The Delicate Dance of OCM and ERP

F-OCM-PIC-The-delicate-danceWe often hear change is a constant, but the reality is most workers thrive on repetitive routines they perform day in, day out. This can include the satisfaction of completing tasks within a timeframe. Take manufacturing jobs for example, where responsibilities are often clearly defined and measured. Successful individuals gravitate to what they know and have learned. Companies benefit from these dedicated employees, until something dramatic turns their jobs upside down. That something could be new technology such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation.

If we were writing a book about the psychology behind an ERP initiative there would be a chapter called, Organizational Change: The Final Frontier. While organizational change management (OCM) may get attention before and during an ERP implementation, it may not be a familiar process within a company’s culture.

To understand some of the adjacencies between OCM and ERP implementations, let’s consider these points:

  • Organizational change management is so much more than training. While training is part of OCM, just doing training is like giving your employee a pen without ink. As consultants, we’ve seen ERP implementations falter due to lack of an effective change management strategy but less often because of training. Employees may be more comfortable with training than they are with the inclusive transformational feel of OCM.

  • Organizations will experience multiple types of resistance. Employees resist change whether intentionally or subconsciously. The types of resistance also typically morph during an ERP project. Having an OCM plan will not prevent resistance as much as help you manage it. Unfortunately, when budgets tighten, OCM efforts are often cut which impacts adoption, benefit realization and project success.

  • Promoting an ERP project as terribly exciting may have the opposite effect. Items such as overenthusiastic emails and project rah-rah don’t get employees onboard. Consider an approach that calls for realistic discussions about what’s happening and why. Painting the picture as a challenge for the group to “work through together” comes across as genuine. This type of messaging depicts honesty while dispelling thoughts of hidden agendas. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate regularly or celebrate milestones.  

Organizational change - the systematic approach of dealing with changes to company goals, processes and technology should happen on an ongoing basis (it shouldn’t just “kick-in” during an ERP initiative). Some highly successful businesses invest in a culture emphasizing ongoing OCM activity (such as a center of excellence for continuous improvement). However, since this is not always the norm, the delicate relational dance between OCM and ERP often first plays out when new technology is proposed. This helps explain why OCM remains one of the least understood, but most important pillars of a successful ERP implementation.

Sidebar: Running a business while successfully orchestrating an ERP project is challenging. When organizational change management is introduced as part of an ERP initiative, employees will often “open up” to outside ERP advisors about their ideas, fears or concerns (before voicing them to their managers). This is another advantage of deploying experienced independent consultants alongside your internal team.