Change management for ERP implementation: a case study

In our experience, technology-related change management is only successful with an understanding that the process is much more than just swapping out legacy software or tweaking a few IT solutions.

For lasting change, the emphasis must be on people and processes. Success follows from a structured, purposeful approach aimed to help transition people, teams, and organizations from their current state to the desired future state.

ERP change management in action

As an example, we recently teamed with a $100 million global medical testing equipment manufacturer that was looking to restart a failed ERP selection and implementation project. The company was grappling with this failed project for more than eight years - one of the lengthiest “failures” we’ve seen!

Get more change management advice with this 11-step guide to ERP implementation success

The original software selection was performed without an agreed to future state which was a key misstep. Also lacking was consistent direction to the project team about the goals of the project – was it to simply duplicate existing processes or drive best practices to a desired “future state?”

Multiple factors combined to slow down and eventually halt the ERP project, including lack of coordinated team activities which resulted in siloed decision making. Project staffing was also a contributing issue. The core project team did not have the proper allocation of time or resources to work effectively.

In search of change management 'easy wins'

After hundreds of projects we’ve experienced, the bottom line is that change management is not just a phase. Instead, change management must be woven into the fabric of methodology, and built into project plan and team culture throughout every phase of a technology project. It’s key to be continuously aware of change promoters, adopters, influencers, and resistors as they transition from current to the future state.

That said, one of the best and most effective strategies is to take the time to establish a project charter. A project charter is the ERP team’s concise statement of core goals, objectives and intent. A charter serves as the “map” for everything that comes next.

The charter outlines the compelling business case for change, and answers the question: “We are doing this project because of….” Everyone must be aligned and intimately familiar with the business case and the vision of the project.  Unfortunately, this fundamental and foundational step is often missed.  

Change management pitfalls

An ERP selection and implementation project usually involves some shifting of roles or reallocation of work. Some users will find they have more to do under the new ERP system. Others will find their responsibilities decreased. Both of those situations can be unsettling to staff.  

 A potential pitfall is when leadership misdirects the project emphasis on technology, such as infrastructure, data, features/functions and other technological considerations, without considering the full scope of change – people, process and technology...

To overcome this blind spot, it’s imperative to consistently communicate the “Why” of the project with ongoing education to build the foundation to help manage change.     

Take the needed time to establish the project team, the resources, the process and organizational commitment to ensure that staff can function as 'change agents' within the company as opposed to those that block or resist. change

Change management warning signs

Turning to the example of the $100 million global medical testing equipment manufacturer, the early warning sign was a lack of a Future State vision.

All the key stakeholders involved in the failed project, which limped along for eight years, never achieved consistent alignment as to the vision, goals, or the desired Future State vision which should have define future business processes, a future system context, and a long-range transformation plan.

What’s the secret?

To emphasize the point made here, implementing or upgrading an ERP system is a good opportunity for an organization to create lasting business change within an organization. That’s why ERP and change management is so important.

In the work we’ve done with hundreds of manufacturers and distributors, we see ERP change management as more than simply selecting and implementing an ERP system.

We do not view change management as a phase. Instead, change management must be woven into the fabric of a project, and built into the project plan and team culture throughout every phase.

We are continuously aware of change promoters, adopters, influencers, and resistors as they transition from current to the future state. The secret – if there is one- is to put into place methods to engage, educate and involve all stakeholders.

Further insights into real-world examples of successful change management and enterprise technology transformation can be found at Ultra Consultants.



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Richard Sides

About the author…

Richard Sides is Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Ultra Consultants, an independent research and enterprise selection consultants firm serving the manufacturing and distribution industries.

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Richard Sides

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