A successful ERP implementation takes much more than determination, a good software solution and a team of technical configuration experts. It also takes a disciplined focus on the people side of change. In other words, it requires organizational change management.
The good news is if you know that change management will make or break your ERP implementation, you can proactively do something about it. The bad news is that most executives and project managers don’t really understand what change management entails.
Organizational readiness assessments are an important first step in developing a change management plan. These assessments also are critical inputs into a change strategy. Here are a few things to keep in mind when assessing your organization’s readiness for a new ERP system:
Look below the surface. Most clients we work with insist that their organizations are “ready” for a new ERP system. The legacy systems are broken and people are frustrated so surely they will embrace the change, right? Not so fast. In theory, yes, most employees at companies will say they want a new system. But when you start changing people’s processes, they will almost always resist the change. Therefore, it is important to identify the root causes of resistance to change. Poor internal communication, distrust of management and organizational silos can create more change resistance than you might think. Only by understanding these organizational landmines can you navigate them.
Translate lessons from the assessment into an actionable plan. The organizational readiness assessment should provide a host of quantitative and qualitative data to point you in the right direction with your organizational change management strategy. For example, if you find that people perceive internal communications from management to be lacking, then emphasizing communication from management during the ERP implementation will be appreciated. Some change strategies will have an immediate impact on the root causes of resistance, while others will be a continual work in progress. For example, we recently worked with a client that had a culture of individual performance and recognition, whereas the ERP implementation was enabling a more collaborative process and culture. We weren’t able to change that culture overnight, but we were able to begin moving the needle to generate momentum into the future.
Repeat the process throughout implementation. Organizational readiness assessments are not a “one and done” proposition. The first one should serve as the foundation for your overall change strategy, while subsequent iterations are intended to measure how the needle has moved and to identify potential tweaks to your change strategy. For example, we recently worked with a mid-size manufacturing client that found through these assessments that employees were becoming increasingly distrustful of management as the project progressed, largely because the magnitude of the changes were so great. We were able to pivot by having more of the communications be delivered by middle management rather than the executive project sponsor. Your change assessment iterations should culminate in a go/no-go assessment, where your main focus is ensuring that employees are ready to handle the challenges.
This is by no means a complete view of what needs to occur in an effective organizational change management plan, but it should provide some good tips on how to get started. Organizational change assessments barely scratch the surface of what needs to occur from a change perspective, but they will at least get you headed in the right direction.