One of the difficult things about learning an ERP application is the fear of messing something up or the un-certainty of what will happen when you change a parameter and how you support the system. Often times this is because we typically have two groups of people that work on implementing and using an ERP application.
First you have the operational related people. These are the people that manage the customer, manage sales, manage production, manage inventory, manage the warehouse, manage procurement, manage services etc. Then you have the finance team, these are the people that manage the accounting controls, manage reporting, manage debts, manage payables, manage cash flow etc.
The typical problem is that each doesn’t really know each other jobs, the complexity, pressures, frustrations, management goals, resource needs, human resources needs etc. Then when you apply this onto a new systems like an ERP that is designed to be an integrated system then they need to work closer together. With an integrated system problems will show up much faster when the different groups makes changes.
For example if you are coming from many independent legacy systems that each had their own domain specialty then likely each group has some of their own freedom to make adjustments and control the data the way they like. Now if you post an inventory receipt or ship goods it’s going to hit the ledger in real time (there is a parameter) if you post with Dynamics AX. So you need to make sure your accounts setup, costs etc. are setup correctly on the items, posting setup etc. otherwise you’ll be making adjustments.
I’d encourage anyone that is embarking on implementing Dynamics AX for example to have a period of training before doing detailed analysis of requirements and gaps. Understand how AX works, not saying you are doing to like everything, but you should know how it works first then work out if you want to adjust it or adjust your own processes and practices. Remember if you are coming from many different legacy systems there is a good chance you have a lot of processes and practices you will want to question.
The training shouldn’t be just a walk through here is this parameter, here is that parameter you really need to get hands on. Learn the standard way in the training material but then go and put transactions in the system, change the parameters and then post a transaction again. Experiment, like my old piano teacher used to say, practice, practice. Well I think it’s more a scientific method when it comes to a complex system like an ERP which is test, verify outcome, adjust the test, verify outcome.
At the end of the day this is just software so that means it’s easy to copy systems and setup test systems to experiment. By doing this experimenting you are going to get familiar with how the system behaves and you’ll be in a better place to assess what will work and not work for your organization.
You also should pair up an operational BPA (business process analyst) that are working on the implementation with a financial BPA. This way they can make adjustments and test the outcome of a parameter together so they can assess the effect on each of their domains.
By doing this you will make your teams better placed to support the system after go-live. Often we build processes the way they should be but we don’t plan for what might go wrong when the system gets in the hands of the users and they do something we didn’t expect. Good chance if you have had that period of experimenting then you will do the same thing a user might do and can be better placed to support the system. Remember you are going to need to support the system after go-live, unless you want consultants permanently on-call you need to plan from the beginning of an implementation how the end game is going to play out.
Bottom-line is that you never stop learning about a complex system but you do need to start learning and understanding it before you can be confident you are getting something you need to run your business. So start from the beginning, have test systems from the beginning and experiment often.