Change is a difficult but important part of business. It can be most difficult on the employees, but if you involve them in the planning process and make an effort to understand their points of view, you can mitigate resistance and facilitate the experience for everyone. This article deals specifically with ERP implementation, but its advice is useful for any change management situation.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a type of business process management software—usually a suite of integrated applications—that helps an organization manage the business, interpret data, and automate many back office functions.
Introducing a new ERP system is the same as introducing a new product into the market. If not handled properly, the product will fail and result in huge losses for the organization. Most importantly, the time, effort, and morale of the employees involved in the process would take a beating.
ERP conversions may feel like a slam-dunk because they are forced on the user, but just like with new products, they are not always accepted with open arms. Marketing departments plan several strategies to test the product and introduce it to their target segments; if you ignore these strategies with ERP conversions, you risk those same angry customers, at the very least losing productivity and time, if not employees.
End-user training is one of the critical factors for the success of any ERP implementation. End-users need training on three fronts: changes in business processes as a result of ERP implementation, training on the actual ERP solution, and, most importantly, change management training. In fact, improper handling of change is one of the major reasons for ERP failures. Therefore, training on the processes and ERP solution has to be planned in sync with change management training.
You could paint this as “not a test issue,” but if you care about quality, it becomes everyone’s issue. Instead, I suggest we confront ERP conversions head on, portraying quality staff as the experts on change management and helping it happen.
Thinking about Change Management
One of the models for change management is based on the change curve developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s. This model is also commonly known as the five stages of grief, and they can be used as a yardstick to understand employee responses and performance changes when organizations announce a new ERP implementation. Employee reactions to change can be grouped into three major stages loosely modeled on Kubler-Ross’s change curve:
- Stage 1: shock and denial
- Stage 2: anger and skepticism
- Stage 3: integration and acceptance
Understanding these emotions enables better planning for end-user training during ERP implementation.
Stage 1: Shock and Denial
The initial reaction to any change is shock. The first question that comes to employees’ minds is why? Employees may find the new idea unacceptable and hope that it never materializes. They may choose to ignore that this change is going to happen and continue to follow the old methods, oblivious to the suggested changes. If not managed properly, there may be a dip in performance and productivity.
This is the stage where employees are not yet aware of the full implications of the change. This is the ideal time to engage with the employees in an open discussion about the problems, delays, errors, and cost over-runs due to the existing system and explore the benefits and advantages of the new system. You should also address how changes in the processes and systems are going to positively impact their work routines, making their jobs easier. Employees have to be informed about the need for change and the organization’s vision for business growth. This is also the time when a broad idea about the ERP project can be shared.
It is also important to acknowledge the fact that change is not going to be easy but that it will be better with the support and involvement of employees. This can be done through short video trailers, interactive online modules, poster campaigns in the workplace, online and physical bulletin boards, and so on. These measures keep the conversation going and gently pull employees out of the denial stage and get them to start thinking about the new system.