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Selecting the Best Options for Successful ERP Software Implementation Training

Monday, August 10th, 2009 by admin

One of the key requirements for the successful implementation of a new ERP software solution is a well-defined and executed training plan.  A training plan should document how, when, and where all executive, functional, and technical user personnel will learn how to execute their work processes in the new system.

Some of the key elements of a training plan include whether the software vendor or implementation services provider will train all end users or if a train-the-trainer approach will be used.  A train-the-trainer approach is one in which key members of the implementation core team become functional experts or super users who then train their peers and colleagues within various functional areas.

Another decision to be made is how much of the training will be performed in an on-site classroom environment, via off-site remote or Internet-based training, or via computer-based or self-directed methods.  Please note that these methods are not mutually exclusive and may be used in combination during a successful implementation training process.

Some of the key aspects that will help determine how training is performed will be determined by the sheer number of personnel to train, the number of locations at which the personnel to be trained reside, and whether or not an entire workgroup can be trained concurrently vs. needing to stagger their training to keep portions of the team engaged in day-to-day operations while training others.

When the customer implementing new software is of any substantial size with multiple locations, a train-the-trainer approach typically can be delivered at a reduced cost over a method of having the software vendor or implementation services provider train all functional users.  Another benefit of a train-the-trainer approach is that the company implementing the new ERP software will generally come away with better overall internal functional knowledge because of the depth of training of the super users who become the internal trainers.  If this method is of interest, don’t assume that a given software vendor or implementation services provider has a core competency in training internal trainers.  Make certain to ask the various vendors about their training approaches and preferences during the software evaluation process.

While remote or Internet-based training can be performed concurrently with personnel from various locations without the need for travel, a key element which can be lost by using this approach is the ability for the trainer to walk around and observe the participants’ comprehension during hands-on exercises.  There will be both hands-on learners and lecture learners, and it will be imperative to cater to the needs of both groups equally.

Finally, there are advantages to using canned training aids such as computer-based training including the ability to ensure that a consistent level of training is provided and that the training materials can be used after initial production Go Live with the new system for ongoing training of existing and new personnel.  Ongoing training is a critical success factor to prolong the longevity of the ERP system and enable the company who is implementing new software to use the system as-designed and as extensively as possible.


ERP System Implementation Continues After Initial Go-Live

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 by admin

OK – you’ve made it! After months of evaluating various ERP systems followed by more months of implementation, your business is now up and running on your new ERP software. Now you and your team can go back to business as usual and not give your software another thought – right? As Lee Corso, sports broadcaster and football analyst for ESPN, would say, “Not so fast, my friend!”

The only way this would be correct is if the following were all true:

  • You were able to take advantage of virtually 100% of the functionality the new software provided that was pertinent to your business day 1 at go-live.
  • The software vendor never produced any software updates and fixes that provided any business value.
  • Your personnel grasped and retained 100% of the possible knowledge through the implementation and training process.
  • Absolutely nothing ever changed in your business – there were never any new personnel or resources that moved into new positions, and your business and industry as a whole never changed.

Since these statements are never true, even after initial go-live with your new software, there is an ongoing need to evolve business strategy and tactics to gain and keep a compelling competitive advantage in one’s industry, to improve business processes to gain business efficiencies, and train and retrain personnel.

Project goals are established and baseline metrics are documented as part of the business’ justification to move forward with the software evaluation and implementation projects. Some 3-6 months after initial go-live with the new system, the current business metrics should be compared with the baseline metrics to gauge progress made to date. Ideally, all of the targeted business metrics will have been met; however, it may be that there are areas where these objectives have not been achieved.

Whether or not the initial targets have been met, the business should perform an ROI Workshop to determine what can be done to drive additional return on investment from the new business software. An ROI Workshop would typically produce 3-5 key actions where substantial additional ROI can be derived by taking further advantage of the software that has already been acquired and implemented.

Another recommendation is to establish quarterly objectives to take advantage of additional software functionality. This can provide a rolling 12+ month calendar stating what advancements will be made over time. As part of this process, businesses should evaluate new software releases produced by their software vendors to determine the value of upgrading to the latest software releases. Companies are encouraged to create a measureable business case for upgrades just as was done for the initial software implementation and to evaluate the results against those targets 3-6 months after the upgrade has been put into production.

We also highly encourage companies to establish an ongoing training schedule for their employees. This should include refresher and more in-depth functional training for personnel who have been using the software for some period of time so these resources can become more proficient in their current roles. Also, there will be a need for introductory training for personnel who move into new roles and for new hires. Establishing an ongoing training schedule along with budgeted funding is critical for a business to gain the maximum benefit from an ERP system.

