When implementing ERP software in multiple countries, corporate executives face the issue of managing organizational change in an international environment. For any large change initiative, organizational change management is a challenging and difficult issue to address; however, with the addition of additional variables such as differing cultures, values, and languages in the international arena, the difficulty increases substantially. When introducing organizational changes at an international level, there are several factors to consider:
Language Barriers. While most managerial types in countries outside the US speak English of some sort, not all front-line employees speak English or speak it well. Therefore, getting key messages across regarding organizational or process changes is a delicate and complex issue. It often involves translating messages into their native languages and reiterating the same message via different channels depending on the culture of the audience (e.g. email, phone conferences, meetings, etc.) .
Culture and Values. Not all people in the world value or are motivated by the same things as Americans. Many western European countries value history, tradition, and work-life balance, while many developing Asian countries value hard work, entrepreneurship, and teamwork. Managing change in these very different environments requires differing approaches and messages.
Propensity for Change. More established and developed countries have business operations that have worked well for a long time, while many developing countries have less mature operational models. Therefore, it is often common to see more resistance to change in developed countries versus those that are still emerging. For example, a small company in India that is struggling to keep up with new demand with a very limited staff and manual processes may be more welcoming of an operational improvement than a large office in the UK that has refined its operational model and implemented automated processes over a long period of time. On the other hand, the small office in India may have less available employee resources to assist with a change effort.
Consideration of Local Requirements. Global changes that are pushed to the local level by corporate headquarters often do not adequately consider local needs and requirements. Each country has its own regulatory, resource, and employee constraints, so it is important to plan accordingly when implementing the changes. Obviously, completely localizing a global initiative defeats the purpose of having a single global change, but no solution is going to work for 100% of the world, no matter how well-designed it may be.
Varying Degrees of Understanding of Best Practices. Employees in different countries have different levels of understanding of business and technical best practices and methodologies, which may affect the amount of change management required to “sell” the ideas to affected employees. For example, employees in eastern Europe may be less likely than Americans to understand the value and benefits of Six Sigma or business process management methodologies, which increases change management effort.
Buy-in Is Important. This is true for domestic ERP projects, but it is even more true for global initiatives. Involving affected employees across the globe early in the process will help identify and address some of the issues mentioned above. It also helps overcome potential pockets of resistance by ensuring that employees across the globe are involved in the decision-making and planning surrounding the particular change.
By incorporating the above aspects into your overall ERP project plan and organizational change management plan, executives are much more likely to ensure that their respective change initiatives are embraced across the globe. This ultimately leads to increased business performance and ROI on a global scale for your ERP project.