Lighting the ERP Afterburner

Imagine calling your employees together and telling them you’re going to tear down the building. However comfortable they may be in their existing space, they’ll love the new place better you assure them.

It will only take a couple of years and a few million dollars. Assuming they’re agreeable up to this point, you add one final point: “Oh, by-the-way, we’re going to keep you here in the old building while we’re tearing it down around you and building the new one, and we’ll ask you to just keep working in the middle of it all.”

Now imagine their response. That’s pretty much what you’re going to face, once your ERP implementation gets rolling.

If there is a single issue that determines the degree of completion, let alone success, of an ERP implementation, it’s buy-in. From the lowliest clerk to the company CEO, you need the cooperation and support of every participant, if you’re going to make ERP work.

The sobering truth is that more than half of the companies that set out on the ERP course do not meet their goals. And of those that do achieve reasonable success, a staggering 90-percent go significantly over budget, over schedule, or both.

So, what can you do to wind up on the happy side of those statistics?

Create an Atmosphere of Change

Before bringing down word from on-high that the whole company is going to be turned upside down, it’s a good idea to get your people (your line managers in particular) thinking about change: What have they wished they could do? What changes would they be making in their area (or in the company overall) if they themselves had the resources and the opportunity? You can create a lot of potential for positive reception by stimulating discussion along these lines, whether formally or informally.

Once these thoughts are encouraged, start getting people together in casual meetings. Have people share the ideas, and get some synergy happening. Play “What If,” and play it liberally. And when the participants wistfully dismiss the game, let them know that soon they may have an opportunity to put their ideas to work.

It’s important to let everyone in on this exercise, not just management, and not just decision-level management. Some of the best input — and most helpful cooperation — in the ERP implementation will ultimately come from the people in the trenches.