ERP transformation – it’s all about the people

The success of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) transformation depends primarily upon three elements: ‘will’, ‘skill’ and ‘opportunity’.

ERP transformation – it’s all about the people

The success of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) transformation depends primarily upon three elements: ‘will’, ‘skill’ and ‘opportunity’.

Meet the author

Tanya Fletcher

Managing Consultant

The success of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) transformation depends primarily upon three elements: ‘will’, ‘skill’ and ‘opportunity’. The future opportunity that justifies the cost; the skill of those delivering the new ERP solution; and the will of customers and employees to accept the changes it creates. The previous blogs in this series focused mainly on ‘skill’ and ‘opportunity’; this final blog focuses on the last piece of the puzzle… managing the will to change.

ERP transformations demand people change as well as processes and technology: such changes might affect roles, responsibilities and even organisational structure. All of these changes have human consequences which must be taken into consideration when planning for a successful ERP transformation; the “people side” of change must be managed to ensure that employees correctly engage with – and fully utilise – the new ERP system. In doing so, anticipated business benefits can be better achieved, leading to an increased return on investment and a clear justification of business expenditure.

Additionally, there is an unbreakable dependency between employee experience and customer experience. When employee experience is negative, this has a knock-on effect on the customer experience created by employees (such as delays, errors, uncertainties, or perceived disinterest from staff). For these reasons, and many more, a real focus on change management is critical to the success of any ERP transformation. Additionally, without careful change management, barriers and resistance to change are likely to emerge.

As discussed in our previous blogs, an agile approach can help generate the will to change by demonstrating the benefits of the new ERP system early and often. We advocate an agile change management approach mirroring the agile delivery approach. For example, the business case for change, change strategy, plan, and communications approach can all be delivered in parallel with early iterations of the ERP. Similarly thereafter, agile change management succeeds by focusing on the highest value items, based on the benefit they will deliver to end users and customers at the end of each sprint.

Although an agile change management approach uses many traditional agile techniques, there are important differences, highlighted below:

Training and support:

  • An agile approach changes the way in which employees and customers are supported. Communications and training are delivered to match the evolving processes and functionality of the ERP transformation. ERP transformations, in particular, create a real need for employees to fully understand changes to their day-to-day jobs, tasks and overall ways of working as a result of the new system, in a way that only agile change management can deliver.
  • Training employees throughout the project enables their early feedback to adapt the ERP accordingly. Thorough, practical training on role and process changes must not be overlooked to minimise BAU disruption and maximise adoption to improve customer experience.

Stakeholder engagement:

  • Identification of stakeholders (e.g. Leadership, SMEs, Super Users, Power Users, Champions, End Users) is critical.
  • Stakeholder needs become apparent through engagement, and an agile approach can adapt to these needs.
  • Thorough stakeholder analysis and engagement will smooth the adoption of the solution, which will ultimately result in better support for your customers.

Communication and feedback:

  • If change management fails to keep pace with the ERP transformation, employees may experience a vacuum of information and support, encouraging them to revert to old ways of working or find workarounds.
  • An agile approach provides the feedback that fills any vacuum of information quickly and frequently. This may involve coaching leadership and champions, to communicate a consistent message about the ERP transformation, as the agile solution develops. This can highlight business benefits to achieve employee buy-in, trust and improved adoption.

In summary, when employees are well supported, they understand the purpose, value and timing of upcoming changes. Specifically, they understand what it means for them as an individual, and also how this impacts the wider organisation. Internally, this increases buy-in and reduces delivery risk. Externally, it is a fantastic opportunity to enhance customer experience and engender customer loyalty.

“Alexis Leons (ERP Demystified) states that ‘ERP is first an attitude; second a process, and only third, a set of tools.” Throughout our five-part blog series, we’ve taken a broad view of ERP transformation, considering: how to avoid overspend and under-delivery in ERP transformations; the importance of customer centricity; the ERP “Discovery” phase; adopting an agile approach; and in this final blog we’ve highlighted the critical role that humans play in the success of ERP technology transformations. With all this in mind, hopefully you are more prepared to carry out your next ERP transformation.”


Other blogs in this series

Agile is more relevant than ever to ERP transformation

Don’t overlook the importance of ERP discovery

How not to overspend and under-deliver your ERP

The value of focussing your ERP transformation on your customers

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