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Getting employees on board with an ERP rollout

ERP rollouts can be overwhelming for employees. These best practices will help the process run smoothly.

An ERP migration is one of the most overwhelming changes that employees will ever experience. New ways of performing their day-to-day activities, evolving roles and responsibilities and even insecurity about the long-term viability of their jobs are just a few of the concerns employees have during an ERP rollout. A larger problem is the fear that brings resistance to change.

For an ERP rollout to be successful, employees not only need to be unafraid -- they must be onboard with the changes. After all, people, not technology, make ERP projects succeed. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done and a key reason why many ERP projects fail. Some organizations neglect the organizational change management required for a successful implementation.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when developing  an organizational change management plan to help get employees on board with the changes from an ERP rollout:

Managing change requires much, much more than system training. To someone who hasn’t been through the trials and tribulations of an ERP project, organizational change and training may seem like one and the same. Software vendors provide generic transactional training materials that aren’t specific to an organization’s business processes or customized software, so to be effective, the training should incorporate the specifics of the organization’s business processes, roles and responsibilities. In addition, an effective change management plan should include organizational gap analyses, organizational design, targeted employee communications and benefits realization activities to ensure that employees can accept and buy into the changes entailed in the ERP migration.

Don’t forget “as is” organization and business processes. As tempting as it may be to start from a clean slate and forget about your “as is” organization and related business processes, the consequences of such an oversight can be disastrous. While the project managers and core team members on an ERP rollout project are intimately familiar with how things will look in the “to be” environment, the average employee will need more time to absorb the changes. The best and fastest way for employees to understand the new environment is to relate the new way of doing things to the old way. Nomenclature changes in the system, as well as new processes and transactions should all be tied back to the legacy system, spreadsheets and other manual processes of the old world.

Remember the 80/20 rule. In the end, not everyone is going to fully embrace the changes. The key is to focus on the 80% who are on the fence and can be swayed toward supporting the initiative. The other 20% may be active organizational resistors, and you aren’t likely to convert them all. But you can neutralize their impact. If you can get 80% of the employees and key stakeholders on board with the change, the initiative is likely to be viewed as a success across the entire organization.

Securing employee buy-in and commitment is easier than it sounds. Old-school command-and-control management techniques are woefully inadequate to the task, so executives and project team members must actively and creatively address organizational resistance. These three tips will point you in the right direction toward getting employees comfortable with change.

Eric Kimberling is president and founder of Panorama Consulting Solutions, a Denver-based firm that helps companies with ERP software selection, ERP implementation, organizational change management and benefits realization.

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