Change Management Made Easy

Implementing a new system is one of the most significant change management initiatives a company can embark upon. Jobs change, processes are redefined and supporting systems are completely reinvented. Indeed, very little stays the same as it was before. Change management is therefore vital to success.


It is important to have efficient processes to make jobs easier. If an organisation continues to use the same processes, they will get the same results. Do not try and make your new and more powerful system adapt to your old processes.  Instead, take the time to understand the new process and be prepared to challenge the status quo.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein

Once you have identified your new desired processes, document them clearly and thoroughly. Documented processes allow standardisation and remove ambiguity. They are the “how-to” for most operational functions within the business. Ensure you update these documents as your Standard Operating Practices (SOPs) change. It might seem an onerous task, but it will be critical to the success of your ERP implementation.

Examples of SOPs:

  • How do you handle global price changes?
  • What are the processes for inputting new customer records?
  • How do you currently handle the paperwork on drop shipments?
  • How do we add a new product or formula?
  • Adapting Business Processes

Keep customisation and change management in balance

One of the most difficult challenges you will face in your pursuit of a successful ERP implementation is knowing when to change a business process to conform to out-of-the-box ERP, and understanding when it is essential to customise ERP to preserve a strategic business process advantage. This is difficult because very few business processes represent an obvious strategic advantage.

The best ERP systems are developed and refined by observing worldwide best practices and incorporating them into the design; if you have a nonconforming process then it is probably not best practice. Challenge the thinking around ‘why we do things’. Yes, you will face opposition to change, but it is important to the health of the business.

So how do you ensure success? It is first important to listen to concerns, whilst having the confidence to forge forward with new plans. Conflict is difficult, stressful and can cause problems within an organisation so it is important to keep your people engaged. Keep in mind that all business leaders have to make decisions that are sometimes unpopular. Be kind to yourself, stay firm, but also be human.

What is change management?

Change management is one of those phrases that gets used a lot, but at the simplest level is about following some basic steps:

  • Identify everyone who will be affected by the change (this is a bigger group than you will initially think)
  • Communicate to this group what change will be coming
  • Establish the compelling business reasons that make ERP and the change necessary
  • Explain how they must behave for the project to succeed and
  • Give frequent project updates, always reiterating steps two through four

ERP will only be successful if people embrace it and use it as designed. That behaviour will not occur without change management effort.

“If it ever feels to you like you are over communicating, you are exactly where you want to be.”

Changing systems and processes can be stressful for teams. Many do not like change and may see the new processes or system as a burden. Explaining the reasons for the change and the goals the company has set for improving results is critical to success. You will see a much better attitude and approach by everyone if they fully understand why the organisation has taken the decisions around an ERP. Providing feedback on the progress of the implementation can also help keep teams informed and engaged and hopefully will allow them to see the improvements that will benefit everyone.

Of the top 10 barriers to a successful ERP journey, end-users can be addressed by developing and implementing a structured change management program.

Create change networks and develop “grassroots” internal support

To help end stakeholders understand what should happen and why, develop a formal network of influencers who can support two-way communications (both formal and informal), facilitate deployment activities and monitor how people in their areas react to and adopt the changes. Ineffective communication can stem from unclear messaging, poor timing or target the wrong audience.

To develop effective internal change communications:

  • Create a change network comprised of key influencers from the highly affected areas of the organisation, and hold regular meetings to keep them engaged and involved in project activities. By involving these members in key decisions and information dissemination, you promote understanding and increase visibility for change management activities. This multi-directional communication channel gives you a better feel for the organisation’s pulse and ensures that accurate information reaches users in a timely manner.
  • Build accountability and ownership within the change network, giving members a sense of control over change management activities in their areas and a vested interest in the project’s success. Empower the change network to anticipate and escalate potential issues to the project team to ensure the development of timely and appropriate solutions. It is critical to allocate dedicated time to this role so it gets appropriate attention.
  • Provide monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Develop an “early warning” system to identify emerging implementation challenges or pockets of resistance.
  • Prepare for detours. They are inevitable!

