I have been involved in many ERP implementations over the past 20 years in one capacity or the other, and the one thing that does not get enough respect on the project plan is Organizational Change Management. I am not saying it is missing entirely, but the amount of focus needed to ensure a successful implementation is generally lacking, especially for small to midsized companies going through the upgrade process to a new system. The following are three critical mistakes to avoid when managing your next ERP implementation:
1. Not enough budget or resources allocated for the OCM effort on the project plan.
This is a common problem, and quite frankly, I understand the concern. To manage change correctly it is a big effort. It is not just a few days of training and a few emails sent to the organization to let them know what is coming. This is a hard thing for executives to get their arms around because it can be somewhat philosophical and conceptional. It is a much easier conversation to talk about the number of training classes than discussing a plan for ensuring management and employees are motivated to change. You need to clearly understand the amount of effort needed to ensure the necessary change will take hold after the implementation. Just about every article you read about failed ERP implementations will have OCM as one of the key reasons. If you do not have an OCM expert in house, or if your software company does not include it as part of their implementation plan, you need to consider hiring an outside resource that specializes in OCM and software implementations.
2. OCM effort isn’t big enough
So, what do I mean by “Not big enough”? What I mean is the breadth of tactics used are generally only the dynamic duo: Training and Communication.
Everyone knows that the employees impacted by the new system will need to be trained, but to what level? Training can take all different forms, from classroom training, group webinars, job aids, expert coaching, job shadowing, or by just using the system documentation and figuring it out on the job (note: not my recommended approach). Most software implementers will use a mix of the tactics listed above, but most of the time this training is procedural, and not broken down by specific job title or occupation. You need to take the time to understand all the new training needs of each occupation, then create a development plan for that occupation to ensure all key skills and competencies to be successful are identified.
Communication is important, and a strategic plan needs to be created, monitored, and executed. It is important to identify all the key messages and target audiences and be sure the communication is customized to meet those specific needs. Too many times communication tends to be a companywide email on a weekly or monthly basis with general information. Projects completed on time and on budget.
For the implementation to be successful, the OCM plan should be managed like the rest of the project. It should have a budget, clear project deliverables, and a reasonable timeline
3. The project timeline for the OCM effort is too narrow
In many small to mid-sized ERP implementations, the OCM part of the project starts with the project kickoff and ends at the project “Go Live”. To be successful, the OCM project should start prior to the actual project kickoff and should extend at least six months after the project go-live. Prior to kickoff, you should establish an executive steering committee to sponsor the project, ensure you have selected the right team members, identified the key project stakeholders, create project success measures, create a team of performance coaches to help drive the training and communication, etc.
After Go-Live, too many times companies think the project has ended. Team members want to get back to their normal job, and much of the focus tends to be on fixing bugs, etc. To be successful, you should have at least a six-month plan after Go Live with the focus on the following areas:
- Change Pulse – A weekly or monthly look at how well the change is taking hold within the organization.
- Training – It is inevitable that things will change after Go-Live. This will include business process changes, system changes, job changes, etc. If the supplemental training is not part of the plan it tends to get lost and sometimes never done.
- Success Measures – This should not end at Go Live. Project Success Measures should continue to be monitored until expectations are met.
- Communication – After Go Live, the communication should shift to how things are going with the change and less about the software. The organization will have a need for more information now that things are up and running, so you should plan on a minimum of three months of communication after Go-Live to keep the momentum.
In summary, ERP project management is not an easy thing, especially given the numerous people, process, and technology tasks that need to be completed in a timely and efficient manner. The goal of these projects is to help a company navigate the change from their current business state to its desired future state. OCM strategy needs to be a vital piece of all ERP implementation projects. To be successful, you need to ensure you have enough budget and leadership support allocated for the efforts; the OCM size and scope is aligned with the actual needs of the project, and finally the OCM effort project timeline does not start at project kickoff and end at Go-Live.