The case for having documentation
At Visual South, we always recommend that our customers have solid business process documentation templates. Companies often have written procedures for quality control, human resources, safety, and the like, but not always for enterprise resource planning. Not having processes documented for your ERP software creates risk that can have disruptive effects and negatively impact the bottom line.
An ERP system is the backbone of any manufacturing company. It is the engine that supports the business processes a company uses to make and deliver products to customers. When companies implement an ERP system, they are effectively rewriting their business processes and procedures to align with that ERP toolset. Once these processes are defined, tested, and validated, end users are trained on how to execute these processes with the software.
If there’s no business process documentation, then the knowledge of how a company operates exists only between the ears of the employees. Employees leave companies all the time; and when they leave, the knowledge walks out the door with them, leaving a gap inside the company. When someone is hired to replace an employee, there’s no training materials to show that person how to do their job using the ERP. The new hire is “trained” by someone who knows a little about the job function, but typically left to figure things out on their own, and the erosion of knowledge is fully underway. If key employees from many different departments leave a company, it’s easy to lose core knowledge concerning how the company uses the ERP, and operates overall, in a short period of time. The new hires inevitably resort to creating spreadsheets, workarounds, and manual processes because they do not know how the ERP works, and it recreates all of the inefficiency the company set out to eliminate by purchasing an ERP in the first place!
Where to start
The most important thing is TO start creating business process documentation templates for your ERP. Make a decision that you are going to capture the intellectual property in your company and protect that asset. Categorize your ERP process templates by functional area, such as customer service, supply chain planning, finance, etc. Then, within each of these groups, break down the processes by work flow (like quoting, order entry, and shipping (in the case of customer service)). Within each of these templates, document what the process is, and the step-by-step instructions of how to execute the function in the ERP software. These documents should be able to be handed to someone in front of the software, and they should be able to follow it and learn how transactions are executed.
A very large task
Make no mistake, this is a big project. It can be time consuming, but having business process documentation in place is definitely worth it. Creating and maintaining the documentation using something like Microsoft Word can be difficult because of issues with formatting, adding screenshots, etc. There are tools out there (we at Visual South represent one) that make this task a lot easier and more efficient. With these tools, you simply execute the transaction in the ERP and it automatically creates the process documentation, as well as recorded training content for employees and new hires. It’s a huge time saver and worth the investment.
Many of companies do not realize the importance of writing and recording how to correctly execute processes in your ERP system. Business process review documentation is valuable intellectual property and if you don’t capture it, your company is at risk.