Founded in 1997, AREP is a subsidiary of the French national rail operator SNCF. This multidisciplinary construction and urban-planning consultancy employs nearly 900 members of staff and combines skills in architecture, engineering, urban planning and design. Damien Saillant, Tools and Methods Manager from the company’s Finance Department, looks back at the support his company received when it rolled out a new ERP solution.
Hello Damien Saillant. When did you start using Akuiteo ERP software at AREP?
In 2010. And now everyone uses Akuiteo. We use it in different ways:
- most staff use it to log their time
- the project managers monitor business
- and a few users manage data output.
So, we just have one tool, one solution, but people use it in very different ways.
Who manages your ERP project in-house?
I lead the project, but we rely on the finance team to help key users get up to speed with the software.
- Rolling out an ERP software—are you wasting too much time on specifications?
- How to convince your board that your company needs an ERP software?
How can you ensure a seamless ERP rollout?
Staff don’t necessarily have the same needs, so there’s no point in talking to all of them about the same things. Some will spend the whole day using the tool while others will only use it now and then. So, the first problem a company faces when rolling out a new ERP software is how to target teams. You have to contextualise how you use the software by engaging users and making it relevant to their working lives (client context, business context, etc.).
Some members of staff will have no choice but to use the software because it’s key to their jobs. Others will be part of a less captive audience and they’ll need a lot of communication and support. Although, in my opinion, we didn’t engage with these users enough during our 2010 rollout, we now make sure that we share the ERP developments, changes to functional blocks, new tools, etc.
What communication-related support do you rely on for your ERP software?
We prioritise in-house ERP staff training and support—and not just for communication. For example, we issue “getting started” booklets in which we include as many different scenarios as possible so that users are prepared for anything. We also run short, effective, educational training sessions.
But again, this support is specific to the users and their needs. For example, we’re going to add all expense reports to Akuiteo in September and we’re not worried about staff getting to grips with this new feature because they’ll inevitably have to use it every day.
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But when it comes to completing monthly logs, it’s another matter altogether. We are trying to simplify the process as much as possible so staff don’t feel that this task is a chore. We have to show them that the tool doesn’t just fulfil their functional needs; it’s also more user-friendly and intuitive, it cuts paper use and it saves them from carrying out repetitive, menial tasks. Their first impressions are always good and that really matters to us.
Fear of change is a reality. How can you get over it?
Launching new ERP software or a new process is never straightforward. Staff members often have their doubts about a new tool. You could hear common complaints: “Another piece of software that’ll make me lose time and stop me doing work for my clients”. We have to remove these barriers by communicating the benefits and advantages that an ERP solution provides. To stop time logging being such a drag, everyone has to understand why we do it. There should be no Chinese walls!
Last, to ensure a seamless rollout, you have to adopt an approach that includes ongoing support, change management and understanding different usage contexts. That means keeping up with staff and their everyday experiences at work so that you can change the way the features of your ERP solution look.
Many thanks to Damien Saillant for answering our questions!