To all the ERP administrators out there… Have you ever had the experience where you bring a consultant in to work on a particular issue, and the second your end users see this consultant they start bringing up all the random problems that they are having with the system? Oh, and almost all the problems are things that they never even reported to you, even though you work with these people every day? When I was an ERP manager, I felt like this happened every time a consultant came on site. It was really frustrating for me for several reasons: Firstly, I took pride in what I did and it was a bit embarrassing having my end users talk about all the problems they were having with our system when it was my job to fix the problems. Equally as frustrating, the consultants had come in for a specific reason, and I needed to get that issue addressed, and stay focused on the task at hand, not open a can of worms with a consultant paid by the hour.
So how do you prevent this from happening? How can internal ERP experts start to feel as valued and sought-after as a consultant coming in from a Partner?
- Getting out on the floor - For me, it starts with getting out on the floor. As an internal IT resource, I tended to not want to venture out of my cube because everywhere I walked I got bombarded with questions, and people needing help. The list of issues grows so high and if you aren’t laser focused, you won’t get anything accomplished. However, if you aren’t careful you can start to be perceived as being unapproachable. Try to make a conscious effort to visit end users often, and always ask questions. Sometimes people won’t think to tell you about the problems they are having, so you have to find a way to help them express themselves. A good start would be to find the process steps within the ERP system that they perform repeatedly throughout the day. Focus in on one of those steps; is there some annoying extra click, or is a window particularly slow, are they performing the task in the most efficient way within the system? Remember that saving one or two clicks for a user that does that same process hundreds of times a day is a huge win for that individual. Sometimes people are shy to mention the “wish list” items because they see their internal IT staff has so many other higher priorities, but often times those small items can be the low hanging fruit and an “easy” win.
- Know your business. No consultant will ever know your business like you do, the key to making the most of an ERP system is making it work for your business. Shadow your fellow workers and look for opportunities where they might be doing a paper process, or something outside of the system that can be done better by better using the technology you already have. Map out the business processes; follow them through the system. Also, remember that in many cases you are working with people that might not like new technology and changes. Know your audience and cater to them.
- Speak the terminology of your users. Almost every business has certain terms that are very meaningful to the people of that business, but make no sense to somebody outside. When you start to speak with users about the issues they are seeing make sure to use terms they will relate to, many times people are intimidated by folks in the IT department because they don’t know the technology and terminology that IT uses.
- Try not to downplay a user’s issue. As an ERP administrator you will see a wide variety of issues, some will be system critical, and some will be just a minor annoyance for one particular user. You know how to prioritize those issues and where to give importance, but try not to let the person bringing up the issue feel like their issue isn’t important. Doing that one or two times may cause them to not seek your help again.
- Try not to shoot things down even though you know you may not be able to resolve the issue. Often times internal resources tend to have to be the bearers of bad news when it comes to saying no to technical advancements or fixes due to lack of budget. Consultants can present many options, but internal consultants often times already know the budget limitations and don’t bother presenting solutions which would be clearly impossible to implement. Just because a solution might not be within budget, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t present it. You can present the solution along with the challenges that come with it. It’s true that likely that solution won’t be implemented, but at least you are seen by business managers as somebody who presents options and solutions. Let the business managers say no.
In summary, the way to prevent all the issues coming out of the woodwork when consultants show up is by beating the consultant to it. It’s by you being the internal consultant every day, and treating your end users as your customers. Try to see every issue as an opportunity. Try to be approachable, and someone who is perceived as a peer and advocate. Remember, there are times when internal ERP experts could use some help, and don’t be afraid to seek it. The customer/partner relationship can be a very powerful one if managed properly from both sides. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will be talking about the benefits of a strong, customer/partner relationship. In the meantime, checkout ENAVATE, a Microsoft partner providing business consulting and industry-focused enterprise software solutions based on the Microsoft Dynamics AX and CRM platforms, with a full range of services including professional services, maintenance and support.
Meet the Author - Diana Youssef
Diana is a Microsoft Certified Dynamics Professional with 9+ years of experience working with Dynamics AX from versions 4.0-2012. She has worked from with the software from a functional and technical perspective, both as a client ERP Manager, and now as a Solution Architect with Celenia Software.