I like to follow the importance of user involvement in ERP system implementation as I started already in:
with important aspect: user acceptance of the new solution. That means both: acceptance of the new ERP package and the way it is configured and customized to individual requirements.
By the way: this aspect is now crucial since all organizations like to be “agile”. That means that the incremental changes in the business have to be ongoing – this is not possible without users (users of the system supporting business) understanding and acceptance. But this issue I will continue in next threat.
First it is necessary to evaluate users behavior during the ERP implementation. Sure there can be evidenced many various individual attitudes but let’s keep it simple – the all users as the whole. Based on experience I will name general successive phases of typical SAP implementation that I know:
- A. In the evaluation time they are looking for the new solution since that will give new possibilities, technology and best practices – they have definitely “enough” of the old solution as obsolete and tight which means “bad”.
- B. After the go-live they are comparing the new implemented solution with the old one – very often they even come to conclusion that the old one was better in several points – they are evidencing the troubles they have due to changes in their business but often are not able to see clear the advantages (since they are mainly on the highest level – department and company)). This situation lasts from several months to one year. First closing of the fiscal-year which always shows at once big advantage is in majority the final of this phase.
- C. After B the enthusiasm becomes reinforced and the users are liking or even loving their new solution. It can be however that they are not able to present clearly the full advantages they have – this is due to the time of phase B. Phase B was too long and the many advantages are treated as “it was already”. That means that even in brilliant implementation case the users are confessing this carefully.
This is obvious with phase B – after the implementation the new solution caused some kind of organizational but also emotional shock. As we can see the phase B is devastating the mood and can negative influence the judgment of completed investment in new IT solution. Many “independent” advisors are advising to make business case before and define KPI’s. That will take time and cost and the results can be questioned. Business case can be done of course but from my experience the results are often disputable (business is changing in time). I see big potential and advice to put more attention on making the phase B possibly short to gain the user acceptance soon. Than every user can see the advantages by seeing the difference.
Please note that by the exchange of very obsolete solution (not ERP) by ERP following occurs: the users in front office have much more work than before – now they have to enter all necessary data connected with business events they are facing in they work. Previously they collected papers and shifted it to administration (like bookkeeping). Now there are much more data than before. At the same time the users in administration have much less work.
Interesting is in this that the users in front office are expressing very loudly that they have much more work but the users in administration are confessing this unwillingly that they have visibly less work. This is especially observed by public sector projects because of their specific.
That above leads sometimes to odd situation expressed in form: “after implementation of SAP we had to hire new persons”. In some cases this may also influence in negative way the participation of ERP implementation. In my opinion in many such cases the available resources should be adequately redeployed. This aspect is not directly connected with user acceptance and I will discuss this it in another threat.
Coming back to the shock caused by introduction of new system we come to the main area of interest: how to gain the user acceptance for the new solution? How to gain the user acceptance possibly soon or even make the barrier low enough to make the change painless?
This is very important issue that is often ignored – this is not only about the users mood! As we may see (above) this is very important business issue. The users as the mass by improper work in the system can reduce the results of the investment or even lead to disruption in the business. That is because the user are unsatisfied mainly because they do not understand the solution and their role in new system and are working with many problems and are creating many problems. If that occurrence reaches critical mass it can reverse the implementation success into disaster.
Evaluating many cases of ERP failures I am coming to conclusion that exactly this aspect – the missing user acceptance – was the reason of many known ERP failures.
Solution of this we have already in ASAP – this is the user participation in the SAP implementation from very beginning. That means close cooperation and feedback from the users.
That is very important not to isolate the users from implementation process (as some consultants are trying to do) but to involve them and to use their energy for the implementation. Isolation of users by implementation may lead to that they will go on the “dark side of force” and then the project will be lost since it is not possible to make effective and successful ERP implementation against the users!
Being involved the users are becoming the authors and creators of the new solution. By this work during the implementation they also cross softly the barrier of acceptance of the new solution and later they will become “evangelists” of new solution between the all users in the organization.
In the next threat I will evaluate the role, the way and the results of user participation in ASAP phases.