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ERP change management depends on a savvy communication strategy

ERP change management sometimes gets short shrift in ERP projects because companies are focused so intently on getting the technology to work with their business processes. But bringing employees onboard with the vision and helping them make a smooth transition to new ways of working and interacting is just as important. Having a smart, thorough communication strategy is essential to the process.

In this video, John Nielson, business development director and managing partner of frank, a technology change management and communication consultancy based in Minneapolis, discussed how corporate culture and power structures can get in the way of a successful ERP implementation, and why frank and open communications are essential parts of an ERP change-management plan. Nielson was interviewed at the Panorama Consulting Solutions ERP Boot Camp that took place recently in Vail, Colo. There, he led a small group of ERP purchasers through an exercise to assess the levels of business alignment and trust in their organizations.

"This is the people side of these IT implementations, so if you're asking what are the pitfalls, it's just forgetting about the people," Nielson said. "A lot of the times the pitfalls and the failures are caused by very strategic missed conversations at very important parts of the implementation process." Other negatives include unspoken conversations, hidden agendas and saboteurs, all of which can discourage "employee engagement," which a recent Gallup survey pegged at a dismal 30%.

Nielson also described the characteristics of companies that have been the most effective at using a communication strategy to boost employee engagement, a key factor in successful ERP deployments. The common denominator is commitment. "The notion of committing to communications and staying engaged with people throughout the implementation takes some effort," he said. "The ERP implementation is meant to really bring everybody together in a more collective way, in a single system. When people get that and stay committed to the communications, there's a lot of success there."

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