David's kittenI recently took a trip home to visit my cat and my family, but mainly my cat. My cat, Ketzel, demonstrates all of the stereotypical cat behaviors: the ability to sleep 27 hours a day, a strange obsession with toilet paper rolls and the uncanny talent to completely disregard your existence. Although cats are not ERP consulting wizards, we can learn a lot from these intelligent and furry friends. The following are four tips to ensure a successful ERP implementation that I’ve learned from my cat:

1. Adapting to change won’t happen overnight. Ketzel recently developed some Arthritis in her elbows, no longer allowing her to make the eight-foot leap off the balcony. Knowing how much she loved making that jump, I built her a ramp allowing her to “cat walk” down a plank and into the back yard. It took some time to train her to use it because she needed to adapt to the new process and needed support throughout the transition for her to fully utilize the new benefits. Sound familiar? Cats are just like humans; we are creatures of habit, and a change in our routine can become more stressful than we would initially believe. Don’t be under the impression that by simply announcing the undertaking of a new ERP implementation the entire organization will be onboard for whatever comes next. It is vital to take advantage of a comprehensive organizational change management (OCM) plan that spans the lifetime of the project, from system selection to post go-live. Without using OCM, your organization could have a hard time adapting to the new software and will not be able to fully realize the business benefits.

2. If you want to ensure success, listen early and listen often. The first few days after the installation of Ketzel’s ramp, I noticed that she wasn’t using it. I watched her in order to understand her pain points. Similarly, an ERP project manager’s job is to understand an organization’s business requirements from the end-user level. They use these processes every day, so they understand the pain points and know how to improve the process. Instead of assuming that you understand each department’s requirements, ask and listen to your end-users so you can fully comprehend what they need to be successful. Focus groups, requirements gathering sessions and one-on-one conversations are all key to a successful implementation.

3. Don’t move too fast and set realistic expectations. No matter how much Ketzel is used to my presence, it is still very easy to scare her. If she’s sitting on my lap and I flinch or move too fast, she’ll freak out and either bite me or run away. How does this relate to an ERP implementation? Just like interacting with cats, organizations should take their time. Don’t make sudden movements, and always set realistic deadlines. Your project doesn’t have to go-live on January 1st. It is much more important to take your time and make sure everyone is prepared. If you rush through the project, end-users are bound to freak out.  While they probably won’t bite you, they can certainly lose momentum and excitement for the project, which is even worse.

4. Take the time to clean out the litter box. Every organization has old processes and lingering culture issues that need to be “cleaned out” to pave way for new ERP software. An ERP implementation isn’t an IT initiative; it is an organizational initiative. You can either keep spraying air freshener and using more cat litter to mask the smell, or you can identify the root cause of the issue. Implementing a new ERP system is a great time to address cultural and process issues that are holding the organization back from reaching its next revenue or performance benchmark. Maybe two employees don’t get along, or maybe your entire organization doesn’t trust executive leadership. My advice to executive and project teams is to not run from the truth and consider everything an opportunity to improve. You can have the perfect project communication plan, but if your employees have a lack of trust in leadership then the organization is going to encounter countless issues during implementation. It’s key to get to the root cause and address cultural and process issues to ensure your ERP  project is successful and not a catastrophic failure.

Learn more about creating an ERP success story by downloading our white paper, Ten Tips for a Successful ERP Implementation

Written by David Ovitsky, Associate Business Analyst for Panorama Consulting Solutions.

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