5 tips to avoid a clunky ERP change journey

Apr 29, 2021
  • IT

Investing in change management when implementing an ERP system is a key element in planning for success. Change management aims at speeding up full adoption, preparing the organization for its future state and ensuring that new tools will be used to their fullest potential, embedded in new and improved ways of working. That is the case for any IT-driven transformation, but even more so if your organization is introducing a new ERP system.

1. This is not just an IT project

There is no such thing as an easy transition when implementing an ERP system. ERP usually spans multiple business functions and company sites, and impacts a broad range of processes and stakeholder groups. Therefore, you cannot simply measure the project’s success based on the expected benefits that were listed in the business case.

Overlooking the cultural aspect of change management is a common ERP pitfall. Employees won’t automatically adopt new ways of working as they are designed by the project team. Especially in international organizations, different aspects are at play:

  • diverse cultures
  • different levels of process automation
  • different maturity levels

These will all impact the success rate of an ERP implementation. To achieve true business engagement, a clear vision must be defined on what business value S/4HANA will bring and why IT and the business must collaborate shoulder to shoulder.

2. Change management is more than training and communication

Engaging all stakeholders by merely sending out newsletters and having them instructed by key users in the traditional train-the-trainer approach, won’t work.

You can start mapping changes from high impact to low impact once you have listed all impacts on 3 levels:

  • process
  • technology
  • people

Changes with low impact can be covered through straightforward communication and training, but high impact changes will require a much more in-depth approach to achieve the desire of stakeholders to adopt them. You will need to engage leadership at multiple levels to prepare the organization for these high-level impacts. Real business engagement is crucial to ensure business readiness and continuity.

Also, at an organizational level, companies must be aware of the impact of ERP on roles and responsibilities, and on the organization’s entire operating model, as this should dictate the architecture of the ERP solution. The sooner there is clarity on who will own which functions, processes or data, the smoother delivery will go.

3. One-size communication doesn’t fit all

Given the broad range of stakeholder groups that will be impacted, communication should be tailor-made, focusing on the ‘what’s in it for me’ message for each specific stakeholder group. Consider these 3 steps:

  • High-level messaging about the why of the program is important at the kick-off of the project in order to create awareness.
  • But once that is done, communication must respond to the specific needs of each group. If it doesn’t, you will only risk annoying people with your communication. So in reality, it will take considerable efforts to tweak and validate communication assets, and often also a lot of translation work into local languages.
  • This effort needs to be budgeted, but will certainly pay off.
in general, the communication efforts that are required in an ERP journey are much more extensive than in other IT-driven transformations
Barbara De Vos, Change Manager at delaware

4. Choose your change manager wisely

What is change management?

A definition: Change management is basically the application of a set of tools and processes to support the people side of change.

However, a new ERP system also heavily impacts processes and the overall organization structure. Being a change manager in an ERP implementation requires above average understanding of business processes in general and ERP complexity specifically. Without, it will be a challenge to proactively flag risks and help define relevant mitigation actions.

5. Prepare for availability of process owners and other business roles

In any ERP project, process owners will play a crucial role in building and validating the ‘to be’ processes. In many cases, people are invited to take on these roles on top of their business as usual responsibilities. A common pitfall is to underestimate the time required of these crucial resources, potentially increasing the strain on the project timelines.

Also, process owners will be solicited by the change management team to take up their role as an ERP ambassador too. Being the go-to person within their local team may come naturally to some people, but probably not to all. Therefore, it is important to clearly define all aspects of the process owner role beforehand, in order to make realistic estimations of the required time and efforts. This will be even more crucial when business resources must spend time and attention to participate in validation sessions or workshops that don’t directly benefit their team or their future job.

In summary, change management is a crucial success factor for your ERP transformation journey. In hindsight, we have never heard CIOs or transformation officers complain about having invested too much in change management. It is still often underestimated or even overlooked. We are happy to share our thoughts and curious to hear about your personal experience. Also keep an eye out for our next blog in which we will share some tangible lessons learned about the value of change management during cut-over and at go-live.

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