Tips for creating work instructions for ERP software

An ERP implementation requires a lot from key users. Competences such as flexibility, thinking constructively, acting in the interest of the entire organization, a positive attitude and the willingness to implement changes are asked, if not demanded, from the key user. But the key user also needs to perform tasks that are of great importance during the implementation, but tasks that are also completely new to him/her. Think for example about thoroughly testing the software and creating work instructions. In this blog I focus on the work instructions, next time I will discuss testing the software.

Why work instructions when you have manuals?

Almost every ERP system comes with manuals. And they provide a lot of information. Sometimes the manuals are PDF files, sometimes these are online tutorials that are available in the application itself. And nowadays there are even plenty of videos on YouTube that will explain and demonstrate accurately how things work. I remember from when I was a consultant at the company Baan,  that each module (!) was accompanied with a manual of a several hundred pages in which the purpose of every single field was explained.

A manual like that is ideal to properly understand a particular piece of functionality. But during the implementation you will agree on how this functionality will be used specifically within your organization. Then these manuals are no longer useful; they are too generic and do not include, of course, the 'rules' that apply to your organization. You will therefore need to create work instructions and those work instructions need to be tailored to your organization and describe how your organization deals with this functionality.

What should a work instruction look like?

Although many key users dread making work instructions, it is not as complicated as it seems. Here are a few tips to get you started:

-   Divide a process into different activities (per function or per department) and write one instruction per activity. This way you prevent getting a 28 pages long instruction.
-   Briefly describe per instruction the purpose or goal.
-   Mention per instruction what the previous and the next instruction are.
-   Describe what information must be registered. For anything you do not describe there is by definition no need to register it.
-   Ask one of your colleague key users who is not familiar with the process to test the instruction.
-   Be careful with screenshots. In new releases of the software the screens and layouts may have changed forcing you to change your work instructions as well.

Whom do I make the work instructions for?

Just before going live you, as a key user, will train the end users. You will need to provide your colleagues something that will help them knowing what to do when they go live with the ERP system. Over time, most colleagues will be able to perform their everyday tasks without using the work instructions. But new colleagues will join the company and they should also be informed about the rules regarding the software usage. Because these rules are the basis for achieving optimal results with the ERP system.

Peter Gerhardt is Senior Lead Consultant Logistics at Dysel and helps customers achieve maximum results with business software.