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Why ERP/CRM training throughout implementation is critical (hint: it?s not the field of dreams)

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Written by Avey Venable

It took months (maybe even years), but your ERP and/or CRM solution is now live and ready for users to make the most of it, taking advantage of automated workflows and improved data insights that transform how they do their jobs and support your strategy.

But if you’ve been in the software space for even a hot minute, you know that an enterprise-level software solution—ERP from Oracle or SAP, CRM from Microsoft or Salesforce, among many others—is not like the field of dreams. I.e., just because you built it does not mean they will come. Sometimes even worse, you may build it and users use it incorrectly, misusing workflows and inputting or creating poor data.

To ensure consistent, effective adoption of your solution across all departments you must train, train, and train. And not just by linking users to out-of-the box tutorials, or passive learning experiences where users half-listen and multitask. You need something deeper and ideally reinforced by organizational change management (OCM) processes and practices — training that ensures the solution will be used, used correctly, and users will understand the reason (and hopefully be excited!) for the change.

Ideally, this training will come from the same team that oversaw your implementation as they

  1. are close to the project (having seen it through proof-of-concept to delivery),
  2. are close to your stakeholders (having worked alongside them as the solution was scoped), and
  3.  are experts in the platform itself.

Training from your ERP/CRM implementation partner

While there are hundreds if not thousands of outside/contract software “trainers” out there, they will require significant knowledge transfer themselves before they can empower you and your team on your new solution.

The keyword in that previous sentence is “your.” While an outside trainer may be well-versed in the features and standard processes of any given ERP or CRM system, they will not be familiar with your customized version of the system.

But your implementation partner is already living and breathing the specifics of your system and — should that same partner have a training team — is the ideal fit to strategize, develop, and deliver training to ensure consistent, complete adoption of your application across your organization.

An implementation partner with a training team should be able to strategize the appropriate training for your company’s size and culture of learning, in addition to creating training material and leading sessions customized exactly to how you’ll be using the system.

At the root of this content is an emphasis on ensuring that even the most technical concepts are “translated” into accessible language and instructions that empower every user.

In addition to ensuring a strategic fit between your business, your implementation partner, and your training team (if you have one), there are a few proven tactics you can put into action to give the most to users and get the most from your technology investment.

Assessing your culture of learning

When beginning to strategize and plan for training your partner should come equipped early on with pointed training questions to help make the best recommendation for your company’s size, structure, and culture of learning.

Training questions should start by addressing repeated challenges or successes with past software implementations, enabling you to eradicate the former and build on the latter. The answers to these questions should help strategize “how long”, “how much”, and simply “how” for your training.

By determining the appropriate training strategy early, you can build a strong foundation and achievable timeline for the training effort. Tasks like developing a training curriculum, building training content, and taking care of training session logistics is rarely achievable when left as an afterthought at the end of a project.

Data should be collected throughout training as well. User feedback, system feedback, and stakeholder feedback should be used to make adjustments to training content and organizational messaging.

Changes are to be expected as users dig into the system and uncover new insights that may require a training program to pivot. By remaining flexible in response to the reality of how users are interacting with a new ERP or CRM system it’ll remain far more relevant and impactful.

Strategic, persona-based training

While it’s critical to ensure training is customized to meet departmental needs (e.g., the people in your accounting team will require different training than, say, marketers or IT support staff), it’s equally important that training suit the different types of learners across your enterprise.

You will likely have some users that prefer more self-serve training whereas others may require hands-on sessions and instructor-led demonstrations of every process and feature.

An implementation partner with a training team should be able to deliver training via a variety of vehicles from quick reference guides to hands-on exercises to training videos, allowing you to select from a menu of options to build the blend that will meet the needs of all your users.

In selecting from a robust menu of deliverable types you can ensure each user is served by a training methodology that suits them and, subsequently, helps them gain a solid understanding of how to use the system.

Incorporating change management

We mentioned above how it’s critical that training be bolstered by implementing change management practices concurrently. The reason is fairly obvious but often missed: a new ERP or CRM or business application means change, and humans are averse to change.

However, if your implementation partner not only has a training team but is also versed in organizational change management, every training tactic and tool can be designed beyond HOW you do something, but WHY. Once your team knows (and embraces) why you’ve implemented a new ERP or CRM platform, their use of the system and approach to training becomes more strategic by default.

When empowered with the fundamental WHYs of their ERP or CRM system, people move from being system users to business drivers. In understanding the strategic approach to the workflows and other processes executed in any given enterprise application — let’s call it an “outcome focused” approach — users will be better equipped to creates opportunities for optimizations and enhancements that further fuel both adoption of the application and growth of your business.

If you have the opportunity to work with an implementation partner with both a training team and organizational change management team, you can reap the benefits of the ultimate combination: smoothing over the difficulties of changing behaviors alongside educating to understand features and functions.

Want to better understand how to make training strategic and adoption universal? We’re here to talk. Just contact us.

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