain how that translates into enhanced job security and increased opportunities.

3. Revisit user experiences with the system after the switchover. Don’t assume that when your ERP system is finally up and running that it’s time to kick back with a margarita and let the software do all the heavy lifting. An ERP implementation is a process that will last years, and your IT strategy must reflect a commitment to making it work over the long-term. Survey your employees at key intervals (three months out, six months out, etc.) to find and address workarounds and other issues as quickly as possible.

With the advent of Google Docs and other free, Internet-based applications, workarounds have become even more prevalent. To protect their health, IT systems and attractiveness to current and future employees, organizations must try to prevent workarounds by a. assuming they will occur and b. developing the necessary tactics to stop them dead in their tracks. Attend our upcoming free webinar, Managing Organizational Change Management in Your ERP Implementation, to learn more about organizational change management and how to effectively communicate with employees about the impacts of a new ERP system.

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