Change is hard – managing through change might be the most difficult aspect of a CIO’s career. The dynamics of people and processes during a massive technology implementation are complex and critical for an organization to truly gain value from the new system. Change must start the minute an organization decides to move forward with an ERP implementation.
CIOs must stay connected to all users in the organization as they navigate each stage of the implementation, as well as post-go-live. Showing value and ROI is complicated with a system replacement, but aligning with users can help a CIO better understand and communicate the efficiencies and performance changes of the ERP users.
- Communication is the key factor to success. As employees may begin to resist change, averting a negative reception by communicating needs, value, and shifts in process will be helpful. Anxiety by company employees is inevitable, so ease this lack of acceptance by over-communicating.
- Training every position in the organization on the mechanics of the new system is paramount. Understanding the processes of today and the efficiencies of post-implementation will be very helpful when educating users.
- Share the vision for the future success of the company whenever talking about the system.
- For many, it’s natural to push back against change. Employees may have a fear of the unknown or comfort in their daily workflow. Working through these fears and encouraging acceptance will help drive adherence to the new system.
- Continue to manage change post implementation. The 6-12 months following the actual system replacement will be critical to the overall effectiveness of the investment.
- Communicate the ‘why’: You cannot over-communicate during an ERP implementation. The best way to minimize resistance is to communicate consistently, positively, and with empathy. Explaining the reasons why the organization needs to shift will help ease some of the doubt throughout the organization. Emphasizing an understanding of the user’s apprehensions and providing positive, user-centric messaging will help eliminate any surprises or misunderstandings. Occasionally, it’s not possible to communicate early due to contractual obligations or laws but beginning the messaging strategy as early as possible will benefit everyone involved.
- Demonstrate benefits of change: With the new system in place, many business processes will change, but some areas of the organization will see no true benefits (efficiencies or time saved) in their day to day activities. If the new process adds more time to a user’s activity, you may need to demonstrate why this process is more valuable. For example, if an upstream user is asked to provide additional information in the new system and this addition takes more time, you will need to share what this information will mean downstream. When users understand the overall impact and value of their role in the process, buy in will be easier to achieve.
- Provide familiarity: Anxiety from change can be minimized by simply giving the user some familiar markers in their new environment. For example, if the new system Is not compromised by this strategy, keep the Item number or the customer number the same. This seems basic, but the consistency will make navigation seem easier just by letting the user feel comfort in already knowing the data. Where customization is required, get user input on colors, button names, triggers, etc., if you have the latitude to do what they suggest. Including users in the process of deciding these key elements will make them more engaged and accepting.
- Train users on new tools: A basic, but often overlooked step is training for all employees. The complexities of proving out functionality, mapping data migration, vetting reporting, and other implementation needs may cause training to fall off the radar. Often times organization focus on training key users but filtering this knowledge throughout the organization may fall short. Training everyone on the mechanics of the new system will empower users and eliminate confusion.
- Don’t forget to circle back: Following the transition of a major project like an ERP system, it is critical to stay connected to users after the go-live date. Create a follow up plan to support ALL new users for the next 6-12 months. This will help employees know that they are supported in the new environment, which will ease resistance. Don’t forget to check in with users from early phases in the project, as these users can be overlooked by subsequent phases.
- Don’t keep users in the dark: Users of the new system that were not on the selection team or the implementation team will not see the new system until training begins. That training process will not happen until late in the project just prior to the system going live. Take opportunities early in the project to inform all users about what is coming and why. Break down the barriers of change by preparing users for the future. Addressing new process and interfaces as early as possible will disrupt apprehension.
- Don’t mandate change – INSPIRE it: When sharing features and functions of the upcoming new system, don’t just show what it will do, show how it will impact the growth and success of the company into the future. Demonstrate how it will increase productivity and competitively position the company. Consistently articulate the vision as you move closer to the go-live date, so as to address any negativity or pushback. Emphasize value, growth, and achievements to inject positivity and acceptance.
- Don’t ignore legacy that works: Don’t change what works best for the organization. If there is a legacy subsystem that provides a competitive advantage or houses logic that is proprietary to the company, integrate it into your process. Change is massive when adopting a new ERP system but bridges to some functionality may be the best option. Again, these legacy subsystems will also breed familiarity into the system and reduce anxiety toward the change overall.
Resistance to change can be expected; it’s natural to feel apprehensive about transitions in our daily lives. As the CIO, you must manage the dynamics of change during any massive implementation. People are critical to the success of a new system, so nurture them and empathize with their needs and concerns. Inspire employees to accept advancements in the way the organization does business and emphasize the importance of growth. If employees accept the new technology and processes, innovation will take hold and the success of the capability will drive value beyond expectations.