Finally. You are done with implementation and your ERP system is up and running. You were able to navigate through the grueling and critically important process of figuring out which ERP software package you are going to count on to run the business. You were able to procure the software within budget and faster than expected. The data from the old system was cleaned and dumped into the new system without any major loss of information. Training was conducted with all the future users. The implementation was not without its stressors and minor problems but you got through it with a culmination of efforts. It’s up, it’s running, you’re done . . . life is good, next . . . right?
WRONG. Just getting an ERP system up and running without a major hiccup doesn’t mean that the project can actually be considered a success. As a consultant for Panorama I have seen time and again that organizations that don’t take the time to address key organizational change issues prior to, during and after an ERP implementation often end up with problematic user adoption rates. Regardless of whether you’re about to embark on an implementation or are trying to assess a previously implemented software’s overall suitability for the organization, here are some of the tell-tale signs of poor ERP system usage and understanding:
- Executive ownership: Does the executive team really understand what the ERP system does for the organization? Do they know what units of the business the software touches? Do they have direct ownership of the ERP implementation? If there is not an executive whose performance is based upon the operation of the system then what incentive do the people who make decisions have to allocate, time, money and resources to maintain or better the system? In order to ensure that the organization can react to changing business conditions – and realize the maximum business benefits possible from its ERP system – there has to be executive ownership and vertical alignment from the top-down.
- Process documentation: When you ask a user of an ERP system how long it would take to train someone else to do his or her job and the user says, “Oh well you know, it might take me six months to a year . . .” it’s time to panic. If it takes someone that long to learn a job function then much of the business information is likely being passed along without documentation of all of the business processes that job entails. A lack of business process documentation presents a number of sobering possibilities: what would happen if the knowledge “owner” was hit by a bus? What will happen when the baby boomer generation retires and takes its knowledge with it? In order to properly create a succession plan for an ERP system – and a business department – there must be process documentation. And in order to have process documentation, the executive team has to ensure that your staff members know understand its importance and are given the time to get it done.
- Differing Data: Wait a second, didn’t the intro state that the historical data was cleaned and dumped into the system without any major problems and that the system is up and running? Yes, but what wasn’t considered was the lack of process documentation driven by executive ownership. If a business doesn’t have defined and documented processes for ERP system usage that can be measured and managed by the executive team, then it’s inevitable that each department and user is going to use the data a bit differently. For instance, a user at site A might pull the data out of the system and manipulate it in another program while someone at site B might pull the data out of the system and manipulate it in yet another program. If this occurs, you run the risk of having the two users coming to different conclusions rather than the one version of truth necessary.
These are just a few of the tell-tale signs that every ERP project manager or lead should take into consideration. If you do notice that your project is showing one of these signs, it’s time for a new organizational change management plan. Schedule an hourly ERP consultation to find out more strategies and tactics to increase user acceptance.
Written by Jason Henritze-Hoye, Senior ERP Consultant at Panorama Consulting Solutions.