Author: Yogi Schulz

Why does ERP have such a bad reputation? Is it because, as one suspects, implementation projects have left a stream of steam-rollered end-users in their wake? And is it because, the demands of the projects are taking their toll in stressed-out end-users and anxious management? That may be part of the reason. But given all the plusses that ERP can bring to the enterprise — includingcost reductions and improved productivity — that doesn’t account for the residue of technological mistrust left in many organizations. Like it or not, ERP projects get done and life in the office goes on. So why do we really dread it? It’s because the integration also illuminates long-standing failings of individual departments. Now the whole organization knows that Mary screwed up the new vendor setup as the ERP software bounces purchase orders and cheque requisitions.

In the old world, end-users typically performed their part of a business process and sent the related documents on to the next link in the chain. But that next step might as well have been a black hole for all the originating end-user knew or cared about in the overall business process. And any failing could be kept discretely under wraps. The new, integrated ERP world broadcasts the work of each end-user immediately and visibly to the entire organization — mistakes and all. It’s as if the concrete walls that separate departments both physically and logically all of a sudden turn to glass. Why do end-users loathe ERP? It’s the fear of being exposed to the world. Management can, however, reduce this kind of stress for Mary and others like her by not only carefully restructuring the business processes to maximize the value of ERP software but also explaining its benefits. In the old world, individual end-users understood their own jobs quite well. However, they rarely understood the jobs of those around them or the jobs of those in other departments. This situation led to low job satisfaction because each end-user understood little about how they were contributing to some greater goal. Low satisfaction led to higher error rates because quality or timeliness didn’t appear to matter much.

In contrast, today’s ERP world can provide end-users with greater job satisfaction if they are told how many of the pieces of the business process fit together. Also, the higher degree of automation can reduce the clerical aspects of jobs and increase time available for the more rewarding analytical parts of jobs.

Successful companies know that implementing new technology is only half the battle. The ultimate success of an ERP overhaul depends on the people who will use it, manage it, and hopefully, come to rely on it. But those people will only embrace the technology if they understand how it can help them do their jobs. Building new capabilities is easy; training people to use them properly is what will separate successful companies from the ones that continue to struggle with limping ERP systems and an overwhelmed, demoralized staff. Take the time to explain ERP and it should result in a happier and more effective community of end-users.