It’s a fact that an ERP implementation rarely goes off course because of the software itself. Instead, a host of factors can conspire to derail an ERP deployment – with poor change management chief among them. Often, this is the single most important factor behind the kind of ERP horror story that makes the IT press.

The consequences of inadequate change management were highlighted in a recent ebook from Software Advice, How to Avoid ERP Implementation Failure: Success Stories and Key Considerations. The company looked at the lessons learnt from 22 high-profile ERP ‘failures’ in an attempt to show people gearing up for a new implementation how not to do it.

We spoke to the report’s author Forrest Burnson, market research associate at Software Advice (a company that reviews and recommends software), about his findings and the critical nature of change management in large-scale ERP projects. His contributions helped us to produce the following – three insider tips on how not to fail with your ERP implementation.


1. Communicate clearly

It may seem basic, but it’s surprising how often the benefits of ERP implementation are not communicated clearly to end users. Burnson says that showing people exactly how the new system will make their job easier is a straightforward way to achieve buy-in.

“Just showing people a demonstration of how the new system will be able to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete particular tasks can be enough to win them over,” he explains.

“Part of the appeal there is management acknowledging that some tasks are needlessly complicated or time-consuming, and that this implementation is a good faith effort to make everyone’s lives easier.”


2. Present the business case to your employees

Change management works at several different levels. As well as helping people to understand the impact of the new system on their day-to-day work, ERP project teams need to give employees the bigger picture.

“It is essential to communicate not only what changes are happening, but why they are happening and how they will benefit the organisation,” Burnson explains. It can be helpful for managers to think in terms of presenting a business case that clearly illustrates why the new system is required.

“Management expects their employees to make a business case for any change they are proposing; so too should management make a business case to their employees when implementing a new ERP system,” Burnson says.


3. Avoid tunnel vision

Make no mistake, implementing a new ERP system is almost always a major undertaking that demands a significant investment of resources. Unfortunately, this means that managers can lose perspective as they get caught up in details and deliverables. A lack of previous experience with ERP can also make it difficult for project leaders to spot potential pitfalls.

Burnson believes that “an organisation’s leadership can suffer from tunnel vision – they’ll see what they want to achieve but not necessarily all of the obstacles that could be in the way”.

The solution here is an experienced ERP consultant team with knowledge of the platform and the availability to contribute on-site throughout the implementation process. “Good consultants should be able to draw from their previous experiences to provide that critical perspective that the organisation needs,” says Burnson.


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