Getting the Most Out of Your Manufacturing ERP Investment – Part V

Document Your Travels

Documentation is often viewed as a menial task that lands on the bottom of the “To Do” list in light of other competing activities. In some cases, that documentation is missed altogether. However, the need for documentation for an ERP project is anything but trivial and failure to maintain timely documentation has far more severe consequences.

Just as a seafaring captain maintains records of the journey to avoid newly discovered obstacles on a return voyage, an ERP Project Manager (in conjunction with the core management team) must document the processes, procedures, testing and decisions made throughout the implementation journey.

Few manufacturing companies embark on an ERP Project to remain “status quo”. Rather, organizations look to measurable business improvements that boost their competitiveness, decrease costs and/or streamline throughput as defined in the Project Charter. (See discussion in Part II of the Series.)

Achieving incremental and measurable benefit requires that a base line exists for comparison of the future state to current state processes. Documentation of the “To Be” future state should begin during the project design phase with the creation of an open issues log and continue into the testing phase as changes to both configuration and/or alternative approaches are undertaken.

These decisions and course changes need to be recorded during the test phase and retained indefinitely. With the many table and list filtering capabilities available, keeping the open and closed issues tracked and manageable is as simple as using a status field and maintaining a resolution date for each issue rather than keeping an entirely separate closed issues log. In my travels, I have found this invaluable and have referred back to the reasoning deployed for prior decisions countless times to justify the paths chosen.

Establish Procedural Guidelines

While documentation of a Project begins at inception, nothing can “sink a ship” faster than setting sail without a set of instructions outlining the course and detailing the route necessary to arrive into port.

For an ERP Project these are the procedural guidelines also known as process instructions or user guides.  As testing nears completion with the core team gaining confidence in the configuration and settings, it is now their job to engage the remainder of company personnel and roll out the training to the balance of the user community.  While there are differing schools of thought as to whom should own the task – client or implementation partner – the former has the added benefit of ownership and accountability for process acceptance.  What better way to begin the transition of ownership of the jointly architected solution?

Today you can use any number of free online screen capture tools to make the process of generating procedures less daunting.  Simple screen captures during the step-by-step processing serve as the basis for the document which can then be incorporated into company-specific documentation templates.

Create a checklist to guide the process

A Process Instruction Master list should be compiled which details the process tasks that need to be cataloged and assigns a specific document number for each task, often prefixed and sorted by a department code.

Once this Master list is underway, the core team begins creating the correlating process instructions, embedding the process instruction master number (also known as a script number) into the document title for quick reference. As the document library begins to grow, the document title nomenclature will pay dividends in the long run and ensure all processes have been accounted for. See the example below:

Master document image

Test the Training Guide

Now it’s time to put the new process instructions to good use.

The most effective way to ensure your guide functions as intended is to have users follow the guide meticulously.Feedback will be prompt and typically to the point about what cannot be accomplished and what may be missing.

Producing a good set of process instructions is an iterative progression and this stage will flush out any steps that may have been missing from the original effort.The end result will be a set of “tried and true” user-tested and employee-accepted instructions that can be used for training new staff.

Keep the Training Ongoing

Today’s quality Initiatives and advanced human resources objectives has made, the tracking of skills and competencies more pervasive. Skill competency begins with employee testing and monitoring the results. As such, I highly recommend incorporating the use of an Employee Training Matrix. Using the Process Instruction Master numbers on the X-Axis and incorporating Employees on the Y-axis, Department managers are tasked with updating which training processes are relevant for each of their direct reports.

Once the training needs are understood, subject matter tests are then created from the process instruction masters stating the objectives of the test, an abbreviated version of the process instruction topic and the expected outcome. Employees are held accountable to demonstrate their hands-on capability to perform the test subject matter in the presence of their managers for review and sign-off acceptance.

Having recently participated with a project deployment in Asia, this method produces tangible and valuable results.  Competencies should be measured by demonstrated results rather than verbally or by a “nod of the head”.

As employees pass the tests, the Employee Training Matrix is updated, and each signed-off test document is saved using the Employee’s personnel number or first initial, last name, date and Process Instruction Master Number. This will allow for easy retrieval and audit of each employee’s actual test results.

Success Comes to Those Who Plan

An ERP implementation is one of the most significant business decisions any company can make. Directors and managers spend countless hours weighing the pros and cons before moving ahead, and then are bogged down in the process.

This series has been designed to help you see past the minutiae so you can understand what needs to be taken care of at every step. Managing expectations, and understanding what to expect in the first place, will go a long way towards a successful implementation. Ultimately, your employees will thank you.

(This marks the final section of a five part series. An overview of the series is available here.)


– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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