top of page

A Successful ERP Implementation Doesn’t Have to be as Elusive as a Unicorn

Five Ways Change Management and Learning Can Increase Business Benefits and ROI During Your ERP Implementation

ERPs integrate data, streamline technology and align business processes. But implementing an ERP is a huge undertaking and can be risky because there are many pieces to be considered and if ignored the chance of failure increases.  Many of the technical risks are foreseen and planned for but often it’s the human factor that is missed or flat-out ignored which can increase the risk of failure or at the very least greatly reduce your business benefits and ROI.

To help you plan for your ERP implementation, here are some common things to consider and include:

1. Your Organization’s Readiness to Adopt Change

A lot of thought and planning goes into ensuring the new software will work with your infrastructure and that it can be scaled for growth. However, what is often overlooked is, if users can be ready for the change and will they accept the new system?

There are many reasons why users may not buy-in to using the ERP solution – some reasons could be:

  1. An absence of awareness or misunderstanding regarding the need for the change

  2. Lack of visible support from the leadership team

  3. The user interface is not seen as friendly

  4. The training provided was not well planned or tailored to the needs of the user

  5. Missing the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor

To be successful, organizations need to:

  1. Understand clearly what they are trying to achieve

  2. Identify the key change leaders who will help drive the user adoption

  3. Define how to measure whether the desired outcome was achieved

  4. Measure the success of the prescribed outcome, report the results, and use the results to pivot or celebrate

If you are undergoing an ERP implementation and have not considered the people factor or recognize the need for a formal change management approach, this can create an obstacle to the overall adoption of the change.

2. Time, Business Continuity, and Company Growth

ERP implementations generally mean the organization is going through a business transformation and not merely a technology change. 

Business transformations are big, lengthy undertakings–a journey if you will… For that reason, time is a challenge. Often, requirements that were evaluated when the project started, change. This is because work in the business goes on; business changes and the demands that customers are placing on the organization change. As the organization undergoing the transformation grows—or has to deal with unforeseen setbacks—the scope and level of priority given to the project can be drastically altered.

Planning for this at the beginning by including robust change management and learning strategies can ensure the project is adaptable, end-users and leaders stay firmly committed to the goals of the transformation and these non-project business changes are handled with knowledge and planning instead of reaction.

3. Change in Key Stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement is an important part of a successful project. Changes in key stakeholders or a project sponsor mid-project can have a significant impact on the initiative as these are the main decision-makers who ultimately need to be the champions of the change.

  1. New leaders coming into a project may have different priorities or may need to be brought up-to-speed on the project and their role as a change leader

  2. Changes to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can impact the development of learning content, training delivery and even functional development of the system

  3. Changes to other change champions or system super users can degrade the project continuity all making stakeholder management extremely complicated and very important

Having a thorough and dynamic stakeholder register is critical.

It should be owned either by the project manager or the change manager and needs to be constantly reviewed and updated. It can be a lot of work to compile initially but makes managing changes in stakeholders and communicating to the right stakeholders a lot easier. Time spent up-front to create the list saves a lot of time, confusion, and sometimes embarrassment in the long run and having a change management and learning team on the project will help manage these different stakeholder groups and the changes that happen.

4. End-User’s Current Knowledge Base

To design effective ERP learning programs, a full training assessment needs to be completed including the end-user’s current knowledge base and technical capabilities.

Understanding what they know and how they learn means you will be able to support their learning and provide them with the best learning outcome.

Assessing for different levels of knowledge and ability among end-users and encountering gaps between what they know and what they need to know can be daunting. However, using an organizational change management approach that looks at the change holistically from the people-side can help ensure your learning program is successful.

5. Communication

Communication is an important component on any project, but it is not just merely sending emails to people via mass distribution lists.

A project actually cannot over communicate as long as the messaging is thoughtful and planned.

Often communications are also seen as a stand-alone function that can be brought in when “required”. This is a mistake. Communication needs to happen regularly, needs to be strategic and the person with the overall responsibility for deploying communications should be immersed in the project.

Many ERP projects these days involve multiple locations with project team members working in different time zones, and sometimes from different cultures. Even with the introduction of collaboration tools and other technologies that help support a globally-dispersed workforce, communication on a project can still be challenging. This is a critical success factor so should be planned and costed as part of the whole change management approach and be included in the project from the beginning through to a few months post go-live.

Project team communication:

This is often placed directly on the shoulders of the Project Manager to handle. While they are the right person to coordinate and drive the communications within the project team, engaging a communications partner from the Change Management team or from within the organization is going to bring value to the process and the quality of the communications. This person should be embedded in the project; someone who understands the key messaging that is going to the end-user and stakeholder community and can make the connections with the project team, so everyone is on the same page.

An important and often overlooked project team communication process is that between the technical development or functional teams and the training development team. The technical development and functional teams are always busy. But they are the holders of the information required by the training team to create the best learning content possible. While the instructional designers are used to being multi-disciplinary workers who not only develop the training materials but are also unofficial testers of the system, business analysts and in some cases functional systems consultants, having a direct and planned communication process with the development and functional teams, and the Business SMEs is critical to ensuring the learning content is meaningful for the user and that it will work in the system during training delivery.

Stakeholder Communication:

This can be branched out into various veins:

  1. Project Sponsor(s)

  2. Steering Committee or Executive Committee

  3. Primary Stakeholders

  4. Secondary Stakeholders

A proper communication strategy should be created by the Change Management Lead and the key messages agreed on and planned ahead of time.

This will ensure the right communications go to the right people at the right time. Sometimes ad-hoc or emergency communications are required but by planning the bulk of the communications and the mediums for communicating means theses ad-hoc communications can be handled in a calm and knowledgeable way.

Communication should be constantly happening within the project team, between the stakeholders and the project, to the end-user community and business and sometimes even with customers. A failure to provide the right communications to the right people at the right time can lead to confusion, frustration, rumours, loss of interest and possibly delays in the project itself.


ERP initiatives or other business transformations ultimately require individuals to do their jobs differently; the likelihood of success increases with effective change management. According to reports by Gartner, 75 percent of ERP projects fail. Research compiled by PROSCI, suggests projects with structured, planned, and well-funded Change Management met or exceeded objectives 95% of the time, while projects with poor change management met or exceeded 15% of the time. Additionally, studies show that strong change management practices lead to higher percentage of projects that are on budget and on time.

These rates of failure or success of your ERP initiative does not have to be elusive. It is directly attributed to the stakeholders. If you want to assure you are getting the most out of the investment, make sure you consider, properly fund and include an experienced team to support the people change factor for your project.



bottom of page