Almost nobody loves ERP. They might use an ERP system at their business, they may be a developer, but few and far between is the person who actually looks forward to ERP engagement.
That’s not good, of course, because ERP serves as something close to the nerve center of a business. Employees need to use and rely on these systems, not shun them.
“Because a new ERP system should really represent some change or improvement to business processes, many companies will find that their employees are just plain resistant to change “Other employees may not like the resulting transparency or managerial control ERP can bring, and are worried that their activities or performance will be more closely scrutinized within the centralized system.”
That’s why ERP adoption among employees is an important topic when rolling out a new ERP system. Employee engagement with these systems can significantly improve ROI, but first employees need to have a positive relationship with the system.
Here are six ways that you can boost ERP adoption at your business.
Mobile devices have taken over as the dominant computing platform, both for their ever-present availability and because users generally find them easier to use. Unfortunately, ERP is not often accessible to employees on mobile devices.
A study earlier this year by IFS found that only 31 percent of respondents were accessing their ERP system using a mobile device. That’s a low number, and low-hanging fruit if you want employees using ERP more.
“People who work outside the office environment struggle with desktop-oriented user interfaces,” says Peter Maier, general manager of energy and natural resources industries at SAP. “Handhelds, mobile devices or voice-operated devices integrated with the ERP can overcome adoption hurdles.”
Apart from interface-related factors like flexibility and mobility, a lot of usability has to do with the piping behind the scenes. No business is static now, and even a middle-market company will regularly add new processes and business models or drastically change existing processes. Many ERP systems don’t adapt well, though.
“In too many situations, changes in the business cannot be reflected in ERP without substantial investments with systems integrators, which can take months and cost millions of dollars,” notes Flitter. “So end users cannot use ERP to complete their jobs anymore, and wind up performing work in disconnected systems like spreadsheets.”
This creates data security issues and data silos that prevent employees from collaborating the way they could in ERP, and discourages ERP usage. So keep your systems flexible and current with your business processes.
From the start of the selection process, line managers of each department should involve end-users so each person who will eventually use the system understands the goals of the project and what it means for their own level of effectiveness.
Engage employees as much as possible in the implementation phase, too, ideally having them prepare for migration the data associated with their role as it relates to the ERP system.
“A big mistake is implementing an ERP system over three years in a closed IT setup and then unveiling the thing to the user community,” notes Maier. “Early involvement of the future users creates a sense of ownership even before the new system is rolled out.”
This curbs some of the resistance to new processes that might occur if the ERP system is developed and then released all of a sudden to employees.
A fourth way you can improve ERP adoption is by clearly signaling that effective use of the system will score high marks with management. Turn ERP mastery and effective use into part of the career track at your company.
“Make clear to end users that learning more about the new ERP system is a path to more responsibility, advancement and job security. “Completing training courses from the vendor or demonstrating competence and confidence in performing business processes in the system should be valued.”
ERP adoption invariably fails when employees are not comfortable with the system. This means training, and training some more.
“Maybe the most dangerous mistake to make is underestimating the change people have to go through when they start using a new ERP system. “It’s like moving into a new home: everything is maybe new and shiny, but you first have to get used to where everything is and how everything works before you feel really at home.”
Training can help employees settle into the system.
Flitter at IFS suggests a train-the-trainer approach.
“This enables you to transfer knowledge of the ERP system itself to people who know your business processes and culture, and then transfer that knowledge to their peers “This also leaves you with a team of ERP super-users who can be that internal resource going forward.”
Finally, a way to drive adoption is letting employees make an ERP system home. That means letting them decorate and optimize its presentation for individual use.
“The interface should be easily configurable by the end user,” stresses Flitter. “A typical user ought to be able to arrange their most frequently used tasks on a home screen in a way that makes sense for them.”
There’s always coercion from management as a means of driving adoption, too, of course. But that doesn’t usually end well. So instead of installing an ERP system, sending out some memos and scheduling training sessions, think employee adoption earlier in the process and take some pains to