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ERP implementations have always been challenging, and fraught with failures. Now, with the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession, these implementations have become even more risky.
As a CIO or IT leader moving forward with a cloud ERP implementation, you need to consider how these new challenges may affect your project. Here's a list of 10 potential challenges and strategies to overcome them.
Stakeholders may not want to move forward with an ERP implementation because of the pandemic. There is a lot of economic uncertainty and COVID-19 worries. And many companies are still adjusting to having a significant remote workforce.
To mitigate this resistance, you need to show how the ERP project will save the company money, position your organization to increase revenues, or both. Highlight all the steps you are taking to mitigate risks to the project. Work with your vendor to get discounts that make the project more affordable in these difficult times. Finally, you will want to share that partially remote implementations is not new, although using an all-remote team is new. Explain that you can mitigate some of that uncertainty, however, by using the tools and strategies of past implementations for today's reality.
2. Employees distracted with personal responsibilities
With schools and day cares closed, many employees now have additional responsibilities, such as helping their children with schoolwork and caring for young children. In addition, employees may also be providing elder care to older relatives.
This is a new reality for many employees that is out of their control. It is best to work with your employees to understand their challenges and find options for them that allow the employees to continue contributing to the project. For example, you may allow employees to work at different times of the day, such as starting early in the morning or working in the evenings and on weekends. You can also ask all employees to be available for certain core hours each day so that your employees can schedule their home activities accordingly. Last-minute meetings may not always be possible when employees are caring for young children.
3. Data security
A successful cloud ERP implementation depends on good security, and that can be hard to come by right now. With so many employees working remotely, there is an increased risk that confidential information will be seen by nonemployees. Some employees may use a common space within their home to work. They may also share a computer with other family members or use unsecure computer equipment, such as Wi-Fi that is not password protected or a computer without virus protection.
While you may not be able to provide a secure physical work environment for remote workers, you can take steps to mitigate the risk. First, you can ensure your company has a confidentiality agreement in place and that all employees have signed it. Next, you can remind employees of the confidentiality agreement, to ensure that it is top of mind during these times. In some cases, employees may have signed this agreement years ago when they started with the company. Additionally, you can provide employees with the necessary computer equipment and software needed to work safely from home. If providing all remote employees with a company laptop or personal computer is not possible, perhaps you can pay for virus scanning software to be installed on each employee's home computer. Finally, you can provide information to employees in the form of documentation or online training. This should help them identify and resolve any security risks they may have, such as how to require a password when connecting to Wi-Fi.
4. Internet and cellphone access
For employees living in the city, getting fast internet access and good coverage on their cellphone can be pretty easy. For employees who live in remote areas, these can be challenging and costly.
For the latter, you may want to pay them a monthly premium or pay for their service to ensure they are able to work properly from home. You may also want to rely on videoconferencing software to communicate live if cellphone access is not reliable.
5. Hardware needs
Depending on the functionality you are implementing, employees developing and testing the ERP system may need to have access to hardware, such as scanners.
For this testing, you may want to rely on employees who are able to work from the office; however, if that's not possible, you will want to ensure you have a sufficient supply because it may be difficult for employees to share the hardware required to implement the solution.
6. Sudden illness
Even under normal circumstances, there's always the risk that a member of the team will fall ill. However, as more people contract COVID-19, that risk is increased. In addition, if someone tests positive, protocols call for employees to self-quarantine, which can cause additional issues.
To prepare for the worst-case scenario, you should have employees document their work and update their status on a regular basis. This can help make a transition easier if work needs to be passed from one employee to another on short notice.
Teaching employees how to use a new ERP system is far more challenging when many employees are remote. For example, when employees get stuck during the training, the facilitator can't walk over and help them resolve the issue. Also, once employees start using the new system, it may be more difficult for them to learn from each other, because remote learning now doesn't allow for a quick chat with the person sitting next to them.
It will be important to have different training methods available to employees, such as live training over videoconferencing software, documentation, tip sheets and e-learning. Anything you can do to help ease the transition into the new system will be helpful.
8. Multiple time zones
Some of your ERP implementation team members may work in other countries and time zones, which presents challenges when scheduling meetings. With international travel almost completely halted, having remote team members work on site is likely not possible.
As mentioned earlier, you can try to arrange core hours where everyone is available. This strategy may work if there is overlap between time zones. Alternatively, you can ask team members working remotely to alter their work schedule during critical phases in the project to better align to the rest of the team. You may also have one remote worker who is assigned to attend after-hour meetings, and that person can follow up with local team members the next day.
9. Meetings without body language
Someone's physical reaction to information they are receiving or sharing can often give clues about how the person feels on the topic. With so much information sharing now being done remotely, it's not always possible to see a person's physical reaction.
Using videoconferencing software can help since you can see the participants, assuming there aren't too many participants, and everyone has their camera on. When sharing information that may generate a negative response, ensure you schedule time for questions and answers, and encourage participants to ask questions in the chat function if they don't feel comfortable asking them live.
Poor communication can sink an ERP implementation. Employees may not have enough detail about the project to take appropriate action, know what's expected of them, or who to communicate with if they have questions or feedback.
With so many employees working remotely, it's even more important to develop a good communication plan at the outset of the project. You should consider communications in multiple formats to ensure you reach all employees. Using an intuitive project website, you can also share information, and control access using permissions so that employees can only see what they require, while maintaining all project information in one location.