Training for Microsoft Dynamics NAV group projects

Why people are so essential during the project?

 Presently, a large variety of good ERP solutions is offered on the market. There are also plenty of IT companies with competences sufficient to ensure successful deliveries of implementation projects. However, is it a level of the system or IT partner competences that are critical to the success of a project? IT.integro’s experience shows that system users also play a crucial role.

When does ERP operate at a high level?

There are three factors contributing to the proper operation of an ERP system: the system, people that are to use it and data. Only by combining these three elements, can a high quality of implementation be ensured. Therefore, firstly a good system has to be chosen along with a competent partner to implement it. However, this is not a guarantee that the ERP solution will work at the highest level. What is a prerequisite is good quality data and staff trained and prepared for the project. It is essential what characteristics, skills, knowledge and experience they have. Therefore, people are likely to be the most difficult aspect of the project. Their level has an impact on the two other factors – the system and data.

System quality

The people we usually work with at our customers are professionals with extensive knowledge of IT systems. They are the ones who would easily recognize the benefits and value of the software applications designed by the best global providers. IT.integro’s experience shows that software engineering is really excellent. We are under no illusions that this kind of systems are at a different level.

Data quality

The preparation for migrating data into a new system is a demanding task. Copying data simply from old systems into existing ones is a bad solution as it results in data duplicates and inconsistencies. The ideal situation is when the customer’s staff approach the task with diligence and review all data. The process is called data clearance. It removes data duplicates, so for example, as a result there is only one customer entry within the system. Details are of critical importance. Therefore, it is worth spending as much time as needed on tasks such as reentering all customer names using a standardized pattern. Such an effort enables the user to generate consistent reports. Only then, can the application be a reliable source of information. It is people again and their diligence that determine the level of an ERP system performance after the implementation project is completed.

People who know what they want

It is very important that the customers’ team should know exactly what they want. Such an approach means that they treat the system just as a tool needed to achieve their objectives. If the customer’s goals are defined and implementation partner is competent, a good mutual relationship and interaction is likely to be established. It enables both parties to determine what output is exactly expected to fulfill the customer’s requirements.

 

Manufacturing optimization for setup time is an example of such an objective. As long as the company fulfills urgent orders outside the production schedule, optimization will be a hard nut to crack. Only a team that strictly follows all defined guidelines can ensure the fulfillment of project objectives. The system alone, even with a proper setup, is not a success guarantee.

‘Project mentality‘ and persistence

ERP implementation is a typical project process, therefore it requires a project approach. Persistence is the key aspect of it. Using implementation methodology is a well-established standard among implementation partners.

However, persistence in the fulfillment of methodology guidelines is a different aspect. This aspect involves working with a delegated project team or working according to a set schedule. Obviously, errors and failures to meet deadlines might occur during each project. However, if conclusions are drawn, the high level of the project is sustained. As a consequence, the customer’s staff approach project tasks more carefully. It becomes even more evident at training classes. People are just more motivated to learning. Once they learn to use the system as a tool, they are able to work with it more effectively.

Persistence involves several issues:

  • Time and budget are limited, thus not all tasks can be completed.
  • Objectives and methods to accomplish them are determined.
  • Responsibilities within the project team are defined.

Project management is not about creating stacks of documents. The most important aim is to put into practice specific patterns of work such as systematic project team meetings. IT.integro’s experience shows that only if meetings are held, team members are able to reach agreement as well as decide on the assignment of tasks and execute them faster, which in turn makes implementation more effective.

 

IT.integro delivers international projects as well. This enables us to gain experience that we can use for local companies. What we try to pass to our customers, is that for each task it is necessary to define its:

  • objectives
  • schedule,
  • competent implementation team.

 

It is difficult to enforce persistence from employees that are not used to such an approach. Especially when unscheduled events happen (i.e. delays, lack of experience, incidents). The project management theory explains what should be done in such situations. However, again persistence is a prerequisite.

 

This problem can be solved by gaining theoretical knowledge and practical experience as well as implementing the project approach in companies. The effects are useful not only for the implementation of an ERP system. Needless to say that each company wants to develop, open its new branches and launch new products… It will be easier to achieve such goals with staff used to a project approach. The implementation of an ERP system is a good opportunity to introduce such practices into the organization permanently.

Competences of key stakeholders

The system key stakeholders at the customer’s company shape the future ERP solution. However, their competences do not only involve a good knowledge of their professional area. Learning a new system is also fundamental. If project teams are specialists with experience on how to use methodology for implementation project, the system is likely to be used more effectively then and the project is to be delivered more efficiently.

