Ensuring a successful ERP implementation has have very little to do with the software itself. While a good ERP system is a prerequisite to a successful digital transformation, the business and organizational issues are the most important aspects to address when deploying ERP systems. Key among those business and organizational issues is user adoption.
User adoption is not nearly as simple as industry consultants typically suggest, and it’s certainly more complex and risky than most customers expect. While most tend to focus on canned training, user adoption is depending on a variety of prerequisites, with user training being just one relatively minor part of the equation. Unfortunately for the misinformed, failing at user adoption will lead to ERP failure, no matter how well the software is implemented in the traditional one-dimensional sense.
So how can you ensure that your ERP implementation is successful from a user adoption perspective? Here are three keys to ensuring user adoption:
1. Clearly define business processes. Some system integrators and VARs suggest that their software or technical consulting teams can define business processes for their customers. Believing this claim is a big reason why so many companies fail in their ERP implementations. Here is the simple fact: ERP software defines transactions, and transactions mean nothing without bigger-picture end-to-end business processes. When most software vendors talk about a business blueprint or system design, they are typically referring to designing transactions in the system. Imagine a giant puzzle; the software vendor provides you with the thousands of pieces of the puzzle (the transactional blueprint), but they do not put it together for you (the true business blueprint). Without this critical activity and deliverable in a project, your employees will not truly understand the new business processes, what is expected of them, or how to fit together all those pieces of the puzzle in a way that makes the business more efficient and effective. A proper business blueprint is something that will take months to complete, especially if you want to consider reengineering your business processes before implementing software.
2. Define clear roles and responsibilities. Once the business processes and supporting workflow transactions are defined, you still need to define employee roles and responsibilities in the new processes and systems. Just because they have been trained to create a work order or demand forecast doesn’t necessarily mean employees understand their roles and place in the overall process. Digital transformations involve significant changes to people’s job roles, so it is important that you facilitate a process and structure for defining, documenting, approving and rolling out those changes. Your HR department, management team, unions and other key stakeholders will need to be involved in this potentially time-consuming process. Again, these are things that your ERP vendor or system integrator is not in a position or qualified to provide.
3. User adoption doesn’t stop at go-live. Most ERP project teams are relieved when they cross the finish line of a go-live. Many months or years have been spent getting the project off the ground, so the last thing anyone wants to do is talk about how to extend the project. However, most user adoption issues are identified after go-live, and most of the benefits realization framework doesn’t kick in until well after go-live. Defining go-live as the project finish line is a common misguided assumption. An effective user adoption and organizational change management framework will ensure your employees are not only prepared to adopt the system at the time of go-live, but also ensure that they continue to improve their individual and team performance in the weeks and months after go-live. This incremental investment in time and money after go-live has returns that exceed the investment multiple times over.
The good news is you can include these three factors in your organizational change management plan. For example, we worked with a manufacturing client that was having user adoption problems with their Epicor Vantage rollout, so we helped them assess how to optimize acceptance and use of the system. Some of the client’s departments had completely abandoned the software and reverted back to their legacy processes, and the implementation was at risk of failing. Without our help, this client was staring down the possibility of having spent significant amounts of time and money in software licenses and technical implementation services that resulted in expensive shelf-ware that fails to deliver business value.
Learn more about our organizational change management services to understand how Panorama can help you ensure that your employees accept and embrace your new ERP system in a way that not only mitigates the risk of failure, but ensures your implementation delivers real business value to your organization. Whether you are implementing SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics or a Tier II ERP system, our methods, tools and framework will help make your project more successful.