How to address internal resistance and find ERP success

Here are some of the most commonly used and effective methods for getting employees on board with ERP implementation and snuffing out resistance to change.

Of all the problems that can materialize during the implementation of an enterprise resource planning solution, internal resistance is perhaps the most serious. Even the most advanced technology can not overcome the will of an entire workforce determined to cling to old workflows, no matter how inefficient. Many organizations figure this out the hard way, according to survey data from Deloitte. Last year, the consulting firm connected with chief information officers who had recently overseen ERP implementation projects and asked them to cite the most significant barriers they encountered along the way. More than 80 percent ranked resistance to change as the top roadblock to ERP success.

Businesses just setting out on the ERP implementation journey can avoid internal blowback by simply planning for it from the start and deploying strategies designed to grease the runway, so to speak, CIO reported.

"Organizational change management is pivotal to the success of your project," Matt Thompson, founder of the Sarasota, Florida-based ERP advisory firm Clutch Consulting, told the magazine. "Typical ERP projects facilitate massive change in organizations that can include changing of day to day job descriptions or eliminating job descriptions in total. [These] changes impact the culture of your company and without careful control and communication plans and workshops you can create an adverse reaction to ERP [resulting in] barriers [to] implementation and adoption."

Here are some of the most commonly used and effective methods for getting employees on board and addressing resistance to change:

Encourage end-user involvement
Many enterprises think of ERP implementation as an isolated activity – something upper management and information technology team members manage with little input from the rest of the organization. This is true to some extent. After all, everyday employees cannot offer much help when it comes to IT planning and budgeting. However, there are certain parts of the process that should be open to end users, as these individuals will ultimately deploy the new solution and drive return on investment, according to ERP Software Blog.

Of course, this is not some sort of symbolic strategy. Employees immersed in the day-to-day business operations can offer key advice on everything from data migration and platform design to training and post-roll-out technical support. That said, encouraging end-user involvement does tend to appease skeptical workers who may grow anxious over top-down internal initiatives driven by executives and other members of the management team.

Employee training is essential to ERP user adoption success.
Employee training is essential to ERP user adoption success.

Think user friendly
ERP adopters often focus on core system processing components when assembling feature lists and working with vendors during the design stage. This common tendency makes complete sense, as the backend fixtures that process production data ultimately determine system efficacy. However, ERP solutions do not get the job done alone. Humans must manage and maintain them, meaning project leaders and system providers must also consider user friendliness. Organizations that fail to take this variable into account often find themselves overseeing digital money pits whose users have eschewed modern technology for more familiar workflows.

How do adopters develop user-friendly ERP solutions? Constructing the software in the context of existing business processes and needs is the first step, IT Toolbox reported.

"Too often companies make the mistake of trying to mold their company around the system rather than the other way around," Eric Kraieski, president for the ERP consulting firm Agility ERP, told the online publication. "A better starting point would be to take an inventory of job roles and gaps, and then build the ERP solution around the business."

Of course, on a more technical level, adopters must encourage software providers to offer streamlined user interfaces that ease platform navigation. Simple dashboards and data input and output screens are a good start – as are robust notification systems that make it easier for users to monitor system activity and prioritize their work.

Conduct internal outreach
While the prospect of adopting an ERP may seem exciting to the business leaders and IT personnel who can grasp the potential of such a system, it may be more difficult for everyday employees to gin up such enthusiasm. Many may ask, Why the organization is essentially altering established processes all for a piece of software? Businesses should, of course, answer this question through internal advocacy, according to Deloitte.

Project leaders must get out in the operation and articulate their visions, helping employees understand how an ERP can help refine workflows, save money and open up new revenue streams. Executives should participate in this outreach as well, for their endorsements alone can turn skeptics into believers. Additionally, project teams should connect with select workers and ask for their assistance in these efforts. These individuals, called product champions, act as on-the-ground links between project teams and end users, stoking support for the ERP from the bottom up, IT Toolbox reported.

Invest in system training
Surprisingly, many ERP adopters simply gloss over this variable, expecting workers to easily pick up the new system with little assistance. This is, of course, an unrealistic expectation. The most user-friendly solutions are not 100 percent intuitive – even tech-savvy workers can struggle with ERPs, which often do not resemble familiar consumer applications. Companies that disregard these facts and drop new platforms in employees' laps with little to no guidance regularly suffer from user adoption issues. Some even end up watching their ERP adoption efforts collapse entirely.

Organizations can avoid these outcomes by offering robust system training and support, according to CIO.

"Learning a new way of operating will require a significant time commitment for everyone, so the project team must take proactive measures to reduce the burden on employees," Joel Schneider, cofounder of the IT consulting firm Liberty Technology Advisors, told the magazine. "Identify department-specific needs, allowing for sufficient time to develop and deliver training programs."

How do businesses develop effective training programs? Most share common features. For example, adopters with successful initiatives of this kind offer hands-on instruction based on real-life scenarios as a way to not only train workers how to navigate the platform but to also get them used to new internal workflows. Additionally, enterprises should work with internal IT teams or external partners to build ongoing support systems so users can get help whenever they need it.

With these strategies, prospective adopters can gain sustainable support for their ERP implementation efforts and equip end users with the enthusiasm and skills required to gain satisfactory return on investment.

Is your business looking to implement cutting-edge ERP technology? Connect with Accent Software Inc. As a Microsoft Business Solutions Partner, we offer Dynamics NAV/ERP environments fit for businesses of all sizes. Contact us today to learn more about our service and software offerings.