 

Behind each ERP system, there is a concept. The better it is, the better system is. During implementation projects, it often turns out that the system imposes organizational changes. It is important that the customer’s team should be eager to embrace such changes. It is openness and flexibility that make modern solutions (the concept behind the system) change the company. Let us remember that ERP system providers develop their systems based on their extensive experience and knowledge. This year, Microsoft’s spending on research and development was as high as 9,4 milliard dollars (the highest amount among IT companies globally). Systems such as Dynamics NAV are created by best professionals. As a result, such applications offer immense capabilities to their users. However, the key to success is the customer’s team enthusiasm which makes them put the screw on consultants by demanding from them as much knowledge as possible during training sessions. Project team members are the channel for introducing Microsoft’s know-how into the company.

English as a language for project communication and training during global roll-out of NAV

We often meet companies which attach great importance to communication with their ERP partner in their native language. If communication in a native language is not possible (In the absence of such a possibility), they may reject cooperation with foreign partners even if other factors are in favor of it. This argument seems to be justified. Sure enough, only a thorough understanding of the customer’s needs and effective communication guarantee that an IT solution in its final outcome will meet the customer’s expectations. But is such an approach fully justified?

Knowledge of English is required from end users

As for international projects, we take English as the standard project language for granted. ERP system implementation requires the creation of a development team consisting both of consultants and employees with the implementation project provider and the client’s employees. It is no different than roll-outs, which involve building project teams within the subsidiary (project manager + key users). Obviously, when it comes to international projects, outside their professional areas, key users should communicate in English at an intermediate level, at least. It’s noteworthy that an exceeding grasp of English is not necessary. Based on my own personal experience, I can say that communication at an intermediate level is sufficient, provided that the key user knows his/her professional area very well.

Subsidiaries of international companies and their communication with headquarters

On the other side, even in countries where the percentage of English speaking population is low, employees in global companies are able to communicate in English. Why? Because, at least department management teams are obliged to effectively communicate with the headquarters.

What if the key user does not speak English?

We have delivered many dozens of projects in various parts of the world and have encountered only a few problems in communicating with key users. In such cases, these were where project managers who took up responsibility for a specific area within the system and various project issues were discussed with them, not with the non-English-speaking key users. Thus, the project manager was also a key user in a specific area. The initial key user would become a stakeholder (as described within Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology. However, these were very sporadic cases.

Training in countries with a low percentage of English speakers

User training is one of the key elements in each ERP system implementation. Users have to be well-prepared to use the application. Clearly, when an ERP system is implemented in a country where training sessions cannot be delivered in English, the local language has to be used. However, in the case of global roll-outs of an ERP system non-English training is usually required only for end users. Indeed, it applies to the three types of training courses.

Initial training for end users

Initial training – it provides userswith a basic insight into Microsoft Dynamics NAV and the general concept of an ERP system. Such training courses are required mostly in subsidiaries that have not used any ERP system, or previously used a system different from Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Based on my experience, it is worth offering trainings dedicated to key users in their local language in order to break the mental barrier from the very beginning. It is recommended that such training courses should be delivered even before the project is started by a training center. It will ensure that each trainee will comprehend ERP system terminology such as accounting dimension. Training centers prove to be more effective than local partners, as partners fail to be more frequently than not good trainers. Their primary focus is to demonstrate the system. However, what is important it is to train users to be able to perform various types of operations. It is the only way to comprehend the system and its logics.

Advanced training for key users

Advanced training is the subsequent training step, which involves advanced workshops for key users. Key users are provided with deep knowledge on the standard Microsoft Dynamics NAV application, but also ERP system within the Global Template. These training sessions are meant to be delivered by a partner company that develops and implements the Global Template in a subsidiary. As I have mentioned before, for a global Microsoft Dynamics NAV roll-out, we assume that key users have at least average grasp of the English language. Thus, advanced training can be delivered by partners in countries where the level of English is not too high.

Training for end users

Projects that are delivered based on the ‘train-the-trainer’ method within the NAV Global Standardization and Roll-out Training Methodology. This method solves the problem of end-user training in which it should be delivered in a local language. This type of training is delivered mostly to end users. SOPs (System Operating Procedures) are a component of the methodology that is provided to subsidiaries within Global Template. SOPs include detailed descriptions of system operations that are to be performed by end users, who do not require extensive training. They do not need to be instructed on system setup or provided with detailed insight into the system. Such requirements are to be imposed on key users. End users are just to perform a limited set of repetitive tasks (defined steps) within the system. At the delivery of the Global Template, we provide instructions for various positions. Therefore, it is sufficient that the key user will demonstrate the SOPs to the end users. The task is quite simple, even if SOPs are delivered in English.

Training for Microsoft Dynamics NAV

I have been carrying out Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP projects in various countries. Thus, in my opinion the fear that the English language is too big a barrier to implement the project in subsidiaries is exaggerated.