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ERP implementation: how to put together a change management plan

Change in business is as inevitable as change in any aspect of life and in order to progress and improve, agility and adaptability are key. As with all change management challenges, solid planning with clear objectives forms the bedrock, but getting buy-in, promoting the adoption of a new system and giving ongoing support and guidance to users is instrumental in making sure that any new process or tool delivers an ROI and remains sustainable.

Decide how to communicate your change

In the words of Woodrow Wilson, ‘if you want to make enemies, try to change something’.

You have already recognized the need for ERP implementation and the decision has been made to proceed. However, just because you understand the need, the solution and the benefits, doesn’t mean that anyone else does. Decide on how best to communicate your pending ERP implementation company-wide to make sure everyone understand the objective, the importance of the project succeeding and the benefits to the business. Set out the timelines, reassure staff that they will be adequately supported and that everyone will win as a result of the change. Change can either be terrifying or exciting, by communicating early and clearly, you can make sure it is perceived by all as the latter.

Any change can be met with resistance, especially if it might mean changes to the day-to-day habits of employees. Some may even feel that the new ERP poses some threats or risks to their current role and individual value. Any talk about streamlining processes, improving efficiencies or cost-cutting can have some people feeling uncomfortable or threatened. Allaying those fears from the outset is crucial.

For others, their resistance may stem from previous change management failures. In his book Leading Change, John Kotter estimated that change management failing in 70% of cases so any employees who have lived through a change management failure in the past, might take a sceptical view of the next project.

Don’t limit the communication to a one-way broadcast. A presentation followed by a Q&A is a good start, but including smaller workshops and the opportunity to find more information on your company intranet and to pose questions in an informal setting will give you a more truthful insight into how the changes are being perceived as well as giving employees the change to digest, consider and accept the changes to come.

Step 2: Identify your Stakeholders

While all of your employees need to be informed about your ERP implementation, some will need more involvement, more training and even to give more input and feedback than others. Identifying and categorizing the stakeholders will help inform your training and support efforts. The more an individual is affected by the changes, the more attention they require.

By identifying which employees fall into which categories, you can make sure that the level of training, communication and support is allocated as effectively and efficiently as possible while maintaining motivation for ERP use and compliance.

  • Leadership – This could include C-Level colleagues, your ERP consultant and possibly a change management consultant or an internally appointed project manager.
  • Key Users – Managers with in-depth knowledge of how their own department operates. They may have authority to grant actions that other users cannot These users can be motivated by you ensuring that their ERP compliance is bearing fruit for their department.
  • Power Users – Users with advanced knowledge of the ERP system who can monitor the day-to-day use of end users
  • End Users – Standard users with lower authority levels and access

There will also be differences in exactly how staff in different departments interface with your ERP. Your ERP will have multiple touch points including finance, CRM, sales, procurement, distribution and HR. End users in each of these departments will need bespoke communication, training and support that is specific to their role. For example, a salesperson may need to input orders, raise invoices and start a chain reaction for deployment while the finance team will automate financial processes, pull real-time performance data and take advantage of the ERP regulating compliance. Hence the initial broad communication will then need to be followed with crafted to suit each department accordingly.

Step 3: Training

Your initial communication strategy will have helped employees accept the changes that are heading their way but without a solid training plan, your new ERP implementation is bound to falter. Any successful change management process must have a training schedule that suits each individual user so that they can interface with the system with confidence while simultaneously giving it the best chance of success. Keeping your user group categories in mind, give employees scenarios in which the ERP system will affect their own work. Set tasks, tests, achievable milestones and oodles of support to make their training relevant and rewarding.

For some employees, the training scope will go beyond using the ERP itself. The introduction of the new software could make some previously manual tasks automated, it could also mean that some employees will work with different colleagues and on new tasks. Make sure that those employees get extra guidance and support in accordance with the increased level of change in their own responsibilities and tasks to instill a positive attitude and sense of security.

If you have multiple locations, especially trans-national, make sure that you have considered their local needs. Make sure you don’t leave a satellite office or remote department out in the cold by neglecting to factor in differences in environment or culture and be sure to roll out relevant training and support where a blanket one-size-fits-all simply won’t work. Here are some top training techniques to help your users get to grips with the software:

  • Utilize your software vendor’s resources
  • Enroll your Super Users into giving face-to-face training to their departments and other local end-users in a ‘cascade’ approach
  • Set up a searchable knowledge base on your intranet with Q&A enabled
  • E-learning modules with live scenarios and tests to be completed
  • Hire an external trainer

Training and coaching for ERP do not stop once your users are familiar with their new processes and tools. Technology, the market and your overall business strategy is not a stationary vehicle, neither is your ERP. Be ready to anticipate changes and also to adapt according to the data your ERP reports.

Helen Peatfield is a writer, 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.