As Panorama has seen again and again, ERP implementations can be enormously disruptive to staff members. Feeling threatened, confused, or even angry, end-users can both consciously and unconsciously undermine the ERP initiative by telling everyone within earshot what a waste of time and money the new software is, creating time-wasting “work arounds,” or flat-out refusing to learn how to best use the new system. Without trying to be too dramatic, internal sabotage is a very dangerous and a very real possibility that every company about to begin – or in the midst of – an ERP project must address.
But don’t get too depressed. The issues mentioned above can be averted in one clear-cut way: communication. That’s right. Communication. The foundation of every well-run company and the bread and butter of your PR team. In this day and age however, dry memos about the project from upper management, large instruction binders slapped on desks and boring speeches about technology simply aren’t going to cut the mustard. Executives need to engage their employees about the ERP project in ways that show they care about their concerns, need their buy-in and feedback to make it work, and are bullish about the results. And they need to do it creatively, consistently and responsively – the same way that they would, hopefully, embark on any public relations campaign.
Following are some brief tips I’ve glommed together from all my years in marketing and PR and all my time listening to Panorama’s incredibly sharp OCM experts talk about their projects:
- Transparency: Be the Jellyfish. When you look at a jellyfish, it’s easy to see all of its inner functions. Because of how its built, a jellyfish has no place to hide any secrets. Strive for the same structure in regards to your ERP implementation. Admit missteps, ask for feedback on how the company is handling itself during the process and what the related employee needs are, and be absolutely 100-percent authentic and honest about everything you share with your employees. They’ll know if you’re not so don’t even try it.
- Take Advantage of New Ways to Communicate. As technology marches on, new ways to express ideas and foster dialogue seem to pop up every day. A posted print-out in the break room or a system-wide voicemail isn’t going to convince anyone of anything. Look into building an ERP initiative-specificintranet for employees to get the latest information and participate in related discussions. Services like yammer.com, which calls itself “the free private social network for your company” can be a great, no-cost way to get the ball rolling. Also consider internal wikis, blogs, videos, e-newsletters, etc….the options for an internal social media strategy are limited only by your time and moxie.
- Foster Key Opinion Leaders. One of the oldest plays in the public relations and advertising handbook is to have “key opinion leaders” act as advocates for your company or product. This is why Michael Jordan wears Hanes and Angelina Jolie visits impoverished refugees. Try the same angle in your company by identifying and engaging those employees who hold a great deal of personal or professional sway over their co-workers. Recruit these staff members to the cause and let them build buy-in among others through their own social skills and personal influence. Remember the lessons learned in high school: the most popular kids can make anything cool (even puka shells and mullets) by dint of their popularity alone. Identify the leaders in your organization and use them to promote your project.
The good news is you don’t have to go at this alone. Panorama offers a dizzying array of organizational change management services related to ERP implementations and our consultants are at the top of their game when it comes to internal PR, marketing and social networking. We can increase your ERP ROI by helping you craft strategies and develop solutions for everything from blueprinting to training to post-implementation usage audits. Find out more on our organizational change management page.