Posted by: datango AG | January 10, 2011

‘Potty training’ your ERP users…

OK. So it’s not the best title for a blog posting, but after a weekend of grappling with the latter stages of getting a 3 year old to do his business in the right place, I couldn’t help but draw the comparisons. And that introductory statement should be read as: No offense to any ERP users, I’m not saying that you’re like 3 year old children. In fact, I toyed with using sales people and CRM systems, but I felt that was a soft target (and I consider myself a sales person before I receive the ‘hate email’!). Finally and per our corporate ‘use-of-potty-training-and-datango-in –the-same-blog-post’ policy, the comments on this post are those of the author and not of datango AG.

So with that. “How is training ERP users like potty training a 3 year old?” I hear you cry.

For the most part, your ERP users don’t actually want an ERP system. Let alone a change to the one they’re used to. For them the status quo likely ‘works’. Simply put, it’s usually the organization that wants to realize broader benefits that drives the change, as opposed to users individually. And that’s just like my 3 year old. You see, for him, being able to go at his leisure isn’t a bad deal. I’m the one that has to do clean up (although to be fair, my wife plays a huge role in this department also). And, frankly, for little ones struggling with the art of ‘wipey’, grasping the corporate-wide benefits of a large scale ERP deployment isn’t high on the ‘to-do’ list. So in reality, the parents drive the desire to ‘upgrade’ and therein rests the challenge. If we don’t communicate the value to the end user (or 3 year old) as to ‘what’s in it for them’ they’ll never be fully on board.

Now I mentioned ‘clean up’. Well, let’s call this clean up the implications of non-performance. For my 3 year old, we put him in ‘big boy underwear’ and when he has an accident it isn’t a great feeling for him to be in wet pants. So he feels the negative impact of not going to the bathroom. In the context of ERP, non-performance means a lack of adoption, overly frequent ‘how to’ calls to the help desk, data entry errors, etc. Some of the best ERP deployments that I’ve seen have engaged users in helping to resolve issues that are the result of their ‘less-than-ideal’ actions. Only when they experience the consequential ‘costs’ of non-performance are they engaged in a virtuous cycle of ongoing excellence.

Finally there’s peer pressure (or better said, peer ‘assistance’). We also have a 5 year old. And, for the purposes of this post, we’ll call him the ‘super potty user’. He knows how to go by himself, wash his hands, etc. I could go into more detail, but neither you want to read it now and nor will he when he sees this post in 7 years or so. What’s more, he’s eager to help. He’s the ‘expert’. You have ERP users like this all over your business. Engage them, collaborate and, importantly, motivate and reward both them and the users for positive outcomes (we use clapping and stars for our boys, you’ll likely have to be a little more creative). In reality, you’re positioning a tangible exemplar of best practice within a peer group while also creating an effective channel for user engagement and feedback – it’s invaluable.

So, before this post becomes an action plan from Super Nanny, here are the keys to potty training your ERP users:

1)      Sell them. Sell them on why this is going to be good for them – without this, they won’t be motivated to be supportive of change.

2)      Have them fix problems. If they understand the implications and are engaged as part of the solution, they’re more likely to get it right to begin with.

3)      Engage with their peer group. Leverage the experts that users respect and listen to as your super users – and motivate all for performance.

Get these 3 things right and your ERP plans won’t need to be flushed down the toilet (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Best wishes,



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