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Understanding SAP Organisational Change Management: Does your company use a rubber or a hammer when implementing change?

sledgeHammerQuote.jpg“I hate SAP!” is a phrase that I often hear from clients that have recently implemented our system. But is it really the system that they hate?  In the majority of cases it’s not the system that’s root cause of this negative reaction. What is typically to blame is a lack of understanding of Organisational Change Management and the critical role that it plays in successful SAP projects.

Six months ago, I was having coffee with a friend of mine who is a Business Director at a Retail company that has recently implemented SAP. As we started our conversation, he firmly stated: „I hate SAP! It is the worse ERP system ever! It is so difficult to work with it. Transactions that used to take me few minutes, now take hours. I don’t know how to run reports – it was easier to do it in Excel! Half of my people don’t know how to use it…and the other half don’t want to use it; they think that by proving it’s inefficiency they will be able to keep their jobs. I really do not understand why my company decided to invest all that money into such software!“

With a lot of appreciation for his feelings and a slight smile, I replied: „Your reaction is quite similar to clients that do not factor Change Management into their implementation projects.”

“What is Change Management?” he curiously asked.

I reached for my iPad and quoted “Wikipedia states that Change Management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. But in my experience, Change Management is really about minimizing project risks.  Essentially, it helps businesses address situations where:

  • Leaders  aren’t  sufficiently engaged the SAP implementation
  • One or more groups feel that they have little or no input into decisions
  • There are employee retention and morale problems, as staff struggle with uncertain futures
  • There is pressure to preserve local systems and processes
  • Simultaneous enterprise-wide  rollout must be managed
  • Interruptions of day-to-day operations and changes in business processess must be controlled
  • Employees  are not adequately prepared to execute new processes.”

„Hmmmm…interesting!“, he said. „But what is the difference between Change Management and Project Management?“

„Well, recently I attended a Change Management conference where an Organisational Change Management expert – Manon

Champagne, described the difference by using the analogy of moving to a new house. Whenever you start building a new house, you employ an architect to define the blueprint. Then you have a construction manager that is managing the people who build your house onsite. Then you bring the plumbers, and the interior designers that help you make your house practical and nice. Right?”…he nodded and I continued: “Well, this is what Project Management is all about. However, does your new house feel like home as soon as you move in?”

“No!”, he said.

“Exactly!”, I replied. “Your new house will start feeling like home the moment you feel comfortable living there. This means: when you get to know your neighbours; when your kids integrate in the new local school; when you start going to the nearby gym; when your spouse stops complaining about the new house being far away from the shopping mall. In some cases, the homey feeling will start building even before you move house…in the moment when you actually decide together with your family that you wish to move. And that is what Change Management is all about: preparing people for change!”

As I’d been describing the ways in which OCM would enable organisations to manage the people, operational and cultural aspects of change my friend grimly recognised that none of these factors had been included in his company’s definition of “Project Success”. 

“So is there any way to retro fit change into my project?” he asked hopefully.

After taking a nice long sip of my coffee, I added: “Yup…it’s possible but a lot more difficult. To extend the housing analogy, just remember what Frank Lloyd Wright said – “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site.”

So, does  this conversation seem  familiar to you? Is it being had in a coffee corner in your office right now?

Does your company use a rubber or a hammer when implementing change?  Let me know how your company is approaching the OCM within your SAP projects and ultimately, whether your focus is on short term cost avoidance, where OCM is viewed as optional, or does your company understand the role that OCM plays in successful SAP projects?

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