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Organizational Change Management – How to do it right

Hi everyone! I am the latest addition to SDN/BPX Solution Management Office, having joined this great team 2 months ago.

In the last 3 years, before I joined SAP, I was a project management consultant leading many information system implementations in various organizations. There was one issue, that always made a difference in deciding a project success or not – Organizational Change Management. Having the most innovative information system implemented by the most professional team, doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. An organization can have “top of the line” systems installed, but with no cultural acceptance, these systems are destined to fail….

One aspect of cultural acceptance is adoption of the new processes and procedures that support the new system. This usually means abandoning old habits and routines. I found this to be one of the deepest project pitfalls.

I have learned that there is no “single truth” when it comes to organizational change management, but there are a few “critical success factors” to adopt.

The 6 elements needed for a successful, long-term change implementation are:




v     Vision

o       Definition of future goals

o       Understanding the correlation between the required change and organizational goals

v     The Need

o       Awareness of the need for change

o       Understanding the change rationale

v     Communication –

o       Information flow– truthful, open and on time

o       Upward, downward and cross-organizational information flow

v     Tools –

o       Knowledge and training

o       Supporting tools

o       Skills

o       Additional resource definition

v     Sr. Management Commitment –

o       The management conveys the message of steady commitment

o       Removes roadblocks

o       Leads and supports employees

v     Performance Measurement and Incentives

o       Steering employees in the direction of change

o       Develop metrics for performance measurement, which are aligned with the change


Although all are important for a successful implementation, in my opinion open and frequent communication is the most important factor. This factor has a direct influence on the rest of the factors, for instance – a vision can be perfectly defined, but if it is not communicated to all relevant stakeholders, who will know it exists?

Even history backs me up. Do you know what the first project in the history of mankind was?….The Tower of Babylon. Was it successful? Not really…the tower was never built. And why wasn’t it successful? Communication problems! As it was written “Let us go down and confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another speech”.


Remember, in order to have a successful implementation, the change management process should be intensive and long term, but it is also important to strive towards “quick wins”.

These will increase motivation and help prove benefit to the organization.

Good luck!

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      This is a great model for helping clients see the need for key change management areas of focus.  I use something quite similar.  However, I might differ on one conclusion.  My experience tells me that management commitment is the most important factor of the 6.  Perhaps the first major project in history was Noah's Ark - but it succeeded primarly due to such strong Executive commitment! 
      Please check out my blog and share your comments as well.
      Matt Johnson
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Matt,
      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree, and as I wrote - I truly believe that all 6 elements are crucial for a successful implementation. One might say that the reason the Tower of Babylon was unsuccessful is also do to lack of Sr. Management support 🙂


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I agree with you and Matt, judging by history of failing projects, management commitment is indeed the most important factor but the other 5 "closely knit" the package.

      great article, summarize the subject in a very professional and appealing way.

      keep on the good wrok


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I couldn't agree more with your outline and commentary on the need for OCM.  This becomes even more critical as the companies we as BPX members support go after more and more technically sophisticated solutions.  All due respect to the ESOA movement, the danger becomes viewing projects as purely IT driven, focusing on standing up a technology vs. a value added business process.  Thanks for the article.
      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      This might be a very engaging topic of conversation for the Organizational Change Management.  Now that we have a real moderator there I suggest starting a threaded conversation around this change in focus from implementing a particular technology to driving a business process improvement.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Great Topic...
      I am just entering a new SAP Implementation / Business Transformation Project and I am looking forward to gaining insight through the threads of this Blog.

      I do have an initial comment also.  I believe Organizational Change needs to be looked at as an event that is always ocurring.  Organizational Change can be divided into Organizational Change Leadership and Organizational Change Managment where the success of the change is 75% dependent on leadership (people oriented) and 25% dependent on management (process oriented). 

      Thank you.. and as I said I look forward to taqpping this blog for insight and information. 

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Andrew,

      I am glad you enjoyed the blog, I hope you will find it useful in your upcoming project.
      I totaly agree the OCM is not a one time task, but an ongoing process!

      Great to see that OCM is becoming a critical issue in projects


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Adi,
         A Very important factor taht decides the fate of any project. There needs to be a very close understanding and relationship between the Technical team and the Change Management team. Just imagine if they dont really work together. Change management wouldn't know the benefits of the new system (just an example) and hence you can understand what's gonna reach the users of the new system.  

        Nice article!

      Best Regards,

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Adi,

      Great article!

      In my project experience, I have seen countless times that, if you do not have a proper OCM program in place, many SAP projects simply become IT implementations. The project team is usually convinced that they are covering all of the bases. They are usually convinced that they are communicating properly, when in fact they have all but forgotten the business organization's needs and the End Users in particular. Too often the Stakeholder communications are not synchronized with the Project milestones (The Roadmap is a great tool for accomplishing this). Requirements are often captured without proper business feedback. You will also see that activities are mapped to End Users, but they are not done consistently, in order to efficiently meet the needs of the Training team, Security and the End User Readiness approach. This is when a strong Role Mapping OCM process is a necessity.
      So often, Project teams get so carried away with their technical deliverables that they lose the overall vision and the fact that they are doing their work in order to deliver to "real people" by the end of the process.

      Keep up the great articles!

      John R. Davis
      OCM Consulting Principal
      Organizational Change Management
      SAP Americas