Implementing an ERP Software Solution - The Challenge of Change

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The implementation of an ERP solution inevitably requires companies and their employees to change.  They may need to change how they approach certain tasks, what tools they use (no more spreadsheets or reports), how they communicate, what methods they use to communicate and so on. Time and time again we see issues arise because management doesn't prepare their employees, or themselves, for change.  

Replacing or implementing an ERP system brings about a shift in workflow, business processes and a new level of challenges for the whole company.  If your employees aren’t well informed about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, they may resist the process. The success of an ERP implementation is at the mercy of your employees’ readiness to use and adapt. Empowering employees to meet these new challenges will make them feel that they are part of the change and they will ultimately embrace it.

What can you do to facilitate change?

Communicate - Employees need to know what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Before communicating any technical details on the software and procedures, management needs to make sure employees understand the big picture of why they are changing.   Convey the business needs and processes, and how they integrate with employees’ roles. 

Employees are going to have to learn new skills, train on the software, and absorb new procedures so it’s imperative that they understand the business case for implementing a new system.  

A one-time communication effort may not be enough.  Sometimes it takes multiple communications for employees to comprehend the implications and understand the need for change.  Try a variety of methods such as an informational event, emails, and voice messages from top leadership. 

Evaluate – New software isn't going to remove the “people” factor.    

In our experience we have often found that when an issue or problem occurs, companies are quick to blame the ERP system.  If inventory levels are off or financials are out of balance, it’s easier to blame the software because it’s new or unfamiliar.  However, we usually find out it’s a “people” issue and, most of the time, these issues have existed long before the software was implemented. 

Ask yourself, do employees have the skills necessary to do their job; are they held accountable for performance?  If not, an evaluation of your employees’ skill set and performance can help fill in the competency gaps and identify the areas where training and improvements are needed. Investing in your employees will not only help them prepare for change, it will also enable them to deliver the business benefits your company expected from the ERP implementation.

Commit – Demonstrate your commitment through what you say and do.

When embarking on such a large project as an ERP implementation, it really is important to lead by example.  Nobody really likes change and if top leadership is not committed or held accountable for their role in the implementation or the facilitation of change, it will most likely fail.    

Ongoing communication about ERP implementation plans and changing processes, participation in the project team, commitment to training, positioning ERP as a strategic initiative are ways to convey leadership’s seriousness and commitment to the project as well as facilitate employee buy in.

The changes an ERP software implementation creates are never easy.  But, with a well defined plan that includes communication, education, and commitment, employees and management can be better prepared to make sure it’s successful. 

Competitive Edge Services is a Microsoft Dynamics NAV Silver ERP Partner located in Westborough, Massachusetts.

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