Learning to thrive with ERP

It doesn’t matter what it is or who you are, we all want to get the most out of the things we spend our time and money on.  It’s no different when it comes to deploying new business applications – especially ones as important as ERP.

A great maxim to keep in mind when you’re involved in an ERP project of any kind is: you get out of it what you put in.  Think about this for a minute and you’ll see what I mean:

  • Some of your best people will be involved throughout the lifetime of the project and beyond
  • They’re going to learn a lot about your processes, data, systems, and people
  • They’re going to learn a lot about working collaboratively together as a high-performance team
  • You’ll be living with what they create for a long time

With ERP you’re not just getting a technology-based solution.  With some planning and smart thinking up front, you are creating a key group of business experts who have learned how to thrive with a technology solution they’ve helped create for your business.

That sounds a lot more like real business transformation, doesn’t it?  So how can you make this happen?

Let’s start by giving these high-performance teams a name that will help define what they really are – communities of practice (CoP). CoP often start being discussed towards the end of a project. By that time much of the value-adding business opportunities have gone. Establishing CoP at the very start of the journey means greater reward and transforms how things get done. Here’s how high-performing CoP can help:

  • Be self-aware of their importance to the business from the outset
  • Review current business processes and practice
  • Identify opportunities to make things better, quicker, and more cost effective
  • Design new ways of working that suit your culture and ethos
  • Design ways to measure and report on those new ways of working
  • Try out and test what the build
  • Communicate and educate others on the new solution
  • Be the guardians of the solution and continually improve it

That bullet list looks a little like a traditional waterfall approach, right?  It needn’t be. As with high- performing projects running faster and better generally, CoP iterate through these stages continuously, in an agile, nimble manner. To learn how to do all this, CoP need to be working with experienced ERP experts who understand and champion the CoP approach. CoP members can and should be learning as much as they can from the experts while they are around. These expensive 3rd parties aren’t – and shouldn’t – be there for long.

So, there is as much value to be had working with external experts as there is in the technology solution created and deployed. Here’s just a few examples of what an agile, empowered approach to ERP learning can help deliver:

  • Community of practice start up and mobilisation - so they understand what it is they are going to be part of, and how they are central to the success of the project
  • Pre-design up-skilling for team members new to the technology - so they understand what’s possible, run faster, and add greater value more quickly
  • Continual solution up-skilling - helping everyone stay up-to-date with new SaaS functionality, and vendor customer connect programmes
  • Iterative business scenario testing - so CoP can continuously check and confirm that the solution fits the business
  • Learning product content development - so they can put all that they’ve learned into business- specific user support services
  • Education and training - so CoP can show and tell everyone how to get the best out of the solution
  • CoP social media communication - so they stay connected with the business
  • Centre of Excellence enrichment - providing CoP business expertise and insight that supports continuous technological improvement

Given the special opportunities ERP projects offer you and your business, it’s obvious that learning should be baked into what you’re doing right from the outset.  And it is learning we are talking about here. Training is important and still has a significant role to play. But learning is where our focus needs to be. To get the most out of your investment, build communities of practice from the get-go. What they learn to do while doing the project is as valuable as the solution itself.

And they will be with you long after the consultants have left.

Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 21 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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