The implementation of an ERP system creates such disruption in a business that the success of the project depends largely on its acceptance by staff. For this reason, it's best to start the management of change in an ERP project before you've even selected the software package, and to continue after it's been put into production.
When should you start the change management process?
All companies begin by researching the available solutions when setting up a new information system, followed by meetings with the management software publishers. Often, the publisher/integrator will warn clients at the pre-sale stage not to neglect the process of adaptation to change. A company's employees are used to using certain tools and will sometimes have worked with them for several years. That's why it's advisable to involve future users right from the stage of researching the ERP, to get as many as possible onside. This should mean that the change is viewed as an improvement rather than an annoyance.
Is it the technical consultant or the project team that will be responsible for managing the change?
Support during change is not usually the responsibility of the publisher/integrator who, in addition to their role as project manager for the implementation of the ERP system, also acts as an adviser. Even though the publisher is not responsible for work carried out by the client who's paying for the service, they should discuss this aspect upstream with the client because the success of the rollout is dependent on everyone being onside. In some companies, it's the in-house project team that's responsible for keeping all the different departments informed via the departmental referents who make up the team. However, Akuiteo would advise you to entrust the management of this aspect to the expert technical consultants.
Communication plus training equals happier staff
The prime purpose of change management is to reassure staff and this process begins with full and totally transparent communication about the project. All future users need to be involved, not just the members of the project team.
The main phases in change management are:
- Informing staff about the ERP (particularly the introduction of outside contractors, such as the referent project leader from the publisher/integrator.
- Monitoring the set-up and working on the sticking points by getting together with the project team.
- Celebrating the progress of each stage.
- Organising training for each module or feature: the training is first given to the members of the project team (key users) who are then responsible for training the people in their own departments by adapting the resources provided by the publisher/integrator, sharing reference documents (manuals, FAQ) and help forums for users.
- Creating a test environment open to users so they can get used to the new tool.
After the go-live, the permanent renewal
Once the new software package is up and running and the users are totally familiar with all its features, the management of change is considered to have been a success. However, the nature of ERPs is that they evolve constantly. There is a training need on two levels after the launch of the ERP:
- Users then need to be trained in the new features, new modules and new screens with every upgrade; Refresher training also needs to carried out.
- Users often get into bad habits and drift away from optimal use of the ERP. That's why they need refresher training, to explain good practice once again, so they can improve their everyday use of the software.