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Learning from Past ERP Mistakes

September 3, 2002
Related Topics: Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Featured Article
Medium Company
Name: Xilinix, Inc
Location: San Jose, California
Business: Provider of software design tools tools
Employees: 2600

Peggy Phillips learned the importance of ERP training the hard way. Two years ago Xilinx rolled out a self-service HR application to the company’s 2,600 employees with only fleeting efforts directed at training. “We held informal sessions telling people that we would show them the new system if they wanted to see it.”

    The rollout team did little front-end needs assessment, so they had no idea what employees wanted or were capable of doing. For example, Phillips’s team assumed that managers wanted self-service options and that they understood how to perform administrative tasks such as documenting internal transfers or approving salary increases. It turned out that the human resources staff was handling all of those transactions and managers had no interest in taking them on. “It was challenging to get people to use the system and in the end was not accepted.”

    Now the company is in the middle of an ERP rollout, and Phillips is determined to learn from the past. “This will be even more challenging than the HR self-service tool, because it’s going to change everyone’s roles and responsibilities,” Phillips says. She has a dedicated team to handle all training and communication needs related to the ERP software. “We are focused on teaching users about the processes, not just how to use the technology.”

    This is especially critical since the company went with a generic version of Oracle’s enterprise application, an off-the-shelf system with little customization. That meant that all of Xilinx’s work processes, such as how to track performance reviews, change job titles, or transfer employees, had to be re-engineered to match the fields in the off-the-shelf tool. “With that level of change, there is going to be a lot of discomfort, but we are managing it by showing users the benefits,” she says.

    In all of the ERP training her team offers, which is a combination of Web-based and classroom-based courses, users learn what the new processes are and why it’s important to incorporate them into their daily routines. “Context is key. It’s not enough to tell them to do these transactions or even to show them how. They have to see the benefit,” she says.

    Because the system is self-service, many tasks that were formerly performed by HR now are the responsibility of managers and employees. “At first it just looks like more work,” she says, “so we talk a lot about the impact it will have on their productivity and benefits.” For example, managers are now expected to fill out Personnel Action Notification forms to alert management to changes in employee salaries or job titles. In the past HR had taken care of PANs, and Phillips began to receive complaints from managers about the added work. She responded by pointing out the dramatic reduction in turn-around time that would come from the new system. Inner-office mail delays and multiple sign-offs meant the old PANs took four to six weeks to be completed; now they take 48 hours. “By framing it properly, they can see the payoff to using the new process and they support it.”

    If the benefits of the new system are not enough to encourage employees to take on extra work, Phillips points out how not using them correctly will cause them to suffer. For example, when managers put off filing an internal employee transfer, they continue to pay the transferee’s salary even if that person is already working in another department. “Most managers understand the value if you put it into financial terms,” she says.

Workforce, September 2002, pp. 92-94 -- Subscribe Now!

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