Disaster PhotoWith the anticipation of a complex project like an ERP implementation, it is vital to both understand and plan for the stages of stress that your organization and its employees will undergo. The three stages of ERP stress are not very different from the stages of stress in other areas of our lives. During a stressful experience, the human body will typically respond in three unique stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. Public sector organizations undergoing an ERP implementation follow a similar pattern:

1.   Alarm Stage. This is our first response to a stressor. It is the stage in which our “fight-or-flight” instincts kick in because we have encountered a stressful situation and our body is reacting in defense. This isn’t any different from an organization’s typical reaction to an ERP implementation. In order to adhere to an unrealistic budget and timeline, government entities often will appoint a project manager with little to no technical or project management experience. An underqualified project manager may struggle to manage the project scope, budget and timeline, all of which are crucial to ERP success.

Project managers who have little experience in ERP selection will begin the project with a common RFP process. However, the RFP process commonly used for IT initiatives is insufficient. An ERP system is a significant investment and should be carefully selected to meet your organization’s unique requirements. The common RFP process will overlook many of these requirements, and vendors can appear more fitting than they truly are. Typically, the lowest bidder of the RFP will win the contract, only to have the organization unveil all the discrepancies between system functionality and its requirements. This is a major driver of over-budget ERP implementations and a major driver of stress.

2.   Resistance Stage. In the resistance stage, the human body will respond to the stressor with maximum resistance. Similarly, ERP implementations commonly meet a high level of resistance from end-users. Public sector ERP implementations tend to be very “top-heavy” projects, meaning most decisions and motivations for the project are driven by upper management. When the C-suite fails to communicate with end-users, end-users will not feel invested and engaged in the project but frustrated and resentful. What most organizations don’t understand is that an ERP implementation is not solely an IT project – it is, most importantly, an organizational change project. Employee resistance can be mitigated through effective organizational change management, allowing organizations to achieve a higher level of employee buy-in and a lower level of resistance.

3.   Exhaustion Stage. After a period of resistance, the human body is likely to enter the exhaustion stage. In this stage, we become weak and tired, with limited ability for normal functioning. This stage is highly relatable to the exhaustion experienced during an ERP implementation. In the public sector, employees are at full capacity with their day-to-day responsibilities, and their potential involvement with such a large project is limited. Without the engagement and dedication of subject matter experts (SMEs) in your organization, important ERP project tasks are likely to be delayed or overlooked. By conducting a project feasibility analysis, organizations can adequately plan for resource constraints and reduce employee exhaustion.

Although ERP implementations may be stressful, organizations can choose whether or not to leverage ERP consultants to navigate the stages of ERP stress. Panorama’s ERP consultants understand how to partner with your internal project manager to assist in not only the RFP process, but also the management of your project’s scope, budget and timeline. Your organization does not have to battle stress on its own.

Learn more about finding new ways to be achieve public sector ERP success by downloading our white paper, The Need for Public Sector Innovation: Facing the Challenges Posed by Public Sector IT Initiatives.

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