Regardless of the ERP system ultimately selected and implemented, businesses are encouraged to adopt continuous improvement principles when it comes to their ERP software systems to maximize the business value derived from these systems long after the initial production go-live.


Training Takes on Many Forms – Observations from the Recently Completed TGI Users’ Conference

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 by admin

I have been sitting here smiling while thinking about the recently completed TGI Users’ Conference from early May 2009. I always enjoy these events.

As the sales leader here at TGI, one of the best things about what I do is that I get the opportunity to meet and establish relationships with a lot of great people throughout a lot of different businesses and industries. And, it’s great to see these people whom I’ve gotten to know also get the opportunity to meet and interact with each other. It is a lot of fun to introduce these individuals to each other and to observe the dynamics of various groups as they come together.

TGI users’ conferences are tremendous opportunities for customer personnel to learn in a number of different ways. Oh sure, there are presentations on the most current functionality TGI is delivering in the Enterprise 21 ERP system. These are always well received and customers get excited about upgrading their software installations and adopting the newest functionality.

In addition, this year’s conference was the first time TGI offered more in-depth, half-day elective training sessions. These sessions included events focused on such areas as accounting, ad-hoc and financial report writing, customer relationship management, manufacturing, warehouse management, and workbenches and dashboards. While the lecture portion of these events was well received, from my observation the hands-on portions of these events were of most value to the participants. Users were given the opportunity to dig into the software and ask one-on-one questions with the instructors about how they might best apply the various capabilities to their specific situations.

The last day of the event primarily focused on soliciting feedback from the participants as to what additional functionality they could use to derive additional business value. There were some great suggestions received directly from TGI customers in areas such as accounting, manufacturing, inventory management, purchasing, customer relationship management, and warehouse management. When one customer might raise an idea, others might nod their heads in agreement or say, “We could use that too.”

Finally, there were a series of less formal training opportunities – times when customer personnel could interact directly with each other during receptions and meals. These were opportunities for individuals to discuss topics directly related to their use of Enterprise 21 and in areas totally unrelated to software for further knowledge sharing.

In one case I observed participants from several companies exchanging ideas about their freight management practices. In another case, there were discussions about how various organizations were improving their respective operations from an Internet marketing perspective.

Overall, the event was informative and enjoyable. I look forward to the next opportunity to interact with our customers in such a setting, and I am excited to think about the fact that other new TGI customers whom I’ve not even met yet will be participating in next year’s TGI Users’ Conference.


Training Before and After Go-Live – Critical Success Factors to Gaining Desired Benefits from Enterprise Software Systems

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 by Alex Smith

Training is an integral part of every business software implementation. End users must be trained in the software application’s processing of all transactions and functions they perform on a routine basis. Customer service and order management personnel need to learn a new process for not only entering but tracking both existing and past customer orders; warehouse managers and operators must learn what could be a completely new warehouse process focused on improved warehouse productivity and inventory accuracy while reducing inventory levels; and business executives will learn to use new business intelligence tools for improved visibility and analysis of key business performance metrics such as days supply on hand for a given product, gross sales on a product-by-product basis, and sales margin on a product-by-product basis.

The overriding principle is that training is an important part of the implementation process regardless of a given software user’s role or organizational level. Without training in the business’s newly selected manufacturing software or distribution software package, the capabilities such software provides cannot be utilized to their fullest potential.

During the Enterprise 21 implementation process, training can be conducted in one of two ways. First, training can be delivered to all software users in a given functional area simultaneously. For example, business executives and accounting personnel will be trained in the software’s financial management tools; warehouse workers will be trained to receive and putaway materials and pick, pack, and ship products to customers using Enterprise 21’s fully-integrated warehouse management system; customer service and order management representatives will be trained to utilize Enterprise 21’s order management and CRM ERP software functionality; etc.

A second form of Enterprise 21 training that can be employed during software implementation is a train-the-trainer approach. Using this approach, TGI personnel would train each business department’s functional leader or super user, and those functional leaders would in turn train other software users in their given functional areas. No matter which training methodology is employed, adequate end-user training in the new business software package is essential for a successful go-live experience.

Following go-live, management and software users must remember that the training process is not over. Training should be an on-going effort. TGI offers integrated training tools that include multimedia-enabled presentations, how-to help, screen help, and field help. These tools can be updated and altered to meet each organization’s specific requirements. Furthermore, TGI’s integrated training services enable existing users to refresh the knowledge they learned during implementation and new employees to receive a level of training consistent with all other employees in the organization. This approach to training enables organizations to maintain consistent system and process knowledge across all of the organization’s departments and functional areas.

Both during and after implementation go-live, adequate training in an enterprise software solution is essential to increased productivity and on-going business process improvements.


