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The Role of Learning 

ERP Organizational Change Success: The Role of Learning

The role of learning has a significant place in ERP organizational change success. ERP organizational change success is as much about organizational and individual learning, effective and efficient training, knowledge sharing, transfer of knowledge, and education as it is the other two components of the ERP organizational change triad: technology and process. Therefore, perhaps ERP organizational change project plans would benefit from approaching change with increased awareness and application of learning and development techniques and principles that best advocate for organizational learning, and therefore ERP organizational change success.

“Although education is a corner-stone of ERP implementation, the user training is usually only emphasized and the courses are centered on computer/system operation rather than on understanding the ERP concept and spirit.” (Yu,2013)

ERP Organizational Change Practitioners Wear Many Hats…and Teacher Is One of Them

All ERP organizational change experts would agree that in order to allow technology (ERP) to effectively and efficiently work for business, it requires the right combination of knowledge and management of the triad: people, processes, and technology. Therefore, as ERP organizational change practitioners, there exist many disciplines and principles in which it may be helpful to be cognizant of, and then apply. This awareness is simply driven by the nature of the ERP organizational change practice: making technology work for business.

Many effective and efficient practitioners have sound knowledge of ERP technologies and emerging technologies. Many are experts in ERP system selection. Many are certified project managers (PMPs) and/or have a sufficient understanding of project management techniques, tools, tactics, and best practices. Many also have a level of expertise in business processes and business process re-engineering. Many have great “soft-skills”, “people skills”, management skills (which is not the same as leadership skills), and leadership skills required to endorse positive change. Many clearly understand ERP systems technically, functionally, and in “concept and spirit”.  Many understand the value and importance of organizational culture and its significant value and impact upon organizational change. There is one thing that all these “hats” have in common: for the knowledge, skills, experience, and expertise to be useful, they have to be effectively taught. That is, knowledge needs to be effectively transferred to the organizational stakeholders. ERP organizational change practitioners are teachers.

Many in the field of ERP organizational change research and practice understand that these ideas around organizational learning can not just simply be understood. The ideas around the importance of effective and efficient learning need to be actionable, based on principle and represented as tactical items in an ERP organizational change game plan. Otherwise, the knowledge (if understood) is not being applied. This knowledge could then be underutilized and therefore not effective nor bringing value to the organizational change effort. The value of organizational learning and education of stakeholders in a way that best transfers training and knowledge to “the floor” is invaluable. Not acting upon the value of sound learning knowledge and principles is merely treating “learning” as a buzzword. Or, in other words, its “all bark and no bite”, “all talk and no walk”, “all sizzle and no steak”….

“ERP organizational change professionals are indeed teachers. They not only need to understand sound learning and development principles but these principles need to be soundly acted upon.” Dr. Jack G. Nestell 

It Is Safe to Say That the Role of Learning Is Significant to Organizational Change

What does vendor-neutral and objective research tell us? Much extant work would suggest that as ERP organizational change practitioners, we would benefit from exploring and applying key ideas derived from Learning and Development research and practice. After all, “organizational learning” essentially represents the holistic accumulation of individual human learning. “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” –Phil Jackson

This notion on the role of effective learning is supported by a great deal of sound research in the field of ERP organization change. Additionally, a plethora of information and research exists in many fields of practice and research including organizational behavior management,  learning, and development, human performance technology (HPT), Psychology, etc.

Effective and efficient stakeholder learning and education have a significant impact on ERP organizational change success.

Perhaps the Value of the Learning and Development (L&D) Field Is Underappreciated in the ERP Organizational Change Field?

From recent research (and anecdotal experience) one thing is for certain, not all ERP organizational change project plans and methodologies are created equal (more to come on this specific point in a future post and podcast). Additionally, not all ERP organizational change project plans, or methods, account for the aforementioned ideas (i.e. effective learning principles made actionable). There are many Learning and Development professionals (whether in academic or business environments) that know very well the importance of human performance support strategies and the impact it has on organizational learning in general. When it comes to ERP organizational change success, as practitioners we would perhaps benefit from exploring further the ideas based on sound research that are found to most beneficial to the learning and education experience of organizational stakeholders.

Asking questions may be a great place to start. On an individual basis, what are the best ways organizational stakeholders (i.e. people)  learn? Do people have learning styles that help them learn better?  Is learning style a real “thing”? Are there effective and efficient ways to train organizations based on sound and proven research (The answer is Yes. For example The Kirkpatrick Model that measure and accounts for “reaction”, “Learning”, “Behavior”, and “Results”). Is organizational learning more effective through “scaffolding”?  Is it possible to accomplish more effective learning through deliberate, structured, and formal organizational training based on learning principles? Are some ways better than others at effective learning through the transfer of training knowledge? Is effective learning improved through evaluation and measurement? How can ERP practitioners improve effective learning endorsed through organizational culture? How can ERP practitioners improve effective learning through effective practice? Perhaps these are just a few questions to consider and ponder.

