How To Learn About and Get Involved with ERP Implementations

Written By: Bob Blanchette
Date: April 19, 2020

We often hear from people wanting to learn more about enterprise resource planning (ERP). Sometimes it’s because they become involved with an ERP project while others recognize the career opportunities. It’s a broad topic with broader implications.

With that said, most people are created equal when it comes to knowledge about ERP – most have little to none. That’s not a criticism just a realistic observation. It’s a specialized field and if you talk to people in it, most got their knowledge in very different ways. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why ERP failures and cost overruns are more prevalent that ERP success stories.

While some colleges now offer programs around this body of knowledge these types resources are yet to become mainstream, and when they do, they’ll need practical hands-on-experience to be successful. It is a unique field and requires a combination of skills, everything from strategy formulation to technical adeptness.

Unfortunately, if you begin to try to research ERP what you’ll find out there is heavily slanted by software companies and ERP industry hoaxes. For example, you can get an ERP certificate from the software company SAP, but it is targeted to certify individuals in “their” product. With that as a backdrop below are some suggestions if you’re trying to learn more about ERP.

Understand Your Industry

Learn everything you can about your industry and your competition. Ultimately this will help you form ideas around what your company wants to do or be going forward – often called a future state vision. So, begin with the end in mind. This is also the genesis of sorts of how business strategies get developed. This stage of learning is more about business processes, getting to know what will be required of a system and employees, what’s going to delight your customer base, and what’s going to lead to more sales.

While it may be interesting to take note of which of the top ERP systems your competition is using, your goal is not to vet or evaluate software, but rather start to learn about what different software does. Do recognize that some industries (like manufacturing ERP systems) have software tailored to it.

While increasing understanding of your industry, keep a list of things you’d like a system to do – a wish list of sorts. This will start to give you a basic understanding of what parts of your business might need to change.

Get Involved in Your Organization’s ERP Implementation

For practical knowledge, get involved with your company’s ERP implementation efforts. Even if there’s not a major project going on, there’s bound to be activity around systems used, security protocols, etc. Your IT leads are often a good place to start to get a pulse on what’s going on and learn how you can get involved.

I got my first exposure to ERP by volunteering to take notes and creating documentation for internal ERP steering committee meetings. More than a scribe, those meetings were the basis of my ERP education and now placed me where I could interact with multiple levels of the organization. Perhaps more importantly I began to understand how technology supported the business and where the gaps were.

Keep in mind there are many different facets of ERP, so if you have the desire there’s probably one or more that play to your skills and interests. If you’re analytical and like to follow processes from beginning to end, there are aspects of ERP that require process mapping, defining business requirements, data cleansing and a host of other roles.

Seek Out ERP Training and Education

This area can be a little tricky, so be diligent. There’s lots of information out there but you’ll need to learn to decipher the sales-oriented hype from the educational. Look for independent sources – people and companies that have a passion for sharing knowledge. Third Stage Consulting is a good example of a company that generates educational blogs and videos on a weekly basis.

Next week we are sharing a body of ERP related knowledge called Digital Stratosphere 2020. One topic Defining Your ERP Strategy in a Post-Covid World is probably enough reason to tune in, and it’s only one of 15 ERP presentations offered. You can register here to watch live or the recordings after the fact (all registration fees are waived):

http://resource.thirdstage-consulting.com/stratosphere-2020-online-conference

While seeking education, it won’t take you long to recognize material from truly independent sources that share information in a genuine and useful way. Look for white papers that take a deeper dive into ERP subjects too. While some can seem academic in style in and length, many contain good information.

If your company is running on a certain brand of software there may be user group meetings in your area that can be another source. Join one. They allow you to learn, network, interact and start to hear about a variety of ERP topics. They are typically refreshingly honest. While making contacts, you also begin to gain valuable knowledge for yourself and your company.

With the advent of COVID-19 some format changes may be coming (for safety) but virtual user groups already exist, and you’ll probably see more progress towards this type of virtual gatherings.

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Explore Where You Fit In

You’ll probably start to notice areas of ERP that interest you more than others – it’s human nature. I was motivated by an industry that needed more talent and paid well for people willing to problem solve and work hard. I also enjoyed being a part of a diverse team working on business continuation efforts that were neither easy nor boring.

Every ERP initiative is different and challenging in unique ways. You earn your stripes by going through multiple implementations and everything that comes before and after those implementations. That’s why some of the most successful ERP initiatives use independent outside independent ERP consultants to augment their bench of internal resources - because these consultants handle all related challenges for a living on a daily basis.

My best friend does coding, and I’d rather step on tacks than tackle that as a daily line of work. So, if you didn’t start out as an “IT Professional” or with an IT background that’s ok. ERP resources encompass a wide range of individuals with a wider range of experience and skills.

For example, my background is in managing sales support organizations and human resource departments. What seemed most logical (and interesting) to me was to gravitate towards building expertise with human capital management (HCM) and organizational change management (OCM).

HCM systems and software (which are a segment of ERP) relate to automating resource management - think hiring, managing employee records, optimizing employee performance. OCM’s simplest definition is helping employees get comfortable with the huge changes brought on by new technology, which should not be underestimated.

In Conclusion

Our analysis of small to midsize businesses reveals that >60% of business are running on outdated, problematic, or unsustainable platforms. Larger companies rate somewhat better, but by no measure is this consistent across the board. Some are bleeding dollars supporting on-premise solutions that require ongoing attention and resources.

While the coronavirus may have temporarily sidelined some of these businesses (big and small), the new reality of how business will need to be conducted is unfolding. It’s no longer just a matter of lagging behind, but survival. To say that there’s an extreme need for advanced technology, and the knowledge and expertise to implement it competently is perhaps an understatement.

If we can help with your education in any way, we’d love to have that conversation. Please contact us to discuss your project in more detail.

Author:
Bob Blanchette
Bob brings a creative blend of understanding operational benefit and navigating employee resistance to change, ultimately helping organization realize success and benefit through maximizing the effectiveness of people. He holds a successful track record of HR leadership and promoting fair and unbiased outcomes.
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