Address people impacts and behavioural changes

Many changes resulting from an ERP implementation will substantially affect employees. Success depends on how effectively you understand and manage the impacts of these changes. To achieve the best results, proactively prepare employees and the organisation as a whole prior to the ERP implementation. A good grasp of potential change will guide your communications, training and leadership activities and prevent wasting time and effort focusing.

Missing a turn does not mean the end of the road

“Identify, deal with and defuse unanticipated issues”

You will face unanticipated issues. It is a given in any major project. These can seriously compromise a programme if they are not managed effectively. If teams depend on business processes that were incorrectly designed, or face issues never anticipated or accounted for, there is a risk they will revert to wasteful workarounds. If workarounds cannot be found, work efforts will be delayed or stopped, and valuable time will be lost.

You can manage the problem of unanticipated impacts by taking several key steps

  • Manage expectations at go-live. Let end users know that, whilst there will be some issues, the project team is well-equipped to deal with any challenges they encounter. You will not get things right the first time. Convey a sense of confidence you can handle issues as they arise encourages users to highlight early and potentially provide possible solutions.
  • Provide clear feedback mechanisms so users can notify the project team of any discrepancies. Ensure the search for a solution is a high-priority item. Identifying and dealing with these unanticipated changes and impacts efficiently and effectively is critical to keeping the solution from being a failure. Give people a sense of when they can expect fixes. In the absence of effective communication, rumours can kill a good project.
  • Empower super users to deal with issues and determine solutions where appropriate. They will be your best ally in the field when issues arise. If they can handle certain problems effectively, end users gain confidence in their knowledge and abilities and maintain a positive outlook.Identify areas for continuous improvement and let end users know you are always looking to enhance the solution.
  • Encourage engagement by rewarding those who submit improvement opportunities.

Embedding change means anticipating and mitigating resistance

To accommodate change while sustaining performance, the entire organisation must be engaged. There is no room for silos. Speed and interdepartmental cooperation are key. It is imperative to embed the new ways of working across the organisation, anticipate potential resistance, incorporate mitigating strategies and avoid end user workarounds.

To develop end-user acceptance and embed change in the organisation: 

  • Celebrate “quick” wins with end-users by providing rewards and recognition for those who achieve positive results with the new solution. This goes a long way towards gaining organisational acceptance. Encourage peer-to-peer knowledge sharing – people are usually happy to share what they have learned with co-workers
  • Decommission your legacy system in a timely manner. The longer the old system remains available, the less urgency there is for end users to let it go and leverage the new system to do their jobs
  • Identify what is behind any lack of usage of the new technology. Is it discomfort with new technology, resistance to change or a lack of positive reinforcement? Once you know the underlying reasons, properly address the issue and get back on track. If necessary, provide refresher training to those in need.
  • Reiterate the benefits of the new system, highlighting the “what is in it for me?” question and the value of following the new business processes

Of the top 10 barriers to a successful ERP journey, end-users can be addressed by developing and implementing a structured change management program.

Change Checklist

  • Do your employees understand the need for this change and how it will benefit them?
  • Do you have mechanisms in place (change network, project email/website, etc.) to allow for feedback?
  • Have you Identified key changes to systems, processes and organisational structure?
  • Have you avoided reinventing your existing business processes in a new system?
  • Have you documented your operating procedures and are these available to all employees?
  • Do you have a robust process for managing customisation vs. change management?
  • Have you put in place a change network of expert users, adopters and super-users?
  • Have you thought about how to celebrate the change in your organisation?
  • Do you understand how roles and responsibilities will change and have you incorporated those changes, not only in job descriptions but in communications and training materials?
  • Have you created “role impact guides” so end users clearly understand how their roles will change, and reinforce specific benefits?


This chapter was taken from our publication ‘8 steps to a successful ERP’.

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Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 21 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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