Rick Maurer | How You Can Avoid the Pitfalls of ERP Implementation

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Rick Maurer Discusses How You Can Avoid the Pitfalls of ERP Implementation

Depending on the study you read, the failure rate of ERP projects can be somewhere between 60 and 90 percent. Although recent studies put the failure rate nearer 60 percent, but still. . .

Those are dreadful numbers. But, the good news is — it doesn’t have to be that way.

The 3 Big Myths about ERP

Getting the Right Software Makes All the Difference.

Yes, you should make sure that the software and the vendor can deliver what you need. But, getting the right software doesn’t address the biggest reason why ERP efforts fail.  ERP scares people. And when people are afraid, they resist change.  Again, it’s all about preparing for change.

It’s All Technical

A study of CIOs found that biggest reason for failure of IT projects was resistance to change. Technical know-how doesn’t address those issues. In fact, when people are overloaded with data, they tune out. Since they can’t follow the endless PowerPoint presentations, they begin to make up stories about what is really going on. And those stories seldom work in your favor. This is why change readiness is so important to change implementation.

Because We Need ERP, People Will Go Along

It’s easy to assume that people will go along once they realize how important this new enterprise-wide software system will be. And maybe they will, but only after you’ve seen costs on the project soar and deadlines get trashed.

The common denominator in all of those myths is people. ERP projects tend to be so big, so expensive, and so driven by technical details and plans, that it is easy to forget people. You need people to help plan the changes (through change readiness) that will affect them. (Too often major IT projects have a castor oil feel about them. “Drink it, it’s good for you.” Adults, just like kids, don’t like that.)

What It Takes (Beyond Technical Know-How)

After you’ve found the right software for you – one that fits your unique organizational needs and found a vendor who has technical know-how as well as a proven track record for helping you plan and implement – then you need to:

Lead the Change

You can’t delegate the leadership of something as massive as ERP. (You can delegate tasks, but you can’t delegate enthusiasm and commitment.) Everyone needs to know that the most senior leaders are behind this effort. They need to know that ERP is a top priority. And that takes more than just giving a couple of speeches. It requires that leaders protect people’s time to plan and implement the new software system. (ERP is too big to assume people will be able to do it justice while continuing all the other tasks that fill their schedules.) Leaders need to ensure that people have the resources they need to get the job done. And, everyone must believe that your organization’s leaders are the ones in charge – not the consultants.

Address Resistance Before It Ever Becomes Resistance

Most leaders can pretty accurately predict if various stakeholders will support or oppose a change like ERP. But, sadly, they ignore what they know, and move ahead hoping that this time things will be different.

You need to know the extent to which your stakeholders are going to support or resist ERP.  There are three reasons why people could resist you. They might be thinking:

  • I don’t get it
  • I don’t like it
  • I don’t like you

Maybe they don’t understand what this is all about, they are afraid of what it might do to them, and/or they don’t think that you’ve got what it takes to lead this change well. Any of these can kill a project.

The good news is that each of these is on a sliding scale. If they don’t get it, then find ways so that they do understand what you are talking about. If they are afraid of what this change might bring, then address those concerns openly and search for ways to engage people in the process. And if they don’t have trust and confidence in you, then you must find ways to demonstrate that you are worthy of their trust.

A warning: The most common way of addressing these types of issues is to create a PowerPoint presentation. That might work if they don’t get it, but slides are a terrible way to try to get people engaged or build their trust in you.  Avoid these mind-numbing events.

Building support can be difficult. It may even take precious time. But, without support from stakeholders, you put your project at serious risk of failing. I wish you well.

© 2011 Rick Maurer. Rick is an adviser to change leaders in large organizations on ways to prepare for change readiness, build support and commitment to change. For ideas on ways to build support for ERP (as well as other major changes) take a look at Rick’s book, Beyond the Wall of Resistance (Bard Press 2010). www.rickmaurer.com