The ERP challenge: attracting C-level users
We’ve always had a dream that CEOs, CFOs and other C-level executives would use our ERP systems day in and day out. As they are the ones who made the decision to invest in ERP, it seems natural that they would become active users. This is particularly true in mid-market companies where executives are really ‘hands on’, tactically driving their operations.
Unfortunately, we all know that this dream is still not reality and that very few top executives are using ERP systems. Is it because they think it’s not relevant to them? No, my feeling is that an ERP system is simply too complex to use when you don’t work with it eight hours a day. Would CEOs like their ERP system to be easier to use and easier to access? I think the answer is a definite "yes" and for at least three very good reasons.
Leading by example
In recent years, studies have shown that ERP systems are not well employed, with less than 40% of the implemented functionalities actually used. "Too complex to use" and "no compelling reasons to use" are the usual excuses. Only a limited number of heavy users know how to use and exploit the systems properly. So guess what, since the guys at the top don’t use the system, there is no incentive for the rest of the team to make the effort! Is it possible to achieve a return on your investment if only a fraction of the investment is actually used? In ERP, as in many other areas, the example must come from the top. When well utilized, an ERP system collects tons of data and becomes a reflection of the life of the business. Getting access to and exploiting this data is critical. Today in most cases, CEOs drive blind, while access to all available information would equip them with mirrors and additional analytic capabilities would shine some light on the way to go. The world moves too fast today for executives to drive a business without proper real time information.
Decision-making on the move
We all know that time is precious for C-level executives – there are never enough hours in the day. And that’s why they need to ensure every minute of their day is productive and efficient. This is where I think mobile ERP can really be beneficial. If mobile functionality can allow execs access to information easily and quickly, wherever and whenever they have that spare two minutes, then they will become active users! The ability to get a high-level snapshot of real-time information that can be digested quickly so they can make educated decisions is vital to increase the use of ERP by top management.
Being a ‘part of the game’
Lastly, I would highlight the fact that our world has become more and more social. Collaboration is now a real gauge of performance! ERP systems are equipped with workflows and collaboration tools and these capabilities will only increase in the future. I can’t imagine a social network in a mid-market company without the active participation of C-level execs. They must be a part of the game or else they risk being left on the sidelines. They need to be contributors as much as (or more than) any other employee, as this is where their legitimacy will come from – rather than from their hierarchical position.
ERP has to become simple enough to encourage the C-level to join and contribute. This shift will come via mobile functionality (they love using tablets!) and analytics to enable them to access all the decision-making information that’s available. When this happens, we’ll be able to say that ERP systems have reached maturity.