More than ever before, high performing government agencies are resembling well-run corporate organizations. They both set defined goals, are both process-oriented and they choose effective leaders.  However, one of the biggest mistakes that any company or government agency makes is underestimating the need of change management during an ERP implementation. Any organization that perceives it as an avoidable piece that can be cut at any time is set for an unsuccessful ERP implementation.

While both sectors are dealing with people, the main difference between the public and the private sector in regards to organizational change management is their employee’s motivation for changing. Public sector organizations have their roots in social objectives and they are created to promote a particular aspect of the public’s welfare. Maximizing shareholder’s investment is not a concern for government staffs, taxpayers pay for an effective and efficient execution of their mission–this is what motivates agency workers. The reception to change and acceptance process in the government environment also differs substantially from commercial enterprises. Public careers are considered safe; longevity in the system gives seniority, creating employees who feel protected from internal pressure and have no obvious needs to respond to process and organizational change since there is no financial measurement of success with direct implications for them.

An ERP implementation is quite a complex project, and assuring buy-in across all the levels of the organization is vital for success. This is especially challenging for many government agencies that have had long time employees. Agencies’ leaders come and go and often technology and process improvement initiatives have no impact over time. However, longevity can also be helpful for change management. Long-time employees know a lot about how the organization runs and where it falters. By taking advantage of their operational knowledge, agencies’ leaders may not only obtain the intellectual foundation for the change, but also help gain the employee support needed for it to succeed.

Within the organizational change management strategy, a well-designed Communication Plan must be in place. The agency team should not only understand where the overall project stands, but they need to know exactly how their individual jobs are going to change due to the new system and processes. The plan should include a strategic external communication to the citizens, informing the constituents about anticipated benefits. By doing so, the agency creates accountability and the public perception may improve in regards to its accomplishments.

Finally, the organizational change strategy must be customized to fit the agency’s culture. Not all government organizations are the same and every agency may have a particular set of needs. Conducting an early risk and readiness assessment prior an ERP implementation determines the most appropriate strategy.  It will also identify the root causes of resistance within the organization so organizational efforts can be better targeted.

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