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How to maintain engagement during ERP implementation

Team engagement is critical for ERP implementations

So, you've selected an ERP system that's going to help you take your business to the next level and you're ready to start your ERP implementation. How do you make sure your implementation team and other employees get behind – and stay behind – the project? What causes low engagement during an ERP implementation, and how can businesses resolve or prevent it? Here are some of our thoughts based on hundreds of ERP implementation projects we've been a part of:

1. ERP Implementation - It's a Marathon

A typical ERP implementation takes months, and those months can be intense. The core members of the implementation team are migrating data, defining workflows, running countless simulations, learning how an entire new system works, and often championing the cause internally. It can be exhausting, especially for employees who also have to juggle other responsibilities at the same time. How can organizations support the team and keep them motivated in the long haul? 

  • Keep their plates clear - As much as possible, try to keep the distractions away from the implementation team members. Most people on the implementation team will have to keep up with their "day jobs," but as much as possible, especially around major ERP milestones or trainings,  try to shift work away to other people in the company so the implementation team doesn't get overwhelmed, overworked or discouraged. 
  • Make it a team sport: A successful ERP implementation doesn't just involve the core team members – leadership should be involved with goal setting, managers and experts should contribute to migrating data and defining processes, and many employees need to help take up the slack from the implementation team's temporary absences. Making the project is seen as a company-wide initiative, and not an isolated project run by a small group, will help keep the team motivated and energized. 
  • Pace yourself: There's no way to cut corners when doing certain tasks, like migrating data from an old system to a new one. Avoid burnout of the team by pacing the effort consistently over time. 
  • Recognition of hard work and long hours - Managers and co-workers shouldn't wait until the project is finished to recognize the implementation team's efforts. Keep the team's spirits high by reminding them how much you appreciate their efforts. 

How to maintain engagement during ERP implementation

2. Fear of Change

In manufacturing and distribution, the best productivity often comes from consistently followed processes and procedures. So naturally, we shy away from disruption to our routines. Updating to a new ERP system – even one that solves problems your business is facing, provides opportunities, and makes you more efficient in the long run – can be an intimidating undertaking that makes some want to cling to what they know, rather than adapt to the new system. And when employees are reluctant to change, engagement on your ERP project can plummet. How do you ease these fears? 

  • Don't write off fears too quickly: Rather than brushing off employees' hesitations, listen to what they have to say. Are they concerned about losing their jobs due to automation? Are they worried they won't understand or be able to use the new system? Are employees concerned about losing certain functionality from their old system? Make sure management and the implementation team are available to hear the concerns, give honest responses, and, where it makes sense, incorporate new ideas. 
  • Appoint champions: Don't rely on one or two people senior leaders to champion an ERP project. Instead, appoint a champion for each functional area of the new ERP system, such as sales, accounting, shop floor, shipping, etc. Champions relay what's going on in the project to people on their functional teams, and also bring concerns and feedback from the employees to the implementation team. Champions also run simulations with members of their functional teams to get them acquainted with the new ERP software before the consultant-led training begins

3. The Role of Communications

Sometimes, ERP implementations lose engagement and momentum (or never gain them in the first place) simply through poor communications. The implementation and leadership teams are so busy working on the project that they don't make time to inform of their progress. In other cases, companies fearing the implementation will be a distraction, close the implementation team off in a conference room, leading to rumors, the impression of secrecy, and fear of the unknown. How can you use communications to keep your team motivated and your project on track?

  • Communicate early and often! First make sure everyone understands why the company is making the change, how it will affect them, and what employees can do to make it successful. Then continue to talk about it throughout. Even simple progress reports at staff meetings can help keep employees feeling in the loop.  
  • Manage expectations: Make sure your employees know what to expect. With an accurate idea of how long the project will take and the level of effort involved, they're more likely to be positive and supportive throughout the process. 
  • Don't sugar coat: While you want to maintain a positive, goal-focused attitude in your communications, don't hide or gloss over the challenges or problems that arise. You'll gain employees' trust and keep the company engaged if employees know they're hearing the whole story. 

There's no doubt - the most successful ERP implementations are the ones with high engagement - from the organization's leadership, the implementation team and the employees. Let abas help you be one of those success stories. Not only do we have an ERP implementation process built on 37 years of experience working with manufacturers, but we also have one of the most qualified on-site consulting teams in the industry. In addition, abas offers extensive training opportunities and changes to network with other businesses like yours going through implementations. 

Want to know more? Contact us today at [email protected] to talk to an expert about your implementation. Or download our latest Whitepaper, ERP and the Digitization of Industrial Machinery Manufacturing

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