Implementation Insights Blog

Implementation Management Associates help organizations around the world achieve large-scale, complex change. This blog discusses our insights into organizational change.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Driving Accountability in the Business for ERP System Implementations

It’s typical for large-scale technology initiatives such as Enterprise Planning System implementations (ERPs) like SAP and Oracle to be driven by the IT organization. The question is, who owns the initiative? Are these IT initiatives, or strategic business initiatives. Does ownership shift at some point in the SAP or Oracle project life cycle? The reality is that IT can’t be solely accountable for ERP implementation success, and accountability must be shared between IT and the business.

In the early stages of the ERP project life cycle, IT is the driver of the technology selection, analysis, design, and testing processes. Clearly the business end-users must be part of the process. Together, the IT and business owners define the business requirements and design an ERP system that meets the business needs. But it is the business owners who must start to build readiness for the SAP or Oracle implementation by communicating a compelling business case for action and getting the concerns of users out in the open so the inevitable resistance to the ERP implementation can be managed.

IT then takes the lead in making sure the system is “up and running” and meets the “go live” target date. This is what we term
“installation,” and it’s a critical step in implementation. However, when you stop at the point of installation, you are still short of achieving adoption for a system like SAP or Oracle, and therefore, Return on Investment. And even though the IT responsibilities are essentially completed at the point of installation, the project is not yet complete until you get users to adopt the new processes that are driven by the ERP technology. This responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the business.

While it’s typical for the project team to be disbanded at this point, the project is in fact not yet complete. Business partners, or what we term the reinforcing sponsors, must consistently and actively express, model, and reinforce the new behaviors, and you can teach them what good
sponsorship requires. IT is in no position to address the necessary modeling and reinforcement because they have no positional authority over the users (or what we call Targets).

Providing the appropriate reinforcements is the most important of all business partner (sponsor) responsibilities. Reinforcing sponsors should be applying three essential types of reinforcements at the right time and at the appropriate level of intensity. These can be categorized as positive reinforcement, negative consequences, and degree of work effort.

Most Reinforcing sponsors understand that there is power in positive reinforcement. It’s much more difficult, though, to apply negative consequences for users who work around the ERP system and new processes. For many organizations, corporate cultural norms are powerful influencers of sponsor actions, meaning that it’s culturally unacceptable for business partners to provide direct negative feedback to a Target. It’s simply not done.

Few reinforcing sponsors understand the role of controlling work effort in driving the SAP or Oracle implementation. How difficult is it for Targets to use the system to perform work in the old ways? Is the old system still available? Are “work-arounds” acceptable”? While IT can be helpful in ensuring that these work effort issues are addressed, the accountability for this aspect of the ERP implementation rests primarily with business partners.

By building a partnership based on shared accountability, project teams are far more likely to be positioned for full ERP implementation success.

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