Although it’s natural to want to lend support to an upset friend or family member, your assistance can be even more effective if you take the time to understand the stages of the grieving process (and where that person is in the process) before offering a hand. The same goes for ERP failures – you shouldn’t offer up solutions until you’ve fully grasped not just the problem but the current emotional state of team members.

Yes, psychology can come in handy during ERP implementations. In fact, Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief is applicable to companies that are “grieving” the loss of their investment and suffering the consequences of a botched ERP implementation.

When Panorama conducts a project recovery, we are very careful to observe the emotional state of individuals within an organization since this helps us determine what particular steps need to be taken to put the organization back on track. Following are the Five Stages of Grief as manifested in the aftermath of an ERP failure:

1. Denial – Individuals on the project team may turn a blind eye from the moment an enterprise solution begins to cause operational disruption. Even when the operational disruption is significant enough to constitute an ERP failure, many individuals refuse to accept the facts since they can’t believe that their project management, software selection or organizational change management was subpar. If they acknowledge the disruption at all, they often view it as insignificant and short-term because they think minimizing the problem will contribute to a spirit of optimism within the organization and fuel user acceptance. What they don’t realize is that user-acceptance should never be blind – users should only embrace ERP systems that are functional or on their way to becoming functional.

2. Anger – This is where the blame game begins. An ERP failure can occur as a result of a variety of factors, but dwelling on these missteps only leads to anger and resentment among team members as they struggle to understand the causes of failure. Even if the actual failure points are correctly identified, finger-pointing is useless if the anger detracts from finding a solution. It’s common to see many organizations during this stage start to consider filing suit against their ERP vendors.

3. Bargaining – This stage is where many organizations actually begin the lawsuit process in hopes that the vendor will agree to fix some of the problems (or refund some of their money) before the project hits rock bottom. At this point, organizations may start considering other actions to take in order to postpone an absolute and irreversible failure. Team members understand that the project has failed, but they still see a glimmer of hope that business processes can be reformed and change management activities can be restructured to prevent the problem from getting worse. However, they are almost always looking for the quickest, easiest solution, and unfortunately, this is not always sustainable. If a CIO or project manager fears losing his/her job, then it is common to see this type of bargaining as a crafty way to buy more time and prove competence.

4. Depression – If an organization decided to file suit in the Bargaining stage, then the Depression stage is marked by exhaustion and fatigue as team members realize that – whether or not they were successful in receiving a settlement – they still may have to start from square one by redefining business processes, restructuring organizational change management and addressing all other recovery steps considered during the Bargaining stage. At this point, however, the finality of the ERP failure is more apparent than ever, and team members may be too discouraged to immediately move forward. Any steps that they previously thought would save them from hitting rock bottom are now viewed as basic necessities imposed by the harsh reality of failure. This stage is often a stage of inaction since recovery steps are not marked by the same urgency as before.

5. Acceptance – An independent ERP consultant can step in at any of these stages, but the Acceptance stage is where a consultant can perhaps best help an organization make significant progress toward recovery. Most organizations eventually reach this final stage, with or without a consultant, and hiring one is likely to shorten the first four uncomfortable stages. Once an organization accepts the fact that their ERP project has failed, a project recovery team can begin developing an action plan to tackle improvements both in the short- and long-terms.

Whatever stage you find yourself in after an ERP failure, Panorama can help your project get back on track. Each stage is normal and may even be necessary on the road to recovery, but the quicker we can get you through the “grieving” process, the better. Visit our ERP Project Recovery Page to find out more about how we help distraught organizations bounce back from failure and find hope for the future.

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