Key users and their influence on the success of the implementation of ERP software

No project without key users. The influence of key users on an ERP implementation can be huge, provided that the organization has made sufficient time available to spend on the project. In practice, we often see that it is difficult for key users to free up enough time for the project, which unfortunately leads to missing opportunities to improve processes. They are usually the "experts" within the company (very busy) and have a lot of knowledge and experience that can be of great influence in the optimization of business processes. Yet we see that companies miss opportunities, mostly due to a lack of time.

Key user is not a temporary role

A key user is a (permanent) representative of a number of its own business processes and they have a leading role within an ERP implementation. They represent during (and after) the project some of the processes in which they are involved. The key users have a strong voice in deciding how the business processes are handled in the ERP software. They discuss possible changes and improvements in the process flows. In sum; these people have a huge impact on the success of the software implementation as well as the continuous optimization after go-live. Since the go-live is just a single moment in the life cycle of an ERP package it is very important to carefully select the key users. There are a number of characteristics that make your employees fit for the role of key user during the project as well as process owner after go-live.

Understanding the business processes

Key users should be able to define the business processes (independent of the application) and put these on paper. Obviously, for the processes in which they operate themselves, but they should also be able to look at the other business processes with a broader perspective. They understand that horizontal processes (e.g. Procurement) touch various other disciplines / key users (e.g. Finance/Warehouse/etc) and together they can assess what the best method is or should be for the entire organization.


New ERP software brings more functional capabilities, changes in processes and innovation (e.g. Cloud/O365) along. Existing methods are changed in order to work more efficiently, save costs and operate more profitably. Key users should not be afraid to make important decisions regarding the business processes. Within a project, in particular the decision time impacts the total duration of the project.

Fear of the unknown / willingness to change

Key users must be open to change and innovation. Sticking to the current business processes (read: opportunities and limitations of the existing software) and keeping things the way they are at all costs reduces the chance of an actual optimization due to the transition to new ERP software. By considering how things could be done better and by being open to other methods, the key user contributes to a smooth adoption of the new system. But perhaps even more important, it creates more involvement and responsibility during the project but also for the important period thereafter.

Positive attitude / culture

A key user should be energetic and flexible. He/she convinces the other users in a positive and enthusiastic way of the potential added value of the new ERP software.  He can change the resistance of his co-workers in respect to the new system into an opportunity and hereby creates enthusiasm to make the job easier and more enjoyable. By focusing on this as an organization prior to, during and after the project, this open mindset of your employees is further stimulated and their commitment is further increased. This also means that the ERP implementation is an opportunity to start working on a better company culture. And this is an important opportunity, because you will have no successful project and no change without continuous involvement of key users. There remains potential when input from the key user is not being utilized optimally. Free up time for this now, even though they are busy (now)!

Alex Bouwmeester is Project Manager Europe at Dysel and guides the customer from start to finish during the implementation.