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Enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations are very disruptive to organizations and the people who work there. In fact, the number one reason for ERP failure is a lack of comprehensive change management planning and execution. Employees will make or break the project. If they do not embrace the changes that come with an ERP implementation, this can bring a company to its knees, wondering how it all went wrong –after a hefty investment in capital and up to two years of lost time.

Smart companies invest in their employees by taking the time to understand their wants, needs, hopes and fears related to the new ERP system. In every engagement I have encountered, there are people who will embrace change, those who are tentative about change and those who refuse to change.

Employees react one of three ways to an ERP implementation: “Followers” will embrace change, “tentative followers” allow the change and “opt outs” refuse to make necessary changes. Some make it very clear that they have no intention of changing the way they do their job and threaten to quit or retire to avoid change altogether. Some are vocal and try to engage others in their cause. Others are passive-aggressive in their approach, giving the impression of cooperation while sneakily undermining the project and the changes.

A change management leader should take the time to identify the “followers” and the systemic drivers behind change resistance. All too often, project leaders are – or think they are – too busy to identify those drivers and they never understand and treat the root causes in order to address the issues before they affect the ERP implementation itself.

Panorama’s PERFECT Change™ Organizational Change Management Methodology provides the tools necessary to help our clients navigate the challenges of change and help solve the systemic issues that create barriers to change. I have found that in most cases, the root cause to change resistance is employees not understanding the vision or the purpose of organizational change. They do not understand how the ERP project fits into the overreaching goals and objectives of the company.

If there is a corporate culture of continuous improvement and clear values, the change process is much easier. By making the change matter to the individual – “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) – they can link the vision to the organization’s goals to help them see the bigger picture. This is a leadership opportunity that is omitted more often than you would ever imagine.

Another highly effective tool is to identify and train change agents. Ideally, these are team members who aren’t the core team or part of leadership. They can be managers or line employees who see the bigger picture and are respected among their fellow team members. Change agents become the bridge between the project team and the key stakeholders (end-users) to solicit and encourage ongoing updates about the project, solicit questions, provide answers and be a confidant for those most impacted by the changes.

In reality, no matter what you do, some people will refuse to change. Those unwilling to change will hold the project back and inhibit the organization from realizing all of the intended benefits of the new ERP system It’s never too late to change and it’s never too late for project teams to plan accordingly. By not cutting corners and investing in your employees’ best interests, you will have a much better chance of ERP success. At Panorama, we differentiate ourselves with a comprehensive set of strategic change management tools to help our clients navigate the process while giving teams the ownership and confidence they need to lead change throughout and ERP implementation.

Written by Rick Platz, Senior Manager, Manager of Organizational Change at Panorama Consulting Solutions