ERP and Change Management: a Question of Faith?

In matters of faith, it is a close call between which requires more: your belief in a deity of choice as part of your spiritual health, or your belief in change management as part of your ERP project’s health. It is largely a matter of faith because it is difficult to objectively observe or measure change readiness. Still, a wise and consistent investment in change management will be one of your most important contributions to defining the success of your ERP project.

Most of us, in our business careers, have managed change similarly to the way we have been managed: simply making speedy adoption of a new initiative a condition of employment. However, ERP is so large, and touches so many people, that this approach is not numerically feasible; you couldn’t realistically fire that many people and keep the organization operating. The only logical alternative is to manage them in such a way that, even if they are not positive about ERP, they are at least accepting of the change, and understand its business reasons.

So...Exactly What is Change Management?

What exactly is this process, meant to ensure that the host does not reject the organ? We hear the phrase “change management” and it sounds pretty intuitive, until we try to write down the five action steps we are going to take in order to successfully prepare people for the change. That’s when we realize we don’t really have a clue about what change management is or how to accomplish it. The good news – and most critical thing to remember – is that the way people come to believe things and form opinions is both consistent and predictable. By managing to those predictabilities in terms of timing and content, the normal discomfort associated with change on the scale of an ERP project can be reduced to manageable levels.

Don't Miss this Paper: 11 Steps to ERP Success

If it is your first time attempting to proactively manage change, you should probably invest in a training course, or hire a consultant, just to reinforce that you have valid, effective process. The key steps on your journey to change are (1) Identify everyone who will be affected by the change (this is a bigger group than you will initially think) (2) Communicate to this group what change will be coming (3) Establish the compelling business reasons that make ERP necessary to support your strategic advantage (4) Explain how they must behave in order for the project to succeed and (5) Give frequent project updates, always reiterating steps two through four. If it ever feels to you like you are over communicating, or that your audience could give your presentation because they’ve heard it so many times, you are exactly where you want to be.

There is no question that on one level, ERP is a technical project, requiring intelligent design, seamless logic, and sophisticated math. But no matter how robust the solution, ERP will only be successful if people embrace it and use it as designed. That behavior will not occur without change management effort.

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Tom Stephenson

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Tom Stephenson