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ERP is not just technology – successful implementation depends on getting the human factors right

13th January 2020,  Daniel Jones

Implementing an ERP system is a notoriously complex endeavour. It has to replace the systems currently in use across multiple departments, integrate them and enable staff to become highly productive. The existing systems may be silos; but a silo is often a perfect fit for one team and its processes.

In some ways, the technology may be the easier part. The ERP software can be set up on new, fit for purpose hardware. Data can be transferred, assuming that staff understand it. Business processes can be replicated, assuming they have been agreed. Departmental integration can be implemented, depending on sign-off.

The challenges are more likely to occur on the people side of the equation. Building the right internal team to work with the Infor M3 consultant, overcoming resistance from staff and insisting on a decent budget for training and consultancy are key. Here we examine the human factors in implementing an ERP system, what can go wrong and how to prepare.

Building a team

Identify the micromanagers. This is easy. Once the new system has been signed off at executive level, a project manager and a business sponsor should be appointed. They will ask all affected departments to nominate a representative to join an internal team to work with the Infor M3 consultant. The micromanagers will nominate themselves.

This is a serious mistake, as these managers will be unable to free up enough time to contribute. How can they? Micromanaging is a full-time job. What tends to happen is that they fail to attend meetings or delegate someone junior but oversee them closely.

In calling for nominees, give a thumbnail of the skills and experience expected and make clear that this will require a significant portion of their time. The best teams are built with people who understand what the job entails and how the department runs; people who are open-minded about change and who can accept responsibility and authority.

The representatives must also gel as a team. While their first priority is to ensure that the system works correctly for their department, they have to understand where compromise may be necessary and to take collective responsibility for decisions. This is why delegating to a junior doesn’t work.

The project manager needs to make sure that the team pulls together and does not get dragged along by one dominant player.

Overcoming resistance

There can be many reasons behind resistance to a new system. A member of staff may have developed one of the legacy programs or been instrumental in its purchase. A departmental expert may see ERP as a threat to their reputation for being able to fix issues. It may simply be the fear of change; a new system means learning a new way of working.

Communication is the best approach. Assuming that the ERP system has been generally announced, follow this up with progress updates in internal meetings. Luddites may feel less comfortable criticising in this environment and it gives the opportunity for everyone to ask questions.

If there is a genuine concern, let the representative spend time with the person who raised it, and then take it back to the team.

Budget

Hopefully, the agreed budget will include sufficient training and consultancy. There will be a temptation to cut this in the event of overspend elsewhere. This is a serious mistake. Reducing consultancy time will increase the risk of a system that doesn’t do what the company needs. Poorly trained staff will also struggle to get the best out of the system.

The project manager should check the budget allocated and ensure that it contains a realistic provision for training and consultancy. There should also be a contingency in case of overspend elsewhere.

Successful ERP implementation depends on human factors

Although ERP is seen as a technology solution, effective implementation is all about people. It’s about building the right internal team; overcoming resistance and making sure that consultancy and training are adequately funded. In this way, the business will benefit from an ERP system that makes its people highly productive.

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