Why is the people-side of change so important to ERP implementations? Too often, organizations see failure with their ERP projects because they don’t understand that change begins with each employee within the organization individually changing how they conduct business and complete their responsibilities.
Change does not need to be difficult if it is well planned, and impacted people are well prepared. To have a successful implementation, it is important to see the transformation from the perspective of the business end-users and be aware of the three biggest challenges they will encounter.
1. Understanding Go-Live Isn’t the End
Go-live isn’t the end. Unfortunately, that fact is difficult for many organizations to grasp. There’s a natural human belief that our achievements are tied to a date. In other words, if we can just get to that day, we are going to be okay. But, practically speaking, go-live is the beginning of the hardest part of any ERP implementation. Applying the newly learned skills and realizing where the gaps in knowledge and misunderstandings lie can be substantial. Going live itself is easy—thriving in the 90 (or more) days that follows is the real challenge.
2. Integrating Business Processes
One of the biggest challenges is that end-users see the ERP implementation as just a system change. Due to the highly integrated nature of an ERP, it is also a business transformation. Many of the business processes will drastically change as a result of the implementation. For many tasks, employees can’t simply complete them as per usual—they now must understand all the steps that came before. It’s a whole breadth of knowledge that these end-users now require.
3. Integrating People
With ERPs, not only are the systems now highly integrated, but people are as well. One fact is true about higher levels of integration: if you have a mistake, you must fix it where the mistake was made.
What does this practically mean? For example, in a non-ERP based world, if you have a mistake made by a customer service team and the accounting team finds that mistake, because the systems aren’t integrated, they can just fix the problem in the accounting system. With ERPs, however, because data flows between teams and there must be integrity in the information from beginning to end, it can’t just be fixed on the accounting side. They must go back to customer service team and ask that they make the correction with the initial customer document.
Why is this a challenge? Departments that were once working in isolation now must grasp that they can’t easily fix each other’s errors. It creates a brand-new dynamic. These changes are unnatural to their normal ways of work. Luckily, well-designed learning programs don’t just train end-users on the new system; they also train them on new ways of communicating, relying on each other, and resolving conflicts.
The authors would like to express their gratitude to Gregory Roth and Aryn Smith-Avendano for their expertise in developing this article.