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How to fully realise the potential of your new ERP system

As organisations exit the turbulence of 2020 and grasp the realisation that we’re living in a very different world, there is a renewed focus on continuous improvement, rationalisation and driving efficiency through the deployment of integrated platforms and systems that provide whole-of-business transparency, data governance for better decision making, improved customer and partner experience and support future business growth. Understanding how to implement these programs of work is vital.

Much has been made over the years, of project statistics that paint a woeful story of change initiatives that rarely achieve or exceed their expected outcomes. This suggests that organisations are not scoping the work accurately through realistic business cases and benefits assessments, implementations are falling over, or the changes made, are not embedded, and sustained.

ERP systems are only as good as the people that use them. Poor Change Management is the number one reason for project and business implementation failures

Digital transformation is impacting all manufacturing and distribution businesses and no matter how complex your supply chain is, manufacturers must be able to respond faster to change. They also need the agility for tactical shifts like reducing excess inventory and cutting costs. Most importantly, manufacturers must deliver to customers what has been promised, on time. To sustain the pace of change, many organisations are putting their faith in, agile, modern ERP solutions that are flexible enough to handle both the opportunities and challenges faced today and tomorrow.

Increasingly, ERP renewal is moving away from being a system of record-keeping of past events to a system of engagement for the whole of the organisation, driving simplification, standardisation and efficiency along with bringing together people, processes, technology, and data in harmony. There has been a fundamental shift away from the single dimension view of system implementations to root and branch platforms, business processes and organisational overhaul.

Contemporary ERPs are designed to improve business performance and while some improvement comes from installing the technology, most benefits are tied to people changing their behaviour and how they do their jobs; being ‘enabled’ to improve. Inadequate focus on the people side of change creates risk. In our experience, we see project teams and sponsors place a disproportionate focus on technical design. They take their eye off end-user requirements, user experience and how it is delivered to users. This risks the necessary alignment of people, process and system and shows up in the form of resistance, redesign, rework, revisit, redo, retrain, re-scope and in some cases, retreat.

Change management is not just orchestrating communications and training; it is about driving a fundamental cultural shift in approach and ways of working. Ineffective change management impacts morale, engagement, productivity and BAU deliverables of employees, as well as customers, suppliers, 3PL warehouses and distributors. To ensure success, an effective change management effort is required, which wins the hearts and minds of your people, coherently explaining to individuals, “What’s in it for me?” “Why we are changing?” “What we are changing?” “How are we changing?”And “What is the risk of not changing?”

Our tips for delivering successful ERP change programs:

Here are Blue Seed’s tips for delivering successful ERP change programs, from over a decade of experience delivering human-centred tech change:

1. Have active and visible leadership of the project

Active and visible sponsorship by leadership, throughout the duration of the project, is crucial to delivering the project on time, within scope and budget, achieving the business case and driving the realisation of the benefits needed to be a true transformation. This is not turning up to meetings or signing a staff notice, but rather a wholesale engagement in the project that builds accountability across the business. Where appropriate, leader KPIs should reflect project deliverables and outcomes

2. Select the right project team

Select the best possible team to design, build, test, train, assess, deploy, support, and administer the processes and systems. This job does not finish at go-live or even at the completion of the dedicated ‘care’ period. Technical prowess is just one of the selection criteria

3. A well thought out project plan

Properly mapped as-is/to-be system and non-system processes, that make sense for your business, are signed-off by your business and will be implemented by your business. You need to know where you are coming from to articulate to your people where you are going, plus bridge the gap between the two. At Blue Seed, we use our Change Readiness Accelerator to rapidly align stakeholders around change needs and a change plan

4. Have a change management plan

A structured and disciplined change management methodology and resources, properly and skilfully resourced

5. Involve your ‘super users’, to inject their knowledge into the system, and listen when they scrutinise it.

Rigorous selection and release from BAU activities of your super-user group will inject the necessary business intelligence and scrutiny into the system and business process readiness

6. Communication about the change

Frequent and open communication about the change and the need for change with your people. Not all of it will be glossy PowerPoint presentations or townhall meetings; a lot of the change that needs to be managed will be hard and needs to be tackled head-on

7. Get your employees engaged with the change and start early

Employees need to be engaged and participate in administering the change. Your people need to own the change

8. Integrate your project and change management plans

There must be engagement and integration of project activities with change management activities. There can only be one integrated plan and you can only go live when your people are ready for a system that’s ready

9. Thoroughly map stakeholders impacted by the change

A thorough stakeholder analysis, that is rigorously maintained, underpins effective and targeted communications, efficient security role mapping, including segregation of duties and delegations of authority within the system, targeted training and assessment and a sustainable ongoing business governance model

10. Analyse your training needs

Training and assessment of people should be integrated and based on business processes, business rules, business roles, business data and delivered by business SMEs

11. Have a ‘Single View of Change’ for your organisation

Having a dashboard of the change projects happening in your organisation will reap many benefits. Project change methodologies can leverage existing processes, channels, and people of the business, as well as be aligned to that of other concurrent projects or change efforts.

Despite what the salesman told you (or what you may wish for), there is no such thing as an out-of-the-box or plug-and-play ERP solution. The undertaking is time-consuming, soaks up a significant amount of resources, is very distracting to normal operations, is a lumpy and bumpy project effort and will push people out of their comfort zone. When planned and executed well, however, the business will leap forward to a new operating rhythm, a continuous improvement culture will stick, a newfound internal capability and expertise will emerge, relationships with customers and suppliers will solidify and quite rapidly, your people will be freed up from non-value adding activities to be able to drive the organisation forward. There is a significant people-dependent portion of ERP project ROI and there is a distinct correlation between change management effectiveness and meeting the project and long-term business case objectives.


Further reading:

To understand how change management delivers lasting value for people, your culture and strategic success read Blue Seed’s whitepaper: The True ROI of Change Management.


About Blue Seed Consulting

Blue Seed is an organisational change consultancy that focuses on the people side of change. We deliver exceptional and lasting outcomes for emerging, disrupted and transforming companies.

Our consultants are experienced multi-industry ERP deployment specialists and know how to manage a network of people, technology, data, and resources efficiently and economically, to get results. ERPs are more than a platform implementation; they require driving end-to-end, whole-of-organisation, behavioural change, building new ways of work, business disciplines, rules, and processes.

We hit the ground running. We know the fast-paced and high energy rhythm of ERP implementations. We think outside the box because we know ERPs have tentacles throughout your organisation and beyond. We strategically manage up and downstream relationships for mutual benefit and expectations. Explore our service offering here