Overcoming Resistance to Change in ERP Implementation

During one of the interviews recently, I was asked, "You have been a part of many successful ERP Implementations. How do you overcome resistance to change?

That question made me think.

When we think of resistance to change in ERP Implementation, we mix up many things. When it comes to Organization's IT strategy, there is a strategic change management that includes creation of new roles and positions and sunsetting of existing roles. This phase involves training, retraining and reskilling of existing and new employees, identifying and promoting 'Change Ambassadors' and handholding the Organization through the change. This is a part of the Organization's culture and has nothing to do with ERP Implementation.

We also tend to mix up 'Change' as understood in ERP Implementation as to mean 'Scope Change' that usually goes through the Change Control Board and the concomitant 'Change Management Plan' as detailed in the Overall Engagement Plan.

These are not the changes that we are discussing here. We are dealing with 'Organizational Change' that is catalyzed by ERP Implementation.

How do you define this 'Change' generated by ERP Implementation? I will define it as the enthusiasm and wider acceptance of the new processes introduced by ERP. It is about letting go of familiar 'silo' processes and embracing new and improved processes. It is about accepting the process changes for the wider benefit of the Organization.

So how do you bring about this change? The best way to handle this change and get increased ERP adoption is by competently implementing the ERP application. Consultants should ensure that the solutions for critical requirements are designed efficiently with clear documented buy-in from the customer users, that end user training is done spectacularly, and that the user manual covers the complete process thoroughly. If these are executed well, the adoption will be very high. The user navigation in the new application should be smoother and intuitive and the customer user should be able to get the required reports as per his role.

It is important to realize that there are three groups of users whose adoption is important for the success of ERP implementation. The senior management will be looking at strategic performance reports like turnover ratios, and working capital ratios. The senior management will also be interested in data security, reduction in license costs etc.  The middle management will be looking for tactical reports like performance comparison reports, yield reports, cost comparison reports, approval effectiveness, reconciliation reports, exception reports (control violation information) etc. The operational users (aka the end users) will be looking for ease of navigation, improvement in their efficiency and operational reports like Customer and Vendor ledger reports, transaction registers, statutory compliance reports etc. An implementation that anticipates and delivers the requisite information will ensure that the transition to ERP is smooth and the user adoption is high.

Ultimately there is nothing better than a competent ERP implementation to facilitate ERP adoption.

Well, the question was how I will handle resistance to change.

For one, I will competently implement ERP....

I will also explain to the user how he has adopted to change in his personal life over the last decade. He is already a change agent, only he doesn't know it. He has stopped going to the supermarket and started buying a number of things online, stopped going to the bank and started transacting online, stopped carrying cash and started using electronic wallets instead, started working from home and has learned to collaborate over various tools....

He is already accustomed to change.

I will help him see how his work is simplified by ERP as well as how he has become an important cog in the wheel of the business processes of the Organization. I will show him how his critical reports are tallying before and after ERP.

I will handhold him as he transitions to the ERP system. I will spend time with him to resolve his issues. I will use each issue as an opportunity to educate him on the context and big picture. As we discuss each issue, I will explain to him the configuration philosophy, taking him through the critical configurations, explain to him the reasons for his issue and how to handle similar issues in future.

Best way to increase user adoption is to show you care for their success.

I will also explain to him how the ERP implementation will strengthen him as a professional and expand his career opportunity. I will point out to him as to how he has become a member of an elite group of users of that specific ERP application.I will open his eyes to the potential by pointing out examples of other users who have gone on to become great ERP consultants. I will show him how the experience in this ERP strengthens his CV and opens up career opportunities for him. I will give him answers for the question 'Whats in it for me?"

A competent implementation that solves his basic issues and an appreciation of his new found status will lead to increased and voluntary user adoption.

PS: One of my LI Connects, Brett Beaubouef, shared this post in his network with a comment that 'To build upon this approach, it is important to involve users sooner during the implementation'. I remembered that back in 2010 I had written THIS BLOG POST that specifically addressed this point. Brett also discusses how to measure 'User Adoption' in THIS POST posted in his ERP Website.

You can also checkout THIS ARTICLE from my blog that addresses a different perspective relating to this topic.


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Ramaswamy Krishnamurti (Ram) is a Senior Freelance ERP Project Manager and Solution Architect with over 21 years of experience in all areas of ERP Implementation starting from Product Selection, Vendor Evaluation an Selection, Presales, Implementation, Upgrade and Support and Stabilization. A graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Calicut University in Kerala, India, Ram did his MBA from Kolkata University and Post Graduate Diploma from the prestigious IIM Bangalore.

He has implemented more than 25 highly successful ERP implementations. He has worked on Scala, Peoplesoft, Oracle EBS (11i and R12) and Oracle Fusion Cloud in various roles including CIO, Program Manager, Delivery Manager, Project Manager, Solution Architect, Functional Lead and Consultant. One thing common among all these roles is an average customer satisfaction rating of more than 90% over his over 20 years of ERP Implementation expertise.

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Ram worked in Manufacturing, Academia and ERP Implementation. He has implemented ERP Solution in all business areas including Procurement, Inventory, Manufacturing, Costing, Order Fulfillment, Financials and Budgeting. He has also worked as a CIO of a Food Product Company and has experienced ERP from both sides of the spectrum. Having done many implementations in India, Ram knows India Localization like the back of his hand.

He loves ERP Implementation and the value that it can add to a customer business and the smile on the face of a delighted customer.

You can download his latest CV from his LinkedIn Profile <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/vkramaswamy">www.linkedin.com/in/vkramaswamy</a>. He can be contacted on LinkedIn, Email (vkrama01@gmail.com) and Phone (+919880179317).

He also regularly posts high value ERP content in his Youtube channel "ERP Consultancy" (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXUEtnD-eXSuKVKpXyRCJHw">https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXUEtnD-eXSuKVKpXyRCJHw</a>)

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