Implementing any new IT system can be a challenge—but introducing a new ERP system signals a big change. It’s no wonder we’ve found that some of the most successful ERP implementations have succeeded, at least in part, with help from savvy change management. This is a practice that includes ripening the company culture to embrace innovation and strategically communicating to keep employees engaged and on the same page.
In fact, a few of the experts interviewed for CIO.com’s 11 Common ERP Mistakes and How to Avoid Them cited change management and communications among the sticky missteps too often taken by IT leaders.
But this is where an ERP communication strategy can help. By following some communications best practices, you can get ahead of challenges before they become a real problem—or better yet, avoid them in the first place. Let’s take a closer look.
Learn what’s important to users. Your future ERP software users come from across the company. Some will be casual users, and others will be power users, but each has a voice. It’s important for the internal ERP implementation team to involve representatives from all employee user groups in the planning and deployment process to ensure that communications and system training materials are relevant and addresses employees’ specific concerns.
Reach your employees in different ways. With so many ways to communicate today, you can’t assume that what grabs the attention of one employee is going to turn the head of another. It makes sense to share implementation information—timelines, trainings, updates, tips, etc.—over multiple channels. Use email, your company intranet, live meetings, webinars, handouts, or whatever else is appropriate and desirable for your employees.
Skip the jargon. Unless an employee is in the IT department or has lots of experience using advanced business systems, they may not be keen on IT-speak. If your goal is to get employees to read your materials and glean something useful and actionable from them, speak in their language. Maybe you say “set up” instead of “implement,” or explain that an ERP system is “business process management software.” The idea is not to dumb-down; it’s to make the language more meaningful and accessible to the wider population.
Communicate early and often. Consider taking a campaign approach to your ERP communications. That is, start communicating early in the process to lay the groundwork for the upcoming change and to establish familiarity with the whys, whens, and hows. As time goes on and you’re getting closer to your go-live date, your communications can become more detailed or explore more complicated topics. This helps to ease anxiety and build excitement for what’s next, while giving users time to digest the important information.
Cascade message from the top-down. It takes C-Suite support to get employees (your ERP system users-in-training) on board with changes impacting the way they work, even if the changes are widely accepted as positive. Some of your high-level communications can actually come from the CEO’s email, for example, or the CIO can announce the change in-person at a pre-launch “party.” From there, more granular messaging can come from the management level or even from departmental “ERP champions” who help rally support from among the ranks.
Following these best practices will help your ERP implementation run more smoothly for you, your employees, and even your solution vendor and implantation partner.
If you’re thinking about replacing your current system and implementing a new ERP system, please feel free to get in touch! We’re here to help!