Some would argue that change management strategies and tactics are synonymous across the public and private sector. While the overreaching principles are the same, each organization must take into account things like culture, unions, employee mindset and the abilities of leadership to drive changes. With ERP implementations we often find that resistance to change is often driven by fear of the unknown. This translates to the need for clear and understandable communications around goals, impacts, timetables and overall implementation details.
In the public sector, these shared issues with the private sector can be exacerbated by budget constraints, rules and regulations, employee morale, accountabilities and, in some cases, lack of motivation. Leaders must take the extra steps to include a comprehensive change management plan in their ERP implementation. In many cases, this starts with comprehensive training of the leadership team. Following are five key steps to address potential challenges:
- Clearly Define Implementation Goals and Objectives. Spend the time explaining how the ERP implementation fits with mission of the public sector entity. At Panorama, we start with the concept of return on citizenship (ROC). Similar to what the private sector calls return on investment, ROC is the bedrock of the any public sector entity that spends taxpayer dollars to provide a service to their constituents. An ERP implementation is a way to enhance and improve that service. While it sounds obvious, ROC is often overlooked.
- Provide Comprehensive Training for Leadership. Comprehensive ERP implementations are not common in the private sector, much less in the public sector. Therefore it is important to take the time to train and inform leadership and project team about the purpose of the ERP implementation, their roles and responsibilities and what to expect throughout the implementation.
- Include Organizational Change Management. We know from our own research that companies with effective change management and communications plans are 3.5 times more likely to outperform industry peers. In the public sector, this number is even higher. A change management plan includes taking the time to establish organizational readiness, conduct business process mapping, prepare workforce transition and training strategy documents, conduct change agent training, and prepare a change impact analysis. In addition, a communications plan needs to be prepared that includes strategies, tactics, target audiences, key messages, timing and activities.
- Acknowledge the “Elephant in the Room.” An ERP implementation will change the way employees perform their jobs. There will be resistance not only from the expected areas but also from unexpected and maybe even unknown areas. Be honest about this fact and address the naysayers by having a plan in place. There will plenty of unexpected bumps along the way so be wary of passive aggressive personalities, especially among key influencers within work groups.
- Embrace and Address Unions. Make unions a partner in the process and engage them from the onset of the ERP implementation to ensure they have a clear understanding of goals and impacts. If there will be staffing implications, resolve them before you go-live. Partnering with unions will pay huge dividends in the success of your ERP implementation. Ignore them at your own peril.
There are many more considerations regarding change management in the public sector but these five are the critical first steps to ensure success. At Panorama Government Solutions, we have a comprehensive and proven change management methodology that can be tailored to the unique needs of each engagement.