Three Tips For Successful User Adoption Of Next-Generation ERP Software

Carl Dubler

Part 4 in the “Journey to Intelligent ERP” series

As someone working in marketing the latest ERP technology, I’d like to say that every journey to next-generation ERP is an unqualified success. But, alas, that’s not always the case. However, if ever there is an issue, I’ve found that user adoption – or rather the lack of it – is nearly always at the root of the problem.

Don’t take users by surprise

If you’re deploying an intelligent ERP solution, you’re going to get capabilities that are radically different from what you had before. We’re not just talking about a back-end technical upgrade, but truly innovative features that can transform day-to-day tasks.

If people are suddenly faced with functionality and a user interface that is unfamiliar, it’s going to impact badly on user buy-in – both for your current project and any future projects you embark on. But on the flip side, bringing users on board methodically can make all the difference in a smooth transition, and even generate excitement that can help boost the project’s momentum.

For this reason, it’s essential to ensure that users are adequately prepared and know what to expect from day one. In this blog, we explore three key areas to consider when planning your user adoption strategy.

Tip #1: Begin the project with user involvement

A traditional deployment schedule would place “user acceptance testing” towards the end of the implementation period. However, in my experience, intelligent ERP projects require that we shift away from this model and start working to gain user acceptance from the start. With prototyping capabilities, you can now involve users and get feedback right from the project kick-off. This way, you can configure the solution to better meet their needs.

A good place to start is to find out exactly which workflows will change when the new ERP solution is up and running. It can be very helpful to use a business scenario recommendations tool that will identify which transactions in which business functions will change as a result of the deployment. Armed with this specific information, you can focus trials on key user groups and lines of business.

As discussed in my last blog, you can run trials quickly and cost-efficiently in the cloud, whether you ultimately intend to deploy your solution in the cloud or on-premise. Alternatively, you can now also use preconfigured appliances to test next-generation ERP solutions with your own data, on your own network.

Tip #2: Define project roles and ownership

Successful user adoption requires a structured approach and well-defined responsibilities. To achieve this, you need people to take ownership of certain key roles:

  • Change sponsor – Manages executive communication and engagement, and takes overall responsibility for putting in place the user adoption strategy
  • Change champions – Subject matter experts, who collaborate with IT to design the prototypes and gain feedback from their peers
  • Global change lead – Develops the overall strategy for user adoption
  • Regional change lead – Adapts global strategy to specific regions as required
  • Communications and branding lead – Manages the internal marketing needed to create a “brand” for the project, promote a positive atmosphere, and “sell” users on the benefits
  • Training lead – Defines and coordinates a training approach, tools, and plan
  • Instructional designer – Partners with subject matter experts to source or design training resources
  • Trainers – Conduct training as required for each region or department

An effective implementation partner will be fully aware of the importance of user adoption and may be able to take on certain aspects of these roles. However, the overall ownership of these responsibilities must remain with individuals within your own organization, who appreciate your corporate culture and any sensitivities associated with the project.

Tip #3: Embed “micro learning” into the user experience

Large and comprehensive training programs have a place, but that’s not always enough. It’s also important to provide users with guidance as they need it, in the context of day-to-day tasks, even well after you have gone live.

Intelligent ERP solutions such as SAP S/4HANA offer this “micro learning” through a Web assistant tool that provides help within the application, when or where it is needed most. The Web assistant guides users through tasks that can help increase productivity, and as well as standard guidance. You can create your own custom content to meet your precise business requirements.

In the next blog, we’ll explore how effective change management can help ensure a successful transition to a next-generation ERP solution. Meanwhile, read more here about intelligent ERP. You can also learn more by reading the SAP S/4HANA Journey Guide. 


Carl Dubler

About Carl Dubler

Carl Dubler is a senior director of Product Marketing for SAP S/4HANA. With an IT career stretching back to the late 1980s, he has done nearly every role in the business. In his ten years at SAP, he also managed SAP’s first commercially available cloud product and first cloud product on SAP HANA.