Implementing a large corporate change can be quite the challenge – especially if there have been longstanding processes in place for years prior to the shift.
Meaning, when a company does decide to take on a major change, they must find ways to facilitate buy-in and full participation from all staff members, starting from day one, to reduce the risk of losing both their financial investment and the morale of their workers.
When it comes to a complete ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system change or reimplementation of an existing ERP system (or really any major process change), there is often a three-fold progression involved in the project’s introduction. Implementing an ERP system like SAP or Oracle is beneficial in that it can benefit a business in a variety of areas from product planning and manufacturing to marketing and sales.
This progression generally begins with challenge avoidance and resistance from employees and slowly advances on to a general passive acceptance.
While this is all well and good, acceptance should not be considered the end-game. In order to secure the best outcome, the company at large must feel excited about taking on the ERP challenge.
Here are some suggestions for getting that company-wide buy-in.
Outline the Worth of the Project and Demonstrate Support
Without full buy-in from major players, the success of the project is at risk. If your employees don’t have a full understanding of why such a large change is happening within the business, getting them to wholeheartedly assist in the cause becomes quite the challenge.
Making changes is one thing, but creating upheaval without any defense for those actions can cause employees to quickly become both confused and disenchanted. This turmoil can begin to affect employee performance, allowing their resistance to change to dominate the project and lower the opportunity for a positive result.
Even if the business’ goals support an ERP shift, it is up to stakeholders to be vocal about their personal support of the project. Many employees take their cues from those that are steering the ship. And if everyone with their hand on the wheel is not in support of the direction they are going, that contention will seep into the rest of the crew, and tension will ensue.
The following steps can help convey the proper message and achieve buy-in from all members of the team from the top down:
- Explain the need – Gather the company together and discuss exactly how the organization will change for the better as a result of the ERP shift.
- Make it personal - Explain why enthusiasm is the correct reaction and most importantly, discuss how this change will positively affect each and every employee at their level of the business.
- Endorse the project – Just because the reasons that the company needs the change have been explained, that doesn’t mean that stakeholders have conveyed why they themselves find it valuable and support the vision. As the leaders of the company, it’s important that the buy-in starts at the top so that the message is clear and consistent, and the commitment is solid.
- Keep major influencers involved – Keep important members of the organization involved by creating accountability and establishing routine meetings to review project progress and discuss any roadblocks. This can help sustain engagement from start to finish, and keep the project on time, up to standards, and under budget.
- Create a feedback network – Make sure there is an avenue to collect feedback and take any necessary action on such feedback. Keep in mind, simply offering a venue for feedback is not enough. Ensuring that feedback is adequately addressed is equally important. Allocate time to review this feedback and decide upon any actions to be taken. Keeping a log of submissions and the response to each can help the organization sustain accountability and make sure all voices are heard and respected.
- Train employees – A system is only as good as its use, and training employees on the proper way to interact with the new ERP system is vital to ensuring that it is used effectively after implementation. Train employees early on, and allow them ample time to adjust to new processes and functions. This not only helps make sure that the system is used properly, but it also gets employees engaged and confident in their new skills.
Perform Success Checks Along the Way
Even with all of the right intentions, projects can begin to derail without proper grooming. Check with the entire team routinely throughout the project and ask them the following questions:
- Is the intention still fully understood? Even if employees are on board with the fact that an ERP implementation is happening, it’s also important that they understand the impact it will have on their day-to-day operations.
- Is everyone still on board? From time to time, especially when challenges are met, the enthusiasm of certain key individuals may begin to wane. This can create a domino effect throughout the organization, and a project that had full buy-in and comprehensive gusto can quickly begin to fizzle out in the middle of its execution. Keep an eye out for this and pull leaders back into the fold, reinvigorating them as necessary.
- Are accountable members of the team fulfilling their duties? Is feedback still being collected and reviewed? Are roadblocks being quickly identified and resolved? Are team leaders continuing to move their designated pieces of the project forward? Check in routinely to guarantee that duties are being fulfilled on all fronts.
- Are employees being adequately trained? Employee training programs should be carefully constructed to make sure that the roles they play are covered and they are comfortable with their responsibilities under a new ERP regime.
An ERP change can be a challenging endeavor that requires successful management of many moving parts. But with proper training, full buy-in, stakeholder support, and a clear message, it can be a fruitful endeavor that helps springboard a company to a better, more streamlined, and more productive manner of operation.