Implementing a new ERP requires careful planning and execution. You know what the benefits are, but you also know you will face resistance from some colleagues – and potentially senior management – along the way. This is where a solid change management plan comes in – and it begins much sooner than you thought.
Let’s look at the steps you need to take for effective ERP change management.
Who will the new ERP system affect?
An ERP system is a high-tech solution but without the people using it, it is meaningless. Identify who will be affected by your new ERP implementation. Up until now, you have probably thought more about how the change will impact the business than the individuals within it.
Even if you have drilled down to user-level, there will likely be non-users that will be affected by the changes. As the benefits of your new ERP begin to streamline business operations, inventory management, supply chain management, your sales cycles, financial reporting and more, you will see knock on effects for a much broader group than you had first imagined.
In addition to identifying the colleagues that will be affected, you need to select a project management team. Here are the core technical roles and responsibilities:
● Project Manager –leads the project management team
● Analyst –manages data migration and cleansing
● Developer –handles system customization
● Test Engineer –manages system testing and QA
In addition to the core team, you need representatives to act as super users, trainers and ERP champions. More about their roles further on.
Introducing the change
Now you have identified who will be affected by the new system, it’s time to tell them the what, why and when. The initial communication is best coming from the very top and yes, that probably means the CEO needs to do it. A company-wide meeting with a short Q&A session is a good place to start.
● Explain the benefits of the ERP system (e.g. healthier bottom line, assistance with compliance to industry regs), efficient workflows, faster shipping times)
● Define the ERP implementation timelines – what will happen and when
● Reassure users that they will be trained and supported
● Make it clear that the change is necessary and that everyone needs to get behind it
The initial communication is critical. Make sure you can deliver the promises you make to employees and be ready to handle questions.
3. Set expectations
You might be jumping for joy now that you have the go-ahead for ERP software rollout, but not everyone embraces change. It is highly likely that you will meet resistance along the way. Leadership has committed to support and training, but employees have a responsibility for making the implementation successful too. Make it clear what you expect of everyone early on.
4. Ongoing communication
Repeat key messages at least five times and remember to reiterate what’s in it for the business and the individual. One way to keep the entire team motivated is to share the successes of the change as they unfold.
You also need to create opportunities for two-way communication. Broadcasting is a good start but you won’t be able to deal with resistors and teething problems if you never hear about them. Here are some of the channels that you can use for successful ongoing communication.
● Stakeholder meetings
● Internal email newsletters
● Lunch and learns
● Intranet FAQs & forums
Communication shouldn’t stop once the implementation is complete. Make sure that users are kept informed of system updates and also on the performance improvements that the ERP is delivering. If you feel like you are communicating too much, then you are probably just about hitting the mark.
Training users is instrumental in change management success. Train each user according to their function in the stakeholder category and their individual needs. Set tasks, tests, and achievable milestones, and be sure to offer plenty of support to make their training relevant and rewarding.
● Utilise all vendor training resources
● Create job-specific training scenarios for each job function (e.g. inputting a customer order for sales, tax deductions for payroll, supply chain analytics for operational management)
● Set achievable milestones
● Choose a type of training that suits your workforce. Shop floor staff with limited computer access? Online e-learning might not be the best option.
● Consider webinars for remote workers and satellite offices
● Make use of departmental Super Users for one-to-one training
● Keep an up-to-date Knowledge Management System
Just as communication doesn’t have a magic cut-off date, neither does training. Be ready for people to change roles, for new employees to join and for business or systems changes.
The success of your ERP implementation is intrinsically tied to the success of your change management process. Get it wrong and your whole project can fail, get it right and you might even beat your ROI targets. With careful planning and ongoing commitment, your new ERP will be able to deliver on its promises.
Helen Peatfield is a writer for ERP Focus. She is also an editor and marketing consultant with a wealth of experience in ad tech, supply chain management and SaaS. When she is not typing away at her desk, she can be found scuba diving or wakeboarding in the sunny Gulf of Thailand.