Some Interesting Work Includes for Example:
  • Scott and Vessey (2018) state in their Abstract that “ERP implementations remain problematic despite the fact that many of the issues are by now quite well known.” This quote is saying quite a lot, one point may be suggesting the value of applied research. They then go on to state that “we focus on how organizational learning relates to success and failure of ERP implementations. Organizational learning is often associated with organizational improvement and development and thus implicitly and indirectly with success (Fiol and Lyles, 1985; Huber, 1991; Nonaka, 1994; Stein and Zwass, 1995).

 

  • Stratman and Roth, 2018) suggest and describe “ERP Training” and “Learning” as organizational “Elements of ERP Competence”.The authors describe “ERP Training” as:

“ERP training refers to the processes involved in teaching each of the various user groups to use the ERP system efficiently in their day-to-day activities. The integrated, cross-functional scope of ERP systems requires a large proportion of the workforce to be trained in various ERP system skills. Training programs are generally more effective if closely tailored to the requirements of each user group. In addition, ERP training cannot be viewed as a one-time event. Both formal training and regular review sessions are necessary to ensure that managers and employees stay up-to-date with ongoing system and process changes (Ettlie, 1998).”

For “Learning” Stratman and Roth note that “The learning competency refers to activities designed to identify cutting-edge ERP techniques from both internal and external sources. It also encompasses the formal and/or informal process of pilot-testing these new methods of using the capabilities of ERP system to deliver business value in day-to-day operations. Since process knowledge is dynamic, organizations may benefit from procedures and practices that continually promote the double-loop learning that allows fundamental business processes to be improved in a systematic fashion (Argyris & Schon, 1978; Nonaka, 1994; Roth, Marucheck, Kemp, & Trimble, 1994). From an external perspective, benchmarking activities are often used to gather ERP best practices (Levitt & March, 1988)”

The authors conclude with “With the development of an instrument that captures data on the ERP competence of implementing firms, future research can now explore potential nomological nets linking the various competency constructs with improved business performance. This line of future research may provide a theoretical basis for management interventions in transforming ERP systems from automated transaction processors into effective enterprise decision support tools.”

  • Shao, Feng, and Hu (2017) examine “organizational learning culture” and “ERP systems learning” in their work. The authors note that “The final interesting observation from our empirical results is the fairly significant difference between the impacts of two learning approaches on ERP assimilation. Although both exploitative and exploratory learning approaches have a statistically significant impact on ERP assimilation and together they explain 48.6% the variances in the ERP assimilation construct, exploitative learning clearly dominates ERP assimilation as compared to exploratory learning.”

The authors’ definitions are:

Exploitative learning: “Developing deep understanding of existing ERP system functionalities and capabilities through continuous refinement and execution.”

Exploratory learning: “Developing innovative use of ERP system functionalities and new capabilities through experimentation and discovery”

  • Rouhani and Ravasan,2012, described ion their Abstract:

“The Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP) has been pointed out as a new information systems paradigm. However, achieving a proper level of ERP success relies on a variety of factors that are related to an organization or project environment. In this paper, the idea of predicting ERP postimplementation success based on organizational profiles has been discussed. As with the need to create the expectations of organizations of ERP, an expert system was developed by exploiting the Artificial Neural Network (ANN) method to articulate the relationships between some organizational factors and ERP success.”  In their work, the authors suggest and consider “Training and education Project team” as a “ERP readiness assessment dimensions and factor”. Training includes “Project team training; user training; training of business practices and processes; as well as and ERP skills; allocated money and time resources to training; ERP training plan; well-documented education and training strategy; effective training”.

Learn More:
References:
  • Scott & Vessey, “Implementing Enterprise Resource Planning Systems: The Role of Learning From Failure”, 2018: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220198852_Implementing_Enterprise_Resource_Planning_Systems_The_Role_of_Learning_from_Failure
  • Shao, Z., et al. (2017). “Impact of top management leadership styles on ERP assimilation and the role of organizational learning.” Information & Management 54(7): 902-919.
  • Stratman and Roth. (2018). “Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Competence Constructs: Two‐Stage Multi‐Item Scale Development and Validation* – Stratman – 2002 – Decision Sciences – Wiley Online Library.”
  • Yu, C. S. (2013). “Causes influencing the effectiveness of the post‐implementation ERP system.” http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02635570510575225.
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