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Arming Against Indifference in an ERP Implementation

Entrepreneur and author Seth Godin recently posted interesting commentary on the negative impact of indifference:

“We armor ourselves against the cutting remark, the ad hominem attack, the person who just doesn’t like our stuff.

But all of this is the feedback we get when we touch a nerve and are doing work that matters enough to care about.

No, the worst sort of feedback is no feedback at all. That means we’ve created nothing but banality.”

This also brings to mind the old cliché, “The opposite of love is indifference.” Hackneyed but true; indifference is a void, a hollow, a complete lack of caring. Hatred, at least, has emotion and belief at its core.

So what happens when indifference strikes an ERP implementation? Picture the scenarios: people working on laptops during important meetings, shrugging their shoulders and changing the subject when it comes up, not attending training sessions or, perhaps worse, attending and sitting stone-faced and silent. This sort of attitude can be much more damning to ERP success than a passionate opponent. For although the passionate opponent can be vocal, strident and very, very public with his or her negative opinions, there is at least a level of engagement. As inconvenient as it may be, discourse and even disagreements frequently lead to an evolved end-state.

So how does a project manager, core team or even executive steering committee arm itself against indifference in an enterprise software initiative?

1.    Invest in a vigorous organizational change management campaign. To be truly effective, organizational change management must work on an enterprise level, a department level and an individual level. It must be rolled out as early in the project as possible (i.e., the software selection phase) and continuously assessed, monitored and tweaked to ensure continued efficacy.

2.    Make sure that the organizational change management campaign is targeted. Many companies investing in an ERP system would prefer to role out a “one size fits all” organizational change management campaign. Not realizing the correlation between change management and ERP failure, companies often choose to in-source their efforts to undertrained staff members or rely on a consultant with a canned change management methodology. Both of these scenarios result in homogenized efforts that tend to fail in one key component: they don’t target outliers. In most cases, outliers are where the resistance (whether vocalized or internalized) is strongest.

3.    Involve the indifferent. Though it may seem counterintuitive, it is critical to encourage indifferent individuals to become thoroughly and deeply involved in the ERP process. Once they realize that they have a say in how things will play out and that their opinion is appreciated and validated by leadership, they will start to care about the outcome of the ERP implementation. It really can be that simple. So, if you’ve got folks sitting in your boardroom that fit this description, take them out to lunch. Talk to them about how they’d like to be involved. Tell them that they’re important to the project’s success. Don’t let them shy away; involve them and their perception will shift.

Organizational change management is not the “light side” of an ERP implementation. It’s the heart and soul of project success. And, honestly, it’s the most difficult part. In fact, according to our 2013 ERP Report: Organizational Change and Business Process Management, 65% of companies rate adjustment to change as “difficult” or “very difficult.” Only 45% say the same about the technical implementation of an ERP system. This is the stuff that will truly challenge – and ultimately better – your organization. Take the time to do it right.

Written by Brevard Neely

Bree brings over a decade of experience in public relations, marketing and internal communications to her position as Manager of Organizational Change Management Services and Marketing at Panorama. Prior to founding her eponymous consulting company in 2007, she worked as a senior editor in consumer products for Edelman and a creative director for Mitchell & Associates. She also served as the Director of Development for the Worldwide Fistula Fund, a nonprofit focused on maternal health care in west Africa. Bree holds a BA from the Colorado College and an Executive MBA from Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.

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