You are about to embark, on or are in the middle of a major ERP project that’s going to change the way your company does business. You know how critical this new technology is to your organization’s future. You understand that nothing is more important than identifying the software with the best and most advanced features in its class.
New software isn’t what’s going to change your business. Think of it this way - your company does not succeed because of technology. It’s an enabler. Your organization is run by people. Technology gives employees tools to do their work differently and hopefully more efficiently. If configured correctly, it could enhance service to your customers. It can provide a foundation for your digital strategy in 2020 and beyond.
When considering “new technology” it is critical to envision how employees could conduct business differently in the future. The right technology can support your people, so they can serve clients in a more customer-centric way and focus on the customer journey in your ERP transformation.
Think of an iPhone (or your favorite Android) – is the value really the technology itself? Or is it the new way that technology is used? Let’s look at an example where you want to meet friends for dinner and a movie. In the past you might have gone through a process resembling the following steps:
Now with the use of your smartphone, you go through the same exact set of steps to plan your outing but you use an app for each step:
Has the tech really made your life better or easier, or have you just introduced a fancier way to get things done? What if instead you chose to use the technology as intended and did this:
So, the above scenarios emphasize there’s nothing wrong with using new tech for old processes, but it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is only a true differentiator (and financially worth it) if you use the new tech to drive new processes.
It’s no different for organizations choosing to invest time and money for new technology. If you spend big bucks on a new system with the greatest in Artificial Intelligence, BI, IoT, and every other wonderful acronym of new technology, but your employees keep doing the same things but with a different tool, you have lost. Perhaps you’ll see some improvements, but you might also be dealing with people who aren’t as sure of how to do their jobs anymore and are actually worse off.
So, what does this mean for your big ERP project? It means you can’t count on technology to fully understand your business challenges or to smooth a path to change.
And caution: beware of software sellers telling you what they view as “ERP best practices.” You must dedicate time to developing things like an overarching strategy and implementation readiness plan. Today’s new software is highly configurable and customizable.
If the thought of all this prep seems overwhelming, you’ll be far better off with guidance from an agnostic ERP consultant like Third Stage Consulting. Not only will they challenge you on the completeness of your strategy (in a good way) but oversee how it’s incorporated.
Selecting modern ERP software that’s a good fit, while important, is not going to get you to the finish line. You need to implement new technology that your employees will adopt. This is the organizational change management (OCM) backbone of your project.
Consider my examples of the different ways people adapt to iPhones; it will work similarly when you introduce new technology to your workplace. People will have different reactions ranging from acceptance to negative rebuffing. When new tech is not introduced carefully, correctly and completely it has a better than average chance of sinking your entire project. A valued added reseller (VAR) won’t have the depth of knowledge in OCM or project governance that a good independent ERP consultant has – so help is available.
Underestimating the importance of buy-in is a common misstep. Anticipate that each employee may have different feelings about change and their ability to successfully navigate it. Your company’s culture is probably unique, so your approach must acknowledge, involve and inform.
Hopefully I hit on some helpful examples and salient points to consider as you navigate your ERP/digital transformation initiative. To recap:
New technology should support your strategy and vision. With that said, there will be lots of decisions to be made, and you need to control this. Be sure to design processes that have the potential to bolster your business (just don’t automate or replicate existing processes).
New software can offer the ability to scale, the potential of greater customer satisfaction, better inventory management and a host of other things. Stay true to knowing and shepherding your top priorities.
Consider out of the box ERP software solutions designed for non-differentiating processes. As an example, an out-of-the-box solution for generating customer invoices will probably work just fine (even if it’s not the same process you use today). If someone tells there is only one “right” software for your company they are probably wrong, and choosing software is not the most important part of your ERP project.
The thought of new technology will elicit different emotions from employees. Some may fear the ability to learn new processes while others may be concerned about job loss. Adoption is personal and will differ by employee.
Your company will view this investment in technology as exciting and positive but expect some employees to be reactive (or even irrational). This is best addressed through a comprehensive change management strategy and OCM plan. Organizational change management activities need to begin before any software is selected and continue well after implementation of new technology. This is even more important than the software you choose.
The psychology of an ERP project is complex. Understanding, acknowledging, and planning for differences in employee behavior needs to be a frequent and ongoing conversation. Just because you offer training and think the new technology is logical, doesn’t mean it will be accepted.