Don’t overestimate your company’s desire or ability to effectively implement an ERP software package. Just because upper management wants to move to a new software platform doesn’t mean the troops in the trenches want it too. Take a hard look at your company’s culture and operating style; not at how you want it to be but how it really is, before you make the big decision to move forward with an ERP software platform selection and implementation.

ERP Packages Bring Structure and Connectivity between Functions

By their design ERP packages bring structure and connectivity to business processes, but they require discipline, training and maintenance of data on a continuous basis to be successful. If your company culture is freewheeling, creative and unstructured it may be very difficult to get the users to see the necessity of ERP software when it will almost certainly require a more structured approach to the way they operate. Appointing influential and respected “super users” will probably help the situation, but some changes to the way your company operates will likely be needed.

Freewheeling organizations are usually good broken field runners; quick to find solutions to problems, but sometimes less flexible in adapting to changes which are perceived to be counter to the accepted culture. This will likely mean more requests for customization of the ERP software to fit the culture instead of the culture flexing to make the new business processes work. Some customization is inevitable, but too much is expensive and can be counter-productive to the objective of integrating business processes.  Failure to find a happy medium can result in an even less palatable alternative where the users develop off-line solutions so they can do things the “Way we’ve always done it.”

Train, Train then Train Some More

Dynamic, fast growing organizations tend to hire a lot of younger people and have a youth oriented culture, but employee turnover is sometimes high as a result. Training for an ERP package must be looked at as a continuous process, not just for during the implementation phase. It is a big mistake to assume that “super users” can fully train new personnel or retrain users who need help. Formal training is essential for new employees and as a refresher for current users. It’s okay to have an in-house trainer as long as training is not something the person does in his/her spare time. It has to be a real part of the trainer’s job description. Your company will be making a significant expenditure for an ERP platform, don’t be penny wise and skimp on training.

Consistent, Disciplined Use of the Software

Once you are up and running the ERP software must be used in a consistent and disciplined manner day- in-and-day-out. Data must be maintained, cut-offs met and attempts to “fool” the system for whatever reason must be avoided. A lot of this work is drudgery to users in even well-disciplined organizations. Be sure that your company is geared to meet this challenge with the appropriate cultural attitude adjustment and sufficient training to be successful.

If you are a little uncertain about your company’s ability to adjust to the discipline and changes required by an ERP system, keep in mind that there a number of software packages available in the market place. Some packages are more user friendly than others. Put user friendliness at the top of your selection criteria. I am sure you will find a solution that makes sense for your organization’s culture and way of doing business.