Given that we are well in the third decade of ERP implementations, I still observe ERP implementations following outdated/misguided concepts that do not utilize limited resources to the fullest. One of these misapplied concepts is Just-In-Time (JIT) training. End user enablement continues to be an implementation challenge primarily due to the limited investment made for the most important component of an ERP business solution. This limitation must be addressed in order to realize the value of ERP in the Cloud.
Evolving Traditional ERP Testing for Cloud ERP
Consider the following illustration that highlights the tradition user involvement model:
Traditional ERP implementation approaches view end users as an audience versus an active participant to leverage during the entire implementation. End users by far make up the largest stakeholder group in an ERP implementation however; they have the least amount of involvement and responsibility. Let’s further contrast and identify opportunities where end-user involvement can have a positive influence on ERP implementations.
Rethinking the Waterfall Testing Paradigm
If we take a stroll down memory lane we can recall the standard testing approach we learned from the Waterfall Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC):
Consider the following:
- The majority of testing and hands-on experience occurs with a limited group of users leaving a small window for direct users to gain confidence and experience with the ERP system.
- The limitation with direct user involvement is based on the premise that a working system is not available until the end of the implementation. This is not the case with a Cloud ERP system that can be provisioned early during the implementation life cycle.
- JIT End User training is a big bang approach – one time shot to get end-user training right. It also gives end users limited time to internalize the change. This approach naturally requires additional support and creates a greater potential for user errors.
Waterfall is based upon software being developed from scratch – i.e. you could not actively involved end users until the software existed. When ERP came to the market many approach/processes designed for software development were incorrectly applied to ERP implementations. The next section we will discuss how to involve the target audience sooner during a Cloud ERP implementation.
Increasing End User Involvement
There are two key value propositions for increasing end-user involvement:
- Additional validation of the solution via testing.
- Greater user adoption and enablement.
For robust testing business users should first be trained on the ERP Cloud service. Remember that testing can be “hands-on” learning for business users. Consider the following illustration:
Let’s expand on some key themes. First, education/learning is an iterative process where new information needs to be assimilated by users before knowledge is created. Second, an educated user is a better contributor to the project. Third, it is easier to manage and support educated end users. A forward-thinking end-user enablement process drives greater participation and ownership.
Consequences of Not Evolving your User Enablement Approach
As ERP Cloud adoption continues we will see an increase in the following implementation drivers:
Consider that traditional ERP implementation approaches do not effectively leverage the largest resource pool available. I can appreciate that with additional resources comes greater coordination and communication channels (N * (N-1) / 2) yet I have witnessed that the business value outweighs the associated project risk. With the above said I do not recommend we start involving end users without some level of enablement and guidance. Just as an individual user learns a new system over time the end-user training approach should incrementally prepare the user for greater involvement during the ERP Cloud implementation.
Following are key consequences if we continue with a JIT user involvement strategy:
The JIT approach is being used to squeeze pennies out of an ERP Cloud implementation when the potential risk that results is far greater and eventually must be solved through additional dollars or lost opportunities.
Challenge to Cloud ERP Service Providers and Implementation Partners
Cloud ERP Service Providers and Implementation Partners should take the lead in promoting and supporting end-user involvement earlier during the implementation. Unfortunately, Cloud ERP Service Providers are not providing a robust set of tools and services for incremental user enablement. Test cases should be business process focused and not just business function oriented.
Implementation Partners must also adapt to this new paradigm. It is unfortunate that many implementation partners choose to address ERP Cloud Implementation drivers (mostly cost) by reducing project leadership and transferring user enablement to the customer – regardless if the customer have the required tools/competencies for incremental user involvement. This short-sighted approach ultimately leads to an unfavorable customer experience with Cloud ERP.
Just in Time (JIT) is an operations management approach for improving ROI by minimizing inventory and related carrying cost for a production process. JIT is a viable strategy given that the process is production quality and all input variables are within controlled tolerances. Implementing a Cloud ERP solution is not a production quality process nor are all input variables can be controlled. This concept has been applied to ERP end-user training with the intent of maximizing training investment. JIT training reduces the need for refresher training due to ERP knowledge loss experienced if training precedes the go-live event over a long period of time. JIT training may be a valid approach for end users after the ERP Cloud service is in Production but it is a limited strategy to employ during an ERP implementation. Make the end-user an active partner not a passive customer.