Prepare for ERP training's hidden costs and complexities

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By Lyndsey Moorhouse managing director of Can!Do

End-user training and education is key to the success of any large enterprise
IT project, especially the deployment of a new enterprise resource planning
(ERP) solution. Yet all too many companies still treat it as one-line item in their
implementation budgets.

They fail to provide for the technical challenges, business complexities and
costs of equipping their staff with the competencies they need to drive business
benefit from ERP systems.

As a result, many organisations watch the costs of implementation swell
beyond their initial budgets, while delivery of business value lags their
expectations. As they struggle to turn the project around, they may even begin
to question the wisdom of embarking on it in the first place. But this can all be
avoided if companies start out with a clear understanding of the organisation-
wide impact of ERP training and education.

Let's look at the demands that ERP education places on eight different
teams, departments and functions within the organisation:

The IT Department

The IT department will be one of the business areas most profoundly
impacted by the training requirements of an ERP project. It will be expected to
set up an instance of the software to be used for training - and this might mean
extra costs in hardware, software licences and human resources.

IT will also need to keep this training system backed-up and ensure it
changes in lock-step with configuration changes in the development
environment. If the company is going the e-learning route, IT might need to
provision for hardware and network capacity for the storage and distribution of
online learning materials.

Training

The training group will be swamped with work during the switch to a new
ERP system. It will need to source and test course content. In addition, the
training department will need to set up permissions on the learning
management system and load course curricula and content for user groups. It
will need to assess and evaluate the training and the end-users' progress in
learning relevant skills and knowledge.

And then, of course, the training department will manage the nitty-gritty of
the training process, including end-user and trainer competence, quality control
over courses, monitoring attendance, updating materials, and ensuring
sustainability of end-user training in the organisation after the system goes live.

Authorisations team

This team will need to set up and maintain authorisation profiles for trainers
and groups of end-users.

Data team

The data team will need to create and maintain realistic clean data on the
training instance - often earlier than the project requires it.

Testing team

This team will need to provide test scripts that contain the business
scenarios that form the basis of the training material and processes.

Business process mapping team

Accurate, fully documented business process maps and the associated
business rules will be essential for the training project - and providing them will
be up to the business process mapping team. This team will also need to provide
quality assurance on materials and delivery for business process training.

Logistics and support

There are many hidden logistics and support costs involved in ERP training -
printing of materials, booking and equipping rooms, procuring software licences,
and travel and accommodation costs for trainees and trainers are just a few
examples.

SMEs and functional consultants

They'll have an important role to play in providing lists of the functionality
that needs to be included in the training material. They'll also need to do quality
assurance and sign off on the materials.

Don't get trapped by hidden costs

As these examples show, supporting a large-scale ERP training effort is
almost as complex and wide in its organisational impact as is implementing the
ERP solution. In addition to many costs that many companies fail to provide for,
ERP training makes enormous demands on the time of already-busy people
spread throughout the organisation.

The good news is that companies who start with a clear view of the
challenges and costs of training can manage them effectively. The trick is to build
training and education time and costs into the project plan right from the start -
this will allow for optimal use of resources and better alignment of the new
technology and processes with the people who will use them. By scoping
realistic training costs and timeframes right from the start, an organisation can
put itself on course for a successful project from the outset.

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