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By Dr. Jack G. Nestell
Success Does Not Imply An Absence of Significant Challenges

ERP Success Does Not At All Imply The Absence of Significant Challenges And RisksERP organizational change success does not at all imply, assume, or require the absence of significant challenges and risks. ERP organizational change research suggests a common theme in that perhaps most (if not all) large-scale ERP organizational change endeavors experience significant challenges and potential risks. This also holds true even for successful ERP organizational change.

ERP organizational change success certainly does not appear to completely excel at the total prevention of significant challenges. Instead, over time, successful ERP organizational change appears to excel at the response to significant and unexpected challenges. Successful organizations appear to excel at how they address and approach significant challenges perhaps via teamwork, leadership, and healthy organizational culture. That is, for those organizations that have realized successful ERP organizational change, success does not at all imply an absence of significant challenges. Perhaps the successful organizations and their leadership address challenges when they do surface in similar ways (more to come on this note).

All organizations are likely to experience significant organizational change challenges during a large scale ERP organizational change endeavor. The difference-maker perhaps is not just in how organizations try to prevent issues and challenges proactively, but also in how they respond to issues and challenges when they do occur. Research-based evidence demonstrates that although successful organizations fully understood the potentially significant challenges prior to the ERP organizational change efforts, they still experience challenges and potential project risks none-the-less. That is, the prior knowledge alone that ERP organizational change endeavors are often extremely challenging was not sufficient to prevent or adequately prepare for the ERP organizational change challenges.

ERP organizational change research also suggests that although organizations that would consider their ERP organizational change effort generally successful also indicated they had much to learn in which they were not previously aware of and that they would have done some things much differently. Even successful organizations experienced challenges in the areas of technology, process, and/or organizational culture during an ERP organizational change effort. Successful ERP organizational change can be extremely challenging, often possibly headed for failure. And, even for organizations that “at the end of the day” would consider themselves successful often have to spend significant time, money, and effort to correct and address challenges.

What Does ERP Organizational Change Research Generally Suggest to Mitigate and Reduce Challenges?

First, “dot the I’s and cross the t’s” when it comes to project details in order to ensure readiness and preparedness. Implement sound project management. Second, implement a plan that is founded on organizational change principles. Execute against a plan that ensures proper evaluation, measurement, application, and communication. Third, set honest and realistic expectations regarding ERP organizational change success requirements. And Fourth, be mindful that in order to be successful “dotting i’s and crossing t’s” is absolutely critical. But, also absolutely critical is how the organization responds when things don’t go as expected. This response could be the difference between being successful or unsuccessful. Ensure that your leadership and organizational culture are prepared and aligned in how risk is managed and how transformation is advocated for. ERP organizational change study would also suggest that perhaps two ingredients in the glue that best allows for working through a significant challenge, or the unexpected, is transformational leadership and a healthy organizational culture best capable of advocating and supporting transformation.

All organizational contexts are extremely different and, unfortunately, no magic pill exists for ERP organizational change success. But the more your approach is grounded in principle and how leadership and the organization responds to challenges…is certainly a significant influence.

Practical Tip

It is critical to set honest and realistic organizational expectations. Focus on, and try to excel at, mitigating risks and preventing issues from becoming substantial challenges. But, just as important, focus on and try to excel at responding to challenges in a way conducive to transformation and success.

Be wary of ERP vendors who state “we have a perfect record”, “we are always on time”, “we are always on budget”, or “we always deliver all functionality”. Be wary of these ERP vendors if objective vendor-neutral statistics and research is any indication. Request the details of  ERP organizational change plans. What tactical steps are taken to ensure organizational readiness? What tactical steps are taken to ensure proper training? What tactical steps are taken to ensure organizational culture alignment? What tactical steps are being taken formally, to be honest, and realistic to the organizations about the realities and expectations? These are important questions to ask.

Don’t expect perfection as no large scale ERP organizational change projects are 100% perfect. But, do expect that how an organization responds to challenges and the unexpected could separate your organization from the unfavorable statistics.

About Nestell & Associates:

Want more on organizational change? A great read!  “Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership” by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal

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