Not educating users adequately is always a risk when implementing an ERP system and in the long term it can lead to productivity loss, or the feeling that you’re just not getting the most out of your system. Here are five mistakes to avoid when planning your ERP education.

End user adoption is critical to a successful software implementation and its on-going use. Without proficient users the software will be perceived as unusable, too complex and ultimately the ‘wrong’ solution as it fails to deliver a demonstrable return on investment.

Mistake #1 – Failing to understand that it’s education, not training

There is a distinct difference between training and educating. Training is the explaining and demonstrating of “how” to perform a task. Educating is explaining the reasons “why” the task is performed and its role in the organisation’s business processes. Training programs often focus on how to use the software.

For example, a user who enters sales orders needs to understand how entering an order incorrectly can negatively affect purchasing, manufacturing and accounts receivable—not to mention customer-satisfaction.

Mistake #2 – Not mixing formal and informal learning

Formal learning is learning in a structured environment (classroom), while informal learning is learning that occurs in a non-structured manner (as an outcome of doing one’s job). While providing formal learning is easy, informal learning could be things like context-sensitive help, or embedded courses within the software.

Mistake #3 – Using only one educational medium

Education should also take into account the understanding that people learn differently. Utilising a mix of learning mediums, as in reading, seeing, and doing, ultimately increases knowledge retention. This could take the shape of a variety of methods like web-based tutorials, user guides, or frequently asked questions resources for on-the-job queries.

Mistake #4 – Not planning for education long term

Education on enterprise software is an on-going cycle. The need for education does not end with implementation and “go-live.” New employees, organizational changes (process and people) and system upgrades all drive an on-going need to stay on top of education. The most effective education programs establish initial user acceptance and competence at implementation, and maintain and develop user proficiency over the long-term. The education lifecycle is a continuous process of assessing, planning, training and supporting.

Mistake #5 – Regarding education as an expense

As enterprise software evolves organizations should no longer regard education solely as an expense, but as an investment. Smart businesses recognise that to realise the value envisioned from an investment in enterprise software their users have to be able to use the software proficiently and sustain that ability over time.

Education must be more than a ‘check the box’ effort. Education needs to be effective and to be effective it needs to inform and align users on the why, what and how the software is going to impact them, processes and operations; utilise a blended learning approach; support formal and informal learning; and be continuous, ever changing to meet the on-going user and organisation needs.