As discussed in part 1 of this series, application erosion eats away at the value of your company’s ERP investment – right from go-live. Over time, it can also eat away at your employee’s perception of the technology. The idea may spread that the system isn’t working properly, that it doesn’t fit well with the company anymore, or that it simply doesn’t have all the necessary functions. There might even be talk of a new solution – one that will really get the job done.
The truth behind the grousing is usually a little different. The maligned ERP may be hiccupping because it hasn’t been updated in two years. It may not seem to fit well with the company anymore because, thanks to generations of manual workarounds, it’s no longer integrated across the entire organization. As for the necessary functions, as often as not they’re all right there – but nobody remembers how to use them anymore.
The good news is that the process can be stopped, and even reversed. The solution lies in changing the attitudes and practices of the users themselves. Here’s a few tips for stopping, and even reversing application erosion.
Make a Plan
A solid plan geared towards minimizing application erosion and maximizing your ERP value is an extremely good idea. I would suggest that this plan should be made before implemtation. (If you haven’t, don’t despair – it’s never too late to request a system audit from SYSPRO to realize whether you are using your solution to its full potential), implementations that aim for long-term success place a great deal of emphasis on post-implementation activities. Given the size and importance of an ERP investment, making a plan to wring out every last ounce of value seems advisable.
No Train No Gain
Training employees in the use of a newly-implemented systems are common. It’s less common, unfortunately, to give adequate training to new employees, or periodic retraining to old ones. Management may see training as a drain on time and resources, and if the system is up-and-running it can be easy to think that staff will train each other on-the-job. But even your best employees can forget the details of ERP usage. Worse yet – errors compound over time. Information passed on through generations of employees is likely inadequate, or even detrimental. It’s easy to see how value is lost without an ongoing emphasis on training and continuous improvement within the organization.
I wrote about SYSPRO Champions in a previous blog. Allow me to quote myself: ‘Onsite Champions are trained in-house, usually from the time of the implementation. Ideally, they become “Seekers of Value”, driving change and bridging the gap between the business and the system provider.’ It is difficult to overestimate the value of an on-site champion, both for retaining the value of your ERP, and for reversing the process of application erosion.
Champions are also good for morale. They enhance employee perceptions about the usefulness and ease-of-use of the ERP. As Seekers of Value, they serve as an advocate for the system, by encouraging others to use more of it, or to design additional ways to get value out of what they are already doing. When the Seeker of Value truly embraces the role, the result is invariably an increase in the flow of knowledge, leading to reduced costs and greater ROI.
Continuous Improvement – Moving Towards LEAN
Now, more than ever, businesses need to be able to deal with change in an agile fashion. Markets, products, employees and business processes are all subject to rapid change. Part of the value of an ERP system, such as SYSPRO, is its remarkable ability to change in step with your evolving business demands. When change is embraced, your workers and managers will understand why SYSPRO extolls the virtues of ‘continuous improvement’. Continuous improvement, an important principle in the philosophy of LEAN manufacturing, is both a protection against application erosion, and an excellent builder of value.