Epicor University: Do we really need education and training?

Last week (March 15, 2011) Epicor announced the launch of a new university for its customers, partners and employees. Epicor University was created to address the challenge of delivering consistent high-quality training worldwide, and to expand the range of Epicor’s education deliverables. It also offers certification programs for Epicor’s partner channel. With the introduction of the university concept, all content, materials, and training is developed by a dedicated centralized team.
The primary objective is to provide customers with resources and tools to help them realize the greatest benefit from their enterprise software investment while allowing individuals to learn in the way they learn best. Epicor already offers a lot of resources, from embedded courses within their ERP system, to user guides, classroom courses and certifications, to an online help system that gets down to individual fields help and technical reference guides. According to Epicor, there are more than one hundred embedded courses associated with Epicor 9 and over 100 virtual or classroom courses available, 2,500 pages of content and graphics in Epicor technical guides, and 74,000 fields defined in Epicor 9 Field Help.
So why is a University needed? After all, user interfaces have become so much more intuitive and software has become easier to use. Navigation through an enterprise application is no longer cumbersome and confusing. And when was the last time you read the instructions for any kind of software anyway? If you can’t figure it out easily it just doesn’t get used.  
Exactly! That’s one of the reasons that education and training often gets ignored. Sure the user interface is intuitive. Sure it is easy to navigate through the various functions. But these are potentially complex business processes that are being modeled through an ERP. Are those business processes efficient? Are they standardized and repeatable? Do they produce a clean audit trail? Can they be easily audited? Do they put you in a position of competitive strength or hold you back from realizing your full potential? Most importantly, are you getting the most value out of your investment? Why do you think one company fails miserably while another succeeds beyond all expectations while they both use the same software?
Most every software company on the planet is working to enable self-service training and support. That makes sense. Like any other type of company today, most are attempting to grow while also reducing or constraining costs. The software business itself is very scalable. Create one piece of software and sell it dozens or hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of times. But services don’t necessarily scale as easily. Sure, you can make it more scalable by creating user guides and online on demand training courses. But there is a certain element of education and consulting that happens one person, one hour or day at a time. And even the very best software can be underutilized, used incorrectly or used to model inefficient and incomplete processes.
So kudos to Epicor for bringing education and training back into the spotlight. Are you getting the maximum value possible from your ERP?
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