Capturing Multi-Level Training Opportunities at the Annual Users’ Conference

Friday, May 1st, 2009 by Alex Smith

In a few days, the Enterprise 21 user community will gather in Chicago, Illinois for TGI’s annual users’ conference, Enterprise 2009. Without question, attendees from all organizational levels will find Enterprise 2009 an educational and rewarding experience.

TGI’s annual conference is suitable for technical employees, functional end users, and executive level staff members. The conference is designed to educate, foster networking, and provide an avenue for open, two-way dialogue between TGI and Enterprise 21 users. While attendees enjoy the less formal evening events over dinner and socializing, the conversation typically flows towards best practice usage, functionality questions, and future software enhancements.

Each year, TGI hosts and facilitates an event that is a must-attend conference for Enterprise 21 users. TGI’s customer base, however, makes each year’s conference a true success. As the software developer, TGI spends substantial time preparing for the workshops and training sessions. The conference agenda is simply the foundation, however, as each conference session is enhanced dramatically by those in attendance; peer-to-peer interaction and participation provides the greatest learning opportunities.

TGI’s executive staff and senior development team members attend the conference each year. This creates a powerful three-day training session for users. Although interaction with this resource pool is extremely valuable, it is the interaction between users that tends to show the greatest rewards. From discussions on testing and in-house user training to custom reports and functionality usage, the users share and discuss their company’s experiences and best practices with Enterprise 21.

Thankfully, TGI has recognized and embraced this phenomenon and built time into the conference to encourage and foster peer interaction. When the conference was in its infancy, we attempted to fill every minute of the event with TGI-led user education. The conference has since evolved, and we have opened the floor to users more and more each year. TGI-led instruction and education is still the staple of the agenda, and the conference is driven by training and the exploration of Enterprise 21’s newest functionality. That being said, as the years pass, the mechanism of content delivery and the opportunities for user interaction and discussion become more fluid and more available. As the agenda adapts, the conference provides more value to the user community as CEO’s speak with other CEO’s, and accountants learn from other accountants.

Any educational opportunity offers an avenue for learning, skills development, and enrichment; an ERP software user conference is no different. The event benefits a wide range of individuals regardless of their position or functional focus. For these reasons, TGI customers continue to participate in TGI’s annual users’ conference year after year.


Overcoming the Biggest Obstacle to Successful Enterprise Software Implementation

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by admin

While most discussions about successful implementation of enterprise software focus on the critical tasks to be completed – training, testing, and data migration – the biggest obstacle to successful enterprise software implementation is getting key resources engaged and keeping them focused and energized enough to push the project across the finish line.

It is very common for there to be a lot of energy and enthusiasm from project team members when a new implementation project kicks off. However, as things continue to move forward – generally somewhere in the 90-120 day range of the project – things can begin to bog down. People have been working on the project for a sufficient period of time so the energy and excitement that they felt day 1 when the project kickoff occurred has worn off. And, by this point in the project, they have come to the realization that there is still a lot of hard work ahead of them to see the project through to success.

Some people continue to focus and grind out the days keeping an eye on the goal. Others become distracted and gravitate back to old habits and tasks that may seem urgent at the moment but will not be beneficial to helping get their company to the new software platform. Without an outside impetus to continue to move the team forward, things will stagnate. Then, there will be an epiphany some 30-60 days before a desired production go-live date when it is realized that 80% of the project time line is completed, and 50% of the work tasks remain. Too many times, the project team has become so blinded that they don’t even realize they have this amount of work to complete for a successful go-live.

So, what’s the remedy to this situation – to keep things from bogging down to the point where project success is in jeopardy? The answer is two fold.

First, it is imperative to keep the finish line in mind in some concrete manner. Discussing the objectives simply doesn’t make things vivid enough to keep the organization focused. Rather, making the objectives visual in some manner – with pictures and images that depict where the business will be after the project go-live date – will keep the goals of the organization much more alive and real to project team members.

The second, in addition to having the project manager monitor tasks and project progress, one can establish and monitor a project morale barometer – some means to measure how resources are feeling about the project and how engaged they are in completing their assigned tasks in a timely and high-quality manner. When things start to slip, there needs to be an action taken that intentionally breathes new life back into the project team member(s) who are struggling.

The sooner it is determined that the project morale barometer is starting to slip, the better the odds that taking appropriate actions will resolve matters and keep the project on track. Making minor course corrections during the project will keep the team moving toward the same goal. Left unchecked, even a minor deviation will cause the team to be miles off target several months down the road when it had intended to be ready to go-live with the software.

In conclusion, if project focus and morale are properly maintained throughout the software implementation process, then the customer should expect to have a highly successful go-live experience.