ERP Implementation Fear
Digital transformations have historically struck fear into the hearts of executives everywhere, with concern surrounding the expensive and time-consuming investment. ERP implementations impact all parts of the business, from operations to accounting and down to the individual employees themselves. Everyone hates dealing with the disruption that an implementation causes, meaning that many avoid the process until it is absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, ERP implementations are widely misunderstood despite decades of organizational change and management research because ERP itself is still relatively new. While organizations understand that the ERP will improve the business, the time commitment and settlement into a new way of operating is an extreme undertaking. Ultimately, everyone wants to benefit from a system upgrade but fears the growing pains associated with that change. Executives must apply effective implementation strategies to ensure employees will fall in love with the new ERP, despite the significant disruption.
Setting Your Implementation Up for Success
There is no such thing as a perfect implementation, but careful planning can mitigate the risks associated with implementing a new ERP.
The best buyers are those that are consistently asking questions about how to ensure the success of their project through change management and seeking guidance from individuals who have already been through the process. Basically, implementation success boils down to effective communication throughout the lifecycle of your project.
Before the project even begins, it is vital to ask for clarification surrounding the support you will receive in regard to your system. Each ERP software vendor, platform, and type of deployment is different, so this step prepares you for future system support before implementing the application. If you understand the vendor's support policies, you can prepare your resources in accordance with their requirements.
Initial transparency builds trust in the early stages of the implementation, enabling continued communication throughout each phase. This is also an invaluable time to ask questions surrounding the operations changes the new software will create and the escalation lines in case a problem occurs. Certain aspects of the system may change operations drastically, causing friction during training efforts; therefore, encouraging the vendor to be upfront regarding these changes will allow for greater preparation for employees experiencing the change.
These early building blocks will set your project up for success, especially because you must fall in love with your implementation team before you can truly fall in love with your new ERP. This is also the point at which to ask for references and do your research to ensure your partner will be able to deliver. These references will provide a support system during implementation obstacles and help foster trust in your implementation partner. Individuals who have undergone digital transformations can also advise on how they resourced their projects.
Advocating for Your Project & Encouraging Open Lines of Communication with Vendors & Partners
The most important consideration, as mentioned above, creating open communication lines, is often easier said than done. Selecting an ERP is a major, job-governing decision, so it is vital to create these lines and encourage the vendor to be completely honest with you. This starts by developing a relationship with the vendor or partner and understanding your path for escalation in the case of project hiccups.
Over the course of the implementation, you must immediately confront emerging concerns through clarifying questions and open communication with the implementation partner. In order to solve a major project roadblock, you must be willing to voice all concerns and bring them before a solution architect or the project technical lead. When confronting issues, communicate at the right gradient, move up the ladder based on urgency and need, and be persistent in solving your problem. Sitting on an issue and failing to be upfront about your immediate concerns will likely kill the project later down the line.
Ultimately, you must trust your gut. Expressing internal concerns to a partner could save your project, especially when obstacles have the potential to derail your implementation. You must make partners aware of these problems before they can work through or adjust their operations for mitigation.
Main Reasons Businesses End Up Unhappy with Their ERP
Even when carefully organizing and executing an implementation, businesses still find themselves unhappy with their ERP, but why is that? The short answer: ERP implementations fail when there is a lack of communication. Whether the implementation is abandoned, or there is a lack of employee adoption post-go-live, the project is considered a failure.
Businesses often experience a form of “buyer’s remorse” post-go-live where user acceptance is low, and employees feel that they were better off on the old system. Low adoption typically results from poor change management over the course of the project. Unfortunately, the first-place executives often look to cut costs is by diminishing the time available for training as the time before go-live shrinks, squeezing the time out of this valuable stage. The lack of training leaves employees frustrated because they struggle to effectively use the new software. In general, low adoption also results from a lack of resources devoted to training and overall implementation.
Before a project even begins, executives must find team members committed to the future success of the company. ERP projects are major undertakings; therefore, the project will fail if an organization’s strategy fails to garner employee buy-in, especially during ERP selection input. Training, incentivizing, and educating employees on the benefits of upgrading the system while also encouraging open lines of communication across all channels encourages buy-in.
How to Save a Failing Project
Sometimes, leaders will find themselves on the path to implementation failure with no clear solution to rectify the problem. Everything leads back to the importance of communication, especially when you reach project roadblocks. Establishing communication lines during the ERP sales process when sales executives are incentivized to connect with you provides you with an escalation resource later when things are not going well.
When encountering a major obstacle, the best thing to do may be to hit pause and take a step back, evaluating the state of the project and determining the problem’s source. At this point, you must also look at your organization objectively and truly be honest about your team’s capabilities. It is okay to press pause, especially when the alternative is to abandon the implementation. Pausing may enable your implementation partner to walk you through the problem, quickly correct issues, give your team peace of mind, and provide clarity for moving forward with the project.
It is also essential to be flexible when dealing with an ERP implementation and cognizant of your organization's tolerance for risk. Problems can arise that push back the go-live date, for instance, to allow more time for testing or training, despite careful project coordination upfront. This is normal for ERP implementations. Don’t consider this a failure, instead, adjust the project plan accordingly and re-set expectations with executives and end users, ensuring continued buy-in and cooperation from all ranks throughout the company.
No ERP implementation is without its challenges, making it increasingly important to build your community and encourage open lines of communication prior to launching your project. The most important thing is to understand that you are not alone, there is an entire community that has confronted these projects and your implementation partner is there to enable your success. Without proper implementation practices, users may grow to resent the change as opposed to falling in love with the new ERP. If you are struggling to keep your ERP project on the rails, contact an expert ERP consultant today.